BUILDING YOUR BUSINESS SKILLS
TO LIE OR NOT TO LIE: THAT IS THE QUESTION
To encourage you to apply general concepts of business ethics to specific situations.
It seems workplace lying has become business as usual. According to one survey, one-
quarter of working adults in the United States said that they had been asked to do
something illegal or unethical on the job. Four in 10 did what they were told. Another
survey of more than 2,000 secretaries showed that many employees face ethical
dilemmas in their day-to-day work.
Working with a small group of other students, discuss ways in which you would respond
to the following ethical dilemmas. When there is a difference of opinion among group
members, try to determine the specific factors that influence different responses.
Would you lie about your supervisor’s whereabouts to someone on the phone? Would
it depend on what the supervisor was doing?
Would you lie about who was responsible for a business decision that cost your
company thousands of dollars to protect your own or your supervisor’s job?
Would you inflate sales and revenue data on official company accounting statements
to increase stock value? Would you do so if your boss ordered it? Would you say that you witnessed a signature when you did not if you were acting in
the role of a notary?
Would you keep silent if you knew that the official minutes of a corporate meeting
had been changed? Would the nature of the change matter?
Would you destroy or remove information that could hurt your company if it fell into
the wrong hands?
Research the commitment to business ethics at Johnson & Johnson (www.jnj.com) and
Texas Instruments (www.ti.com/corp/docs/ethics/home.htm) by checking out their respective
Web sites. [[Verify accuracy of URL’s. RG]] As a group, discuss ways in which these
statements are likely to affect the specific behaviors mentioned in step 1.
Working with group members, draft a corporate code of ethics that would discourage the
specific behaviors mentioned in step 1. Limit your code to a single printed page, but
make it sufficiently broad to cover different ethical dilemmas.
1 What personal, social, and cultural factors do you think contribute to lying in the
2 Do you agree or disagree with the statement “The term business ethics is an
oxymoron.” Support your answer with examples from your own work experience or
that of someone you know. 3 If you were your company’s director of human resources, how would you make your
code of ethics a “living document”?
4 If you were faced with any of the ethical dilemmas described in step 1, how would
you handle them? How far would you go to maintain your personal ethical standards? EXERCISING YOUR ETHICS: INDIVIDUAL EXERCISE
TAKING A STANCE
A perpetual debate revolves around the roles and activities of business owners in
contributing to the greater social good. Promoting the so-called proactive stance, some
people argue that businesses should be socially responsible by seeking opportunities to
benefit the society in which they are permitted to conduct their affairs. Others promoting
the defensive stance maintain that because businesses exist to make profits for owners,
they have no further obligation to society.
Assume that you are the manager of a restaurant near a major manufacturing plant. Many
of your customers are employees at the plant. Due to inflation, you are about to raise your
prices 10 to 15 percent. You have had new menus created and updated your posters. You
have been planning to implement the higher prices in about three weeks.
You have just heard that another plant owned by the same company has been shut
down for two weeks due to an explosion. The plant near you will be expected to make up
the slack by asking workers to put in longer hours, adding a new shift, and so forth. You
anticipate a substantial jump in your business immediately. You are now trying to make a
quick decision about your pricing. One option is to go ahead and roll out your higher
prices now. Combined with the big jump in traffic, your profits would skyrocket. The
other option is to follow your original timetable and wait three weeks to increase your
prices. You will have then passed up the opportunity to capitalize on the temporary jump in business.
QUESTIONS TO ADDRESS
1 Which course of action is easier to defend? Why?
2 What is your personal opinion about the appropriate stance that a business should
take regarding social responsibility?
3 To what extent is the concept of social responsibility relevant to nonbusiness
organizations such as universities, government units, health care organizations, and so
forth? EXERCISING YOUR ETHICS: TEAM EXERCISE
FINDING THE BALANCE
Managers often find it necessary to find the right balance among the interests of different
stakeholders. For instance, paying employees the lowest possible wages can enhance
profits, but paying a living wage might better serve the interests of workers. As more
businesses outsource production to other countries, these trade-offs become even more
The Delta Company currently uses three different suppliers in Southeast Asia for most of
its outsourced production. Due to increased demand for its products, it needs to double
the amount of business it currently subcontracts to one of these suppliers. (For purposes
of this exercise, assume that the company must award the new supplier contract to a
single firm, and that it must be one of these three. You can also assume that the quality
provided is about the same for all three companies.)
Subcontractor A provides a spartan but clean work environment for its workers; even
though the local weather conditions are hot and humid much of the year, the plant is not
air conditioned. Delta Company safety experts have verified, though, that the conditions
are not dangerous, simply a bit uncomfortable at times. The firm pays its workers the
same prevailing wage rate that is paid by its local competitors. While it has never had a
legal issue with its workforce, it does push its employees to meet production quotas and it
has a very tough policy regarding discipline for tardiness. For instance, an employee who is late gets put on probation; a second infraction within three months results in
termination. This supplier provides production to Delta Company at a level such that
Delta can attach a 25 percent markup.
Subcontractor B also provides a spartan work environment. It pays its workers about
5 percent above local wage levels and hence is an attractive employer. Because of its