Taken from: Business Ethics – Ethical Decision Making and Cases
A Real Life Situation pages 62-63
After three years with the company, Sandy was promoted to assistant plant manager. This was a big step for Unity Welding and Construction, as well as for the industry; Sandy was one of only a handful of women who had broken through the “glass ceiling” and made their way into management. She had proved to the men around her that she deserved the job, and she was now being toasted by assistant managers from other plants across the country John, her boss, had been her advocate with the company. He had personally lobbied upper management in her behalf.
Unity Welding and Construction is a national firm with twenty fabrication plants, primarily in the South.
The company does contract work for other companies that require welding or fabrication of metals into items used in the construction of aircraft, ships, bridges, and component parts for consumer durables. Each plant caters to specific industries. Sandy’s plant produces parts primarily for the automotive industry and is located in Arizona. Arizona is perfect for Sandy because of her acute asthma problems. As a teenager, she once visited relatives in Atlanta and had to be hospitalized because of her reactions to the different plants and foliage. Sandy’s doctor told her at the time that she would have fewer problems with her asthma if she resided in one of the arid regions of the United States.
Six months had passed since Sandy’s promotion, and her first performance rating from John was excellent. John told her that if she continued this type of performance, she would probably be a plant manager in three to six years.
Sandy developed some innovative ways to increase productivity during her six months on the job. For example, she successfully implemented a “team concept,” which gave responsibility for certain projects to the workers on the plant floor. She offered incentives if they could decrease job times and increase profitability. John gave Sandy his full support, and the pro-
gram was working well.
Worker salaries on these special projects jumped from an average of $15 per hour to $24 per hour, yet the company’s bottom line continued to improve. Workers in the plant began competing to get on special projects.
With the increasing competition, Sandy noticed that the workers were starting to cut corners. Minor worker injuries began to increase, and Sandy was concerned about how some of the workers were disposing of toxic wastes. She informed John about her concerns, and he said he would write the following memo:
Attention: Workers on Special Projects
It has come to management’s attention that minor injuries are on the rise. Please review the Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines to make sure you are in compliance.
In addition, there are rumors of improper disposal of wastes. Please read again the statement from the Environmental Protection Agency. Finally, congrats to Special Project Team Wolf. Profitability on your job increased 8 percent with an increase of $4.50 an hour for each member of the group. Great job!!
Shortly after John sent out his memo, the recession started to hit the automobile industry hard.
Some of Sandy’s workers were to be laid off. Sandy went through the records and found that her most productive workers had been selected for termination. She went to John with the problem, and he said he’d take care of it. By calling in some favors, John was able to save the workers’ jobs, and no pink slips were issued at the plant. Within a week the workers knew John and Sandy had saved them.
Two months later, in November, the special project teams were working especially hard.
Sandy noticed that the teams with the highest hourly wages were also the ones that were cutting corners the most. Sandy ran a spot inspection and found major quality problems with the products, as well as pollution problems. Additionally, she learned that several teams had “procured” software from the competition to reduce their production times. Sandy realized that something needed to be done quickly, so she went to John.
“John, we’ve got some major problems,” she told him. “Quality has decreased below our contract’s specifications.
I’ve got workers cutting so many corners .