Ethical Dilemma: Is Organization Behavior Modification (OB Mod) a Form of Manipulation?

Manipulation is defined as a skillful or artful management by dictionary.com website. Another definition of manipulation, by the root word manipulate, is to manage or utilize skillfully by Meriam-Webster Dictionary. We can summarize that manipulation is closely related to management. In addition, Organization Behavior Modification (OB Mod) is a form of management in an organization level. Hence, we can say that OB Mod is a form of manipulation thru management. OB mod can be vied in a positive way by giving incentives to employees and by motivation, but in a negative way in a form of punishments and demoralization.

In terms of ethical issues of manipulation, using OB Mod for manipulating the behavior of employees is relative in terms of the point of view managers and employees. Managers are ethical in using OB Mod to employees in order to achieve the desired results needed by the company.  Whereas in hind sight, when achieving the desired results also affects the employees in assuring they will have their proper wage and benefits with the addition of incentives. Hence, in achieving the goal of the company, the saying “the end justifies the means” applies for managers.  In terms of the employees, OB Mod is unethical since it violates their rights of individual thinking freely or having limited choices. Hence, the saying “the means justifies the end” applies for the employees. The dilemma in the argument is in which ethical framework OB Mod becomes unethical; the holistic point of view or the individual point of view.

The Markkula framework, as a broad framework, will justify the use of OB Mod of managers in manipulating the behavior of employees.

  • Utilitarian – whether the action maximizes the utility of the issue or to achieve “the greatest good for the most amounts of people”: using OB Mod will realize the goal of the company and will produce profit to the shareholders and wages for the employees.
  • Justice and Fairness– whether the action has equal and fair effects on all involved: OB Mod is not equal and not fair on all involved especially for the employees since they are the only ones being manipulated.
  • Rights and Duties – Whether the action violates any rights or imposed duties: OB Mod violates the individual rights of every employee to think for one self and by having only limited choices. However, OB Mod has not violated any duties of the employer when incentives are used but violates the duties when deductions of wages and benefits are used in the form of punishments.
  • Ethics of Care – Whether the action has any adverse effects on the immediate stakeholders: OB mod has adverse effects since the employees are considered one of the immediate stakeholders positively or negatively depending on the method of use.
  • Virtue – Whether the action violates any virtue: OB Mod deceives the employees by believing on limited choices.

In summary, OB Mod is unethical by four out of five views; only in terms of the Utilitarian view does OB Mod become ethical.

However, OB Mod can be also viewed as a reaction of managers to employee’s bad behaviors and bad results. Hence, OB Mod can be ethical in order to restore order and make the employees effective again.

Hence, OB Mod’s ethical position depends on the proactive and reactive state of the managers and company to the employees; proactively as unethical but reactively to bad employees as ethical. In addition, OB Mod is viewed as a solution to problems in a company for managers.

disclaimer: this is a reaction paper as a requirement from an MBA course in Organizational Behavior

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About marvzmartinez
an Engineer

One Response to Ethical Dilemma: Is Organization Behavior Modification (OB Mod) a Form of Manipulation?

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