Term Paper: Ethical Issues and Questions

Pages: 10 (2602 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business - Ethics  ·  Buy for $19.77

¶ … ethical issues and questions are involved and how they can best be solved. The writer explores the case and discusses not only the ethical question of whether a superior has a right to demand where confidential information came from, but also the question of whether a company has the right to lie to a union about future plans for the purpose of getting labor to cooperate. There were three sources used to complete this paper.

This is the case of a company employee who received some information that could seriously impact the credibility of the company at a future date. She has only worked for this company for two months, but spent a year at the parent company in a probationary period before being sent here in a management position. Her direct superior is a go getter whose only goal is to move up and out of the present company. The employee has received some information from her superior's secretary regarding some promises the man made to the union in order to avoid a strike. He promised a 30% pay raise and health insurance effective two years from now if the employees would work hard for current pay and agree to a pay freeze until the two years is up. The secretary told the employee that the superior made those promises knowing full well there were current negotiations to move the entire company to Mexico. In addition he plans to be at the parent company working in two years and figures whoever replaces him will have to deal with the empty promises about a 30% pay increase that cannot possibly be done.

When the employee questioned the superior about his promises and knowledge about the company moving to Mexico, he demanded to know who gave her the information. Now as she walks into a meeting he has reminded her that he wants the name of whoever gave her the Mexico rumored information. He has in essence threatened her position with the company if she does not come forth with the name. The person who told her asked her to keep it confidential as a condition of telling her. (Umiker, 1998)

Ethics represent what people should do, not necessarily what they must do. Ethics express one's conscience or morality rather than acquiescence to legal decrees. Some people believe ethics to be "plain common sense - just doing the right thing by people you deal with." Ethical behavior means more than following rules or a code of conduct with a list of thou-shalt-nots. It is a set of guiding principles. Work-related ethos is involved in performance reviews, promotions, assignments, disciplinary actions, protection of personal privacy - including e-mail and facsimile messages - and the sharing of information. Ethical considerations have received more attention recently, more so because of the threat of legal liability than because of a strong concern for people. Some observers feel that ethical violations are on the increase; one-third of respondents to a survey by Geber reported that they had seen violations in the preceding year."

What Ethical Issues Are Involved?

There are several ethical issues involved with this case study.

The first ethical issue of course is whether or not the employee has to come forth with the name of the person who told her the company is moving to Mexico. She even told her that she herself had been involved with the negotiations for that move.

The second ethical issue is whether or not the supervisor had the right to make promises about future pay raises if he knew there was a good chance the company would no longer be on the Island by the time the promises were to be fulfilled.

The third ethical issue is whether or not this superior has the right to demand the name of whoever told the underling about the possible move to Mexico. And if he had that right did he also have the right to threaten her job if she did not come forth.

The last ethical issue is did she have the right to go to his superior and tell all and ask for help?

Ethical Issue #1

The first ethical issue deals with the employee. Does she have to give up the name of her informant. There are several questions about this matter that come to mind. Does she owe it to her employer to come forth with the name? Does she owe it to the informer not to divulge the name? Does she owe it to the company to come forth with the name?

The first thing she needs to learn as a corporate person is to never promise never. She should not have agreed to confidentiality before knowing what information she was going to be given. That put her in a difficult position when she tried to verify the information.

However, once she found out the information and her supervisor demanded to know who told her, yes she needs to deliver the name. Had the person who gave her the information about the probable move to Mexico not been involved in the negotiations then no, she would not owe anyone the name. In fact she would owe the person she promised the loyalty to not tell the name. However, the person who did tell her about the possible move to Mexico was directly involved with the negotiations so what she did was take information she was only privy to because of her position with the company and share it with someone who had no professional need or entitlement to that information. This was illustrated when the employee went above her superior's head and his boss said he could not discuss possible negotiations for relocation with someone in her position. This underscores the fact that the secretary was discussing confidential information. It would be interesting to discover whether this secretary had signed a non-disclosure agreement when she came to work for the company. This would also help in the decision as to whether or not the employee had an obligation to provide the secretary's name to the superior.

There are several fields of work in which superiors can actually be held responsible for breaches of confidentiality on the part of their subordinates.

Because of their oversight responsibilities, social work supervisors can be named in ethics complaints and lawsuits alleging ethical breaches or negligence by those under their supervision. These claims often cite the legal principle of respondeat superior, which means "let the master respond," and the doctrine of vicarious liability (Reamer, 1994). That is, supervisors may be held partly responsible for actions or inactions in which they were involved only vicariously, or indirectly (Reamer, 2000)."

This case does not involve social workers however, because the superior has made promises that he may not be able to keep and may end up named in a suit he actually does have the right to know who has breached confidentiality and discussed the possible move with this new employee.

This employee, while she may not agree with the promises made by her supervisor, and she may not like the idea of giving up the name of someone who spoke out of turn, does owe it to her company and superior to divulge the name of the informant (Kensicki, 2000). If this informant told her about the potential move to Mexico, which as of yet is not even a done deal, then its probable that she has shared that information with other people in the company which could start a landslide reaction. Workers could hear about it, and stop working which would cause a work slow down which may hurt the negotiations to move to Mexico because the numbers would nosedive. This informant could cause serious harm to the operations of the company by discussing things that she is only privy to because of her position with the company. This lends strength to the argument that the employee does need to produce the name of the informant so that she can be talked to or disciplined for sharing information that was confidentially obtained. (Kensicki, 2000)

The insurance industry often deals with ethical issues that are similar to this problem at hand.

As an insurance professional, do you have an obligation, regardless of personal cost, to approach and inform management or regulatory authorities in the event you discover unethical business practices within your organization?"

When ethics are taught or discussed, most "guideposts" or "decision rules" revolve around the question of what "I" would do. For example, Marsha reviewed the excellent ethical decision-making advice of Robbin Derry, formerly of the American College:

1) Can the action I am about to take stand the light of publicity?

2) to whom do I owe an obligation in this case?

3) What is the obligation that I owe?

4) Who has rights that must he protected?

5) Is this action a breach of my ethical duty? To my company? To the policyholder? "

Ethical Issue #2

The second ethical issue is about the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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