Ethics: A Discussion of Company Ethics

R

RosieA

#1
More on Ethics

Since reading the posts related to my friend's ethical dilemma (http://elsmar.com/Forums/showthread.php?t=6984)
I have been mulling over the question of when a company formally crosses the line into unethical behavior.

Most of the posts were in agreement, that the knowing violation of a regulatory requirement is indeed, an ethical problem. Randy, however, (as is his wont) had a different take on it. He suggested that all companies bend the rules and my friend should grow up and get over it. While not in agreement with his statement, it did cause me to start looking at the bending which I've observed over the years and wonder what the line is between "normal" business rule bending and unethical behavior.

For example: (these have been accumulated over the years and not necessarily representative of where I currently work)

1. A customer audit is coming up. You know in advance that they have a hot button about drawings being available on-line vs on hard copy. Your company still uses hard copy. You're directed by a senior manager to "fudge" it and have a number of this customer's drawings in pdf form for the audit, so it appears that we do have such a system. Normal rule bending, or unethical?

2. A customer requires notification and approval if you change manufacturing locations. You missed one, and you have a problem that needs to be resolved with the customer. Top management directs you to lie about the location that the product is being made in to avoid problems. Normal rule bending, or unethical behavior?

3. A competitor has had several problems with product that has caused deaths and been through a highly publicized recall. You have a product that could well cause the same problems. An expensive test will tell you if your product is safe. You recommend the testing. Top management doesn't want to spend the money. Is this normal risk management or is this negligence?

4. You utilize a sister division's plant in Asia to provide a lower cost product. However, top management insists that everyone refer to that location as belonging to your own division, to prevent the customer from going directly to the sister division. Corporate management will do nothing to prevent one division from robbing the business of another, so long as it stays in the family. Is referring to the sister plant as one of your own bending the rules or unethical?

Your opinions please?
 
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SteelMaiden

Super Moderator
Super Moderator
#2
*****All IMHO*****

1. You're directed by a senior manager to "fudge" it and have a number of this customer's drawings in pdf form for the audit, so it appears that we do have such a system. Normal rule bending, or unethical?
Why would you "fudge"? If you don't do electronic, you don't do it. If you are going to put some in, why not all? I find this neither of the options, but possibly a management committment thing, choose a system and be willing to defend it.

2. You missed one, and you have a problem that needs to be resolved with the customer. Top management directs you to lie about the location that the product is being made in to avoid problems. Normal rule bending, or unethical behavior?
Unethical, this is a lawsuit waithing to happen if there are liability issues

3. An expensive test will tell you if your product is safe. You recommend the testing. Top management doesn't want to spend the money. Is this normal risk management or is this negligence?
Can you spell "lawsuit"? Not only is this unethical, it is pretty short-sighted

4. Corporate management will do nothing to prevent one division from robbing the business of another, so long as it stays in the family. Is referring to the sister plant as one of your own bending the rules or unethical?
Wow, I can't believe that corporate would slit the throat of one of their divisions like that....Unethical, probably not, but it sounds like it could go past the line?
 
G

Groo3

#3
1. Any Customer who knows how to audit could easily pick up on such a ploy. I agree with SteelMaiden here... pick a system and be willing to defend it.

2. This appears to be unethical. I believe the supplier should admit they screwed up and rectify/fix any issues with the customer, not lie about it.

3. I think Unethical is not quite a strong enough word to describe what I think about this scenario. I do not believe normal "Risk Management" was even considered in the scenario you provided.

4. Our facility is one of several manufacturing facilities which all produce similar products. Our normal operations are to make the product where it most makes sense to manufacture it, regardless of location. We have one Company Name on our Products, and our Customers have never cared at which facility we manufacture the product, so long as it meets their requirements. I have heard of some companies who make a practice of having their sister divisions compete for business... they cull out the lesser performers and keep the divisions that don't go home at night... Not a place I would want to work.

PS: The October 2003 Quality Progress makes for some interesting reading as it deals with many of these questions.
http://www.asq.org/portal/page?_pageid=33,39211,33_39258&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL&in_url=/pub/qualityprogress/index.html
 
#4
1. Clearly unethical. Besides, I'm not payed to lie. It's not in my work description.

2. See above

3. That is criminal negligence.

4. Tag Groo's reply on here.

/Claes
 
B

ben sortin

#7
They are all unethical. You are only as good as your tools. Integrity is a tool which sometimes earns you the title of "whistle blower." Train your management to use the tool.
 
E

energy

#8
Scruples?

I was once paid $20 to sit at a desk for an hour and be ready to pretend to be a company's QM. As I was also pretending at my regular job, I figured, "Why not?" Does that make me a bad person or just an unethical one or both? :vfunny:
 
D

David Hartman

#9
energy said:
I was once paid $20 to sit at a desk for an hour and be ready to pretend to be a company's QM. As I was also pretending at my regular job, I figured, "Why not?" Does that make me a bad person or just an unethical one or both? :vfunny:
I think that it makes you the Scourge of Quality - the source of all that has gone wrong in the world of quality today. :eek: :biglaugh:
 
R

RosieA

#10
Here's how I handled each:
1. I refused to lie, and documented my reasons in an email to management. Issue didn't come up during the audit, but it eroded my relationship with and confidence in my management. I was laughingly referred to as "The company conscience" from then on out.

2. I fessed up to the customer which cost me some points in MArketing, but ultimately worked out for the best.

3. I enlisted the help of a senior research scientist, who I knew had the respect of the CEO, and he sold the CEO on the need for testing. The CEO was still angry about it and just about threw the lab analysis in my face when the results came back negative for the condition I was concerned about. He viewed it as wasted money, I viewed it as permission to sleep at night.

4. The issue is still open and being worked. Don't know how this one will end up yet.

I feel reassured that all of you viewed these issues the same way I did. After Randy's comments in the last post, I was concerned that maybe my judgement was off, and I was being a goody two shoes.
 
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