In theory, the golden rule should apply to the way in which humans are treated by other humans: Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. In practice, however, this concept is affected by differences in values, culture, belief systems, and the unequal distribution of power. The expectation that workers are treated fairly, and with respect, is occasionally violated in organizations. Over the years, these violations have been debated, and developed into laws which are intended to protect the parties bound by an employment contract (discussed in the next chapter). Beyond law and legislative acts, there are expectations for ethical and socially responsible behavior, however these expectations are difficult to define – within a culture and, even more so, across different cultures. However, students of HR should be able to understand and apply frameworks for determining the degree to which behavior of individuals and organizations is ethical and socially responsible. The exercises contained in this chapter – ranging from a case on ethics in HR policy to a reflective exercise on how it feels to act in a socially responsible manner – offer students opportunities to apply frameworks to a variety of situations.
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