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Ethical Dilemma Case - Personal Experience

Essay by   •  October 26, 2011  •  Case Study  •  1,572 Words (7 Pages)  •  2,507 Views

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Effective managers often exhibit the ability to take decisive, timely action when faced with a dilemma. This is easily accomplished when there is a clear difference between right and wrong, black and white. As core values are brought into conflict and an assessment must be made between right and right, a manager must possess the skills to effectively make an ethical decision while considering the outcome of their actions. This paper will discuss an ethical dilemma that I faced as a manager and will apply the Ethical Business Toolkit to support the action taken.

The dilemma I faced was a direct conflict of two core values, loyalty and honesty. From one aspect I was intensely loyal to my firm. As a young professional directly out of college with no industry experience the founders had given me a fantastic opportunity to launch my career and being an infant start-up, they could only afford one employee to jump start their enterprise. The partners took an incredible gamble and placed their faith in my abilities, an action that I did not take lightly. In return, I did whatever was necessary to reach our quarterly goals. This meant going the extra mile to ensure results; working 16 hour days, sleeping at the office, and running myself ragged to achieve growth. Though taxing, I approached my charge with ambition and tenacity knowing that I would be able to look back with a sense of pride at what I had accomplished during a days work. I felt it my obligation to the firm to perform my duties efficiently and with a sense of loyalty.

From the other perspective I had been asked to perform a task not only dishonest, but also highly illegal. The legal ramifications could have been severe. Forgery, like many cases of fraud, can bring about federal charges depending on the severity and depth of the offense. In this case the forged documents would have been representing several hundreds of thousands of dollars of interstate money movement for an extended period of time. It is almost certain that if caught federal charges would have been levied. Penalties can range from nominal fines to incarceration, though it is unlikely the latter would have been considered since the clients were still being delivered the product they purchased and were not defrauded out of additional capital. The likelihood of anyone ever finding out was very small, yet if exposed I would be forced to admit that I knowingly violated the trust of our clients. Having developed personal relationships with all of them that was not a position I was willing to put myself in regardless of the benefit to the firm or my personal pursuits.

Having had the opportunity to reflect on this dilemma I am confident I made the ethically sound decision. However, several questions presented themselves to me that exposed the difficulty many of us face when placed in this position. If no one was going to find out, why didn't I just press forward with the request of my manager? Would it have made a difference if I did not know the clients personally? Does a signature with a face and handshake behind it mean more than an anonymous scribble on a contract? At what stakes would I have been tempted to proceed with the forgery?

In retrospect the central subjective components of the toolkit were the key elements that made me pause and consider my actions. After the request the first response that made me stop and think was a hollow feeling in my gut. My manager had just asked me in no uncertain terms to forge signatures on a legal document. My feelings ranged from astonished, to confused, to angry to be put in that situation. A quick swipe of a pen could solve my current dilemma, yet my intuition would not let me proceed.

This led me to consider an exercise I had participated in a few years prior. During my second year with the firm I attended a conference where the host gave us a sheet of paper with a blank suitcase on it. He asked us to write on it five or six key values we strived to exhibit in our everyday lives. I wrote honesty, humility, tenacity, loyalty, and compassion. He then asked us to fold it up, place it in our wallet, and carry it with us each day. When faced with this decision the 'suitcase of values' immediately came to mind with honesty and loyalty at conflict. The firm was

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