Imagine that you are an ethics officer in a large company. You have been asked by the general manager, Susannah Winslow, to help her resolve an issue. Specifically, she is faced with the problem of an employee who has been making disparaging remarks about the company on social media. Susannah has asked you to write a report outlining the business issue, and your recommendation for resolving it.
Write a report for Susannah outlining the issue and your recommendations. Your report should:
- provide a summary of the business issue and the context in which it occurs
- outline at least two approaches for resolving the ethical issue (e.g. ignore the issue, discipline them, or even fire them)
- evaluate the ethical implications of each approach, with reference to the academic literature. For example, you could discuss the likely impacts on the company, its shareholders, other employees, and its customers
- make a recommendation as to the most appropriate solution. Provide a justification as to why this approach should be preferred.
Contributing factors in the emergence of ethical issues
In the current business scenario, contributing factors in the emergence of ethical issues are more. This is due to the reason that in the current business state of affairs, there are diverse sets of factors to be considered by the contemporary business entities. However, it is also noted that dilemma is majorly being faced by the managers in mitigating the ethical issues because there are no specific solutions are available for these types of issues. The same scenario is evident in the case of Downcity’s car dealership where the managers are facing the higher sets of ethical challenges (Henderson, Johnson & Auld 2013, p. 546-560).
This report will discuss about the broader issues being faced by Downcity in terms of ethical factors and these issues will be further analyzed from different perspectives. In addition, the alternative solutions will also be discussed for the identified issue and the extent to which these solutions will be effective enough. On the basis of the identified factors, the most effective solution will be suggested for Downcity.
In the current business environment, technology plays an important part in their operation due to the reason that majority of the involved stakeholders in the business are influenced by the technological advancements. This is one of the major and most unique challenges for the contemporary entities, which were not there till last few years. It is getting further challenging for the business entities to keep a close watch and monitor the technological usages of the organizational stakeholders considering the presence of various mediums available. On the other hand, the managers are also on the verge of facing social backlash and criticisms for monitoring the individual rights and freedom. Hence, this phenomenon is posing peculiar ethical dilemma for the managers. The recent time is witnessing the booming of the social media and business sector is not exception to that. Social media usages are having both advantages and disadvantages for the business managers. This is due to the fact that with the help of the social media, managers are getting diverse sets of information but on the other hand, the risks of breach of private and confidential data are also getting more (Miles & Mangold 2014, p. 401-411). This is because; employees are posting the confidential data about their workplace and sometimes negative reviews in the public forum. Thus, negative word of mouth is getting emerged for the certain brands and competitive advantages are also getting lost. However, in this case, the major challenge for the managers is to get rid of it because strict actions against the accused employee will cause lawsuits and legal actions. The employees are majorly positing their impression or opinion regarding any actions in the workplace and as per law, strict actions cannot be taken for sharing true opinions (Roth et al. 2016, p. 269-298). Thus, it is quite difficult and tough for the managers to mitigate this dilemma. Ethical issues are also associated with the determination of the social media policy because it involves restricting and censoring the employees from sharing something in the social media platforms. Thus, the personal space and autonomy of the individuals is getting affected, which is unethical as per law. However, on the other hand, without the presence of proper social media policy, the risks of breach of confidential data will get more for the businesses and eventually for the managers.
Challenges posed by technological advancements
In the given case, it is identified that Downcity is facing the similar ethical issue in managing the social media policy for their employees. It is stated that Kenton is the top performing sales executive for Mercedes car dealership of Downcity but previously he was accused for posting and sharing negative opinions regarding his company. He was warned at that time but the same case again happened recently where he shared something in the public forum, which can degrade the market image of Downcity and Mercedes brand. It is identified that Kenton was dissatisfied by the way about how the new car launch program is conducted and thus he shared his dissatisfaction in the public forum in sarcastic manner. Now, the fact is, as an individual, Kenton has done nothing wrong by sharing his personal opinion but his opinion has affected the brand image of Downcity. Hence, it is now up to the upper management of Downcity in deciding about what actions should be taken against Kenton and which action will be ethically right. In the case, the gap of Downcity in not having proper and effective social media policy is identified, which is also challenging for the managers to take decisions against Kenton. This is due to the reason that there are no stated terms and standards given in the corporate governance of Downcity based on which the certain actions can be taken.
One of the effective solutions for Downcity will be ignoring the issue because in the current time, it is a common factor where the employees will share different things in the social media. Moreover, this is a holistic phenomenon that cannot be controlled by reprimanding a single employee and it is not possible to take stern actions against all the employees for this issue (Vast & Kaganer 2013, p. 78-101). Hence, it will be more viable option to completely ignore this issue and consider it a common factor. On the other hand, the feedback of the employees in the social media should be taken as positives and business processes should be amended accordingly (Shami et al. 2015, p. 3999-4008). However, it will have both advantages and disadvantages because employee satisfaction can be maintained while control over them will get reduced. This is due to the reason that ignoring this issue will ensure that employee autonomy and personal space is maintained but the chances of taking it as granted by the employees will be more. More employees will take this route without having the concerns for repercussions. Ultimately, the market image of Downcity will take the toll and Mercedes will cease its partnership with Downcity due to the negative image. Moreover, the customer attractiveness will also be affected because they will get to know about different negative concerns of the employees.
Impact of social media on businesses and managers
Another viable option for Downcity is to discipline Kenton. This refers to the process of scolding and warning him for the deeds and continues with the same process. This will help Downcity to leverage on the utility of Kenton and preventing him from doing the same in the future (Lam 2016, p. 420-437). However, in this case study, it is stated that Kenton was previously accused for the same cause and warned. Thus, repetition of the same this time will dilute the entire disciplinary system in the workplace and will have no added impact on Kenton. Moreover, it will create an impression among the other employees that putting negative comments in the public forum will have no consequences. Thus, this trend cannot be controlled by any way (Dreher 2014, p. 344-356).
The last alternative solution available for the managers of Downcity is terminating Kenton, which will be the most radical option for them. Terminating Kenton will also have both negative and positive sides for Downcity. The major positive will be the communication of the strong message to the entire workforce and the extended stakeholders regarding the zero tolerance policy towards negative branding in the market (Wilkins, Colvard & Lipinski 2014, p. 35-40). The authenticity of Downcity will get increased towards their manufacturers due to the strong control over these unwarranted activities. Moreover, the prevention of these types of activities in near future is also ensured. However, on the other hand, terminating Kenton might cause Downcity facing lawsuits due to ethical considerations. Kenton might sue concerning that he was not aware about the social media policy of Downcity and that Downcity is not having any specific social media policy (Davey 2013, p. 51-53). Thus, the entire process of termination is invalid. Furthermore, this impression of Downcity will also get build up that managers are intolerant towards the opinions and suggestions of the employees. As discussed in the case study, Kenton is the most productive executive and thus this utility will get lost by terminating him.
On the basis of the above available solutions, it is recommended that Downcity should take disciplinary measures against Kenton without terminating him. A proper social media policy should be designed, which will be based on the consensus among the internal stakeholders. Kenton should be communicated about this social media policy comprising of what should be done and what not (Cavico et al. 2013, p. 1). He should be confirmed that non adherence to this policy will cause termination and should be duly signed. This will ensure the prevention of lawsuits in the future case of termination.
This report concludes that Downcity is facing ethical dilemma in deciding what to be done to Kenton. There are majorly three options available for the managers of Downcity in meeting these ethical dilemmas. On the basis of these options, this report recommended that Kenton should be given another warning and an ideal social media policy should be designed. This will help in controlling the entire workforce towards the emergence of negative branding in the social media platforms.
Cavico, F.J., Mujtaba, B.G., Muffler, S.C. & Samuel, M., (2013). Social media and the workplace: legal, ethical, and practical considerations for management. JL Pol'y & Globalization, 12, p.1.
Davey, T., (2013), April. Individual and organizational ethical practices. In Healthcare management forum (Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 51-53). Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications.
Dreher, S., (2014). Social media and the world of work: A strategic approach to employees’ participation in social media. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 19(4), pp.344-356.
Henderson, M., Johnson, N.F. & Auld, G., (2013). Silences of ethical practice: dilemmas for researchers using social media. Educational research and evaluation, 19(6), pp.546-560.
Lam, H., (2016). Social media dilemmas in the employment context. Employee Relations, 38(3), pp.420-437.
Miles, S.J. & Mangold, W.G., (2014). Employee voice: Untapped resource or social media time bomb?. Business Horizons, 57(3), pp.401-411.
Roth, P.L., Bobko, P., Van Iddekinge, C.H. & Thatcher, J.B., (2016). Social media in employee-selection-related decisions: A research agenda for uncharted territory. Journal of Management, 42(1), pp.269-298.
Shami, N.S., Muller, M., Pal, A., Masli, M. & Geyer, W., (2015), April. Inferring employee engagement from social media. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 3999-4008). ACM.
Vaast, E. & Kaganer, E., (2013). Social media affordances and governance in the workplace: An examination of organizational policies. Journal of computer-mediated communication, 19(1), pp.78-101.
Wilkins, A.M., Colvard, R. & Lipinski, J., (2014). Does your company have this document? All organizations should have an employee code of conduct. Strategic Finance, 96(1), pp.35-40.
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