Effectiveness, engagement, moral responsibility, and the creation of a well-being strategy in organizations

Read the blog dedicated to organizational ethics and well-being. In it, our resilience expert Zuzana Čmelíková summarized the specific challenges that today's organizations face.

This blog post is inspired by the work of a prominent expert in the field of organizational ethics & well-being, Professor Henk van Luijk. 

His highly rated work Ethics Management – Auditing and Developing the Ethical Content of Organizations is very relevant from the point of view of the challenges faced by today's organizations. In it, he focused on solving three basic questions that deserve attention from the point of view of the development of well-being. We can define them as "ABC of Business Ethics & Well-Being". The framework of this ethical reasoning consists of the following questions regarding the organization:

A: "Can the organization as a whole be the bearer of moral responsibility?

B: How far does the moral responsibility of organizations extend?

C: Is it possible to manage the moral responsibility of organizations?" (Luijk)

Can the organization as a whole bear moral responsibility?

The first question, "A of Business Ethics & Well-Being", could also be asked in a way whether the organization as a whole, or as a collective, it can be responsible for its activities, or is it rather its specific employee who is the bearer of responsibility. Henk van Luijk states that two models emerged based on these considerations:

  • associational, also called reductionist model
  • autonomous model

"In the association model, the organization is responsible to the extent that the individuals in it are responsible. This model reduces organizational responsibility to the sum of individual actions. The organization bears responsibility only to the extent that it can be retroactively attributed to individuals.

In the autonomous model, the organization is considered a moral entity that bears responsibility as a whole. The organization is then understood as a moral actor and can therefore be judged in such moral terms and terminology as organizational culture and structure, which may differ from the individuals working for the organization." (Luijk)

Luijk perceives the organization as a separate moral entity, as a specific moral subject with special qualitative features. We also identify with this understanding of organizations.

How far does the moral responsibility of organizations extend?

Henk van Luijk, in response to the second question, "B of Business Ethics & Well-Being", emphasizes the importance of moral responsibility of organizations in the sense that "...organizations demonstrate moral responsibility when they subordinate their interests to the interests of society." (Luijk) From our point of view, the company's interest should be the creation of well-being as an important value for all stakeholders.

Is it possible to manage the moral responsibility of organizations?

Through the third question "C of Business Ethics & Well-Being", we can strive to find an appropriate way to organize and embed moral responsibility in organizations. From the point of view of our focus on building individual, as well as team and organizational well-being, this question is extremely important precisely because of its application level.

Henk van Luijk states that professional literature provides us with a relatively wide range of tools for the implementation of ethics in organizations in order to create well-being, such as:

  • code of ethics
  • ethics commissions
  • ombudsman
  • ethical trainings, etc.

However, he emphasizes the fact that these tools are mostly presented only at the level of description and at the same time critically adds that relatively little attention is paid to their collective application in the organizational context. He states that if we wanted to try to create such a proposal for the implementation of individual elements in the organization, it is necessary to first create a certain idea, which needs to be moved to the level of strategy.

In connection with the creation of a morally responsible organization, which is characterized by a culture enabling well-being for its individual members, teams, but also for the organization itself, it thus appears that this issue must be grasped systematically in organizations. "Such an approach requires tailor-made activities. Therefore, it is necessary to cooperate with experts in the field who know how to work with such methods and techniques for assessing the current and expected state of ethics and well-being in organizations." (Luijk)

Thus, leaders in organizations can consciously work on creating and improving their culture, which directly supports well-being.

It is precisely the application level of this issue, the building of ethics and well-being in organizations of various kinds, that we addressed on our free webinar "Well-being and psychological safety. Watch the recording available via the button below.

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