Technological advancements in the 21st century have resulted in the development of several potential ethical issues in the contemporary corporate environment. The application of modern forms of technology in the corporate field has revolutionized business operations, performance, management, and organizational culture. Moreover, the ubiquitous use of technology in modern businesses has resulted in the development of unconventional potential ethical issues such as data privacy, transparency, and algorithmic bias. These unconventional corporate ethical issues pose significant challenges to workplace diversity as what may be perceived to be ethical in one culture may be unethical in another. The modern business environment, characterized by potential ethical issues such as data privacy and algorithmic bias, requires ethical and responsible leadership that safeguards workplace diversity.
Potential Ethical Issues
The application of various forms of technology in businesses has resulted in the development of data privacy as a key corporate ethical issue. Modern forms of technology used in business transactions require private user data and information to properly function. For example, online shopping, a form of e-commerce, requires the consumer to provide their private data such as telephone number, social security number, and home address for purposes of business transaction and shipping (Blodgett, Dumas, & Zanzi, 2011). Therefore, the use of technology in business obliges companies to protect their user’s data from third-party infringement. Companies have to protect their client’s data from unscrupulous cyber criminals who seek to unlawfully gain and use people’s private data for selfish gains (Brey, 2012). In 2018, Facebook’s unethical practice concerning the privacy of its clients’ data was exposed in the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica exposé (Tufekci, 2018). The exposé revealed that Facebook had unlawfully given its client’s data to Cambridge Analytica, a political organization in America, which used the information to influence the 2018 American presidential elections (Tufekci, 2018). The Cambridge Analytica exposé forced massive furor from the billions of Facebook users worldwide. The evolving nature of cybercrime means that data security remains a potential corporate ethical issue.
The application of modern forms of technology in the business field has also resulted in the development of transparency as a potential ethical issue. Currently, several companies have switched their transactions and operations, such as bookkeeping, from analog to digital systems (Brusoni & Vaccaro, 2017). This has made it quite difficult for competent authorities and stakeholders to keep track of companies’ operations and transactions. Moreover, the constant evolution and improvement of modern forms of technology have made obsolete numerous regulations appertaining to auditing and transparency of companies (Brusoni & Vaccaro, 2017). These policy gaps have been exploited by unethical companies to hide crucial information and data about their operations from not only the government but also their stakeholders. Sustainably managed businesses such as Microsoft have come with innovative ways of promoting transparency in their digital dealings and transactions. Microsoft has opened transparency centers in several nations globally to allow its stakeholders and clients to get unadulterated information about its operations (Sykora et al., 2017). However, the number of companies that have adopted transparency in their digital operations is minimal and this poses a huge ethical issue to the modern business environment. Therefore, business transparency in the digital age remains a serious potential ethical issue that may result in negative consequences in the future if not properly handled.
The reliance on information technology (IT) coupled with artificial intelligence (AI) in the corporate world has led to the development of algorithmic bias as a potential ethical issue. Algorithmic bias is an unconventional ethical issue that occurs when technology is programmed and used as a discriminatory tool (Schildt, 2017). For example, algorithmic bias can occur when facial recognition technology is programmed not to recognize the faces of people of color (Sykora et al., 2017). The ethical issue of algorithmic bias is a challenge to the widespread notion that computer programming and coding are bias neutral. According to Toni Townes-Whitley, Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Public Sector and Industry at Microsoft, coding and computer programming are done by individuals who are susceptible to bias (Sykora et al., 2017). Algorithmic bias poses a huge challenge to the concept of workplace diversity as employees hailing from divergent cultures may be discriminated against by ill-programmed technology forms (Migliore & Chinta, 2017). Modern companies have to take precautions to safeguard themselves from the ethical issue of algorithmic bias.
Leadership Strategies to Mitigate Potential Ethical Issues
The unconventional potential ethical issues caused by the use of technology in the corporate field can be mitigated through ethical leadership. Ethical leadership is concerned with the treatment of all human beings with dignity, environmental sustainability, and social justice (Turel, Liu, & Bart, 2017). Ethical leadership presents the only way of survival for businesses in the digital age as it re-appraises the misguided nature of the modern business world that values material goods instead of human beings (Turel et al., 2017). Ethical leadership combines global and culture free values such as integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, and commitment to both virtue and service. The values espoused by ethical leadership such as integrity can be utilized by companies to mitigate ethical issues such as transparency and data privacy. Ethical leadership ensures that a company’s employees remain cognizant of ethical practices in their operations and therefore prevent ethical issues such as algorithmic bias from happening. Moreover, ethical leadership incorporates both transformational and servant leadership which is essential in promoting workplace diversity (Jones & Millar, 2010). Ethical leadership promotes the treatment of employees with human dignity and also inculcates unity and thus enables the smooth co-existence of divergent employees in the workplace.
Authoritative leadership is also a management strategy that can be utilized by modern companies to mitigate potential ethical issues associated with the use of technology. According to Turel et al. (2017), authoritative leadership is a practical form of paternalistic leadership theory that can be utilized to manage unconventional ethical issues in the corporate environment such as data privacy and transparency. Authoritative leadership encompasses the complementary dimensions of demandingness and responsiveness (Turel et al., 2017). The two dimensions of authoritative leadership enable a leader to both demand success through commands and to nicely explain to his or her subordinates what is required of them through sufficient oversight and follow-ups (Turel et al., 2017). Authoritative leaders advise and monitor their subordinates and therefore ensure that all ethical provisions of the company are adhered to. Moreover, an authoritative leadership strategy ensures that there are proper oversight and follow-up mechanisms that can be used to quickly identify and remedy a problem. The development of oversight and follow –up mechanisms are essential in the contemporary business field where ethical issues such as data privacy and algorithmic bias are of absolute importance.
Potential ethical issues such as data privacy and transparency can be mitigated through responsible leadership. Responsible leadership is defined as a management principle focused on the contribution of business leaders to a better society (Migliore & Chinta, 2017). Responsible leadership involves the analysis of perspectives to be adopted by a given company, main tasks to be performed by both leaders and employees, diagnosis concerning the present situation, and key outcomes (Migliore & Chinta, 2017). The principle of responsible leadership is focused on the achievement of set objectives through morally accountable and reliable strategies. Moreover, responsible leadership encourages research and preparation for future eventualities in management, a feature that makes it essential for mitigating potential ethical issues such as algorithmic bias. Responsible leadership is focused on the promotion of human dignity and unity in the workplace and therefore promotes workplace diversity. According to Migliore & Chinta (2017), the contemporary business environment requires leaders who prepared for future eventualities through responsible leadership. Through responsible leadership, leaders can prepare and better position their companies to avoid potential ethical issues such as data privacy and algorithmic bias.
The use of technology in the contemporary corporate environment has resulted in the development of several potential ethical issues. Data privacy, transparency, and algorithmic bias are some of the potential ethical issues that may affect businesses in the future. The Facebook – Cambridge Analytica exposé proved that ethical issues such as data privacy and transparency are already plaguing modern businesses. Proper leadership strategies are needed by companies to mitigate potential ethical issues such as data privacy that may affect their operations in the future. Revolutionary leadership strategies such as ethical, authoritative, and responsible leadership styles can be effectively used to mitigate against potential ethical issues of data privacy, transparency, and algorithmic bias. Moreover, ethical, authoritative, and responsible leadership encourages workplace diversity which is an essential feature of modern businesses.
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