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Turning Point: Are All Human Resource Theories Capable of Having a Practical Application?

By Horace Blake

Theories are numerous in the field of human resources management. However, one of the most pressing theories to put into practice is how to manage the theory of ethics. Sound ethical standard can be a balancing act as making one group happy in a set of circumstances might render another group to be disappointed. This theory of ethics in human resources is important in posing some very fundamental questions, how to respond to them with its practical applications, as well as the practical approach to take within the confines of the law and our social structure. When we consider who we hire, how we recruit, issues related to managing diversity, benefit entitlements for dependents, adhering to new laws that consequently poses new meaning as to what constitutes a family unit. Thus the latter issue is based on the forward push of the governing bodies in many states, municipalities and counties who are examining how to include same sex spouses with their dependent children as a family unit. This greatly affects benefit arrangements and its ensuing cost; mirrored with fairness and equality to all eligible employees.

blake 1The model of ethics in public service is an excellent diagnostic tool for analyzing how an organization manages its employee relations in a sound manner. It provides for a two-way strategy where the attainable action of the organization is reciprocated by the commitment of its employees to serve the organization well. Robert L. Mathis and John H. Jackson, as stated in their book Human Resource Management, believe that ethical issues are about fairness, justice, truthfulness, and social responsibility, as an ongoing preoccupation for managers in the field of human resource management. A list of dimensions to be examined is not all inclusive such as:

  • Extended consequences: Ethical decisions have consequences beyond the decisions themselves. An example would be the decision to relocate a public service depot many miles away in a new commercial hub. This could have far reaching effects in the immediate community of an inner city underserved area that need the jobs and commercial activity of this depot to remain active and vibrant.
  • Multiple alternatives: As various alternatives exist in most decision making situations, so the issue may involve how far to “bend the rules.” This is very evident, especially in deciding how much flexibility to offer families with a variety of family problems while there is the intent to deny others with similar situations.
  • Mixed outcome: Decisions with ethical dimensions may be controversial where weighing the beneficial outcome against the negative ones. An example would be ordering a new and advanced computer system that would save several technology jobs while displacing many other employees; proving positive for the organization and negative for the employees.
  • Uncertain consequences: This is where the consequences of decisions are unknown. Should employee’s personal lifestyle eliminate them from promotional opportunities despite their stellar qualifications?
  • Personal effects: Ethical decisions often affect the personal lives of employees, their families, and others. An example would be allowing a business relation that benefits the organization in the short term but creates lasting effects on the employees and their future career opportunities.

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In many organizations, employees dismiss the reality that human resources (HR) is actually useful for that reason when there is time to employ workforce cut back HR will lose many of their key players. The reason stems from the fickle nature of many HR departments with their ongoing changes and so-called strategic experiments. This allows other departments to question their tenure. Here the scientific model is not convenient to realize. HR outcomes are not always easily aligned with a set of metrics. Further examining the theory of ethics and how to put it into practice requires us to revisit our social culture and demographics (in terms of race, age, gender) that are continuing barriers to developing the best talent for the organization. There is continuing conversation about how diverse America is becoming as a society. However, there are many areas of the workplace that do not reflect this trend thus casting light on how well we falter at putting the theory of ethics into practice.

Turning theory into practice, such as managing diversity and inclusion within public organizations, can be an ongoing challenge. This is due to its complex nature, brought on by public scrutiny, where the conversation takes on a serious tone as ethics is critical in every organization. Here, the importance of assessing and retaining talent is becoming more difficult. A positive and effective diversity and inclusion strategy can be evasive at best. This could mean success or failure. So how the representative of a public organization becomes most effective would require them to avoid being the moral police and follow the reason for being in public service, which is to serve the public regardless of what diversity label is attached to the individual or group. The best strategic guidance to be aligned with is following the letter of the law. Tips to utilize are:

  • Set out to better understand who your clients are and the emerging issues, even if they are hot button issues, that conjure up heated debates.
  • Avoid and challenge the notion of group-think in terms of inclusive employment practice, to be more accessible to more people.
  • Make the effort to connect and build new sources of talent that represent the community.
  • Make strategic decisions to recruit talent from the current internal pool of employees when there are opportunities for promotion.
  • Critically survey and analyze all promotion processes, as the dynamics of the process can be difficult to restructure.
  • Enhanced training opportunities should be paramount as this is the catalyst of change towards desired behaviors and future successes.

Finally, most important in subscribing to managing the theory of ethics is to create value from the available diversity of candidates so as to leverage the notion of diversity in the workplace.


Horace A. Blake has served three full terms as HOA Commissioner for the City of Carrollton and has occupied an advisory role in matters relating to human resources issues under the direction of the City Attorney. Blake has a total of 25 years in human resources management in the private sector and has volunteered with the county and the state in the capacity of teaching youth on career management and job search techniques. Currently, Blake serves on the city’s Storm Water Management Board along with being a DPA Candidate. As a member of ASPA, he is the treasurer for the Section on Public Law and Administration.

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