Stacey Duquettes case illustrates an ethical dilemma, encountered by many business professionals in the course of their careers. In particular, it is the conflict between her moral integrity and success. Stacey knows that while making presentations to the clients, Nelson Industries, one of her partners deliberately distorted the data from her report in order to win a tender for ERP project. Stacey consulted with her peer-mentor, Vicky Wish, who told her that such practices had been very common among many consulting firms and that overselling had been the only way to survive for their enterprise (Landry S. & Groysberg, 2000, p 2). Therefore, Stacey Duquette has to choose between her position in a company (Barker Consulting), respect for her colleagues, financial well-being, and her own values and principles. In addition, she has to decide whether she should inform senior management about the behavior of her partner, Hollis. Certainly, she can do so, but this may completely ruin her relationships with her co-workers. This is another side of this dilemma. The key question is how to solve it.
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On the whole, it is quite difficult to make any recommendations in this case because such decisions are highly personal and the line of reasoning depends only on an individuals moral code. First and foremost, Stacey should remember the maxim which states that honesty is the best policy. It should be borne in mind that Stacey was unintentionally involved in the act of fraud and Hollis conduct can be classified as a fraud because he deliberately misrepresented Staceys findings in order to attract potential customers. Most importantly, such actions entail legal punishment (Malachowski, 2001, p 156; Brigham & Ehrhardt, 2007).
If the representatives of Nelson Industries feel dissatisfied with the performance of the ERP project, they may want to verify statistical information provided to them, and eventually, the deceit will be revealed. Furthermore, this short-term gain may cost the company enormous expenses and its reputation.
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This is one of the reasons why Stacey should discuss this issue with her partner, Hollis, and explain to him the precarious nature of the situation. At this stage it is not too late to rectify this mistake and tell their clients that the initial numbers were not quite accurate. Naturally, this may cause some dissatisfaction but their reputation will be saved. Undoubtedly, every employee is extremely concerned with job security and there is hardly anyone willing to put ones employment status at stake. Nonetheless, honesty appears to be the only solution under the circumstances.
Provided that Hollis is reluctant to listen to Stacey, she should report to the CEO or any other high-ranking official. Undoubtedly, he or she has to understand that only pursuit of profits is utterly impermissible. There are a great number of examples which eloquently prove that dishonesty may be ruinous for even for the most successful companies. One of them is the notorious case of Ford Pinto1 (Birsch & Fielder, 1994). It should be taken into consideration that in the event of any legal suit, Barker Consulting may find itself on the verge of bankruptcy as their customers would search for a different consulting firm.
It is quite possible to argue that a new-comer (and Stacey is a new-comer) should not report on his or her colleagues. This clearly contradicts the principles of teamwork. In the future, he or she can be labeled as outcast by other employees. At first glance, this argument is quite convincing. But we should take it into consideration that while negotiating with the delegates of Nelson Industries, Hollis emphasized that his presentation was based on Staceys report (Landry S. & Groysberg, 2000, p 2). As a matter of fact, he shifted the responsibility on her. Provided that any controversy arises, he will be on the safe side, while Stacey will have to face the criticism or even be terminated. Thus, one cannot say that her attempt to restore justice is treacherous in any way. The thing is that she will be suspected as the main culprit if this fraud is revealed or if any scandal breaks out. This is why we cannot blame her for any violation of team rules. Certainly, this is just a hypothetical scenario, and the decision-making can be different. Still, this discussion illustrates the argument that integrity is not just moral obligation imposed from outside; on the contrary, it is a guideline that helps us to achieve professional and personal growth.
Fortunately, I have never had to encounter such a dilemma or at least it was of a lesser scale. Moreover, I was not torn between moral duty and the possibility of being dismissed. However, once I was also a witness to an act of fraud. Approximately, two years ago one of my acquaintances decided to purchase a vehicle. He could not possibly afford a new car so his intention was to buy a used one. Surprisingly, at that moment a friend of mine (a person of prodigious entrepreneurial skills) was trying to sell a car. More than two decades ago, this model was regarded as a luxury brand. They were on the point of singing the sales contract. Yet, my friend forgot to mention that his car had desperately craved for repair. The fact that it could move, actually bordered on the miracle. To some extent, it was also a conflict between friendship and integrity. At the very beginning, I simply intended not to intervene but later I thought that such bargain would lay on my conscience as a heavy burden. To be frank enough, I would have never acquired such a car even if I had been paid for it. Later, I telephoned the buyer and advised him that he should better search for a different vehicle that would be less prestigious but more reliable. One may say that I did not act like a good friend should act. Nevertheless, ethical principles are not negotiable, otherwise they are virtually useless.
Still I have to acknowledge that my case cannot be compared to that one of Stacey Duquette because I practically did not risk anything, while she may ruin her career. Overall, there are no guidelines for problem-solving in such situations; the decision always depends on the personal priorities, values, and objectives. Moreover, he or she can hardly be blamed for this decision. Yet, in my view, deceitfulness in business can yield only short-lived results while its adverse consequences are more serious.
Birsch D & Fielder J. (1994). The Ford Pinto case: a study in applied ethics, business, and technology. LA: SUNY Press.
Brigham , E. & Ehrhardt M. C. (2007). Financial Management: Theory & Practice (12th ed.). NY: South-Western College Pub.
Landry S. & Groysberg B (2000). “Stacey Duquette. Professionals Quandaries”. Harvard Business School, p 1-4.
Malachowski, A, R, (2001). Business ethics: critical perspectives on business and management. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2001.
1 – In 1970, Ford Motor Company released a vehicle that contained a defect and the management knew about this drawback. When the scandal broke out and public learned about it, Fords income level immensely dropped.