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Practicing Organization Development: Leading Transformation and Change, 4th Edition by Roland L. Sullivan, Jacqueline M. Stavros, William J. Rothwell

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Chapter Twenty-Four

Positive Organizational Ethics

Adult Moral Development in the Workplace

Leslie E. Sekerka

The word ethics comes from both Latin and Greek meaning character (Oxford English Dictionary 2013; see www.oed.com/). Broadly speaking, ethics refers to the philosophy of human conduct, which is the determination of right and wrong behavior. When ethics is applied to an organization, it relates to its principles and values and the choices derived from them, applied to successfully achieving operational performance. Until recently, organizations were considered ethical so long as they were law abiding. With ongoing demonstrative evidence that malfeasance occurs with regulatory controls in place, many realize that prevention of moral ineptitude does not ensure ethical behavior. This is especially the case when business operates without a strong moral foundation. When motives are not backed by socially responsible performance, organizational ethics is unreliable. When organization development (OD) is used to help firms build moral strength, people work together to enhance productivity, learning, and core competencies that can benefit the company and its broader community (McLean 2006). Because OD professionals commit to promoting justice and serving the well-being of all living beings, it is assumed that those working in this field are interested in advancing moral responsibility in business enterprise (see www.theodinstitute.org/; www.iodanet.org/).

An initial challenge ...

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