Your Ethical Values and Those of the Organization

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We continue with another Tip to discuss organizational structure and behavior. A very important component of this is ethics, and ethical decision-making. Most persons in most organizations are acting ethically at least a majority of the time. But certainly some persons violate codes of ethics, and when orchestrated by leaders can result in extraordinarily untoward practices that dupe clients and colleagues, causing great financial loss, not to mention loss to one’s reputation.

Zhang et al examine unethical behavior in the workplace.1 Specifically, they look at “pro-organization behaviors” carried out by employees explicitly or implicitly from their managers/leaders. The prior literature is replete with examples of unethical behavior in the workplace, with many employees contending that their unethical activities serve to benefit the organization or its members. Such “unethical pro-organizational behavior” is defined as “actions that are intended to promote the effective functioning of the organization or its members and violate core societal values, norms, laws, or standards of proper conduct” such as a tendency to exaggerate the truth about one’s company’s products or services to clients to benefit the company. Such behavior appears to help the organization in the short term but comes at a high cost to the business in the long run. Their study drew on social identity theory to consider why leaders’ unethical pro-organizational behavior brings about corresponding behavior in their employees. They collected data from multiple institutions to confirm this hypothesized relationship, which is even stronger when employees have higher leader identification (the extent which a supervisor is included in the subordinate’s relationship self, owing to that supervisor helping them satisfy a psychosocial need) and lower moral identity (a self-conception organized around a set of moral traits).

Employees will often not only abide by the general accepted practices of the organization dictated by its culture, but also emulate the actions of its leaders. Pharmacy staff are already presented with potential role conflicts with sometimes differing demands from payers, patients, and regulatory authorities. The pharmacy manager must not exacerbate this conflict, and thus role-model proper behaviors in communicating with clients and providing patient care. Anything less can put employees and the entire business at risk. Likewise, staff must be decisive and draw a line in the sand when requested to do things that comprise their integrity.

Additional information about Ethical Decision-Making and Problem-Solving and Organizational Structure and Behavior in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.

1Zhang Y, He B, Sun X. The contagion of unethical pro-organizational behavior: From leaders to followers. Front Psychol. 2018; doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01102.

Shane Desselle

Professor of Social and Behavioral Pharmacy, Touro University California

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Shane Desselle about 1 month ago

Has pharmacy or anyone in the profession ever exaggerated its benefits in this way?