BUSINESS ETHICS

read the article “Ethically Dubious Conduct”  and answer the discussion questions 1, 2 & 3.

Ethically Dubious Conduct

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BRENDA FRANKLIN HAS WORKED AT ALLIED

Tech for nearly eight years. It’s a large company, but she likes it and enjoys the friendly work environment. When she tacked her list onto the bulletin board outside her office, she didn’t intend to make things less friendly. In fact, she didn’t expect her list to attract much attention at all.

It had all started the week before when she joined a group of coworkers for their weekly lunch get-together, where they always talked about all sorts of things. This time they had gotten into a long political discussion, with several people at the table going on at great length about dishonesty, conflicts of interest, and shady dealings among politicians and corpo- rate leaders. “If this country is going to get on the right track, we need people whose integrity is above reproach,” Harry Benton had said to nods of approval around the table, fol- lowed by a further round of complaints about corruption and corner-cutting by the powerful.

Brenda hadn’t said much at the time, but she thought she sniffed a whiff of hypocrisy. Later that night, after pondering the group’s discussion, she typed up her list of “Ethically Dubious Employee Conduct.” The next day she posted it outside her door.

Harry Benton was the first one to stick his head in the office. “My, my, aren’t we smug?” was all he said before he disappeared. Later that morning, her friend Karen dropped by. “You don’t really think it’s immoral to take a pad of paper home, do you?” she asked. Brenda said no, but she didn’t think one could just take it for granted that it was okay to take company property. She and Karen chatted more about the list. On and off that week, almost everyone she spoke with alluded to the list or commented on some of its items. They didn’t object to her post- ing it, although they seemed to think it was a little strange. One day outside the building, however, an employee she knew only by sight asked Brenda sarcastically whether she was planning on turning people in for “moral violations.” Brenda ignored him.

Now she was anticipating her group’s weekly lunch. She had little doubt about what the topic of discussion would be, as she again glanced over her list:

Ethically Dubious Employee Conduct

1. Taking office supplies home for your personal use.

2. Using the telephone for personal, long-distance phone calls.

3. Making personal copies on the office machine. 4. Charging the postage on your personal mail to the company.

5. Making nonbusiness trips in a company car.

6. On a company business trip: staying in the most expen- sive hotel, taking taxis when you could walk, including wine as food on your expense tab, taking your spouse along at company expense.

7. Using your office computer to shop online, trade stocks, view pornography, or e-mail friends on company time.

8. Calling in sick when you need personal time.

9. Taking half the afternoon off when you’re supposedly on business outside the office.

10. Directing company business to vendors who are friends or relatives.

11. Providing preferential service to corporate customers who have taken you out to lunch.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Review each item on Brenda’s list and assess the conduct in question. Do you find it morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or somewhere in between? Explain.

2. Examine Brenda’s list from both the utilitarian and the Kantian perspectives. What arguments can be given for and against the conduct on her list? Is the rightness or wrongness of some items a matter of degree? Can an action (such as taking a pad of paper) be both trivial and wrong?

3. Someone might argue that some of the things lis ted as ethically dubious are really employee entitlements. Assess this contention.

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