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Obligation is a binding agreement of an individual to do something. The responsibility to do something can come as a result of law, custom, or sense of duty. In organizations, obligations are made in a written form as rules and regulations. Therefore, individuals in an organization will voluntarily obey the set obligations if they foster their well-being or do that reluctantly because they might be fearing the consequences of non-compliance.
Five Individual in an Organization
According to Luban, Wasserman, and Strudler, a person in an organization is under five obligations: obligation of communication, investigation, protection, prevention, precaution. These obligations are relevant to any organization because they ensure optimal use of economic resources (Hsieh, Strudler, & Wasserman, 2007).
First, the obligation of communication demands that persons who are more knowledgeable should disseminate information to other employees in the organization. Communication enables the organization to share information related to procedures and policies from management to junior members of staff (Luban, Strudler, & Wasserman, 1992).
Second, the obligation of investigation requires that persons in an organization setup are morally responsible for establishing the reason behind discrepancies in their own operations. Therefore, the obligation of investigation demands that a person should strive to acquire knowledge in order to discern a situation.
Third, the obligation of protection demands that supervisors have the moral responsibility of protecting junior workers from adverse consequences through communication and investigation. For instance, supervisors have the moral obligation of protecting whistleblowers from victimization.
Fourth, the obligation of prevention requires that managers in organizations put in place certain measures to prevent wrongdoing. Preventive measures include putting in place incentive structures to reward a morally correct action and providing alternative avenues such as the use of suggestion box to receive anonymous information pertaining to a problem (Luban, Strudler, & Wasserman, 1992).
Finally, preemptive duty of precaution requires that an individual shows care when dealing with a situation that can lead to the violation of moral responsibility in an organization. The obligation of precaution is only applicable where the person involved is perceived to have a prior knowledge of the situation under consideration.
In a nutshell, I strongly support the five obligations theory. Communication, investigation, prevention, protection, and precaution are key ingredients which ensure smooth running of activities within an organization. Hence these obligations are a fundamental duty of an employee of any organization; therefore, I do not think that the authors demand so much from a person who fails to comply with any of the obligations.
Blaming an Individual for Organizational Misconduct
Obligations of an employee in an organization appear to fall into two categories. The first category is a perfect duty such as communication with fairly defined boundaries. The second category is imperfect duty such as self-improvement which requires indeterminate effort.
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Hence, blaming an individual for organizational misconduct especially on the duty of investigation and precaution needs a lot of caution due to its vagueness. There is a need to make a deliberate effort in ensuring that individuals are not held responsible for not performing obligations which they should. However, if there is a preemptive obligation on the part of the employee that he or she failed to perform, the employee should be blamed (Luban, Strudler, & Wasserman, 1992). For example, an external auditor is under the obligation to protect the interest of shareholders while conducting an audit of financial affairs of an organization. The preemptive duty of protection is based on the assumption that the management will provide all information related to the audit to make a judgment. However if the management of the organization falls to disclose all the information required for audit process and the audit reveals this in his or her report, then the blame shifts to the organization. The failure to disclose that the management of the organization provides inadequate information will shift the blame to an individual auditor.
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In conclusion, preemptive duties outlined have a widespread application both in the private and the public sector of any economy. Therefore, for preemptive obligations to be effective in organizations, they need to be coupled with policies. However, individual employees within an organization should be morally blamed even in the absence of policies for violating moral obligation.
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