In the assigned case, George Stein is faced with an ethical dilemma. The difficulty and complexity of this dilemma is caused and compounded by a variety of factors. A discussion of these factors, as well as conclusions regarding what George ended up doing, serve as the foundation for this case analysis. The first factor that is playing an influential role in George’s decision making is the fact that he is young. Researchers suggest that younger individuals tend to be more likely to make unethical decisions than older individuals (e. . , Longenecker, McKinney, & Moore, 1989; Ross & Robertson, 2003; Waters & Bird, 1987).
Other researchers (e. g. , Hunt & Jennings, 1997; Jennings, Hunt, & Munn, 1996) have explored ethical decision making specifically within the context of groups and teams. They collectively hypothesized and concluded that younger groups and teams make more unethical decisions than older groups and teams. They also found that student teams make more unethical decisions than professional manager teams.
These findings are particularly relevant to this case since the night shift crew at Eastern Dairy can be viewed as a group or team of young, non-management individuals and George himself is a student. With his young age and the fact that he is new to this job, George also lacks experience. Research shows that a higher level of experience is more strongly associated with ethical choices than lower levels of experience (Glover, Bumpus, Sharp, & Munchus, 2002). All of these research findings suggest that George is more likely to make an unethical decision and remove the filters.
In addition to age, another individual difference variable that could influence George’s decision is gender. Gender is a significant factor in ethical decision making (Glover et al. , 2002; Ross & Robertson, 2003) and females are more likely to respond ethically when faced with questionable business practices than males (Glover et al. , 2002). Based upon his gender, George may be predisposed to making an unethical decision.
Based upon the information provided in the case, it can be determined that George genuinely cares what his coworkers think about him and wants them to ike him. He was worried that they would tease him and call him names if he refused to carry out Paul’s orders. O’Leary and Pangemanan (2007) found that individuals who make decisions in the presence of a group tend to make decisions that will garner consensus from that group. In other words, they feel peer pressure to go along with the decision that they think the group wants. Bommer, Gratto, Gravander, and Tuttle (1987) found that peer group pressure can lead to immoral decision making.
Research also suggests that whistle blowers, those individuals who report wrongdoings in an organization, are likely to experience retaliation (Near & Miceli, 1986). This evidence suggests that George will follow Paul’s commands and keep quiet about the maggots because he does not want to go against his peers nor suffer any sort of retaliation from them. Management issues are also influencing ethical decision making in this case. The fact that there is not an official manager on the night shift at Eastern Dairy is contributing to the ethical dilemma.
Lax supervision is indicative of an organizational structure that can breed unethical behavior (Hunsaker, 2005). Paul Burnham is perceived as an unofficial leader on the night shift and the employees all look to him for orders and guidance. Research indicates that supervisors exert a significant influence upon the ethical behavior of their subordinates because subordinates often mimic their behavior (Posner & Schmidt, 1984). This is problematic for Eastern Dairy because Paul does not set a good example of ethical behavior, as displayed by his participation in the horseplay and ordering George to remove the filters.
The combination of no official manager on the night shift and an unofficial manager that sets a poor example for his subordinates leads one to believe that George will ultimately act unethically. Evidenced by the horseplay, pranks, joke telling, balloon fights, and waste that transpires on the night shift, the organizational culture at Eastern Dairy, at least the culture that is displayed by the crew on the night shift, is one that is conducive to unethical behavior. When the ethical climate is not clear and positive, ethical dilemmas will often result in unethical behavior. In such instances, an organization’s culture also can predispose its members to behave unethically” (Sims, 1992, p. 510). Since the culture and climate on the night shift at Eastern Dairy does not appear to be clear or positive, it seems likely that George’s ethical dilemma will result in unethical behavior. The case also states that when George was hired, he merely had to complete a few employment forms and was asked to report for work that night.
It appears that he received no training or formal instructions and there was no mention of any type of procedure for dealing with problematic situations like the one he was currently facing. Even if George was given an employee handbook that outlined such a procedure, George did not seem to be aware of such a policy. In a review of the research on unethical behavior, Badenhorst (1994) identified the absence of a company policy regarding unethical behavior as a likely cause of its occurrence. Delaney and Sockell (1992) found that ethics training can reduce unethical behavior in organizations.
Since George does not seem to have knowledge of any policy or procedure for dealing with this dilemma, nor did he receive formal ethics training, he will be more likely to err in favor of behaving unethically. George Stein’s morals, values, and intuition tell him that removing the filters is wrong. As the case indicates, he was bothered by the image of children drinking the contaminated milkshake mix and vowed he would not drink a milkshake anytime soon. He should refuse to remove the filters. When the next shift arrives in the morning, George should report the incident to a manager.
Unfortunately, I don’t believe that George Stein will actually do what I have suggested. Based upon the empirical evidence suggesting that under conditions similar to those described in this case, the likelihood of an individual making an ethical decision is not favorable. References Badenhorst, J. A. (1994). Unethical behaviour in procurement: A perspective on causes and solutions. Journal of Business Ethics, 13(9), 739-745. Bommer, M. , Gratto, C. , Gravander, J. , & Tuttle, M. (1987). A behavioral model of ethical and unethical decision making.
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