ACCT19083 Final Assignment

ACCT19083 Final Assignment

Term 2, 2018

 

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Part A Question 1: Describe the ethical issues inherent in bullying and harassment in the workplace. Can bullying be linked to management style? Use the case study to inform your answer (300–400 words).
Answer:

There are several intrinsic ethical concerns in bullying and harassment in the workplace and ethical codes that are violated by employees who engage in workplace bullying behaviours.  The issues are related to the respect for autonomy, workplace justice (fair treatment), infliction of harm, promotion of good workplace (Einarsen et al., 2011). In the case study, McDow was influenced by the power of senior manager not to mention and report the serious incidents in the audit reports which do not promote good practice in the workplace (Slezak, 2017).

The ethical issues in bullying can also be explained form a normative model approach that highlight five moral principles in bullying management such as moral rights, utilitarian, virtue ethics, distributive justice and care ethics. For instance, the utilitarian ethical theory considers consequences of an action that would provide most good to maximum for an action to be considered as ethical. Workplace bullying affects individual and their families and organisation due to employee turnover and loss of income and it also affect organisation in terms of declining employee morale, affecting job performance negatively, and compensation claims by the employee stalk by workplace bullies. The case study points to the consequence of bullying and harassment as several staff left the job. Thus, from the spectacle of utilitarian the workplace bullying is not ethical as it does more harm.  The bulling can be associated with management style in particularly, a strong and commanding management style. This can include yelling in meetings, criticism, negative attitude towards an employee, preferential attitude towards selected employees, personal insults, threats and unreasonable behaviour. According to Baillien et al. (2011), authoritarian style management is closely associated with workplace harassment and bullying. The case study describes the bullying culture as staff yelling, abusing and to physically scare an employee when any attempt was made to report the serious incidents by a staff member. This management style has high risk to manager in becoming bullies which can make the employees uncomfortable, leads to emotional and physical stress and generate negative emotions among them towards the bully style management.

References:

Baillien, E., Notelaers, G., De Witte, H., & Matthiesen, S. B. (2011). The relationship between the work unit’s conflict management styles and bullying at work: Moderation by conflict frequency. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 32(3), 401-419.

Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., Zapf, D., & Cooper, C. L. (2011). The concept of bullying and harassment at work: The European tradition. Bullying and harassment in the workplace: Developments in theory, research, and practice, 2, 3-40.

Slezak, M. (2017, 17 January). Origin Energy ignores coal seam gas well leaks, whistleblower says. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/27/origin-energy-ignores-coal-seam-gas-well-leaks-whistleblower-says

 

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Part A Question 2: What are the ethical issues involved in cases of discipline and dismissal? Make sure that you discuss the rights of employers and employees, and use the case study to support your answer (300–400 words).
Answer:

The ethical issues related to discipline and employee dismissals are fairness aspects in relation to the fairness in disciplining and dismissal from organisation services. The organisation may not have followed a fair disciplinary procedure or dismissal process. Other issue can be related to unfair behaviour, bullying and victimisation (Freyens & Oslington, 2013). There can also be ethical issue related to the loyalty of the employees as McDow is not guilty of any disloyalty towards the organisation and loyalty cannot be questionable based on pointing the millions of dollars of royalties from the organisation to the government.

In case study, there have been wrongful dismissal of McDow with no grounds for ethical dismissal such as misconduct (bullying, breach of security, safety , health, fraud, etc) , poor performance, insufficient job know-how, requirements change in business, etc. The employer has right to regulate all employment aspects including enforcement of disciplinary action suspension and dismissal under the management prerogative doctrine.  However, the employee dismissal needs to be of fair grounds based on severe penalty but at the same time, the dismissal needs to be forced in accordance with relevant law (Walker & Hamilton, 2011).

On the other hand, there is a legal obligation from the employer to employee to provide a formal written procedure for disciplinary action and process and grievance process before an employee dismissal. The employers are required to conduct a detailed investigation of the reported issues (Walker & Hamilton, 2011). McDow has taken up the allegations to then chief executive and current president of the Business Council of Australia on numerous occasions but no relevance was given towards the incidents reported. The employee has right to claim for unfair dismissal and also to claim that employer has not acted with fairness and as a reasonable pardon in the existing scenario (Harcourt et al., 2013). There has been no situation of poor performance and/ or misconducts that avoid the need of disciplinary actions as well as dismissal which is not in accordance to the Employment Rights Act.  Thus, employer has right to conduct a legitimate and fair dismissal procedure to avoid any wrongful termination claim. In consequence towards dismissal, McDow has right to appeal against the formal dismissal decision from Origin Energy for unfair dismissal under the Fair Work Act.  Thus, it can be said that there are ethical issue towards the unfair dismissal of McDow from the Origin Energy.

 

References:

Freyens, B. P., & Oslington, P. (2013). A first look at incidence and outcomes of unfair dismissal claims under fair work, work choices and the workplace relations act. Australian Journal of Labour Economics, 16(2), 295.

Harcourt, M., Hannay, M., & Lam, H. (2013). Distributive justice, employment-at-will and just-cause dismissal. Journal of Business Ethics, 115(2), 311-325.

Walker, B., & Hamilton, R. T. (2011). Employee–employer grievances: a review. International journal of management reviews, 13(1), 40-58.

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Part A Question 3: What are the ethical issues involved with “whistleblowing”? For whistleblowing to be conducted in an ethical manner, how should it be done? Does the case study describe ethical whistleblowing? Explain your answer (300–400 words).
Answer:

Whistleblowing is associated with ethical issues related to the fairness value and loyalty value. Here fairness, points to the conducting actions that are just (Kaptein, 2011). On the other hand, loyalty in this case study concerns with the violating the trust of others employees who are involved in wrongdoings going against the organisation that is supporting bullying behaviour and unethical business culture.  At the same time, the a person ethical obligations is above the loyalty which is viewed as to act responsible and take accountability for one actions in reporting the wrongdoing towards servings in the best interests of the organisation and its key stakeholders (Ahmad et al., 2014). In the case study, Sally McDow as a compliance senior office is a responsible person that acted in an ethical way as she considered responsibility to protect the other staff members while holding accountability of the consequences of action taken as a whistle blower as by remaining silent more harm can occur. McDow has courage and integrity to stand on grounds even from pressure from senior influencers to remain silent as ethical obligation and value are given high preference over self –interest. To conduct whistleblowing in an ethical manner, first the workplace whistleblowing policy must be considered for corporate governance and to find how it can empower an employee to act on wrongdoings and misconduct incidences in the workplace while not harming the organisation profits and image (Vandekerckhove & Lewis, 2012). The next step is to inform the senior of the disclosure incidents and reports and ensure the trust that disclosure will be taken seriously and acted upon and not be taken as loss. If not, the whistle blower needs to go to the regulators to draw attention to the wrongdoing within the organisation. However, it is asserted by McDow that a general manager told that Origin Energy had a purposeful policy as self insurance strategy for non- conformance with legislative and regulatory obligations as fines imposed were cheaper that compliance (Slezak, 2017). Here, ethical whistleblowing is described in the case as McDow to develop an ethical organisation for the different stakeholders to gain advantage of fair treatment, responsibility, accountability and good work practices environment. Although the whistleblowing by Mc Dow cause a conflict of interest between the personal, and organizational members but it is considered as an ethical as it is not for self interest or rewards, or for the benefits to others but towards managers and policy that are disloyal to the organization future prospects.

References:

Ahmad, S. A., Yunos, R. M., Ahmad, R. A. R., & Sanusi, Z. M. (2014). Whistleblowing behaviour: The influence of ethical climates theory. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 164, 445-450.

Kaptein, M. (2011). From inaction to external whistleblowing: The influence of the ethical culture of organizations on employee responses to observed wrongdoing. Journal of Business Ethics, 98(3), 513-530.

Slezak, M. (2017, 17 January). Origin Energy ignores coal seam gas well leaks, whistleblower says. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/27/origin-energy-ignores-coal-seam-gas-well-leaks-whistleblower-says

Vandekerckhove, W., & Lewis, D. (2012). The content of whistleblowing procedures: A critical review of recent official guidelines. Journal of Business Ethics, 108(2), 253-264.

 

 

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Part A Question 4: Use the AAA Ethical Decision-making model to review the decision by Sally McDow to “blow the whistle”.  Was her decision ethical? Use the facts from the case to support your responses to each step of the AAA model (300–400 words).
Answer:

The decision to blow the whistle for Origin Energy by Sally McDow is reviewed by the Ethical Decision-making model by American Accounting Association (AAA) that considers ethical issues in the decision making process. The initial step of this model is to establish the case fasts (Kidwell et al., 2013).  In the case, Mc Dow has successfully established the case facts related to the incidents of environmental and legal non-compliance in Origin Energy, leakage in coal seam gas wells and an offshore gas, non-fulfilment of legislative requirements and non- reporting of incidents to internal system or to the regulators, lack of monitoring, underpayment of millions of dollars royalties to the Queensland government (Slezak, 2017). This points that there is no ambiguity in McDow about the issues to consider in the initial phase of decision making process.  Next is to identify the ethical issues that what is at risk such as conflict with organisational members, harm to senior managers, dismissal from organisation etc. this is followed by identifying the ethical principle and values (Trevino & Nelson, 2016) related to case facts like McDow self-ethical obligation, responsibility of own action, accountability of consequences, principled life, value of fairness, justice and utilitarian view. This points that in placing decision to whistle blow the decision has considered the ethical aspects, social expectations and government context and professional behaviour. Considering the fourth step of model to identify an alternative course of action (Kidwell et al., 2013), McDow has alerted the senior managers about the issues which were ignored considering the deliberate policy of Origin Energy towards high expenses to the organisation in complying with legal and legislative requirements.  This was done to ensure the outcomes that may be anticipated. McDow has identified the ethical principal and values to place it over the identified alternative action but it doesn’t seem to be in accordance to professional behaviour and ethics. McDow has also taken accountability of the consequences of acting as a whistle blower to make the decision in complete knowledge of the situation and facts and identified option and consequences to undertake the final decision to blow the whistle.  As a result, McDow has evidence of 120 pages which was presented directly to the chairman of Origin board.  Thus according to this model, McDow has uncovered facts which are unethical and unprofessional and also have been asked to not include in serious incidents in the audit reports which do not represents professional ethical conduct thus, the decision made by McDow was ethical.

 

References:

 

Kidwell, L. A., Fisher, D. G., Braun, R. L., & Swanson, D. L. (2013). Developing learning objectives for accounting ethics using Bloom’s taxonomy. Accounting Education, 22(1), 44-65.

Slezak, M. (2017, 17 January). Origin Energy ignores coal seam gas well leaks, whistleblower says. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/27/origin-energy-ignores-coal-seam-gas-well-leaks-whistleblower-says

Trevino, L. K., & Nelson, K. A. (2016). Managing business ethics: Straight talk about how to do it right. US: John Wiley & Sons.

 

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Part B Question: Assume that Origin Energy does not (or did not) have an effective ethics program at the time of the events described in the case study. Advise Origin Energy why they should have an ethics program, what needs to be done to make it effective, and what it should contain. Emphasise how an effective ethics program could have prevented the need for a whistleblower to highlight the problems with Origin’s operations. Support your answers with examples from the case study (1,200–1,600 words).
Answer:

Whistleblower is defined as a person that exposes all kind of unethical, illegal or incorrect information or activity which is undertaken within an organization. In other words, Givati (2016) clearly stated that in an organization, whistleblower is an employee who makes the complaints regarding the misconduct within the company such as safety code violations, financial mismanagement, any kind of fraud and so on. The whistleblower need is required when there is some uncertain situation and management is not undertaking the concern to overcome from it. In a similar manner, this Origin Energy case study also stated that senior management of the company was ignoring the situation where coal seam gas well is leaking. This leakage of gas found to be harmful for the health and safety prospects.

While studying this case study of Origin Energy, it is observed that senior management of the company was not taking into consideration the gas leakage issue which is ultimately indicating the unethical management practices which affects the business performance and employees relationship. In this case, the employee of the company who was involved in the former senior management team (Slezak, 2017). The senior team management named as Sally McDow who put allegation to the company regarding the unethical practices which is followed. The case allegation was to test or measure the amount of gas and to investigate the legislative requirement related to Australia’s corporate whistleblower.

Origin Energy should have an ethics program in place to deal with wrongdoers and disloyal employees towards the organisation and manage the employee who draws attention to the wrongdoing within an organisation.  This will avoid the need for employee personal and professional sacrifice to expose the wrong doers and bring attention to the wrong and harmful practices within workplace at their own consequences.  As McDow was dismissed from the organisation after exposing the cover-up and disclosure of wrongdoing with evidence to the chairman (Slezak, 2017). The ethics program should be in Origin Energy during the events to communicate the philosophy and ethical values of the organisation to the organisational members, investors, suppliers, government and customers. The ethical program would have supported the employee actions and maintained the organisation reputation during such disclosure.  The ethics program should be there to make aware the senior managers on the attitude of the organisation towards workplace, professional ethics and regarding principled business behaviour (Beeri et al., 2013). It also clarifies about the guideline regarding ethical and acceptable behaviour which the organisational members need to adhere like reporting of incidents, explosion, systemic issues, serious consideration of the audit reports and reporting obligations in oil and gas industry. To make an ethics program effective, each and every organisational member should be made aware and have knowledge about the ethical and code of conduct that is prevailing in the organisation. The organisation can appoint an ethical compliance office to make the ethics program more effective. The employees can also ask question and take guidance to the compliance about an action being ethical or not as per the company code of conduct and other business ethics doubts to make ethical business decision. In addition, the organisation can ensure that its practices and functioning are in compliance with relevant rules and legislation of the oil and gas industry.  Also, ethical program also require communication efforts by the managers with subordinates and vice versa to be effective (Jiang et al., 2011). The ethical program should contain a corporate ethics policy for employees, suppliers and business associates (Kaptein, 2015) including ethical values, ethical business behaviour, unacceptable behaviour, professional code of conducts of the company, disciplinary actions that can be taken for non-compliance to ethics and professional conducts (Kaptein, 2015), procedure to report ethical and related issues. It should also include company values for organisational members to be responsible, accountable, fair, loyal, trustworthy, honest and good citizen. It can be added that ethics program needs to provide relevant legal requirements (compliance) and issues that employee must adhere towards fulfilling the state and federal laws under the code of ethics.

The ethics program supports the company in preventing from such case allegation which can affect the company’s image to a large extent at the workplace. In Australia, every organization is essential to adopt the effective ethics program for setting a protocol in place to prevent from the unlawful conduct or illegal practices which impact adversely on the working environment and culture (Merchant & White, 2017). However, the ethics programs leads to the reduction in the unethical behavior, illegal practices and incorrect information transfer and also strengthening the employee commitment at the workplace to perform with full capability.

As per case study of origin Energy, it can be emphasized that if company has concentrated on such problem and taken sudden actions or step then there might be no need for the whistleblower who alert about such types of issues respectively. In contrast to this, Cho & Song (2015) also stated that whistle blowing cannot be considered as ethics for an organization because the people or employee will only blow whistle when there is any harm rather than any good thing will occur. In oppose to it, Vandekerckhove (2018) also stated that whistle blowing is consider as a protection tool as well as best ethics practices of the business which encourages the employee to identify the problem and react to it suddenly unless and until it takes too long.

The effective ethic program will prevent the need for the whistleblower for highlighting the problems related to origin operations. The ethical program that need to be understand by proper development of an effective strategies and policies, rules & regulation which abide the top level management of the company to make ensure no such unethical issues or challenges takes place within organization. The value based programs and compliance driven programs are ethics program that must be implemented at the workplace efficiently. While studying, Rohr (2017) stated that the whistleblower should be considered only when there are some conditions which are meet such as need of whistleblower, proper proximity of whistleblower and capacity and last resort.

The whistle blower support the company in identifying the past, present or future wrongdoing falling one or more activities that are performed within an organization. In concern to this, Origin Energy case study also stated there are various serious issues which are discussed by the 35 senior management of the company. The use of an effective ethic program in organization will help in emphasising more on avoid such practices which need the whistleblower to identify and raise the voice for uncertain issues or problem respectively. In instance, the origin energy case study is analysed which stated that if Sally McDow has not put allegation for the claim then company has might faced a explosion due to leakage gas which may caused to the multiple details which creates a systematic issues which is ignored by the management. This ignorance of such practices by the management in audits and financial records also resulted into the violation of legalisation practices which also affected negatively.

While studying the case study, it is also found that there is allegation put by the McDow that company don’t follow i.e., Fair Work Act. This action of blowing of whistle by the McDow has stated that she is whistleblower of the company which is protecting the employees and company from uncertain risks. At the same time, it is also determined that company is not efficiently managing the ethical framework because of which failure in self-regulatory system is also seen. The effective ethic program will somewhere support the organizations in avoiding the support of whistleblower for identifying and protecting the working environment from the unethical or illegal issues and practices respectively.

The emphasis on using effective ethic program somewhere encourages the senior management to adopt and implement some restricted rules and regulation which is mandatory to be followed by organization and it’s every employee in order to prevent and protect from the unethical crisis. In addition, Ferrell and Fraedrich (2015) also demonstrated that whistleblower do not needed or required in the organization when company accepts the ethics program in a positive manner in order to develop a healthy and secured working environment from the harmful gases. Therefore, the use of ethic program will manage the business operation issues or problems and that will lead to prevention from any whistleblower to identify such issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

 

Beeri, I., Dayan, R., Vigoda-Gadot, E., & Werner, S. B. (2013). Advancing ethics in public organizations: The impact of an ethics program on employees’ perceptions and behaviors in a regional council. Journal of Business Ethics, 112(1), 59-78.

Jiang, D. Y., Lin, Y. C., & Lin, L. C. (2011). Business moral values of supervisors and subordinates and their effect on employee effectiveness. Journal of Business Ethics, 100(2), 239-252.

Kaptein, M. (2015). The effectiveness of ethics programs: The role of scope, composition, and sequence. Journal of Business Ethics, 132(2), 415-431.

Slezak, M. (2017, 17 January). Origin Energy ignores coal seam gas well leaks, whistleblower says. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/27/origin-energy-ignores-coal-seam-gas-well-leaks-whistleblower-says

Merchant, K. A., & White, L. F. (2017). Linking the Ethics and Management Control Literatures☆. In Advances in Management Accounting (pp. 1-29). Emerald Publishing Limited.

Ferrell, O.C. and Fraedrich, J. (2015). Business ethics: Ethical decision making & cases. USA: Nelson Education.

Rohr, J. (2017). Ethics for bureaucrats: An essay on law and values. UK: Routledge.

Vandekerckhove, W. (2018). Whistleblowing and information ethics: facilitation, entropy, and ecopoiesis. Journal of Business Ethics152(1), 15-25.

Cho, Y. J., & Song, H. J. (2015). Determinants of whistleblowing within government agencies. Public Personnel Management44(4), 450-472.

Givati, Y. (2016). A theory of whistleblower rewards. The Journal of Legal Studies45(1), 43-72.

 

 

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