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Should We Go Beyond the Law?

Case 1
Should We Go Beyond the Law?
Nathan Rosillo stared out his office window at the lazy curves and lush, green, flower-lined banks of the Dutch Valley River. He’d grown up near here, and he envisioned the day his children would enjoy the river as he had as a child. But now his own company might make that a risky proposition.
Nathan is a key product developer at Chem-Tech Corporation, an industry leader. Despite its competitive position, Chem-Tech experienced several quarters of dismal financial performance. Nathan and his team developed a new lubricant product that the company sees as the turning point in its declining fortunes. Top executives are thrilled that they can produce the new product at a significant cost savings because of recent changes in environmental regulations. Regulatory agencies loosened requirements on reducing and recycling wastes, which means that Chem-Tech can now release waste directly into the Dutch Valley River.
Nathan is as eager as anyone to see Chem-Tech survive this economic downturn, but he doesn’t think this route is the way to do it. He expressed his opposition regarding the waste dumping to both the plant manager and his direct supervisor, Martin Feldman. Martin has always supported Nathan, but this time was different. The plant manager, too, turned a deaf ear. “We’re meeting government standards,” he’d said. “It’s up to them to protect the water. It’s up to us to make a profit and stay in business.”
Frustrated and confused, Nathan turned away from the window, his prime office view mocking his inability to protect the river he loved. He knew the manufacturing vice president was visiting the plant next week. Maybe if he talked with her, she would agree that the decision to dump waste materials in the river was ethically and socially irresponsible. But if she didn’t, he would be skating on thin ice. His supervisor had already accused him of not being a team player. Maybe he should just be a passive bystander—after all, the company isn’t breaking any laws.
What Would You Do?
1.    Talk to the manufacturing vice president and emphasize the responsibility that Chem-Tech has as an industry leader to set an example. Present her with a recommendation that Chem-Tech participate in voluntary pollution reduction as a marketing tool, positioning itself as the environmentally friendly choice.
2.    Mind your own business and just do your job. The company isn’t breaking any laws, and if Chem-Tech’s economic situation doesn’t improve, a lot of people will be thrown out of work.
3.    Call the local environmental advocacy group and get them to stage a protest of the company.

Case 2
Too Much Intelligence?
The rapid growth of Pace Technologies was due in no small part to sales manager Ken Bodine and to the skills of the savvy young sales staff he had assembled. Bodine prided himself on finding and hiring top grads from two major business schools in the area. In addition to the top salaries offered by Pace, the grads were attracted by Bodine’s energy, innovative thinking, and can-do attitude. He was the embodiment of Pace culture—moving fast, ahead of the knowledge curve in high-tech. Pace’s sales force consistently stunned the competition with their high performance level.
Among other things, Pace had the reputation for aggressive business intelligence. Competitors found both amusing and frustrating the company’s ability to outmaneuver others and capture accounts. Bodine enjoyed the air of mystery surrounding the Pace organization. Awareness that some competitor sat on the verge of a big sale always stirred Bodine’s passion for sales and ignited his desire to “one-up these guys” and grab the sale out from under them.
“If this was a poker game,” one board member mused, “Pace would win every hand. It’s like Bodine as well as his staff possess the uncanny ability to know the cards your company is holding. He keeps a straight face, a low profile throughout the game, and then suddenly he lays his cards on the table and you’re sunk. Here at Pace, we all love it.”
A former military intelligence officer, Bodine brought that “sneaky” air into the Pace culture, adding a bit of excitement to the day-to-day business of sales. “With a great product, great staff, and great business intelligence,” Bodine was fond of saying, “you can dominate the market.” He wanted everyone—customers, competitors, and the media—to see Pace everywhere. “Every time the competition holds a staff meeting,” he said, “the first question should be, ‘What’s Pace doing?’”
The sales staff was a mirror image of Bodine—younger, but with the same air of invincibility, and very competitive with one another. This, too, Bodine encouraged. A chess player, he enjoyed observing and encouraging the competition within his own sales staff. And seeing the thrill it brought “the boss,” ambitious salespeople worked vigorously to prove their competitive worth.
Bodine’s latest competitive “match” pitted Cody Rudisell and Ali Sloan in an intellectual and strategic struggle for a coveted assignment to a potential major account with a company that had just expanded into the region. Bodine let it be known that Cody and Ali were being considered for the assignment and that each could submit a proposal to lure the account to Pace and away from its top rival, Raleigh-Tech.
Both Cody and Ali eagerly grabbed the opportunity to expand their influence within the company and to build their reputations. Putting together their presentations within a short time period meant working long days and late nights. On the evening before the presentations, Cody bounded into Ali’s office and dropped a file on her desk. “Top that!” he said.
Ali began thumbing through the file, and as she looked up in startled amazement, Cody slammed the folder and jerked it from her desk.
“That’s like a watershed of Raleigh-Tech’s trade secrets,” Ali said. “Where did you get that?”
“My secret, sweetie,” Cody replied, taking a seat and noisily drumming his fingers on the folder. “With this information, R-T doesn’t have a chance. And neither do you.”
“You could get into all sorts of trouble,” Ali said. “When you lay that on Bodine’s…”
“Bodine’s espionage side will love it,” Cody interrupted. “This is classic Bodine, classic Pace. You can’t tell me that with all of the brilliant moves he’s made over the years, Bodine hasn’t done the same thing. This is business, cutthroat business, and I may have just topped the master. See you tomorrow.”
As he left, Ali sat in stunned silence. “Cutthroat, indeed,” she whispered, reaching for the phone. She held the phone for a moment, wondering who she should call. This is unethical, illegal, she thought. She hung up the phone. Should I let him hang himself tomorrow? What if Bodine really does love it? If I call some manager tonight, will everyone see me as a sore loser and a crybaby? Is this really what it takes to win in the big leagues? Is this really the culture of this organization?
1.    How has Ken Bodine shaped the sales culture at Pace Technologies? Do you consider this culture to be at a preconventional, conventional, or postconventional level of ethical development? Why?
2.    What should Ali Sloan do? What would you actually do if you were in her place? Explain.
3.    How might Cody Rudisell’s decision differ if he based it on the utilitarian approach vs. individualism approach vs. practical approach to ethical decision making? Which approach does he appear to be using?

Case 3
The Right Way with Employees?
As a senior manager for a global player in automobile production and sales, Kirby Ellis had joined thousands of fellow employees in the excitement surrounding production of the company’s new hybrid vehicles.
But barely two years into production, embarrassing component shortages, delivery delays, and a recall of the first models had a ripple effect, presenting the company with mounting concerns. In the confusion, many customers canceled orders and turned to competitors for purchase of the eco-friendly vehicles. Ellis’s company was facing a financial downturn.
With three decades of service to the company, Kirby led a contingent of managers intent upon keeping together as much of the company and as many employees as possible.
“We know there will be some necessary cuts,” Kirby admitted. “But this company has a long history of sticking by its people. Our first priority should be internal streamlining of how we do things and making sure we have the right people on board.”
Many managers liked what they heard from Kirby. He was well respected and had an unequaled reputation for his leadership and collaborative skills and his ability to work with managers, as well as line workers on the factory floors. People marveled at the number of individuals he knew on a personal level throughout the company.
Drew Cunningham influenced a second contingent within the management group. A brash go-getter with a reputation for fixing companies in crisis, Cunningham proposed across-the-board cuts in employees in order to implement a solution as quickly as possible. He proposed the immediate creation of a forced ranking system in order to identify and get rid of lower-ranking employees.
Kirby raised his hand and rose to his feet in objection. “So we’re going to create a system to fire …”
“I didn’t say fire …”
“OK, cut our own hard-working people? It sounds like some lame government commission,” Kirby said. “We’ve got bright people. This thing simply got worse faster than we thought. We can work with the people we have in setting up more efficient workflow, establishing reasonable deadlines to increase output and …”
“Kirby, these are not the days of knowing everyone in the plant,” Drew said. “You’re not throwing out your wife’s uncle Harry. We are taking a serious look at what we do, how we do it, and streamlining everything by keeping the right people in the organization and cutting the rest.”
1.    What kind of employee social contract is assumed by Kirby and Cunningham? Explain.
2.    If you were an HR manager at the company, which view would you support? Why?
3.    HR departments hire and develop human capital to serve the organization’s strategy and drive performance. Which approach—Kirby’s or Cunningham’s—is more likely to have a greater positive impact on performance? Discuss.



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