Ethical Issues In Inventory Management

When we speak of ethics violations we immediately think about executive management, or some sort of Wall Street scandal, and rarely do we realize that it happens more frequently from the bottom half of the workforce than the glass tower. Ethics violations in inventory management are committed by:

1.Knowingly giving inaccurate information to clients or prospective clients concerning pricing of storage space or other services, and the status of their inventory.

2.Favoring one vendor over another when purchasing goods or services because you have a friend that works for the preferential vendor or because of possible financial gain.

3.Cover-up of damaged products going out on a shipment.

4.Manipulating inventory figures and levels when the client questions his inventory levels or when management inquires about inventory statuses.

5.Work slowdown to gain overtime.

6.Giving preferential treatment to certain employees for possible gains in the future and friendship.

These are just a few examples and I’m quite sure that if you observed closely in your organization you can find many more. Why do these ethics violations occur? One reason is a lack of a code of ethics. Code of ethics are a specific set of professional behaviors and values employees must know and must abide by, including confidentiality, accuracy, privacy, integrity. Large organizations have a code of ethics, but violations occur because the standards are not enforced or management feels the violation is not worth their time.

Medium to small organizations lack a code of ethics program because they either don’t know how to develop one, it not important to them or it’s too costly in terms of finances and manpower.

Enron and Goldman Sachs are good examples of why it’s important of have a company code of ethics. In the business world the bottom line is to make money and there is nothing wrong with that but, when it consumes your organization and you take an attitude of making it at any cost, then that’s when the problem comes to view and people will do whatever they can be it ethical or unethical to make money.

A code of ethics will keep people within certain limits of what is acceptable in the organization in terms of behavior and business practices. Reality in the business world is that profits rule and as long as the shareholders are happy, and there is full employment in companies no one seems to care and ethics take a back seat to everything else.

With so much talk now days about morality in business and the state of the financial affairs of the world ethics is even more important today than before. Journalist are keeping an ardent eye out for the next business scandal and will uncover every stone to expose one, after all it sells news. Traveling and working in Asia I have found the Asian culture less sensitive to the actions of business not that they don’t care it just doesn’t consume their every waking moment and they aren’t quick to judge like the Western Nations.

Operating with honest principles and ethics is no less profitable than operating in an unethical manner. LeClair, Ferrell and Fraedrich, in their book Integrity Management (1998), describe five well-known successful companies that have invested organizational resources and are making profits and operating in an ethical manner three listed below you may recognize;

1. Hershey Foods

2. Home Depot

3. Waste Management

The old myth and saying “it’s not personal it’s just business” is as hollow then as it is now. Business is personal especially when you take the time to build a business relationship with vendors and clients to the point where they trust you, and acting in an unethical manner will certainly destroy any confidence they had in your product or services and make it nearly impossible to regain.

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