Example Of This Whole System Seems Wrong Case Study
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1. At the end of the case, Felipe wants to take action but knows that he will face resistance from others. Help him to plan his communication strategy in “giving voice to his values” by answering the following questions:
a. Felipe perceives the working conditions in the factory to be unethical. Why do you think he feels this way? Use the PLUS model in your response. Be specific.
First, he is disturbed by the workers, some of them are underage girls between the ages of 12 to 16 who should not even be working in the first place, they should be in school learning. The factory management prefers these young girls because they have small hand that can easily mount chips on mother boards. They are also easier and cheaper to manage than machines. He not only finds the child labor unethical, he also finds their working hours which are 8 hours a day for 6 days without a break unethical. These girls are not allowed to look up when working because the manager thinks that this will make them loose concentration thus slowing down the work. These girls also work without magnifying glasses which would have made their work easier due to the eye strain they get from staring at small parts for long hours.
Other workers are directly exposed to hazardous substances such as molten lead which can cause diseases such as cancer. Those painting plastic cases do not have the required personal protective equipment such as masks. They instead use paper masks which are not effective in protecting them from the dangerous gases produced. This causes them to fall ill often and some even die. Since this is considered a high risk job, the factory management pays them more money.
There is no air conditioning in the many rooms in the factory and with the temperatures sometimes rising up to 100° F this makes the working conditions unbearable. The only rooms with air conditioning are those with machines that require constant cooling, it is not for the benefit of the workers.
Their living conditions are also poor since they live in houses that do not have windows and have no running water.
Felipe finds all the above conditions unethical because his company thrives on the back of the suffering of these workers. It is because of the low wages and the poor working conditions of these workers that his company is able to be profitable.
b. What is at stake for the key parties in keeping the status quo (not making any changes)? Be specific in identifying these stakeholders and what matters to them.
There are two major stakeholders in this case, the factory and Felipe’s company. For the part of the factory, keeping the status quo ensures that their production costs stay low. As Felipe’s manager pointed out, a change in the factory’s policy such as abolition of child labor or a reduction of the working hours would ultimately bring up their production costs. This would make the company unattractive to companies seeking to outsource their production since their productions costs would be higher. The main of outsourcing, after all, is to reduce the cost of production.
It is therefore imperative that the production costs of the factory remain low so as to attract new customers and keep the ones that they have. The factory cannot afford to reduce working hours, introduce breaks, do away with child labor or improve the working conditions. Therefore, the status quo must be maintained so as to keep the factory running.
For Felipe’s company, the status quo must be maintained since an increase in the production costs of the company would ultimately lead to an increase in the price of the company’s goods. Since one of the company’s main strategies is keeping the price of their products low while producing high quality goods, an increase in their prices would lead to loss of business for them.
Since the low cost of their goods is dependent on the factory’s policies, a change in these policies that would lead to an increase in the production costs is not desirable for Felipe’s company. Therefore an increase in wages or a decrease in working hours is not in the best interest of the company. The status quo keeps the production costs of the company low, allows for a comfortable profit margin and keeps their customers happy.
c. What are the main arguments against making changes that Felipe needs to anticipate? That is, what are the reasons and rationalizations from other people that he will need to address? Be specific.
The main reason against Felipe making changes is that the changes will affect both the factory and his company negatively. A change in the factory’s policy will increase the production costs of the factory. This will in turn increase the production costs of the company and thus increase the price of its goods. This will lead to a reduction in the profit of Felipe’s company. This is the main reason that other people have against making changes that Felipe needs to anticipate.
The rationalization is that the factory will most likely not accept to change its policies which will force Felipe’s company to terminate the contract. Other company representatives told him that this job, though with numerous challenges, is better that the others out there for these young girls. They have told him that the other options are field work, which is tougher or even prostitution which is not only immoral but also dangerous for the girls. In their opinion, this job offers the girls an income and even a way out of poverty. Therefore, despite the conditions, these jobs are a life line to these girls and the changes that he wants to make may not change the lives of these girls and other workers as intended, they may deny them a livelihood all together. They think that the status quo serves the workers better and the changes that Felipe wants to make may affect them more than they will help them.
These are the reasons and rationalizations that Felipe needs to anticipate if he wants to succeed in solving his problem. He needs to come up with a strategy that will not harm the profitability of both the factory and his company and one that will also not affect the jobs of the factory workers.
d. What do you think is Felipe’s most powerful and persuasive response to the reasons and rationalizations he needs to address? Be specific.
Felipe needs to assure both the company and the factory that the changes that he plans to effect will not effect will not hurt their profitability. Since his company has a small charitable fund, some of the money from that fund can be used to buy magnifying glasses for the young girls. This will improve the working conditions for the girls without affecting the production costs of the company of that of the factory. ‘
He can also ask the factory manager to introduce breaks, but in shifts so that the work never stops. This will give the girls the much needed rest without affecting the output of the company since the breaks will be taken in shifts. This will also increase the concentration of the workers and even drive up the production rates since studies show that breaks increase concentration and are a much better way of increasing productivity instead of working nonstop.
Money from the company’s charity fund can also be used to buy masks, gloves and coveralls for the workers that are in close contact with hazardous materials. This will improve the welfare of the workers at no cost to the factory or the company.
The money from the fund can also be used to buy air conditioners for the factory so as to improve the condition of the workers. Felipe can also encourage his company to join lobbying activities to fight for better working conditions. This will help him save not only those workers in his company’s factory but also workers in other factories.
All of Felipe’s changes should not affect the company or the factory’s production costs in any way. This is going to be the most powerful response to all the reasons and rationalizations that his detractors have against improving the working conditions of the workers. It might not be all that he wants to do but he must see that even the small things he does will have a positive impact.
2. What specific communication action do you recommend Felipe take in the next five days (at the end of the case)? Whom should he communicate with, when, and where? About what? Explain the reasoning behind your recommendation. Focus only on the next five days.
He should draft a memo to his boss and to the factory in China enumerating the changes that he wants to effect and how he plans to affect them. The memo should be clear, concise and convincing. He should emphasize that these changes will not have any negative effect on the company or on the factory.
He should also draft a request letter to his boss so as to get the funds from the charity fund. He should stress out the needs of these workers and their helplessness so that he can get sufficient funds quickly. After that, he should start looking for quotations on the prices of the masks, magnifying glasses, coverall, gloves and the air conditioners. He should then choose the cheapest goods that have the highest quality, purchase them and ship them.
Felipe should also come up with a schedule of how the breaks are going to be taken in shifts and send it to the manager for his input and approval. He can also ask the manager to consult the workers on this issue so that they can come up with the best system.
He should also write a letter to the lobby group to ask how his company can join the group and what activities they would like his company to undertake.
All these activities will put him on the right track for effecting changes.
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