Ethical Decision Making Essay, Research Paper
Chapter One Case Study
Debbie Richardson is in her fourth year at Lamb Consulting and has recently been
approached by Susan Gatewick, a project manager for Bob Hachet. Susan confided to
Debbie that when she first came to Lamb Consulting she began going to lunch with Bob
and frequently spoke with him about personal issues in both of their lives. Bob would give
Susan neck rubs and tell her that she was beautiful and Susan returned the compliments.
Slowly the relationship began to change and Bob put his hand on her leg at lunch and then
two weeks later he had put his hands all over her. When Susan confronted Bob about
being uncomfortable with what was happening he looked confused and angry.
After hearing the recent events Debbie informed Susan that as a member of
management she was obligated to report what she had been told. Lamb Consultant?s code
of conduct states: ?Any member of management hearing in the first person of any remarks,
actions, or physical activities that could be construed as sexual harassment or contributing
to a hostile work environment must report such information to the proper authorities or be
subject to penalties, sanctions, dismissal, and/or go without legal representation afforded
by Lamb in any civil or criminal suit developed by such information.? After hearing what
the code included Susan became upset because if this incident was reported it was known
in the company that Bob could hold a grudge
To make matters worse Debbie began to think about the stories she had heard of
women not being hired by companies to reduce the possibility of sexual harassment. Later
in the day Debbie ran into Bob who proceeded to tell her that he had heard that someone
in the company was making waves and that he was going to talk to his supervisor (a
woman). Bob also hinted that if Debbie stood up for this person that he would also drag
her down. Debbie thought about how Jessica (their supervisor) had dealt harshly with the
last woman that filed a sexual harassment report. There are many issues that effect the
decision that Debbie will have to make.
The ethical issues in this case are really very simple, but also very intense. Ethical
intensity as discussed in class is the importance of an ethical issue to an individual or
group (pg. 97). Sexual harassment is a very debilitating form of harassment and can
decrease the rate of work within a company, which makes the intensity very high. Does
Debbie uphold her company policy and turn in what she has been told, or does she keep in
confidence what a fellow employee has confided in her? I believe that there is another
ethical issue in the code of conduct that the company follows. Susan should be able to
confide in someone and then try to deal with the problem on her own. If she is not ready
to deal with a legal battle, then I believe that she has the right not to have the problem
filed. Talking to management took this right away from Susan, but I still believe that she
has that right. Debbie has a social responsibility to report what has been done so other
women may also feel that they can stand-up against sexual harassment (pg.. 6).
Debbie and Susan are both facing conflict of interest. Conflict of interest as
described in the textbook exist when an individual must choose whether to advance their
own interest, or those of the organization (pg. 26). Debbie is being torn whether to stay
true to a women that has confided in her for support or uphold a company policy. Debbie
may also have conflict of interest with herself because if she keeps quiet she will not be
linked to the incident, but if she speaks up about what she has been told her job may be at
jeopardy. It may come out later that Debbie had spoken to Susan about the situation and
her job would be at a greater risk. Susan has a similar conflict of interest as Debbie does.
On one hand she can keep quiet and deal with Bob on her own, or she can turn Bob in and
risk being harassed and losing her job. By turning Bob in Susan may be harassed even
more by fellow employees for not being a team player.
In this situation Bob seems to be in Kohlberg?s stage of individual instrumental
purpose and exchange (pg. 99). Bob is trying to serve his own needs. While Susan was
still being socialized into the company Bob began to make her feel welcome (pg. 147).
Not only was he trying to take advantage of an employee, but he is also trying to cover his
tracks by going to the supervisor and having Susan either moved or fired. To stop Debbie
from talking to their supervisor Bob threatened her by using coercive power (pg. 128). He
threatened to penalize Debbie to influence her behavior. By threatening her Bob feels that
Debbie will not want to make waves within the company.
Obviously at some point and to some management the belief that sexual
harassment is wrong was seen as part of the corporate culture. Corporate culture is a set
of values, beliefs, or norms that members or employees of an organization share (pg. 119).
Through their code of conduct the organization is saying that they will not stand up for
sexual harassment and it is wrong for people to keep quiet about these matters.
There are many options that Debbie can choose to make. Debbie may go to her
supervisor and follow the code of conduct that her company follows and report what she
has been told from Susan. Debbie may also report that she was threatened by Bob when
he believed that she would support Susan. Debbie may also decide to keep quiet and tell
Susan to keep her name out of it and that she does not want to discuss it with her
anymore. On the other hand Debbie may decide to not report what she has heard but
counsel Susan to go to upper management with the complaint.
No matter what option Debbie chooses I believe that she is going to face conflict.
If Debbie keeps quiet and it comes out that she knew, she may loose her job, or if she
turns in Bob she may face punishment from management for making waves. Debbie is
also at the risk of loosing a friend that trusted her enough to confide in her. If Debbie
keeps quiet and talks Susan into reporting the problem, she still may be at risk if Susan
reports that she talked to Debbie. If Debbie does nothing and talks Susan into keeping
quiet she is doing a disservice to all women. If people quit reporting sexual harassment,
then it will be much harder for those that want to report because management will not see
harassment as much of a problem.
I believe that Debbie should tell Susan that she is going to report what she has told
her and give Susan the option to go with her. While talking to her supervisor Debbie
should bring up the fact that she was threatened by Bob. If Debbie does not feel that her
supervisor is listening to her, since it is a code of conduct, I believe that Debbie could go
one more step up the ladder and talk to her supervisors, supervisor. While dealing with
the problem Debbie may bring up that it may be time to initiate some training on sexual
harassment in the work place. Professionals can be brought into the company that can
teach when relationships are going to far in the workplace.
It is possible that Debbie may be hurting her position in the company for following
the code of conduct. Debbie could support an addition to the code that states that no
matter what the situation is, your job can not be jeopardized from reporting it. It is
possible that even with the addition Debbie and people like her may be punished for
following the code. I believe that it is Debbie?s duty to support Susan in whatever
decision she makes, but it is also her duty to follow the codes of conduct that her company
Ferrell, O. C., Fraedrich, J., Ferrel, L. (2000). Business ethics: Ethical decision
making and cases. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.