Ethical Leadership - The experience of JCU's 3rd IBD cohort

Ethics in Our Lives

The following is an inventory of ethical challenges people at our level face. We've included a summary of the types of challenges at the end of this page.

I've been pressured in the past to modify my analysis of a software change to meet the goals of a project manager.  It was early on in my career, so I went along with what the PM wanted.  If it happened now, I'd like to think I would respond differently.      

I haven’t been with my current employer for long, but I can identify situations that could be considered unethical. The encouraging fact is that when I am faced with a situation that I deem unethical, I am able to openly discuss it with my manager. When dealing with supplier pricing and contracts, there tends to be unethical opportunities more readily available. But in my case, it is usually comes down to a difference in opinions because the ethical matter isn’t significant.  I think it’s important to discuss the situation on an ethical because it allows us to view it from the supplier’s perspective as well.

Actually it happened recently for the first time in the 10 years that I worked there.  I was instructed to access online research using a different person's ID.  I accessed the information and used it in my analysis.  The more I thought about it, I disagreed with the approach.  I brought it to my manager's attention, and we decided to remove the content until we can find proper means to get to that research, which may require a subscription. 

I have had to deal with others abandoning their ethics.  In this particular situation, a landlord attempted to get out of paying my company a commission even though we had a signed agreement from them.  Instead of paying, they falsely accused us of not fulfilling our obligations to try and get out of the agreement.  As a result, we lost a client because of the lie and had to work with upper management and our legal department to get paid.    

I was not necessarily pressured to abandon the code of ethics, but I was asked if I would consider abandoning the company’s code of ethics. It was an uncomfortable situation, so I spoke with a fellow co-worker about what I was being asked to do. Using the advice given from my co-worker, I think I ended up making the best decision in the situation I was put in.  

Our advertising/communications and graphic design work is outsourced to a variety of vendors to accomplish different requirements. One of the vendors is a personal friend of my boss, I dislike working with her and feel she is difficult and requires too much "hand holding." However, he likes to use her services because he she charges much less than our agency - so when we have projects that we don’t have a "large budget for" my boss requires that I use her. I have voiced my opinion several times and backed it up with examples of how I do not believe she delivers a high quality standard for the work, yet I am still required to use her services for various projects even though there are plenty of other agencies that would do a better job. I question whether it is a matter of budget or whether he just wants to help out a friend and it is frustrating to me because I am trying to accomplish work that I can be proud of. 

When grading assignments I often notice similarities among students' work; same errors, same explanations, same grade, etc. At a Jesuit institution I wonder how students can lack integrity to that degree. To top it off, it’s not like they are copying each other and getting an "A."

One customer came into my workplace to cash a check, but did not comply with requirements to process the transaction.  The customer showed multiple forms of identification to prove who he was, but none were acceptable as proper forms according to our standards.  I shouldered the responsibility of the directive of our bank although the transaction seemed legitimate, yet worked with the customer and conversed with co-workers to identify a legal and proper solution for the client.

As the weather was getting colder and colder one day, one customer was making comments that were stereotyping one race over another.  Although not explicitly demeaning one race, the implied meaning was fairly evident.  Instead of avoiding the racial exclusion that the customer's comments suggested, I looked for a moral inclusive ground through conversation about the problem and not about which race to blame.  Although one solution may suggest not participating in such a conversation, I wanted to utilize an opportunity to express empathy that crossed racial boundaries. 

My friend is interviewing at my company and is dealing with the same recruiter I did when I was hired.  I had a terrible experience with this recruiter.  I think she is very unprofessional and doesn't represent our company well.  I have told this to my friend so that she knows what to expect when dealing with her, but I'm afraid that I have said too much or crossed the line with what I have said.  Maybe I shouldn't have said anything and my friend would have had a completely different experience.  I felt a little guilty after some of my comments.  I feel I am being honest, but I also am "bashing" a co-worker.

I forgot I had a rip in my dress shirt before I took it to the dry cleaners last week.  I received a phone call this weekend that the dry cleaners had found the rip and offered to replace the shirt assuming they had caused the damage.  Instead of placing the blame on the dry cleaners, I told them the shirt was previously ripped and don't worry about any damages.

Recently, my brother found an Ipod touch at a camp.  He believes that it must belong to a young child who must have left it inadvertently in a cabin.  I used a coaching approach, and advised him to contact the camp management and leave a message to contact him regarding the device.  They could provide details - name, look, size, etc. so he knows it's theirs.  This would build legitimacy in the relationship the school has with the camp.

As I was raking leaves this weekend, I found a set of car keys in my lawn.  After some thought I suspected that the plumber that was at my house a few days ago may have dropped them.  Instead of ignoring the situation, I contacted the plumbing company and left a message inquiring if the plumber had misplaced his keys.  If they are fact his, he should get the message and contact me about retrieving the keys.    

I observed integrity from our CIO. He said that he is replacing a senior manager of a business unit due to an improvement of leadership needed, and that person will be leaving the company as a result. I respected the honesty in this case, as the executive management would normally communicate that the person has "decided to leave," so a replacement job is open. 

During my two lab preps last week, I accidentally undercharged the oil by quite a bit. I knew that the excess oil wasn't going to make a difference in my end result and contemplated not telling my technology manager about the forgotten oil so I wouldn't have to re-do the preps. However, after giving it more thought and consideration, I decided to tell my manager just in case something processed differently. Because there are dollars on the line, if I would have messed something up, that would have been a real problem.

Today I had an ethical dilemma at work. I took the afternoon off to discuss career opportunities with a JCU graduate who owns a marketing firm. It wasn't an interview, but I told folks at work that I had a doctor's appointment so no questions would be raised. 

Ethics seems to get more visibility on the political level, but definitely plays a role in each of our daily lives and within our organizations.  Our ‘smaller’ daily dealings with ethical decisions may seem like nothing compared to the larger ethical dilemmas political figures face, but I think that being able to make the right decision from the onset, with smaller decisions, will lead to ethical decisions on a larger scale once we are at that point in our careers.

While at the grocery store yesterday, I was in the candy aisle and spotted the “candy by the pound” section. I contemplated taking a piece of candy because I hadn’t eaten dinner yet and was hungry. After careful thought, I decided the candy wasn’t worth the risk of being caught. I ended up leaving the store with no gum and managed to survive until dinner was cooked. 

 A friend of mine is interviewing for a job at a business in town and has not heard back regarding their recent interviews. I happen to know the person that they interviewed with as they have been a close family friend for years.  My friend has asked me to reach out and see whether they have filled the position and if not get an update on the status of the position.  I have declined to do this several times, regardless of the fact that it wouldn’t be a big deal to ask, because in my opinion it’s not my place to ask although this has frustrated my friend.

On Saturday, I went to a Tastefully Simple party. I placed an ordered for product then left shortly after to go home. When I pulled into my driveway I look at the receipt realizing Rachel didn't charge me enough. I turned around went back to my friends house to let her know. She was gratefully I was honest and told her about the mistake.

As I was proctoring undergraduate research this week, I realized that any student could simply circle random answers to the survey in order to finish the survey as quickly as possible and leave class.  If any of the students chose to do so, they were unethical by not displaying integrity and authenticity; they were also being immoral by not taking the few minutes to honestly and sincerely answer the survey questions.

 Currently at work, there have been many job eliminations and reorganization.  As this is going on, it makes everyone nervous, wondering if their job will be cut and not wanting to see their coworkers leave.  When jobs are eliminated, I wonder about the ethics of my company.  Is it ethical to eliminate someone’s job even if they were a great employee, but were put in circumstances that were out of their control?  Even though I may not know all the information surrounding decisions made, it is important to analyze the ethics behind each situation to understand how it affects the company as a whole.  It seems that in corporate America, emphasis will always lie on the shareholders versus individual employees.

Recently I have struggled with managing the relationship with my swimmers, in particular the men's team. The men's team suffers from lack of leadership and therefore lacks ethical and respectful decision making skills. This weekend JCU hosted 5 teams for an invitational swim meet. Not only did the men show poor sportsmanship but stole swim suits, sweatshirts, shoes, etc from the other teams. Our head coach required each item to be returned before the men could leave for the weekend. It took them 1 hour to admit to the stealing and return the other team's belongings. 

Today my friend told me that he was going to take a sick day tomorrow at work.  He said that he is going to tell his boss that he is sick in the morning.  The unethical part of this is that he is actually out of town visiting his girlfriend and does not want to drive back home today.  It would be ethical if he had taken a personal day with advanced notice and given the honest reason for why he was missing work, but instead he is lying to his work so that they do not give him a hard time or think of him as unreliable in the future.  Any way you look at it, he is being unethical by doing this.  

Just getting back from my business travel to Chicago for a tradeshow, a slight ethical issue that I have when I travel is using my expense account responsibly. Some people in the company cut corners and try to take the less expensive methods of transportation such as the less expensive flights, least expensive hotel, park at the "park and ride" and take trains instead of taxis. Other people use one airline no matter what the difference in price for points, choose a preferred hotel for points, park at the airport, and take taxis everywhere. The second approach is not wrong, but it can be careless and self serving. Traveling for work can be taxing and therefore I try to make it as comfortable as possible, but it may be smart to try and be conscious of lower cost options.

Last night at work I found a valuable looking ring on the ground. I picked it up and asked the guests if it was theirs, it was not. I then had the dilemma of a) keeping the ring and selling it to a pawn shop or b) turn it to the lost and found in hopes of the original owner calling to claim it. I chose to turn it in and not demonstrate "finders keepers, losers weepers"

Summary of Ethical Challenges

Job induced - 8
Unearned benefit  - 4
Integrity - 3
Professional / Friend boundary - 2
Steal? - 2
Client related - 1
Plagiarism - 1
Stereotypes - 1
Help others? - 1

As we can see, ethical challenges are prevelant at our jobs. Our class has also encountered many challeges dealing with unearned benefits.