More Ethical Dilemmas
Below are two dilemmas to think about on your own. Read the dilemmas, and consider how you would address the issues. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers. These dilemmas are for you to explore.
Ethical Dilemma: The Press Release
You are the new employee for an IT consulting firm that develops and installs custom software and databases for federal and private clients. Your supervisor asks you to write a press release to be sent to national news agencies about a new software product. The software comes from a vendor in which your company owns a large amount of stock. The software allows your co-workers to work at any computer in the world with Internet access and be networked into their own PCs at the home office; as long as they have an Internet connection, they’re able to use their home office computer files. Unfortunately, this software doesn’t exist. You’re being asked to write about a product you’ve never used. The company doesn’t even have a beta version available.
This is one of your first assignments, and you’re very concerned about pleasing your supervisor, who was gracious enough to give you the position you hold. Your supervisor gives you a deadline of shortly before the software vendor’s stock goes public (is open to be bought by the public in auction or stock exchanges). Knowing that your company is promoting a product that doesn’t exist concerns you. Also, you have some concern that your company seeks to profit unfairly from the public sale of this software company’s stock. You assume that favorable press for the company’s “new” product will cause the stock to rise.
Given the above situation, how would you respond? Would you write the press release? Why or why not? If you’d write the letter, would you be concerned with any legal implications? If you won’t write the letter, how would you explain your refusal to your supervisor? There is no right or wrong answer to this dilemma. Also, there are no clear legal boundaries within this dilemma. Unless I’m mistaken, no one enrolled in class is a lawyer, so claiming a legal perspective isn’t appropriate. Also, just because something’s legal doesn’t mean it’s the appropriate thing to do ethically. Think about this dilemma from your sense of ethics and what you think is right or wrong.
Ethical Dilemma: The “Guarantee” of Work
You are an employee for an IT consulting firm that develops and installs custom software and databases for federal and private clients. Your firm is on the federal government’s GSA schedule, which means, essentially, that they can hire the firm for contracts. Normally, a company is on the schedule for five years and has the option to renew after five years. Although most firms continue to be assigned contract after contract, there is nothing in the GSA schedule rules that claim the government has to find work for you. Your firm has always been offered a contract as soon as one ends and often before the current contract ends. As long as the economy is good, you’re confident that you will always get contracts.
Your boss is trying to entice new employees to leave their current jobs to come work for the firm, the new, vibrant, quasi-dot.com firm. The boss isn’t interested in entry-level workers; she wants people who have several years of experience at long-standing, well-established firms. You’re in charge of this hiring phase, and your boss sits down with you to discuss a few things to tell the potential candidates during an interview. Your boss asks you to highlight the following:
- The excellent medical benefits plan
- Employee retreat weekends
- Tuition reimbursement plan
- Convenient access to the Metro from both the home office and the clients’ on-site offices
- The federal government’s guarantee of five years of work
Although you feel that the access to the Metro is less than convenient, you don’t allow your subjective, anti-mass transit self to bias the interviews. However, you question the “guarantee” of five years of work. Your boss begins by telling you that there is no reason why the government would not award new contracts to the firm. She gives you a supply side theory of why the government spreads out the wealth through contracts, so your firm isn’t in any danger of not getting a contract. When you push the subject more, your boss gets short with you and tells you that you must tell these potential employees that there’s a “guarantee” of five years of work, so they’ll feel comfortable leaving their current jobs; in turn, their expertise ought to ensure that the government will like the firm’s work and continue renewing the contracts.
Given the above situation, how would you respond? Would you talk about a guarantee? Why or why not? If you go along with your boss, would you be concerned with any legal implications? If so, are you a lawyer and know what the legal concerns could be? If you don’t write the letter, how would you explain your refusal to your boss? There is no right or wrong answer to this dilemma. Again, as with the first dilemma, there are no clear legal boundaries within this dilemma. Don’t try to argue from a legal perspective. After all, just because something’s legal doesn’t mean it’s the appropriate thing to do ethically. Think about this dilemma from your sense of ethics and what you think is right or wrong.
Now, head over to the page with your Ethical Dilemma Homework due Wednesday, 6/17.