Ethical Dilemmas for Homework
The following dilemmas are scenarios adapted from the “real world.” There are no right or wrong answers per se, but you should consider your responses in light of your ethical analyses. Write a document for the following situations (150-200 words), describing how you would deal with the dilemma. The documents may be a memo to the character in the dilemma, a sales letter to a company, or a short essay (brief response) to me. Honestly, an essay written to me explaining what you’d do and why (based on your ethical convictions…or lack thereof) is really the easiest option. If you aren’t sure what 150 words looks like, this entire paragraph is 112 words.
As far as I know, no one in class is an attorney with extensive legal knowledge, so it would be difficult for you to claim there are specific legal ramifications. If you know the exact code, please inform me. Otherwise, consider these as continuing our discussions in the realms of ambiquity and “gray areas.”
Ethical Dilemma #1: When does a little white lie turn gray?
It’s been a rough year for your company, a manufacturer of special-purpose construction equipment. A competitor has come out with a line of machinery that costs half as much as yours and performs almost as well in most situations. You still have the edge in serving customers that operate in demanding environments like the South Pole, the Kalahari Desert, or Detroit. But for most applications, your superior performance features are irrelevant.
You are discouraged by your inability to meet your sales quotas, which were established before the competition launched its new line. However, your disappointment is minor compared to your boss’s. He came into your office yesterday with a grim look on his face and said, “If we don’t start bringing in some orders, we’re finished. Everybody in the sales department could get the axe. I’m counting on you to win the Simon job. I don’t care what you have to do to get it, just do it.”
You are in the midst of writing a sales letter to Simon and Company, in which you analyze their particular construction environment and operating requirements. It occurs to you that if you revise your analysis to accentuate Simon’s problems, you might be able to win the job. Simon’s management might buy the idea that they need “more machine” to handle their “extremely demanding performance requirements.” You could then argue that your competitor’s equipment is not up to the job. True, in your heart you know that 99 percent of the time, the competitor’s machinery would be adequate for Simon’s needs. But what about the other 1%?
Ethical Dilemma #2: If responding bothers your conscience, how should you reply?
You have recently taken a job with a leading accounting firm—one that just happens to be the archrival of the accounting firm where you used to work. As you’re sitting in your office one afternoon, Susan McDougal, the woman who recruited you, sticks her head in your door, and after exchanging a few pleasantries, she gets to the point of her visit.
“We’re about to gear up for the college recruiting season. I’d like your advice. As you know, we compete for job candidates with the folks at your old firm. What’s the best bet for beating them? Do they have any weaknesses we can exploit? What tactics do they use that we should be using? Who are the best interviewers? What kinds of questions do they ask? What promises does the firm make to lure new employees? What do you think starting salary offers will be this year?”
McDougal notices your look of hesitation and quickly adds, “I don’t expect you to answer me right now, but in the next couple of days, why don’t you jot down some ideas in a memo to me. I’d really appreciate your help on this. Recruiting is one of the most important things we do here.”