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The Ethics and Morals of on outsourcing work



Throughout history, it has been popular for employers to lower their costs by seeking inexpensive sources of labor. The desire for cheap labor is driven by profit motive. By decreasing costs, corporations hope to reduce prices and increase profits. One recent trend is to export jobs to countries where salaries are lower. In the past, outsourcing work have usually been unskilled jobs in manufacturing and agriculture. However, “safe” jobs in engineering and health care are now being shipped overseas as well. The exportation of labor raises several important questions for us as engineers, managers, and citizens.
Is it ethical be outsourcing work, and, if so, what are a corporation's responsibilities when doing so?


In general, corporations exist to yield profits for entrepreneurs and investors. As a result, there is significant pressure on management to increase productivity and profits. Usually, this is a good thing. Capitalism is so successful because it strongly rewards the best business models and the hardest workers. However, these forces can lead a company to implement shady business practices to get ahead of the competition. Other corporations may then follow suit to “keep up with the Jones's”. Examples of these misaligned business practices include child labor and environmentally damaging processes. These business practices are clearly unethical, but they have also been commonplace during certain parts of our history. But where does outsourcing stand? Can we label it as an unfair source of labor, like child labor? The answers to this question are much more ambiguous.


I argue that outsourcing is not necessarily unethical, nor is it unavoidable. After all, international business has opened huge markets for United States products and has provided customers with new and cheaper goods. With advancements in shipping and telecommunications, it is easier now than ever before to sell products and services across the globe. If businesses and customers are willing to accept the international market, then we must also accept its consequences – increased competition.

United States corporations now have to compete against businesses in regions where operating and labor costs vary greatly. It would be foolish to attempt to block the natural diffusion of labor into these areas. Additionally, outsourcing has the benefit of providing jobs to people in regions that may be poor or lack opportunities for economic growth. Outsourcing will undoubtedly remain to be a natural part of business today. To isolate ourselves would only serve to harm the economy, to hamper the progress of poor areas, and to reduce American's quality of life.


What about the loyal employees who have been with the company for many years and no longer have work? How could it possibly be ethical to unexpectedly fire these people and hand out their jobs? I will also argue that an action such as this is unethical by today's standards. A corporation's conduct during outsourcing determines whether or not its actions are ethical. As a manager, my ethical directive would be to maintain fairness and attempt to pursue the best possible outcome for the employees within the framework of the outsourcing. Only then would outsourcing become ethical by today's standards.


During a transition, the most important factor is open, honest communication and good planning. Decisions to cutback or outsource work should be made long in advance so employees will have time to find replacement work. During this decision, management should make their intentions as lucid as possible and keep communication between employee and employer open. All employees should know what they can expect from their severance packages and how long they have left with the company.

The firm should reasonably attempt to pursue good courses of action for its employees. For the best employees, this may translate into a promotion or extra responsibilities. Others may be given the opportunity to relocate within the company or become managers or lead engineers at the foreign site. Unfortunately, this is not a feasible solution for every employee.


The corporation still has an ethical responsibility to its laid-off employees. They may have anticipated a steady income from the company and perhaps a retirement package. Now, they must start over at a new company, which could push back their retirement and reduce their salary and benefits. As such, the severance package should be commensurate with the time spent at the company. Additionally, workshops on writing resumes, interviewing techniques, and job opportunities should be held to assist the employees in finding new jobs. It is the company's obligation to minimize the impact of the outsourcing on its employees. For a company to not attempt to do so jeopardizes the reputation of the company and risks lawsuits.

There are also many things a corporation should not do. A good example would be forcing an employee to train his or her replacement. Forcing an employee to train his outsourced worker is inappropriate, and is little more than a slap in the face to the employee. The correct thing for a corporation to do would be to give the employee the opportunity to train his replacements for money or other incentive. Another example is forcing employees to either work extra hours or take extra duties or face early termination. Both examples are clearly unethical, but are not uncommon.


As a manager faced with an outsourcing, I would try to act in the best interests of the company and the employee. I would follow the basic principles outlined in this paper, as well as my conscience, even if it were not in my own best interest. I would maintain open forums for communication and grievances and, as the IEEE Code of Ethics states, do my best to “assist colleagues and co-workers in their professional development.


In conclusion, outsourcing work is and will remain to be common business practice. As professionals, it is our charge to act responsibly during hard times, whether we are losing jobs ourselves or having to cut other's jobs. As such, it is important to adhere to our personal morals and professional codes of ethics. Hopefully, there will be panels and discussions on these topics that will establish a broader code of ethics among professionals that pertains to such pressing issues.


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