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Towards an Ethical Research Agenda for International HRM

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This is a co-authored article published in 2012 by Maddy Janssens and Chris Steyaert. It aims to develop an ethical research program for International Human Resource Management (HRM) (Janssens & Steyaert, 2012). The paper analyzes the role played by the multinational companies through the political and ethical roles in the HRM. The authors have deeply delved into three main aspects of cosmopolitanism: political, cultural, and social. They have gone ahead to “translate the core and ethical stance of each perspective to the field of international HRM, presenting three different foci of an ethical research agenda in terms of the ethical implications for multinational companies (MNCs), research focus, methodological suggestions, and inherent limitations”(Janssens & Steyaert, 2012 p. 61).

The article touches areas that the multinational companies need to focus on, as they strive to create an ethical environment that will give their employees equality and room for productivity worldwide. A question has been raised regarding the inequality of the income of employees doing the same work but in different countries with varied jurisdiction. Alternatively the assumed type of equity and fairness issues that may arise, when employees are rewarded according to local standards, yet work together virtually on global projects with employees who earn more than double their salaries but make a similar contribution. Although the MNC’s have the ethical regulations to rely on, the imbalances still exist, brought by neo-colonialism. This is what the developed economies use to remain on top of the developing countries so that the power imbalance and economic inequality will always separate the rich from the poor countries.

I do not quite think that the MNC’s will fully stick to the global code of ethics. This is because even renowned scholars in the field shy away from this topic. Janssens and Steyaert cite that throughout the development of the field of international management (IM) in general, issues of ethics have been rarely raised (Janssens & Steyaert, 2012). In a review of the broader IM literature, Janssens & Steyaert (2012), found that fewer than seven percent of the articles published between 1998 and 2007 addressed questions of ethics, social, and environmental responsibility, and corporate governance. Only 2.6% of those articles dealt explicitly with ethics, and an overwhelming proportion of them focused on corruption. Most of these scholars focus their attention to expertise productivity, as opposed to ethics that will guarantee human rights and equality across the globe.

The ethical agenda for international HRM will not be fully achieved as long as the present attitude remains. Scholars in this area argue that the western countries are the most developed and so have the best management practices as opposed to the developing countries. The authors affirm this by giving a case scenario in India, Pakistan, and Turkey; employees do not have a sense of initiative and, therefore lack a sense of independency. This has prompted companies there not to provide enrichment and empowerment to their staff.

The authors have suggested the plural cosmopolitan framework that gives direction to an ethical research agenda for international HRM. They believe their suggestion takes into consideration “the full spectrum of global and local stakeholders and is no longer limited to the relationship between a MNC and the various national cultures it is embedded in”. The three perspectives look at the ethical issue in a detailed and complex manner, thereby focusing on how worldviews are in play, setting out the policies and practices of international HRM. The political perspective looks at multiple inclusion and representation of stakeholders globally. The cultural perspective zeros in locally against a transnational or post-colonial background. The social perspective concerns itself with the daily interactions intertwined with local and global positions.

The plural cosmopolitan framework, discussed in the article, is very sound and insightful. It is imperative that it acknowledges the complexity and ambiguity of an organizational life in a global context. It considers challenges faced by people working in international businesses settings and, ways of overcoming them. It is not easy to achieve the ethics agenda for international HRM, and one single solution will not overcome this. The world is very dynamic and there is stiff competition among industries and businesses. Players strive to remain at the top the game in their respective industries without compromising their production. As long as the West is out to maintain its top position economically, socially and politically in the world, the imbalances, cited here, will not be dealt with favorably. The plural cosmopolitan framework can only give a guideline, which if implemented, will bring the desired change in international HRM with regard to ethics. Therefore, scholars will continue to carry out studies on ways of achieving the ethics agenda for international HRM.

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