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Home / Questions / PROBLEM-SOLVING APPLICATION CASE (PSAC) The Cost of “Doing the Right Thing” Apply the knowledge...

PROBLEM-SOLVING APPLICATION CASE (PSAC) The Cost of “Doing the Right Thing” Apply the knowledge...


The Cost of “Doing the Right Thing”

Apply the knowledge of OB presented in this chapter to the following case. Applying this knowledge should enable you to recommend realistic and effective solutions. As you read this case, please assume that you are the employee who is the target of the abuse and that, as the employee, you want to be treated fairly and with respect.


If asked publically, you, like most people, would say that unethical behavior should be confronted—the perpetrators called out. This is what people believe should happen. But as you know, what people should do and what they actually do are often different. This is one reason why many organizations have codes of ethics that explicitly require those that simply witness or have knowledge of unethical conduct to come forward and make it known. (What do the Codes of Ethics at your school/employer say you are supposed to do if you have knowledge of unethical conduct?) The rationale is based on the assumption that if you are the target or victim of unethical conduct, then you are more likely to take action. But requiring others to take action is a means for making ethics everybody’s responsibility

Why Don’t People Speak Up?

You undoubtedly agree that retaliating against somebody who speaks up—whether the actual target or only a witness—is wrong. Retaliation actually makes unethical behavior worse, as it punishes people for “doing the right thing” and rewards the wrongdoers. But it happens more often than you might think. True, legislation is in place to help protect some whistleblowers, but these laws are very specific (e.g., financial fraud) and do not apply to the vast majority of people and the vast majority of unethical conduct. Consider this hypothetical scenario to illustrate. An employee at a brand management company in the southern United States was treated unfairly by the manager of his department. (Incidentally, fairness is a common element in ethics codes and often an explicit value in many organizations.) When he complained, the manager then built a coalition with two other senior employees and retaliated by trying to intimidate and undermine him for speaking out, such as giving him undesirable work assignments and schedules. The manager also purposefully damaged his reputation to other employees (e.g., labeled him a “troublemaker”), misrepresented him during his performance reviews, and blocked opportunities for him both inside and outside the organization. Because the actions were so blatantly unprofessional and unethical, and because they persisted over time, the targeted employee took the matter to the director (his manager’s boss). The director did nothing.

Pursuing Accountability

The unethical treatment continued, which then motivated the employee to escalate the matter to the corporate level and pursue the formal grievance process. This process transferred his complaint to the vice president’s (VP) office. The VP is responsible for all employee matters across the company including enforcing the company’s code of ethics. The VP reviewed the case and said, “Life is unfair . . . deal with it. I will take no action.” The mistreatment continued and resulted in the targeted employee filing a complaint of intimidation and retaliation with the Ethics Committee of the company, which was the only remaining option within the company’s grievance process. He explained in his complaint the pattern of mistreatment and violations of the company’s code of ethics.

Now It’s Really Going to Cost You

To make matters worse, the targeted employee’s director retaliated against him for filing his complaint! He reduced the scores on his performance review and cut his standard raise by more than 50 percent. The original and seemingly minor unethical matter of an infraction against fairness escalated into a matter that involved many people at many levels in the company. “Doing the right thing” had been very costly.

The Lesson?

Don’t be too quick to think that retaliation of this sort is rare or that you are protected. Codes of ethics are just empty words if unethical people are not held accountable (e.g., colleagues, managers, directors, and executives). Note: When answering the questions below, assume two things. First, you are the targeted employee in this case and you cannot quit. The market for your job is very constrained and being unemployed in not an option. Besides, your wife cannot leave her job for at least two years and you cannot make it on just her income. Second, also assume that you have no legal recourse. Remember what we said earlier in the chapter—most unethical behavior is not illegal. Legal remedies, even if available, have their own risks/costs. Given these two caveats, answer the following questions.

Apply the 3-Stop Problem



Jul 22 2020 View more View Less

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