Good Case Study About Short-Term Implications
Is It Ever Ok To Break a Promise?
Summary of the situation
Sameer is an engineer in a manufacturing company called BABA. He has been a loyal and valued employee since he began working for the company after he completed his bachelor's degree five years ago. Sameer believes that he will be able to add more value to his company if he obtains an MBA degree. He hopes his company will not only grant him leave, but will also cover his tuition. Meanwhile, Sameer's coworker Patrick is enthusiastic about Sameer's plan and believes that Sameer is paving the way for other employees.
Sameer's boss, Mr. Anil Baba, is wary of this idea. Mr. Baba is afraid that if he sponsor's Sameer's education, Sameer will be tempted away by a more enticing company. Mr. Baba expects nothing less than complete dedication from his employees and is reluctant to do this favor for Sameer.
Sameer and his boss reach an agreement that BABA will sponsor Sameer's graduate education if Sameer agrees to work for at least three additional years. If Sameer leaves for another company, he will be contractually obligated to repay his tuition.
While in graduate school, Sameer receives an offer from another company, called WeDiggIt. The position includes an annual salary of $150,000 with a sign-on bonus of 50% of Sameer's MBA tuition. The company also comes with several perks.
The ethical question is, “should Sameer go back to BABA or not? Is it ever ok to break a promise?” This case study is about an ethical dilemma at the work place. This paper will discuss the long and short-term considerations of this case study in detail, focusing on BABA's stakeholders.
Sameer wants to increase his potential by adding new education and skills to his resume. However, he will need to rely on financial assistance from his employer. Since BABA was willing to spend money on Sameer for his personal development, and since BABA cannot afford to lose the investment they have in Sameer, some may say that Sameer has a moral obligation to return to BABA. It would be the most ethical thing to do, and it would set a precedent for other employees who hope to be sponsored through their master's degrees like Sameer.
For every organization, human capital is the most important asset. When an organization spends money on its employees, it means the employee has great value for that organization. In this case study, Sameer is described as a highly competent and skilled worker. His company clearly does not want to lose such a valuable asset. This is why Mr. Baba has agreed to spend so much money on Sameer. He has done so with the understanding that Sameer will remain loyal to the company and will repay Mr. Baba's favor by continuing to work for BABA for at least three years.
In this day and age, a business education may be considered a necessity for engineers who wish to advance through their company. It is the wish of every employee that he or she is able to obtain the credentials that are needed to obtain a good standing within their company. If an organization bears the tuition fees of an employee, then the ethical course of action for that employee is to return after the completion of his or her degree.
If Sameer accepts the offer at WeDiggIt, it will set a bad example for the employees of BABA. In addition, given Mr. Baba's initial uneasiness about sponsoring Sameer, it will be unlikely that Mr. Baba will be willing to extend the same offer to another employee in the future. By leaving the company, Sameer may eliminate the chances of any other BABA employee having their tuition paid by their employer. However, if Sameer stays with BABA, he will be paving the way for success for his coworkers.
Anil Baba is an experienced and savvy business owner. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of his employees. He grants tuition and leave to Sameer because he is aware of the added value that higher education will bring to the company. At the same time, he is aware of the likelihood that Sameer will be offered a higher paying job. This is why he has written up a legal contract with Sameer to protect his investment. Mr. Baba understands that he cannot force Sameer to remain with BABA if it is against his wishes, but Sameer can be forced to repay his tuition.
Now, Sameer has been offered a job with a starting salary of 150 grand a year with 50 percent of his tuition paid as an added bonus. Sameer recognizes and appreciates the assistance that BABA has provided him and that has enabled him to complete his MBA program. He is morally conflicted. He knows he has made a promise to return to BABA, and he knows his company will reward him for that decision. He already has a good reputation with BABA and is thought highly of by his supervisors.
The most important consideration is that, whatever decision Sameer makes, it will set a precedent for the other employees of BABA. If Sameer returns to BABA, the company will be willing to spend money on the development of its other employees. If Sameer makes the decision to go to WeDiggIt, it will send the wrong message to BABA, and the other employees will be deprived of the opportunity to have their education sponsored by the company. Therefore, the ethical course of action for Sameer is to go back to BABA. He will surely be rewarded for this ethical decision (Boje).
The Utilitarian Approach
According to a utilitarian world view, a person should act in such a way as to maximize utility. Utility is defined as what produces the greatest balance of good over harm. Utility can mean economic well-being, or it can mean lack of suffering. From a utilitarian perspective, the best decision is one that does not hurt the morale of those affected by your decision. In this case study, Sameer should consider the utilitarian point of view. He should consider the option that will be most gratifying to the CEO of his company, Ioana, and himself (Jordan et al.).
The Rights Approach
An alternative point of view suggests that the ethical course of action is the one that best protects the interests and moral rights of the ones affected. This is known as the “rights” approach. Following this model, it is apparent that the best course of action for Sameer is to remain with BABA. According to the rights approach, people have the right to be treated not as a means to an end, but as an end in and of themselves. If Sameer leaves BABA for WeDiggIt, he will have taken advantage of BABA's charitableness. He will have treated Mr. Baba and Ioana as means to an end, specifically, as the means to the end of obtaining an MBA degree. It would an undignified way to treat the people who had sacrificed money and productivity to help him.
When we think about the long-term implications of this ethical dilemma, we must think about the individuals who will be most affected by Sameer's decision: Mr. Baba, Sameer, or the employee Ioana. Sameer's decision will have direct consequences for each of these people. If Sameer comes back to BABA, Mr. Baba will be encouraged to help his other employees in the same manner. Ioana made a request of Mr. Baba on Sameer's behalf. In doing so, she put herself at risk. If Sameer leaves the company for WeDiggIt, Ioana will lose Mr. Baba's trust. Sameer should return to BABA as he will be greatly appreciated and will enjoy a highly regarded status within the company. In addition, his superiors will recognize Sameer's loyalty and he will earn a reputation as a highly ethical person.
If Sameer honors his promise, there will be long-term benefits to him as well. After his three-year contract ends, he may have the option of joining Mr. Baba's executive team. Alternatively, he may leave BABA for a higher paying position at another company. His reputation as an ethical person will follow him wherever he goes, and he will be thought highly of. Sameer will have lots of opportunities become available to him if he continues to make ethical choices in his life. He will win the respect and admiration of his coworkers and will be bound for lots of promotions. He has already proved that he is hardworking through his work ethic. If his self-conduct is ethical, that will prove he is worthy of trust.
In this dilemma, Sameer must choose one of two options: to return to BABA, or to begin working at WeDiggIt. Sameer must first evaluate the ethical issues and try to ascertain the truth about his situation. Will going back to BABA be worthwhile to him? This is the most important question he must answer. It seems the ball is in Sameer's court. It is up to BABA to make returning to the company the most attractive option. Therefore, BABA also has an ethical choice to make. They must remember that Sameer passed up a big opportunity by returning to BABA. It is the ethical choice of the company to express their gratitude to him in the form of a bonus or raise.
When we speak about ethical behavior, it is necessary to speak also about ethical leadership. A company must examine its own policies and determine whether it is modeling good ethics for its workers. When members of upper management display ethical conduct, then other employees will also be motivated to behave in an ethical way.
This dilemma over whether it is ever okay to break a promise invokes deep philosophical questions about ethics and morality. This case study suggests that breaking a promise is never ok, because it has the potential to negatively affect the lives of other people. If Sameer reneges on his promise to BABA and goes to WeDiggIt, he will have committed an unethical act. I suggest that it is in the best interests of everyone involved that Sameer return to BABA. Though it is the right of every individual to choose his or her place of work freely, we must also remember our responsibility to those who are affected by our decisions. While Sameer cannot be legally required to continue working for BABA, he is ethically bound to that decision. When an individual chooses the ethical path, all of society benefits. When we adhere to standards of honesty, integrity, and charity towards others, we all reap the rewards of ethical conduct (Corey et al.).
In conclusion, I believe that Sameer should decide to return to BABA, because the organization has invested in and supported Sameer. Sameer should be as committed to his company as his company has been committed to Sameer's personal and career development. After all, without BABA's support of his MBA degree, Sameer would never have received an offer from WeDiggIt to begin with. On the flip side, it is also the responsibility of BABA to recognize the sacrifice Sameer has made by remaining loyal. They should at least offer him a market competitive salary and a bonus for staying on with the company. In this way, other employees will also be inspired by both Sameer and the company to act according to ethical values. In addition, the company will also have a better chance of securing the loyalty of its other employees. These decisions will demonstrate the value of making ethical decisions and of staying committed to those who help us when we are in need (Ferrell and Fraedrich).
Carroll, Archie, and Ann Buchholtz. Business and society: Ethics, sustainability, and stakeholder management. Cengage Learning, 2014.
Corey, Gerald, et al. Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions with 2014 ACA Codes. Cengage Learning, 2014.
Ferrell, Odies C., and John Fraedrich. Business ethics: Ethical decision making & cases. Cengage learning, 2014.
Jordan, Jennifer, et al. "Someone to Look Up To Executive–Follower Ethical Reasoning and Perceptions of Ethical Leadership." Journal of Management39.3 (2013): 660-683.
McShane, Steven L., and Mary Ann Von Glinow. "Organizational Behavior 7/e." (2015).
Boje, David M., ed. Critical theory ethics for business and public administration. IAP, 2008.
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