Ethical Dilemma – Background. You are the new CEO of a struggling manufacturing corporation. The corporation is suffering from severe financial difficulties, legal safety violations, and a diminishing customer base. The corporation is the main place of employment for the city in which it is located and many employees come from a long line of generational workers. After a thorough evaluation of the organization’s situation, you realize that you can turn the organization around if you can justify ‘looking the other way’ on one or more existing issues:
- Employee working conditions: conditions have fallen short of OSHA standards for the past two years, yet you need to get more work from your workforce. Shutting down the organization just to bring the workplace up to OSHA standards would cause all work to come to a stop for the duration of the safety upgrades. This means all 200+ individuals -and their families- would suffer by not having (full) income simply because of the possibility that the safety issues might cause harm to some employees. You’ve had a discreet estimate that bringing the building issue’s in alignment with OSHA could take six to nine months and require major structural changes to the aging building. Meanwhile, by your calculations, you just need 18 more months’ uninterrupted production to raise revenue and turn the organization around. Luckily, a safety inspection is not imminent – as far as you know.
- Planned layoffs: if you reduce the workforce by eliminating 20% of the workers’ positions (thus realizing significant salary and benefits savings), put the remaining workers on mandatory overtime, hire ‘temporary part time workers’ for the short-term as needed, and turn a blind eye to the safety issues for at least a year, you should be able to realize the cost savings and increase revenue needed to salvage the company in less than 12 months. Naturally this will adversely affect a good part of the community (not to mention morale) and may result in such action as walkouts, unionization, and other protests. The public reputation of the organization may be affected as well.The safety issues are still a concern, however. The organization would likely be saved.
Read and answer the following:
- What is the main problem(s) you (the leader) are facing?
- Accept or rebut the options, above, by citing ethical principles you derive from research. One such source is found at https://www.brown.edu/academics/science-and-technology-studies/framework-making-ethical-decisions – noting that there are specific theories (example: utilitarianism) that you may draw upon to justify your reasoning.
- If this were truly your organization to lead, and you felt pressured by stakeholders and employees to save jobs, what might you consider the best solution?
- Would you actually go through with this decision? (It is one thing to consider it the best solution and another to be able enact it).
- Can you think of another possible option? (Keep it in line with the facts given, above, and don’t embellish with facts that are not present).
- Given your chosen solution, what style of leadership are you exhibiting (from our readings to date)?