Resolving Jill’s Dilemma In Candy Corporation- Business Ethics Case Study Case Study Examples
Resolving Jill’s Dilemma in Candy Corporation
Executives frequently encounter ethical dilemmas at their work places, complex in nature, some predictable and several unpredictable. The present case study demonstrates a predictable dilemma faced by a woman executive, Jill Jones, who experienced harassment in the past by Henry, the eldest son of William Potter, the Chairman of Candy Corporation (CC). Henry is now being projected as the CEO of CC and Jill is asked to objectively review and recommend him for CEO position. The past episode of Henry’s misbehaviour with her when she was in middle management position, was still fresh in her mind. Now she is facing a dilemma involving her own personal integrity versus culture of the CC in which the eldest son takes over the business and as a loyal employee she has to give an objective recommendation. This case study is analysed using three approaches: (i) Utilitarianism; (ii) Jone’s model of ethical decision making and (iii) Belief in Just World approach.
Not reporting the misconduct of Henry
Henry, the CEO-prospect had no qualms in misbehaving and harassing Jill in the past. Interestingly, Jill did not report the incident to anyone. Treviňo & Brown (2004), while debunking five common myths about business ethics, reveal that not-reporting of misconduct pervades even to CEO level and they attribute this inaction to the victims being uncomfortable passing moral judgment on others or holding themselves up as somehow ethically better than their peers. The authors stress the importance of social context, as employees including senior executives, look to others for approval of their thinking and behavior. Ethics Resource Center (2003) published a report on National Business Ethics Survey, which indicated that about 40 per cent of respondents preferred not to report misconduct they observed (or suffered) at workplace because of fear of retaliation from management, while 33 per cent said they would not report misconduct because they feared retaliation from co-workers. In our case, Jill followed the widely accepted norm of not-reporting the misconduct of Henry.
The Dilemma and choices before Jill
Now, Henry is likely to take over as CEO., as the company is family-owned business. The Chairman of CC, has asked Jill to assess Henry and give her recommendation. Here springs the dilemma. Jill knows Henry and his past misconduct. Further she knows about the excellent performance of Henry at Miami branch. Should she consider his past behavior or ignore it?
Research studies on business ethics have broadly categorized ethical dilemmas into three types: Coercion and Control (CC); Conflict of Interest (CI) and Personal Integrity (PI) (Ahmad, Ansari & Aafaqi, 2005). At this juncture, Jill is facing the PI type of ethical dilemma. This type involves issues related to one’s conscience or sense of rightness or wrongness (Fritzsche & Becker, 1984).
Recognizing dilemma: Should Jill ignore past misbehaviour and misconduct of Henry and assess him objectively based on his professional performance, without any regard to future consequences on her and may be her colleagues? Or should she communicate about his past behaviour and give her opinion about the likelihood of her being harassed or other female colleagues?
Ethical decision making
If likely consequences of an action (such as reporting past misbehaviour of Henry) are considered while taking moral decisions, Jill is said to be engaged in consequentialism. The widely used approach to consequentialism is utilitarianism – the belief that actions should be weighed according to their effect on happiness of the group of employees. Utilitarianism is described as “a theory that suggests an action is morally right when that action produces more total utility for the group as a consequence than any other alternative does” (Boylan, 2000, 66). From the utiliatarian point of view, it is better for Jill to ignore the past behaviour of Henry and give him a positive recommendation. This decision would please the Chairman William and Henry as well as others in the company, as Jill had not shared the unpleasant episode with anyone. Further, it is natural for Henry to take over the CEO position.
Ethical decision making in Jone’s model (Jones, 1991) is an extension of Rest’s four-stage model (Rest, 1986) and is viewed as a sequential process with a series of steps. The stages in the context of Jill’s dilemma, is presented in the form of Table (Table 1).
According to Tanaka (1999), Belief in Just World, is the belief that this world has a mechanism whereby people will be rewarded or punished proportional to the good or evil that they have done. This belief underlines the basic need of human nature whereby people expect to see good behaviour rewarded and bad ones punished (Lerner, 1980). If, in this case study, Jill adopts the Belief in Just World approach, she would simply recommend Henry for CEO post, based on his performance and leave the punishment part to the larger world- whether it happens or not, whether Henry is going to harass her from CEO’s position is again left to the context and time. Her conscience would be clear that she had objectively assessed Henry.
Comparison of the three approaches to resolve the ethical dilemma
Approach of utilitarianism tells Jill to ignore the past behaviour of Henry and recommend him for the larger good of the company and employees. Jone’s model of ethical decision making provides the alternative of reporting the past behaviour of Henry and gives an objective recommendation based on the performance at Miami branch. Belief in Just World approach asks Jill to assess Henry based on performance and leave the punishment for his past misbehaviour to the Just World. To believe that all wrong deeds will be punished and waiting to see such punishment meted out may require a life time for people like Jill. This approach seems to be out of place in the modern context or may be suitable for eastern cultures.
According to me the best way of resolving ethical dilemma faced by Jill is through Jone’s model of ethical decision making. This approach would satisfy the ego of Jill, in the sense that she conveys the past deeds of Henry and at the same time gives due weight to his performance and potential to lead the company. This would put her in a morally superior and ethically correct position, even while working under Henry in the future.
There are no unique and universal formulae for resolving ethical dilemmas. Executives, like Jill, have to select alternatives viewing through the lens of their own codes of conduct and apply suitable rules to the situation encountered. Outcome of such choices gives unique identity to the executives and sets the right tone for others to follow. It would be appropriate for Jill to assess Henry based on his performance and at the same time report about his past misbehaviour and leave the final decision to the Chairman of the company.
Ahmad, N.H., Ansari, M.A., and Aafaqi R. (2005). Ethical Reasoning: The Impact of
Ethical Dilemma, Egoism and Belief in Just World. Asian Academy of Management
Boylan, M. (2000). Basic Ethics. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Ethics Resource Center. 2003. National Business Ethics Survey: How employees view ethics
in their organizations. Washington, DC.
Fritzsche, D.J., and Becker, H. (1984). Linking management behavior to ethical philosophy-
An empirical investigation. Academy of Management Journal, 27, 166-175.
Jones, T.M. (1991). Ethical Decision Making by Individuals in Organizations: An Issue-
contingent Model. Academy of Management Review, 16(2), 366-395.
Lerner, M.J. (1980). The Belief in a Just World: A Fundamental Delusion. New York:
Rest, R.J. (1986). Moral Development: Advances in Research Theory. New York: Praeger.
Tanaka, K. (1999). Judgment of fairness by just world believers. Journal of Social
Psychology, 139, 631-639.
Treviňo, L.K., & Brown, M.E. (2004). Managing to be ethical: Debunking five business
ethics myths. Academy of Management Executive, 18(2), 71.
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