Assignment 2: Workplace Ethics
BUS309: Business Ethics
To completely answer the questions posted after the case study: Web Porn at work, I had to make certain assumptions about the circumstances that were not clearly defined in the study. The first assumption is that the unnamed employee that found the information was fired because he committed Computer Trespass which is illegal in most states and therefore could explain the immediate dismissal. This assumption would explain why the employee was not given any chance of redemption to correct his actions and show his commitment to the company. Additionally, it demonstrates the company’s commitment to its core values of honesty, integrity and the intrinsic worth of each individual by showing that the company would not tolerate anyone violating the employee’s civil liberties and their right to privacy. Moreover, assuming all of the previous assumptions are fact allows the observer to rule out nepotism on Al’s part. Nepotism is showing favoritism to relatives and close friends (Shaw, 2014). The final assumption I made was that the pornography that was being viewed was not the very illegal type involving minors. So while pornography can be considered to be morally and ethically wrong, it didn’t cross the line into blatant criminal activity.
The fact that Al and Craig have been friends for many years and that Craig is the associate vice president of human resources seem to vouch for Craig’s integrity and character. Since this is a relatively recent issue, it would seem that something has changed in Craig and that is may be a sign of a minor psychological problem. Offering help to a person that is struggling with a personal issue can help expand the companies culture and core values especially recognizing the intrinsic value of each individual. Assuming that the offer of help is genuine and doesn’t come with any stipulations that would violate Craig’s civil liberties, such as a requirement to show proof of treatment or reports of progress, this could lead to a win for all of the parties involved. Studies of many large and successful companies that have made expecting employee rights the norm, far different from the authoritarian style of the past, and still mostly the norm for many large companies, has proven to strengthen employees loyalty to the company and allowing them to feel empowered and essential which leads to better productivity (Shaw, 2014).
Typically, the accessing of pornography at work would be just cause for immediate termination; sometimes tremendous benefits can be achieved by assessing the entire situation. Pornography has no place in the corporate world, and viewing it at work may create a mindset contradictory to the proper business mindset. For this reason, it would seem a fair assumption that Craig, based on his years of service, an advanced position in the company and friendship with Al, and the fact that Craig did help write the company manual only seems to strengthen the argument that Craig is in need of help. Additionally, Craig’s reaction to his habit being discovered shows that his moral values are not aligned with his recent addiction and that the obsession doesn’t align with organizational norms and conformity (Shaw, 2014). Almost every company has something in their manual about misusing the company resources, and especially for the viewing of pornography. Taking all of those items into consideration would further the argument that Craig is more in need of help and support than harsh termination. In the case of Craig and his indiscretion, immediate dismissal may send a very stern message to the other employees about abusing resources. However, it’s important to consider the Work in America Report from the 1970’s relating to dissatisfaction in the workplace (Shaw, 2014). The second chief source of work dissatisfaction is the rigidity of rules and regulations. The reason for this could be that rigid rules do not allow for the human element, the beautiful things that make us all in individually important. The strong corporate dynamic the company has prided itself on having could be hurt instead of reinforced by this severe action. The firing of the unnamed employee may also be used to show the employees how deeply they are valued and let it be known that his dismissal was based on his violation of their most precious and protected civil liberty: the right to privacy.
As the founding president of the company, Al has the right and authority to ask, privately and with respect, anything of his employees that seems to create pause or concern especially if the behavior is happening at work and during working hours. It states in the case study that the questioning was gentle and Al seemed to respect Craig as a person, co-worker, and friend. If Craig had not been using the company resources to view the pornography, then to ask Craig about his habits and web usage would have indeed been a violation of Craig’s civil liberties. The cases shown in Chapter 8 mostly dealt with employers penalizing employees for the behavior outside of the workplace. After reading the case studies, it was easy to see why so many people are anti-big corporations and the way they insinuate themselves into every aspect of their employee’s lives. The blatant violation of fundamental civil liberties or even to be viewed as a person, much less a valued team member made it easy to understand why many big companies are regarded as morally deficient (Shaw, 2014).
While Craig’s violation of the company policy seems to have put the company’s core values at odds with each other, it’s the perfect opportunity to show the employees how the intrinsic worth of each employee is more important than making an example of Craig. While it is undeniable that company policy has been violated, I feel it’s safe to assume that while Craig was only doing it an hour each day, it is possible that he was using the time before or after work or even his lunch break for his viewing. No mention was made of declining work performance or behavior issues that would have raised the notice of any other employees. It seems possible that Craig was still maintaining his commitment to the company and his integrity while misusing the company’s computer and internet. I believe that Al would best serve the core values that he founded his company on, the corporate dynamic that currently exists and the loyalty that he has to Craig by offering to help Craig receive help. A brief review of the Hawthorn Effect showed that workers produced more when they were receiving attention and recognition. Helzberg found that job satisfaction depends on intrinsic factors like sense of accomplishment, responsibility, recognition, self-development, and self-expression (Shaw, 2014). Al and Craig have enjoyed their friendship and work relationship for many years, it seems that an offer of a lifeline instead of blatant termination would embody all of these qualities and push the company forward in their corporate dynamic. Finally, without violating the privacy of the person that was let go or any HR policies, the company could allow the employees to know that a breach in their right to privacy was discovered and was handled to maintain the core values and enforce their core value of the intrinsic value of each employee.
Shaw, W. H. (2014). Business Ethics 8th Edition. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.