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Computer Ethics - Computer Ethics In The Workplace

ethical companies organizations employees

The bulk of the scholarly literature on computer ethics focuses on ethical issues in the workplace. Companies and organizations are continually confronted with ethical challenges and violations that require resolution either through clarifying internal policy, internal disciplining and enforcement, or litigation, depending on the nature and severity of the violation. But in addition to the obvious financial vulnerabilities of unethical computer use—such as compromised financial data, employee theft, and a battered public image—the organization's attempts to solve the problems internally can rack up significant costs as well.

While there certainly are no shortage of cases of willfully malicious acts of unethical computer behavior, most ethical lapses simply result from a lack of certainty on the part of the user and lack of policy clarity on the part of the organization. More broadly, since ethics are challenged repeatedly as technological innovations open new possibilities, society as a whole often is uncertain about the proper ethical behavior in given situations. In relatively young fields like information technology, the determination of appropriate behavior can be a particularly acute problem.

A major study in Journal of Business Ethics on the individual's determination of ethical computer behavior found that judgments are reached through a complex mix of individual experience, consideration of co-workers' behavior, and company expectations. Surveying more than 300 members of the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP), the study compared individuals' personal judgments of ethical behaviors with their assumptions about the judgments of their co-workers and their organizations. Interestingly, there were broad differences across these categories, reflecting a lack of clarity, both within firms and through the economy more broadly, of ethical computer behavior.

One major challenge for organizations, then, is to facilitate harmony between personal ethical norms, peers' ethical norms, and organizational norms, and eliminate confusion between them. Eliminating incongruence between different layers of expectations and ethical norms is pivotal to minimizing what ethical scholars call "moral stress," which results from the lack of certainty over what constitutes ethical, appropriate behavior.

Although data are mixed, numerous studies in the field of computer ethics support the hypothesis that a written and clearly transmitted code of ethics is a strong influence on employee behavior when an ethical decision is involved. A survey of non-management employees at Fortune 500 companies by the Journal of Business Ethics found that 97 percent of employees felt their management should clarify and communicate what constitutes ethical computer use for employees, while nearly two-thirds reported that codes of computer ethics were widely known in their companies. Only one-fourth of respondents reported that they knew of direct evidence of computer abuse in their organizations, while 55 percent weren't aware of any computer abuse within the company.

There is a legislative history to the enforcement of ethical behavior in the business world and incentive for companies to implement and enforce their own codes of ethics. For instance, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 was designed to rein in questionable practices, and their consequences, among corporations. Meanwhile, the 1991 Federal Sentencing Guidelines held companies responsible for the acts of their employees, adding that as part of the remedy for violations a company is required to spell out what actions the company is taking to ensure that the offending practices will not occur in the future. Picking up on such outside pressure for codification, many companies began to move proactively to devise specific computer-related codes of ethics. Raising awareness of specific responsibilities can greatly eliminate the eventual resort to lawsuits and other costly and time-consuming measures of remediation.

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over 1 year ago

giấy dán tường

OH thanks you