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The Emergence of Ethics in Organizational Psychology

Ethics has been a growing research topic in the organizational literature, especially since the economic and financial crisis beginning in 2008. This crisis is viewed by some as a result of disregarding ethical issues in executive education (Floyd, Xu, Atkins & Caldwell, 2013). Literature reviews published in the last 12 years illustrate this concern for ethical issues in business, in several subjects: sales (McClaren, 2013); religiosity, business and consumer ethics (Vitell, 2009); organizational ethics (Suhonen, Stolt, Virtanen & Leino- Kilpi, 2011); entrepreneurship (Hannafey, 2003), decision making (Craft, 2013; Lehnert, Park & Singh, 2015) and corruption (Fein & Weibler, 2014), to name but a few. Lindorff (2007) also points out the importance of reflecting on the ethical dimensions of business and organizational research.

In spite of this growing focus on business and organizational ethics only one literature review was found in databases related to ethics, recruitment and selection (Patterson, et al., 2015). We say ‘only’ as this is a preliminary review specifically focused on one aspect of the subject: values-based recruitment and selection. Although values-based recruitment and selection does not have a sharp focus on ethics, it is closely related to it.

The weak expression of concern for ethical issues in research literature focused on recruitment and selection seems surprising, for two primary reasons. First, recruitment and selection are a human resource management process with a strong link to what people think and feel about organizations (i.e., their respectability or wickedness). This is true whether we think as an employee, a customer or another stakeholder of the organization. Second, ethical aspects of the situations that individuals have to deal with are co-determinants of what they choose to do. Where behaviour is performed freely an ethical dimension is always present. Therefore, performance in organizations depends on the ethical criteria that individuals use at work. Ethical dimensions seem to be a co-determinant of work performance (Lee, Stettler & Antonakis, 2011; Schwepker & Ingram, 1996; Wahyudi, Haryono, Riyani & Harsono, 2013). In general, organizational survival and organizational performance depend largely on ethical aspects of their different stakeholders’ daily lives. The values underlying organizational practices are continuously communicating the rules that are in place. As recruitment and selection practices often cause first impressions to be formed, those practices have an impact on employees’ behaviours beyond the time of recruitment and selection. Furthermore, those who are excluded (i.e., not hired) may also be customers and bring to the market the impression they have formed about the organization during the recruitment and selection processes.

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