Technology vs. Ethics: A Battleground in Business, On Campus
Does technology influence ethical decision-making?
Two Duquesne University business professors, Dr. Jeffrey A. Roberts, assistant professor of information systems management, and Dr. David Wasieleski, chair of the management department decided to find out.
In a study published in the Journal of Business Ethics and quoted in the New York Times, Roberts, who studies the unintended consequences of technology, and Wasieleski, an ethics expert, examined how access to common technology might impact corporate rule breaking. While technology is designed to improve workplace productivity, it can also be "a double-edged sword when it comes to workplace misconduct... (and) exposes companies to costly and undesirable consequences."
Roberts and Wasieleski evaluated the impact of technology on the work of first-semester business students by varying the level of available technology tools on a Web-based assignment. The greater the level of technology available, they found, the greater the frequency of text misappropriation.
"Who's being harmed?" Roberts asked. Obviously, the unacknowledged author is, Roberts said, but, "it's the students more than anything else. They're missing out on learning opportunities."
These circumstances also impact students who act ethically, Roberts said. They may be victims of other students' inflated grades and grade-point averages. Potential employers also could be affected by these inflated grades. "They could be hiring students whose grades are not reflective of their true abilities," he said.
Because technology is often ahead of society's ability to keep pace, lines have blurred on what constitutes "cheating," Wasieleski said.
These findings could translate from a college environment into lessons for businesses, which may explore ways to better monitor employee behavior. "The idea is that if employees are aware they are being watched and the integrity of their work is being tracked, they will be less likely to violate rules," wrote Roberts and Wasieleski.