Kathryn Denton

Fun with Ethics!

So I’m not taking an ethics in communications course until next quarter, but sometimes these things just happen.

Today my PR class got out early so I walked to the Randolph St station so that I could get a good seat on the train before it left. I was there before they started boarding so I sat on a bench next to a maybe 30-something African American woman. After sitting there a minute she started talking to me. She said she had a dilemma that she just really needed to talk to someone about, and I looked like an intelligent person. (I think it’s these gray pants I bought at Kohl’s a few weeks ago that have a very subtle check pattern in them, they just scream “This is a smart girl wearing smart pants), but I digress.

She went on to explain that she’s a manager at a make-up counter in a well known department store just down the street. She told me she’s been there awhile and was due for some sort of reward/recognition,but something always came up and she wasn’t getting any. She had been off of work for a few days this pay-period and was really surprised today to see that her check was much larger than normal. Not only was she paid for the days she wasn’t there, but for a few extra days as well. She says that her manager never makes mistakes and thought maybe this was the woman’s way of giving her the rewards they both knew she deserved. She said she was torn and didn’t know if she should just take the money or say something about it and risk insulting the boss if she was in fact doing her a favor.

What is my reaction to this story? If the boss wanted to give this woman some sort of reward/bonus there are other, less sneaky ways to do it, and rewarding her publicly would be even better, so why adjust her times like that? After asking a few questions I suggested to her that there is a possibility that her boss is up to even bigger shady business, and that this could just be a small part of it and when the boss gets caught, some of the blame will be diffused to employees like me friend who took the benefits quietly. Also, if this is something she’s been doing for other people, and she should ever stop and they complain, then my friend will be in trouble for not speaking up.

I informed my friend that the people who seem the most straight-laced are most often the ones pulling the biggest scams, hence why they’re so successful sometimes. If they act shady and suspicious…you’ll expect them to BE shady and suspicious!!!! I decided against pointing out to her that the most heinous of serial killers and murderers are usually the most charming and personable people out there. (I guess she doesn’t watch the Investigation Discovery channel as much as I do).

In the end, I think she decided to talk to one of the higher ups about it. She became concerned that if she talked to her boss or the one right above, they’d brush her off, say “okay we’ll fix it” and then do nothing and she still might get in trouble. I told her I thought it was a good idea and to make sure that when she approached them she do it very mildly and say that she was just really confused about what to do since the company policy is not very clear, that way her immediate boss can’t get as mad at her.

I hate ethics questions, just hate them. I like black and white, and ethics is a whole mess of swirly gray. This may make me a bad person, but instead of using my “feelings” to decide ethical questions, I make them into something black and white. I take I guess a bit of a hedonistic/utilitarian approach (Dustin you should appreciate that I actually did take something away from that Philosophy class that I took pass/fail) and my opinion is to judge the situation by weighing consequences vs benefits. If the cost of getting caught is greater than the benefits you receive if you don’t get caught, don’t do it. Although with me personally, if the cost of getting caught sucks at all, I’m not going to do it, I’ve always hated being in trouble.

But I think it’s a pretty good rule of thumb for ethics, another being “how would you explain that to your sweet old granny?”

I feel a strong urge to wander through said major department store’s make-up counters over the next few weeks and see if I can figure out how the story ended.

Any thoughts/comments?

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2 thoughts on “Fun with Ethics!

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