Redefining the Concepts of Work and Ethics
Work is so paramountly important to people to the extent that we virtually live in the world of work. Perhaps it was this notion that prompted Soneye (1989) to submit the “we work to live and we live to work”. The chunk of people’s time on daily basis is consumed by that Oliver Twist of all times, referred to as “work”. It is never tired of questing for people’s time, energy, knowledge, skills and abilities. Work is so powerful and effectual that it makes the difference between success and failure, development and underdevelopment, domination and submission, liberation and slavery, dream and reality. In a nutshell, the totality of people’s existence is hooked solidly on the world of work.
Due to the overwhelming and the all-encompassing mediatory and moderation roles of work in the life of human beings generally, it becomes compulsory to understand the concepts of work. Most importantly for those who operate in work settings (employers, employees, union members, managers), understanding the concept of work is a must. Ask me why? The answer is simply this, so that they will not be like the fish that failed to discover the water. Therefore, whenever the fish is removed from the water; it becomes a Sluggish, helpless, dying creature. Its failure to explore the water precludes it from knowing that the water in which its swim freely can get dried up or that a strong tide could blow it to the land.
It therefore chose to remain a fish rather than metamorphosed into an amphibian (a creature that can live on both land and water). Forever therefore, the fish will continue to pay the highest price of death for that mistake.
This article is therefore designed to make the reader learn and use the rope in the world of work through its conceptual understanding and work ethics.
- The True Definition of Work
Watson (1980) says work refers to the carrying out task activities by people within the environment in which they find themselves so that they can earn a living. To Neff (1968:10) work is an instrumental activity carried out by human beings, the object of which is to preserve and maintains the future of man’s environment. Whereas 0 ‘Toole (1973) conceptualizes it as an activity that produces something of value for other people. Fagbohungbe and Longe (1993) view work as any socially approved action of a person or group of persons made up of task activities that are directed at a beneficial end. In other words, work is instrumental to the achievement of an outcome.
There as many definitions of work as their authors. Thompson (1983) sees it as a framework that allows those that have resources to appropriate surplus. To Argyle (1972) work is a setting for the exhibition of all kinds of social behaviour such as team work, cooperation, helping in groups, negotiation, bargaining, assessment, appraisal and supervisory relationships.
The deduction from the above is that work may mean different things to different people but not without some commonalities in terms of task activities leading to reward. This brings us to the characteristics of work
- Characteristics of Work
The credit for the characteristic of work goes to Soneye (1989). In a lecture titled “Work and Government Work”, he listed the characteristics below:
- Work is a necessity – we live to work and work to live
- It involves physical and/or mental exertion
- It is not inherently pleasurable
- It attracts reward
- It is relational, bringing entrepreneurs and employees together
- It’s meaning and significance derive from values, culture and the social structure of the society
- It is directed at the achievement of specific objectives
- Employer and Employee Work Relationship
PH = Point of harmony
Figure 1: Employer versus Employee Work Relationship (Fagbohungbe, 2009)
Figure 1 above explains the relationship that exists between Employer and Employees. The type of relationships between the two is strongly moderated and mediated by their needs. Because the need of the two groups differentially antagonistic, they hardly reach the point of harmony. The cause of industrial dispute between the two is largely due to irreconcilability of their needs.
- The Basis for Work Ethics
The word ethics derived from the Greek word “ethos” which means character or custom. In Latin, it is called mores, which means morals. Ethos (character) or mores (morals) implies behaviour that is desirable. Ethics are therefore ideas or beliefs that influence people’s behaviour and attitude. It can be referred to as moral rules or principle of behaviour that determines what is right or wrong. In this regard, therefore, ethic can span various aspect people’s activities. Hence, we have religious ethics, professional ethics, work ethics etc. But in this paper our focus is on work ethics.
Donaldson (1989) defines work ethics as systematic study of moral (ethical) matters pertaining to business, industry or related activities, institutions or practices. Work ethics are ideas, beliefs or moral rules expected to guide workers during carrying out the task activities of their jobs.
- Organizations are made up of diverse people who are different in so many ways (feelings, perception, thinking, expectation, goals, needs, knowledge, skills, abilities, culture, religion etc.). Yet these diverse people must work to attain the same goals.
- For maintenance of standards
- To protect corporate image, consumers and the public
- To change employee behaviour from the undesirable to the desirable
- For competition, recognition and acceptance
Types of Work Ethics
Figure 2: Consequence of Work Ethics (Fagbohungbe, 2009)
Figure 2 above define not only types of work ethics but also the benefits that accrue to organization when they are ethical.
- How to Improving Work Ethical Practices
work ethical ideas, issues, rules and principles cannot be wished away from work organizations. Listed below are some of these factors that can enhance the acceptance and application of ethical rules to organizational tasks activities by employees.
- Managers, supervisors and employees alike must have in-depth understanding of the world of work
- It must be realized by the two major stakeholders (employer and employees) that ethical rules are guided and thrive on honesty, truthfulness, integrity, uprightness, consistency, empathy, social skills, self-awareness, self-control and motivation. Knowing the ingredients of ethical rule could facilitate its usage.
III. Managers should select subordinates whose moral integrity can be relied upon
- Organizations should design code of conduct that will guide members on daily basis
- Organizations should design practicable and realistic code of conduct
- In design code of conduct, the users must be carried along through awareness and proper education