Technology and diversity are the mainstays of today’s workplaces. Thanks to globalization and advances in technology, organizations are becoming increasingly diverse and reliant on technology. Today, it is commonplace for organizations to engage employees hailing from different cultural, religious, racial, age, and sexual orientations. The diversity in employees, while beneficial to the organization, presents ethical challenges to the leader in the organization. Additionally, some advances in technology may also present ethical challenges to the leader. Mitigating these challenges requires leaders to employ strategies that will allow them to not only steer the organization towards achieving its goals but also retain talent while remaining ethically sound. While leaders will encounter ethical issues in managing technology and diversity, strategies employed by transactional leadership are instrumental in mitigating the potential ethical issues created by technology and diversity.
One of the ethical challenges for leaders concerning technology within the workplace is employee privacy. There is continued concern over employers monitoring employee Internet use. Blackman (2020) informs that a 2018 report revealed that large corporations were monitoring their employee’s email content and social media accounts, with some extending to employees’ out-of-work interactions and their (employees) workspace use. While it is within the responsibility of the leader to monitor what employees do with their time in the organization, it is important to also respect their privacy. There have been numerous reports of employers dismissing their employees for social media posts and sharing “inappropriate” emails and websites with their counterparts at the workplace (Blackman, 2020). The challenge here for leaders is the ability to monitor employees’ technology use without infringing on their privacy. Moreover, in the current pandemic period that has necessitated a rapid change to a work-from-home structure for many organizations, leaders have a challenge of employee supervision. While there are many technological solutions for monitoring employees’ work even as they work at home including live video feeds, keyboard tracking, and location tracking, among others, the challenge remains on the implications of such technology on employee privacy.
Customer privacy is another ethical challenge for leaders in managing technology. The explosion of electronic commerce and social media has meant that organizations collect millions of terabytes of data on customers (Martin, Shilton, & Smith, 2019). While many leaders and their organizations have insisted that customer information will not be sold to third parties, evidence points to the contrary. There have been instances whereby companies have infringed on customer privacy through targeted advertisements, revealing (and selling) customer information, and through negligence, lost customer information. The challenge for leaders, in this case, is collecting, keeping, and using customer information in a non-intrusive way.
An additional ethical challenge that faces leaders in the current globalized workplace is fighting discrimination in a diverse workplace. Simons and Rowland (2011) point to behavior theory, whereby people that share similarities are drawn together, often building into social status groupings. Such groupings become major sources of discrimination with total disregard of organizational policies and rules. Thus, even in the presence of policies aimed at promoting inclusion, such groupings make it difficult for leaders to monitor and ensure organizational adherence to the policies. Such instances make it challenging for leaders to end discrimination and promote inclusion.
Creating and maintaining diversity management initiatives is another ethical challenge that leaders face. Joshi and Vijaya (2015) argue that diversity management is a daunting task that calls for the implementation and execution of initiatives that ease the process. Formal rules and policies may present themselves as some of the initiatives; however, ensuring that employees follow these rules and policies is a great challenge. Furthermore, while the formation of diverse teams and giving tasks to these teams may offer functional solutions to diversity, the management of the social facet of diversity is elusive. Leaders have to face the reality that organizational policies, rules, and regulations may not suffice as an incentive to stop social groupings that often happen naturally among employees.
Mitigating the potential issues created by technology and diversity requires the enactment of different strategies. The use of ideals and values is one of the core underpinnings of transformational leadership (Bolden et al., 2013). These ideals and values should be shared by both employees and customers in such a way that, while monitoring employees, the right metrics are determined and used for employee monitoring. Additionally, the values and ideals should inform the data collected from customers and the use of the data in non-intrusive ways.
Transformational leadership changes organizational culture to bring new perspectives and organizational operations. Such a strategy is important in instituting change within the organization in ways that not only protect customer and employee privacy but also deals with issues related to employment discrimination. Instituting a culture of transparency, whereby the leader informs both employees and customers on what and why they are monitored and the data collected helps create acceptance among both (Blackman, 2020). Moreover, transparency also helps deal with stereotypes, established views of other people, and forges understanding, which helps the organization reap the benefits of diversity while employees experience different cultures and widen their worldview.
Globalization and technological advancement have become a part of the workplace today. However, they bring challenges that include discrimination and the privacy of employees and customers. Navigating these challenges requires leaders to transform themselves and implement strategies to mitigate the issues created by technology and diversity. Transformational leadership provides tools and approaches for leaders to deal with such challenges.
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Martin, K., Shilton, K., & Smith, J. (2019). Business and the ethical implications of technology: introduction to the symposium. J Bus Ethics, 160, 307-317. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-019-04213-9
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