Total Word Count:3000 words
Part A: Ethical Dilemma Essay
Ethical Dilemma Description
This essay describes the ethical dilemma faced by an equipment assistant in a health care organization. It draws on the theory of moral intensity. There are organizations that develop stringent policies and procedures that could pose various ethical dilemmas. One is aware that there is an organization that developed strict policies on safeguarding the company’s assets, including office supplies (paper, pens, hygiene materials such as paper towels, plastic trash bags, and the like). The policy is that any personnel who brings out the company’s assets and resources would immediately be terminated and legal case filed for theft.
In one situation, an equipment assistant of the company was asked by his manager to bring some old newspapers which would be needed for the newspaper drive, a local community program. On his way home, the equipment assistant thought of bringing with him three (3) pieces of plastic trash bags which are to be used to pack the old newspapers. When his bag was inspected by security personnel at the exit point, he was asked whether there was a permit for the plastic trash bags that was found in his bag. When he failed to provide any permit, he was immediately sent to the head of the security management department. Since the time was already beyond the normal 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. working hours, the head of the security management department referred him to the authorized executive officer on duty. The executive officer told the security manager to bring the equipment assistant to the police station for detention. Despite rationalizing that the plastic trash bags were to be used for the newspaper drive of the company, his pleas were unheard.
When he was at the police station that was the time that his manager was informed. His manager denied that the equipment assistant sought his approval to bring out the plastic trash bags.
Justify why it is an ethical dilemma in a business situation
The situation is an ethical dilemma in a business situation because of the presence of crucial components that require ethical decision making . Using the synthesis of ethical decision-making models, the dilemma existed due to the factors or components that were identified to be an integral part of the models. First, the action of the equipment assistant who decided to bring out the plastic trash bags was spurred by two factors from the internal and external environment. The internal environmental factor is the organizational campaign for a newspaper drive that provided the impetus for thinking that a receptacle is needed to contain old newspapers. On the other hand, the factor from the external environment that spurred the action are social and economic factors where the perceived minimum value of the plastic trash bags, in conjunction with social values of poverty as stirring the need to participate in the newspaper drive, prompted the action.
The central issue justifying that the business situation is an ethical dilemma is the presence of the moral issue, “where a person’s actions, when freely performed, may harm or benefit others” (Velasquez & Rostankowski, 1985; cited in Jones, 1991, p. 367). In the situation, the equipment assistant’s action (bringing out of the plastic trash bags) was freely performed; and evidently, could both harm and benefit others. It would harm the organization since from their perspective, the act of bringing out company supplies (however small or big in value) is deemed an act of stealing, which diminishes the organization’s resources. The organization could justify that if and when all their personnel would each bring out, even one piece of the plastic trash bag, the collective value would be significant. Concurrently, the action could also benefit others in terms of the purpose of bring the plastic trash bag out was to supposedly contain old newspapers which would form part of the organization’s newspaper drive that is considered a social responsibility program. The proceeds from the newspaper drive would be used to support local communities through various endeavors: educational, sports, or emergency disaster needs.
Ethical solutions proposed by the student to this dilemma
The solution to the dilemma stems from a re-evaluation of the policies of the organization. While it is true and factual that bringing out any supplies, resources, or assets of the company is out rightly wrong, the organization should design a code of discipline and ethical standard which structures the imposition of sanctions according to proper protocols. For the situation, at the onset, several advocates of ethical standards could assert that the equipment assistant violated the policy and the act is in fact, stealing. However, there was a mistake on the part of the organization in terms of providing due process to investigate the matter, as well as to give the equipment assistant a chance to explain. As such, the organization is also guilty of curtailing the rights of the equipment assistant for due process. The equipment assistant was ordered to be brought to the police station for incarceration without first investigating the matter and seeking the professional advice of the equipment assistant’s manager.
Further, an in-depth evaluation of the sanctions imposed by the organization would reveal that the cost of filing legal charges are far greater than the cost of the plastic trash bags that were attempted to be brought out. As such, there would be greater financial loss for the organization if they would persist in continuing this practice.
As such, the proposed solution to the dilemma, after due re-evaluation of the policies, would be to include valuation in the imposition of sanctions. For this particular situation, since the equipment assistant attempted to bring out three (3) pieces of plastic trash bags which could cost very little, the sanctions should be commensurate to the value of resources, as well as the frequency within which the action was noted. For first time violators, a reprimand could be given. Repeat violators could be sanctioned accordingly: reprimand, suspension, and finally, expulsion or termination. If, however, an employee attempts to bring out items which are worth, say hundreds of dollars or more; then, ultimately, legal charges are to be imposed and out right termination. In the latter situation, the cost to be spent by the organization for legal claims should justify the potential loss that could have occurred, if the employee was able to bring out valuable assets. Further, filing legal charges with increased tendencies for the employee to be incarcerated would provide a lasting lesson to others so that the act could be prevented from happening in the future (deterrent).
Part B: Portfolio of Evidence
Appendix A: The Ethical Leadership Debate
The debate on ethical leadership had been an illuminating learning experience given the wealth of information shared by different teams who represent the characters that were identified. Initially, after reading the profiles of the four characters, one strongly believes that they could actually represent real life personalities assuming diverse roles in contemporary settings. The reflective statement would be presented according to what one perceives as relevant from the arguments presented by the teams, as detailed according to the character profile.
For Mike Gustavsson, as a retired lecturer who taught Business Ethics, it was evident that he had developed a set of values and beliefs according to normative or prescriptive theory. As learned, “normative or prescriptive theory tells us how things ought to be (people ought to be honest, etc.). Ethics is about what ought to be, not what is” . From his perspective, it was disclosed that he believed that “ethical behaviour of corporations is set by the behaviour at the top of the organisation, if you have good people at the top of the company, making good decisions, and using good rules, then the company itself will be ethical” . As such, with the change in behavior that was exhibited by Mike’s daughter, he could not believe that Alfaraft AB could be possibly led by unethical leaders. It was therefore well acknowledged that various team members believed that Mike’s application of normative theory was a source of the dilemma; especially the part where they apparently exists a dysfunctional alignment between what Alfaraft AB appears to uphold and what they actually value. From the behavior of Anna, it was evident that there is an ethical dilemma that exists in the organization and permeates in the manifested behavior of their personnel.
For Jan Edwards, one shares the belief of other team members that she is in the capacity to transform and influence the mind set of newly hired graduates who are employed in her organization. As an ethical leader, her actions, in conjunction with the philosophies and ideals of her corporation’s charitable time donation scheme, should be promoted as part of the company’s commitment for social responsibility. One affirms that as the CEO, Jan can influence young graduates to recognize how sharing one’s time, talent, and skills to worth endeavors would provide a rewarding experience. Likewise, it was apparent that Jan practices the principle of distributive justice where “basic goods (time, talent, resources, or skills) should be distributed so that the least advantaged members of society are benefited” .
The debate that ensued regarding Mei-Hua Felung was more challenging given the conflicting beliefs and actions that Mei-Hua exhibited. At the onset, it was evident that there seemed to be a defensive stance assumed by Mei-Hua for apparently violating accounting standards; yet believing that nothing wrong was done. The fact that their organization opted for an out-of-court settlement amounting to billions of dollars for tax evasion is an indication of unethical practice. Various members of different teams agreed that the out-of-court settlement should be a learning experience that should prompt the company to abide by accounting and ethical standards. The millions of dollars allegedly saved were eventually spent on the settlement.
Finally, the belief of Deshi Chen on the apparent insignificance of business ethics is definitely unfounded. To correct his perception, instructors of Business Ethics course in the university should clearly explain the benefits of learning the course, including emphasizing how application in contemporary settings would be advantageous to his life.
Appendix B: The Seminar Case (in Seminars 1 and 5)
An in-depth review of the ‘The Case of the Holiday’ has led one to identify the ethical dilemmas in the case, according to different stakeholders (Borries as the employee, the company, the client, and other personnel). The ethical dilemma from the point of view of Borries (employee): (a) going on holiday, as scheduled to spend time with his girlfriend, Swee Lan, and to meet her parents in Hong Kong. By doing so, Borries would miss an important product launch of a reputable client since the product launch coincides with the scheduled holiday; (b) his cancellation of the scheduled holiday put a precedence to other employees who viewed the action as an act of cowardice and could lead to future imposition of management to cancel scheduled holidays; (c) the cancellation of the schedule holiday apparently caused conflict between Swee Lan and Borries for his inability to adhere to his promise of visiting Swee Lan and to meet her parents. Moreover, on the part of management, the ethical dilemma is implicitly suggesting to Borries that the client is important and successfully assisting in the product launch could apparently generate future contracts . Finally, on the part of the other personnel, the ethical dilemma is the action and decision of Borries seen as creating a precedence for future cancellation of holidays due to Borries’ accommodation of management’s insinuations.
The ethical dilemma that is selected for further analysis using the normative ethical theories and the descriptive frameworks is the dilemma regarding Borries’ decision on whether to go on with the scheduled holiday or to accede to accommodate overseeing the product launching for one of his clients. The stakeholder is the employee (Borries). Using stakeholder salience, the company has obvious power, legitimacy, and urgency and is found at the core of the diagram. The client and Borries have legitimacy and urgency (dependent); while the other personnel has legitimacy (discretionary), as shown in the following diagram:
Source: Olson, 2013
The descriptive framework reportedly explains how things are . Using the descriptive framework, the dilemma is premised on the fact that the client had to change the scheduled product launching to coincide with Borries’ scheduled holiday. As noted, “one of Borries’s clients had to bring forward their product launch as they had heard that a rival was launching in the week that was originally scheduled. The new product launch would be in the middle of Borries’s holiday period” . As such, it was evident that the person who needs to make adjustments was Borries.
Using the normative ethical theory, the decision of Borries to cancel his scheduled holiday seemed to be premised on the deontological ethical theories. Accordingly, “deontological normative ethical theories focus on moral obligations and duties (i.e., what is right) rather than on an action's ends or consequences (i.e., what is good)” . The focus of Borries was to act according to what is expected for him to do, according to his duties and responsibilities in the organization. Since the product launching is for one of his clients, Borries naturally decided that it is part of his responsibilities to ensure that the product launching would be undertaken under his jurisdiction. Likewise, it could also be construed that Borries have evaluated the issues based on moral intensity . A review of the components of moral intensity (specifically magnitude of consequences, proximity, and concentration effect) revealed that Borries’ decision to cancel the holiday would generate far greater benefits than pushing through with it. Likewise, he could have asserted that Swee Lan would understand his decision and that there could always be other time frames when the holiday could be scheduled. Likewise, the impact of his decision in terms of positive image and repercussive effects to the future is greater if and when he would assist his client in the product launching. Borries could have perceived that the benefits of gaining future positive contracts and the approval rating of management would be advantageous for both him and Swee Lan.
Appendix C: Interpersonal and Team-working skills
The compliance to course module requirements through undertaking tasks within teams enable the continued development of interpersonal and team-working skills. The interpersonal skills that were evidently improved included communication skills, emphatic listening, respect for diversity, as well as conflict resolution and negotiation skills. The delegation of tasks within the debate module required acknowledging the role of assigning a team leader who would oversee the progress of assigned tasks, as well as conformity to schedules. According to Belbin, “a team role came to be defined as: ‘A tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way’” . Thus, various members were observed to have assumed diverse roles (plant, coordinator, shaper, resource investigator, teamworker, monitor evaluator, implementor, completer finisher, and specialist) . Likewise, the personality of each member plays an important part in the process of gaining cohesiveness .
Also, various modes of communication were developed through collaborative group work. For instance, verbal communication is practiced and enhanced during discussions. The team acknowledged that each member should be given the chance to air viewpoints to address pressing concerns. Moreover, the use of non-verbal cues were observed to be recognized when team members become silent or when there were members who showed facial expressions that either confirm approval or disapproval to suggestions.
One realized that our team underwent the stages of group development . Through the various stages of development, members learned about responsibility, delegation of tasks, accountability, as well as the importance of communication and conflict resolution . Therefore, in the process of working towards achieving the required goals (accomplishing tasks for the debate), the members developed a sense of cohesiveness, recognized as a crucial component for success. The leader’s ability to monitor the progress of the members’ compliance to delegated tasks was also instrumental towards the success of the outcome. As such, each member realized that participation and collaboration, in conjunction with respect, open communication, as well as cohesiveness and camaraderie significantly helped in producing a successful outcome.
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Northumbria University. (2015). Seminar Four: Ethical Leadership Debate.
Northumbria University. (2015). The Case of the Holiday.
Olson, D. (2013). Stakeholder Salience Diagram. Retrieved from bawiki.com: http://www.bawiki.com/wiki/techniques/stakeholder-salience-diagram/
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