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Business Ethics: Job Requirements vs. Personal Values Essay

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Updated: Dec 14th, 2020

Introduction

Ethical dilemmas are prominent in various areas of business, including business analytics. The case of collecting and using proprietary information is a common example of ethical issues evident in this area of business. In the present case, Martha McCaskey’s job requirements contrast her individual beliefs and values, which is the main reason for the dilemma. However, there are also many underlying interpersonal and corporate factors affecting the situation. The present report will seek to identify and explain the situational and individual causes of the ethical conflict, as well as to provide appropriate recommendations for action.

How Did Martha End Up in This Situation?

There are two key types of causes of any ethical conflict. Situational causes include a variety of external circumstances and factors that contributed to the situation that led to an ethical dilemma. Individual causes, on the other hand, include internal motivations, beliefs, and decisions that affected Martha’s actions in her work for the project. Taking into account the entire variety of causes can help to achieve a better understanding of the conflict, thus assisting in finding ways to resolve it successfully.

Situational Causes

In the present case, there are four underlying situational causes of the problem. First, it is evident that the Industry Analysis Division has a poor corporate culture. The management of the division fails to promote responsible business practices, which leads to a major ethical issue1. As underlined by the client, the management’s attitudes to proprietary information are relaxed, and most of the employees would go to great extents to obtain the information required for their projects. The workers deny responsibility for collecting proprietary information, stating that “if someone was willing to talk about it, then it was not proprietary.” Such attitudes fit into the Defensive stage of corporate responsibility development2. At this stage, there are no formal guidelines or policies regarding data gathering. Together with questionable attitudes, the lack of appropriate controls contributes to poor corporate culture, which allows for such cases to occur on a regular basis.

Secondly, the lack of resources and assistance from the rest of the department is also an evident reason for the ethical conflict. As shown in the case summary, Martha completes the vast majority of projects on her own and is responsible for obtaining all of the required data. These circumstances put pressure on Martha to go against her beliefs and values, thus contributing to the ethical conflict. With more people working on the project, it would have been possible for Martha to delegate the interview and distance herself from the process while still ensuring that the project was finished successfully.

Finally, the complexity of the task itself and the pressure associated with the project were also important situational causes of the ethical dilemma. From the case, it is clear that the management put Martha under significant pressure to complete the project on time. Successful completion would bring more orders to the firm, and thus the management insisted that the information must be collected at all costs. On the other hand, the case also mentions that very little information about the new microchip was available, as it was protected by the competing company. Since there was no way to obtain the information directly from the target company, Martha had to look for other options, such as former employees, which ultimately led to an ethical dilemma.

Individual Causes

The key individual causes to the dilemma are Martha’s motivations and beliefs, which, in this case, are conflicting. On the one hand, Martha appears to be a highly motivated and ambitious woman who seeks to deliver high-quality results to clients. This is evident from her education history, as well as her career choices. Martha also rejected another company in favor of Seleris Associates’ IAD, which suggests that she expects to achieve a higher position in the division in the future. This motivation was used by Malone, who promised her a promotion upon successful completion of the Silicon 6 project.

On the other hand, Martha has a strong belief system that guides her decisions and actions, both in her personal life and in her work. Martha’s characteristics fit into the description of a moral person, as outlined by Trevino, Hartman, and Brown3. It is stated in the case that Martha feels uncomfortable with collecting sensitive information from third parties. This caused her reluctance to interview Devon during their first meeting. In addition, Martha disapproves of colleagues who show no concerns with collecting such information, which led to her hesitance to let Kaufmann interview the subject. Overall, the conflict between Martha’s beliefs and her motivations largely contributed to the present ethical dilemma.

What Should Martha Do to Finish the Silicon 6 Project?

At the moment, there are three main options for Martha in proceeding with the project. The first option is to refuse to interview Devon and only include the information that can be collected from elsewhere. This option is undesirable, as it would result in client dissatisfaction and lack of future projects with the client, as well as prevent Martha from getting a promotion. The second choice is to interview Devon despite her concerns and finish the project to deliver the report to the clients. Although this would help to complete the project successfully, receive a promotion, and facilitate further cooperation with the client, it could result in emotional distress due to Martha betraying her values. Lastly, as suggested by Malone, Martha could delegate the interview to another employee and supervise the rest of the project instead. This would allow her to avoid ethical conflict, while at the same time receiving the desired promotion and obtaining experience in project management.

Given the current situation and the possible consequences of each choice, the last option would be optimal in the present case. However, it would also be necessary to ensure that Devon receives generous compensation for his cooperation, as suggested by Hackert. The action plan for the recommended option would be as follows:

  • Hold a meeting with Malone to agree on delegating the interview to another employee and stipulate an increased consulting fee for Devon.
  • Check the results of the interview to see if they are adequate or if any sensitive information can be omitted without hurting the project.
  • Supervise the Silicon 6 project until completion.
  • Compose a report and deliver a presentation to the client.

In future work as a project manager, Martha should also attempt to apply her values in order to become an ethical leader. As a moral person and a moral manager, she will be able to develop ethical leadership, which is an essential factor preventing ethical issues in organizations4. Using ethical leadership, Martha will be able to minimize ethical concerns in future projects, thus contributing to organizational culture and improving conditions for employees with similar interests.

Conclusion

Overall, the situation discussed in the case is not uncommon in the industry. To resolve the present ethical conflict, it is critical for Martha to delegate the interview to another employee and to ensure that the project is finished in accordance with ethical standards. However, to avoid similar situations in the future, it is critical to facilitate ethical leadership and corporate social responsibility throughout the IAD. From the position of group manager, Martha will be able to become an ethical leader, thus improving corporate culture and preventing questionable practices in the future.

Bibliography

Trevino, Linda Klebe, Laura Pincus Hartman, and Michael Brown. “Moral Person and Moral Manager: How Executives Develop a Reputation for Ethical Leadership.” California Management Review 42, no. 4 (2000): 128-142.

Zadek, Simon. “The Path to Corporate Social Responsibility.” Harvard Business Review Best Practices (2004): 1-11.

Footnotes

  1. Simon Zadek, “The Path to Corporate Social Responsibility,” Harvard Business Review Best Practices (2004): 7.
  2. Zadek, 3.
  3. Linda Klebe Trevino, Laura Pincus Hartman, and Michael Brown, “Moral Person and Moral Manager: How Executives Develop a Reputation for Ethical Leadership,” California Management Review 42, no. 4 (2000): 131.
  4. Trevino, Hartman, and Brown, 130.
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