Business ethics are a hot topic these days; with everything from insider trading to employee theft on the rise, it is no wonder that businesses are beginning to focus on the impact of ethical leadership. However, along with this new focus comes a lot of “gray area.” Many times, managers are forced to decide on issues where there are arguments on both sides—a problem that makes ethical decision-making very difficult.
According to Kenneth Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale, authors of The Power of Ethical Management, there are three questions you should ask yourself whenever you are faced with an ethical dilemma:
• Is it legal? In other words, will you be violating any criminal laws, civil laws, or company policies by engaging in this activity?
• Is it balanced? Is it fair to all parties concerned both in the short-term as well as the long-term? Is this a win-win situation for those directly as well as indirectly involved?
• Is it right? Most of us know the difference between right and wrong, but when push comes to shove, how does this decision make you feel about yourself? Are you proud of yourself for making this decision? Would you like others to know you made the decision you did?
Read the following example of an ethical dilemma and decide what your team would do.
Hannah started her consulting business a year ago and has been doing very well. About a month ago, she decided she needed to hire someone to help her since she was getting busier and busier. After interviewing several candidates, she decided to hire the best one of the group, Sam. She called Sam on Monday to tell him he had gotten the job. They both agreed that he would start the following Monday and that Sam could come in and fill out all of the hiring paperwork at that time.
On Tuesday of the same week, a friend of Hannah’s called to say that she had found the perfect person for her. Hannah explained that she had already hired someone, but the friend insisted. “Just meet this girl. Who knows, maybe you might want to hire her in the future!” Rather reluctantly, Hannah consented. “All right, if she can come in tomorrow, I’ll meet with her, but that’s all.”
“Oh, I’m so glad. I just know you’re going to like her!” Hannah’s friend exclaimed. Hannah did like her. She liked her a lot. Hannah met with Julie on Wednesday morning. She was everything that Hannah had been looking for and more. In terms of experience, Julie far surpassed any of the candidates Hannah had previously interviewed, including Sam. On top of that, she was willing to bring in clients of her own, which would only increase business. All in all, Hannah knew this was a win-win situation. But what about Sam? She had already given her word to Sam that he could start work on Monday.
She only had the resources to hire one person at this point. Clearly, the best business decision was to hire Julie, but what about the ethical decision? If her business did poorly or Sam couldn’t provide enough support, the business would suffer. As a result, her family would suffer. Money was already tight with two children in college; yet she knew Sam also had a family he was supporting. Plus, he had been so enthusiastic about starting to work.
Should Hannah hire Sam (whom she’d already given her word) or Julie (who was obviously the best person for the job)? Answer the prompt in a paragraph of no more than 100 words. Defend your decision. How would you go about talking to either Sam or Hannah? What would you say to either of them? How would this decision affect your future decisions? What would Sam or Hannah have to say about you and your business? REMEMBER: you cannot hire them both!
In my opinion, Hannah should hire Sam because she has already given her word to him. She has already told him that he was hired and he could begin work as soon as the coming Monday. This is an oral agreement between Sam and Hannah and the ethical thing for Hannah to do here is to hire Sam. In addition, there is no oral agreement between Hannah and the other candidate, Julie. The decision to stick to hiring Sam is ethical because it is balanced, right, and legal. The decision is balanced because it is fair to all the parties involved. Julie will not be hurt if she is not hired because Hannah did not make any oral agreement with her. On the other hand, Sam would be hurt because he has already been told that the job is his and that he can begin on Monday. The decision to hire Sam over Julie will also be right.it will make Hannah feel good about her knowing that she has helped a man who also has people depending on him financially.