The seminal importance of ethics in contemporary HR functions The seminal importance of ethics in contemporary HR functions

The HR (Human resources) department in any organisation is generally tasked with a wide range of tasks as well as responsibilities, as a general rule. And indeed, many if not most of them have their very own ethical and legal ramifications, within the HR paradigm.

In any company, staff workers and employees are forced to face a diverse array of issues, problems and conflicts especially amongst inter personnel relationships. And that is why they look at the HR department for help and guidance as well as the resolution of their problems.

How individual HD members handle their duties and tasks determines the direction of the culture of the organisation as well as its core values.

Ethics and HR go hand in hand right from the commencement of the recruiting process to induction, training, appraisal and even termination/ discharge. As a matter of fact, An Unethical HR department head can easily destroy lives and break careers to pieces.


The HR HoD of a bank had the power to terminate the employment of any employees who had deviated from his employment contract.

An NCS (non-clerical staff) peon in a village in a remote branch of the bank was found to have submitted a fake degree during his employment nearly two decades back. If the violation was unacceptable a simple forced resignation would have sufficed. However, the HoD insisted on outright dismissal. I.e an act that would ensure his personal information ended up at the State (Central) bank and made him ineligible for any employment by any financial institution. Moreover, the bank also confiscated his home that he had mortgaged to the bank so as to recover the loans he had taken for the education of his children as well as the marriage of his daughter.

From the legal view point the HoD was well within her rights, but viewing the above case study through the prism of ethics, especially when the scenario was repeated multiple times, led to a complete change in the corporate colure of the bank. While SOPs were rigidly followed, the easy-going atmosphere turned into a tense and edgy environment with people looking at each other wondering who would be next. In time the employees’ loyalty to the bank waned leading to a pronounced brain drain.

The above example elucidates the value of ethics and compassion as standard HR practices.

However, it’s not just an HoD that can change lives but the whole department is in a powerful position to direct organisational culture courtesy its many functions and therefore unethical practices in the HRD may culminate in far reaching consequences for the whole organisation.

Written By: Jaffar Ali

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