Thursday, November 29, 2012

Business Ethics: A Final Investigation

Ethics in The Workplace: Why it’s Important
          Oftentimes, deciding to do the right thing can be a difficult choice. Such dilemmas, classified often as 'ethical' decisions, are commonly found in the workplace. Ethics can be described as a moral dilemma about distinguishing between what is right and wrong. Experts say the word 'ethics' can be commonly interchanged with the word 'judgment'. These ethical dilemmas can arise when the established rules or policies are unclear, and that typically the situation is so unique that there are no guidelines on how to approach them. One setting in which making the wrong judgment decision can have especially harmful impacts is in the workplace. Company time, money, and resources can all perish severely if one person makes an unethical decision. Some of the world’s largest and most successful corporations have fallen due to employees using a lack of proper judgment when it comes to unique situations in which the right choice is not always clear. One prime example of this is the Enron Corporation, the multi-billion dollar energy company that went bankrupt after years of lying to shareholders about their financial statements.  Since not all ethics issues are this phenomenal, I wanted to know more about how this controversial topic of ethics affects the workplace on a smaller, more probable scale. To do this, I sought out Dr. Hugh Turner, a professor at here at the University of Maryland. I wanted his point of view because he is an expert in the field and has had much experience with this issue in the past.

How Companies Can Manage Unethical Behavior 
          One thing that particularly peaked my curiosity during my initial research of ethics in the workplace was finding out how companies can limit the damage done by employees that make unethical decisions. To find out more about this, I asked Dr. Turner for his expertise. He explained to me that he believes the best way to reduce the chances of unethical decisions occurring is to establish clear company guidelines. Turner’s full answer is posted below:

          After he explained this, I thought that made a lot of sense. As an employer, doing your best to make sure your employees know what is right and wrong in every situation will help protect them from making poor decisions. Many times, these poor decisions can lead to minor penalties, such as loss of company time or resources. However, these poor decisions can also lead to more hefty consequences, such as lawsuits or eventual bankruptcy for the company, as we saw with the Enron Corporation.

Can All Employees Face Ethical Dilemmas?
          The wide range in consequences that result from making unethical decisions was very interesting to me. Obviously, not all ethical dilemmas will have the same result. At the same time, how can we know which ones will have a greater impact than others might? Is there a tell-all way to know which decisions will be more impactful than others?  Does position within the company have something to do with it? To find these answers, I again looked to Dr. Turner. He explained that the results of unethical decisions that vary in size are often related to the hierarchy within the company:

          Like Dr. Turner said, when officers of a company make poor decisions, it will often catch up to the company in a more severe manner. At lower entry level positions, these dilemmas will still occur, but rarely will they carry as hefty a penalty as a lapse of judgment made in a management or corporate position.

Real Life Ethics Cases
          At another point during the interview, Dr. Turner described to me a real ethical dilemma he was faced with not too long ago here as a professor at the university. A popular class that he instructs here at the university was getting ready to specify a new textbook for its students, and there were three main competitors. “A rep from each particular textbook would check up on me and my decision and say things like ‘have you made your decision yet?’”, Dr. Turner explained. Then, he says, one company offered to treat him to an all expenses paid trip to Puerto Rico to discuss with the company ways to improve the textbook. “I didn’t feel comfortable with it,” Turner assessed. He was afraid the company was trying to persuade him to using their textbook for his course. This was a judgmental decision he had to make since there were no previously written policies about such unique circumstances. In the end, he did not take the trip. I believe he made the right decision, but I wanted to see what my fellow peers, who , like myself, are not experts in the field, thought as well. I described the professor’s dilemma to one of my roommates, and asked him what he would have done. His response can be heard here:

          As you heard, he had the same opinion as Dr. Turner and myself. He thought that going to Puerto Rico on the company’s dime would be unethical. Granted, I don’t think Dr. Turner would have been fired, like my roommate stated, if he had agreed to go on this trip.
          To tie all of my research together, I wanted to offer one last approach that has been taken on this controversial issue: that of the popular television comedy series The Office. In the clip, a manager from the corporate level comes to speak to their local branch about ethics in the workplace: what it means, the company’s policies, how to make the right choices, and so on. The employees are trying to get a grasp on what ethics is, and one employee offers his own take. Although this television series takes a humorous approach, it demonstrates that companies do take significant strides to ensure their employees know the difference between right and wrong.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Business Ethics: An Investigation

Ethics- What is it?
          The topic I wanted to look into more as part of our final project was business ethics in the workplace. I wanted to discover the difference between what is right and wrong in the workplace, and also just how impactful these ethical issues can be on short and long term health of business. Ethics can be described as a moral dilemma about distinguishing between what is right and wrong, and also acting on these decisions. Experts say the word ‘ethics’ can be commonly interchanged with the word ‘morality.’ Some of the world’s largest and most successful corporations have fallen due to employees using a lack of proper judgment when it comes to unique situations in which the right choice is not always clear. Companies must pour time and money into training employees the best they can for these situations, but they still cannot always be prevented. As an investigator of this issue, I hope to find out what types of ethical dilemmas occur during business operations, and how they are handled.

Real Ethics Cases
          One of the main reasons I wanted to look into this issue was because of news stories I have seen in the past about corporations crumbling after officers have used a poor lack of judgment. Perhaps the most famous case of this was the case of Enron Corporation. The multi-billion dollar energy business went bankrupt after years of lying about their financial statements to shareholders, as well as to the public. Granted, they’re behavior was not only unethical, but also illegal. However, there were many other decisions that led to these illegal acts, and soon, the financial officers of Enron realized that one unethical decision after another can lead to a terrible downfall. This perplexing and controversial case is one of the reasons I wanted to investigate this issue.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Digital Divide or Participation Gap?

Mobile Internet Usage                
               In today’s growing technological world, many people are using technology in ways which they never thought were possible before.  High- speed internet and using this internet on our mobile phones are two of the most popular advances that we have seen in recent years.   Every day, more and more people are beginning to join this technological revolution that is filled with smart phones, 4G internet speeds, and mobile internet usage. 
                The Pew Research Center completed a study about the statistics of cell phone users and the amount of their online browsing habits.  Their findings were very supportive of the everyday increase of technology usage that is apparent in recent years.  In 2009, it reported, that all cell phone owners who use email or internet on their mobile device was 31%.  This was significantly lower than the 55% reported in 2012.  Not surprisingly, the demographic that had the largest increase was the age group of 25-34 year olds.   This could be due to the combination of the fact that these individuals have the means to afford these new technologies, as well as the ability to learn the ins and outs of these new technologies. 

Are All On-Board with Today's Technological Abilities?
                As I read more into this technological phenomenon, however, I found that not all Americans are ‘diving’ into this new technological craze.  In a brief report by Kevin Guidry at Indiana University, there appears to be a few reasons why not all Americans are on board with the new powers of technology yet.  One reason, he described, is known as the digital divide, where these families or individuals are less educated and face financial restrictions. A second reason, which he referred to as a participation gap, happens when the conditions in which people access the internet change the way they browse the web. 
                In my own opinion, I think that today there is more of a digital divide, rather than a participation gap present between non-mobile internet users.  The report by Pew Research Center concluded that 55% of adults now access the internet or email from their mobile devices.  This proves the participation gap theory not so relevant today because the adults are the ones who would be most prone to a change in internet usage over the period of their lifetime.  When they were younger, internet was brand new, and they probably had little means of access due to how expensive it was. Today, it is much cheaper and easier to access, meaning that %55 of adults (at least!) have adapted the way they use the internet from when they were younger.  This is why I believe the digital divide is more realistic today. With all this technology improving our lives, the only logical reason that is provided is the inability to afford these new technologies.  The Pew Research Center supports this in their study, as they show that the lowest percentage of mobile internet users is the demographic with household incomes less than 30%.  

What About the Future?
               Since technology is becoming increasingly cheaper over time, I believe in 3-5 years this trend of increased mobile internet usage will greatly decrease the digital divide. In this foreseeable future, more and more individuals will be a part of the mobile audience. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Entertainment Industry in Japan

                The Japanese entertainment industry is one of the worlds largest and most unique.  There is a large variety of music and films, as well as a huge animation industry. The most popular styles come from artists who draw from traditional artistic and literary traditions. This creates an industry which not only reflects the attitudes and society of today but also provides a link to the traditions of the past. 
                The ever-changing pop culture scene in Japan is similar to that of most first-world countries: full of movies, music, and internet sensations.  Teenagers go to the movie theatres, listen to the radio, and watch television in their free time.  In addition, malls and shopping centers are prevalent.  Game centers, bowling alleys, and karaoke parlors are also ways that the citizens of Japan can have fun when they have spending money.  Currently, the most popular movies in Japan are ‘Outrage Beyond’, ‘Until the Break of Dawn’, and ‘The Mystical Laws’.  Some of the popular songs in Japan today include ‘Ecstasy’ by Kumi Koda, and ‘Tanabata Matsuri’ by Tegomass. 
                Since the entertainment industry is so big, it is in turn very influential to the rest of the world. This effect is similar to the United States’ popular culture impact on other countries, which can be seen in movies such as Slumdog Millionaire.  Not surprisingly, American culture has a profound influence on Japan’s entertainment industry.  Currently, American artists such as Katy Perry, Greenday, The Black Eyed Peas, and Beyonce can all be found on the Japanese Top 20 music charts.  Although the United States’ industry is usually the one doing the influencing, recently, parts of Japan’s pop culture has taken over the United States.  One prime example of this recent occurrence is Japanese rapper Psy’s hit song “Gangnam Style”. The song has hit the US shores with authority, taking over the #1 spot on Billboard’s Rap chart (  Another aspect of Japanese culture that has had a huge impact on the rest of the world is the cartoon animation industry known as anime.  Sold in forms of comic books, movies, and television shows, it is the most powerful aspect of pop culture in Japan.  However, it also has a huge foothold in other countries.  In the United States alone, the anime industry is worth about $4.35 billion, according to the Japan External Trade Organization. 
                Not only is anime very popular in other countries, it is even bigger in Japan where it originated.  Anime has been a part of Japanese pop culture 1917, and has been developed by artists within the country ever since then.  The art form can be produced by being both hand-drawn and computer-generated.  Popular forms of distribution include television series, movies, video games, comic books, and internet-releases.  Anime is one way that artists combine the contemporary styles of today while providing links to the traditions of the past.  One of the most popular anime series’ in Japanese history, called Naruto, is about a young ninja seeking recognition from his village as being the strongest and leader of them all.  In empirical Japan, these leaders of villages and commanders of forces were known as shoguns. The fact that the pop culture in Japan still values hierarchies that were present in the 1600’s is incredible.   

Psy's #1 Hit 'Gangnam Style' 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Controversy of Putting Tracking Devices on Fugitives and Suspects

Technology nowadays continues to break barriers that society never could have imagined. We have become accustomed to things that decades ago would seem unthinkable, including touch screen phones and battery powered cars.  However, with the changing technological times, we as a society have to keep up.  Often, these advances in technology come with controversy in the public eye.  One hot topic that caught the attention of the public not too long ago is the controversy behind federal officials to order cell phone companies to furnish real-time tracking of data so officials can pinpoint fugitives and suspects.  With the nation’s sharpened sense of National Security increasing vastly within the last decade, this has been a controversial issue.  As with almost every controversial issue, there are both pros and cons that come with this topic.  People that support this act approve of it because it will help police and federal officials keep this great nation safer from criminals, terrorists, and suspects.  People that oppose this will say that putting tracking devices on these people without their consent is simply unconstitutional and does not respect people’s rights. 
Personally, to an extent, I agree with this policy of tracking people that are wanted by federal officials.  I believe it is a safe, inexpensive, and reasonable way to keep the public safer.  However, the only part of the argument I do not agree with is giving these officials the ability to put these tracking devices on suspects.  Suspects are only suspects, and nothing more.  If we place these tracking devices on suspects, they will lose their innocence before even being proven guilty.  I still believe in the fact that you are innocent until proven guilty.  I do not have a problem if we put these devices on criminals. At that point, they have already been proven guilty, and have forfeited their constitutional rights.  
Considering the other side, the only negative I can think of with this system is the security of the data collected.  If this information is stored online, it risks being breached and having the information leaked. This would be catastrophic as people’s locations and identities could be shared. Other than having to be very careful about where the information stored, I approve of placing these tracking devices on fugitives and criminals in order to collect data about their whereabouts.  Other people will disagree, and the debate will continue, but that is how I see the issue.