How does one determine what is wrong or right, good or bad? There is always a distinct right or wrong answer to most questions, except when it comes to ethics. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ethics as “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation” and as “a set of moral principles: a theory or system of moral values” (“ethic,” defs. 1 and 2a). One individual’s ethics may not be the same as another. Their morals, what they were taught, and life experiences all differ and determine what they believe is right or wrong.
As one gains experience from different situations in their life, the particulars of the ethics change, but the foundation stays the same. Dexter Simmons found himself in a compromising situation at Beantown Consulting. His first project with Barresi Manufacturing was to contact the firms that supplied and sourced parts for Barresi’s top ten competitors. Dexter’s engagement manager, Markus Hensler, told him to not reveal the whole truth of who he was and what he was doing or else they would not provide the information needed.
Dexter did not feel comfortable “having fun” or being creative with this project as it requires him to lie about what his true motives are. Hensler knew it made him uncomfortable and just told him it was standard operating procedure to get information they would not be able to get otherwise. To Dexter, the thought of having to lie for his job was very unsettling to him. From his reaction, one can reason that Dexter was raised never to lie no matter what anyone said. Dexter was also most likely never in a situation where he had to lie to get something he needed.
The ethical situation presented in this case ultimately deals with the necessity to lie. Dexter would be leading the competitive firms to believe he was nothing more than a student gathering information for a research project. This information would then be used to benefit Barresi is getting ahead of their competition and becoming the largest supplier and source for automotive parts. Companies gather information from their competitors frequently in order to ensure they are doing everything they need to stay competitive. The circumstance that has been presented to Dexter is a very common one.
Although Dexter would not be revealing the entire truth to the firms he is surveying, the information they provide is not confidential. If Dexter were solely a business student looking to complete a research project, the firms would have no reservations answering any questions he may have about their business, procedures and success. However, if Dexter preceded the survey by informing them that he works for a competitor, they would be very reluctant to disclose any type of information, whether or not it was public data.
As this is the case, Dexter should proceed with the project and survey Barresi’s competitors and collect however much data he is able to. In the process, Dexter will be able to learn more about Barresi and their competitors which will benefit him when he is eventually asked to conduct extensive consulting for them. The consequences associated with this action would have to do both with the law and the agreement Dexter signed with Beantown Consulting. As Dexter would not be breaking any laws, there would not be any severe repercussions.
If the competitors were ever to discover that he was collecting information for Barresi’s benefit, they would either be outraged or be as extreme to sabotage Barresi’s operation. Any alliance, relationships, or respect formed between the firms would be destroyed as Barresi violated any trust that existed. However, as the information provided would be open data for anyone to find, the competitors would not be able to legally file a suit against Dexter or Barresi Manufacturing. The most they could so is complain that Dexter approached them and gathered information under false pretenses.
When signing his contract to be an intern with Beantown Consulting, there may have been a clause outlining the duties, responsibilities and limits of his position. If in that clause, Beantown specifically stated to not fabricate who he is or what his job is under any circumstance, Dexter could face the possibility of getting fired. However, since Beantown is a top-tier strategy firm, it would be logical to assume that Beantown is aware of Barresi’s strategy of collecting information from their competitors.
If Dexter does not go forth with this project, he risks the possibility of getting terminated from not only the project but from Beantown Consulting as well. Barresi would not be pleased that an intern did not do what he was asked and as Dexter represents Beantown, it would reflect poorly on them as a consulting firm. If Dexter is not breaking any laws or breaching his contract, he should definitely go forward with the research project. Performing this one task will not change Dexter’s view on lying or his morals. It will, however, change the fine points as to what Dexter considers unethical.
This circumstance does not cause harm upon anyone nor does it break any laws, therefore it not considered unethical. Growing up, I was taught never to lie. I looked up to my parents, grandparents, and older sister to guide me on what to do in different situations. I know that lying was never the solution but on the contrary, it could cause more trouble in the future as someone was bound to reveal the truth. Due to my upbringing, I tried to never lie as I felt too guilty and afraid of what would happen if anyone found out.
Throughout my career in the hotel industry, I found myself to be in several compromising situations. Much like Dexter, when my manager told me I would have to be “stealth” about some projects, I was very reluctant. One of my projects was to call our competing hotels and “shop” them. A “shop” entails calling another hotel and learn what their special discounted corporate rate would be for different companies. We conduct these shops every quarter for different companies to ensure that we are staying competitive with our rates so guests will want to stay at our hotel as opposed to another.
When this project was first presented to me, I wondered why we could not just tell them who we were and ask them exactly what their rates were. My manager told me, exactly like Dexter’s, that if the other hotels knew who we were they would not tell us their rates as they know exactly what we are looking for. At first I thought we were breaking some type of law, but later was informed that this information was public but not advertised widely. I soon found that the other hotels do the same with us as well as I have received some of these phone calls myself.
Once I knew that what I was doing was not illegal, I felt more at ease with the situation. For my first “shop” call, I was not sure what to do, so without a plan and nervous I just began to make up a story. I said my name was Jennifer and that my boss, who works at CapitalOne, needed to stay in the area but was not positive of the rate. Upon providing them with specific dates, I was given the negotiated CapitalOne corporate rate that the hotel offered. I began to realize how simple this project was so I decided to “have fun with it”.
I tried “different names” and different accents, although it would not have made any difference. Initially, I was uneasy about fabricating an entire story to get the information I needed but soon came to understand that there was no harm done. The information I was collecting was not done illegally or maliciously, the competitor hotel did not lose any revenue, and we kept our competitive edge by being aware of what the market is selling. It does not leave a pleasant impression when another hotel calls to “shop” your rates, but there is nothing about the situation that makes it unlawful.
I believe that although I steered from the truth with this specific project, my morals and ethics are still intact from when I was younger. Despite creating fictional characters during a “shop”, I do not lie when it comes to situations where it could be detrimental to the company or another individual. I was very hesitant in the beginning to even put myself into a lie, and even now, I try not to be the one who has to do the “shop”. However, working in the sales office of a hotel requires me to carry out this one task that causes me to be someone else.
I continuously convince myself that there is no harm done to either party so it is acceptable and ethical for me to conduct the “shops”. This project would only be unethical if I tricked the other hotels into giving me information that was confidential and unavailable elsewhere. The way we are raised, the lessons we are taught, and our life experiences are all factors of what we consider to be ethical. What one individual considers ethical may seem horrific to another. In the case of Dexter and myself, we were both raised to not lie as it is unmoral and unethical.
That foundation has not and will not change despite the circumstances we may come across. However, the details of that moral will change as we gain life experience. It is not unethical for us to pretend to be someone we are not to gain public information. We are not breaking any laws nor are we causing harm upon anyone. The only reason we have to pretend is because businesses have a strong sense of competition, and they will do anything they can to keep their competitors at bay. Some lose their values along the way due to greed and various other reasons.
Some have begun to compromise their morals too much for the sake of their career or for the love of money. As we begin to compromise on the small details of morals, we start to compromise on all of our ethics. After all, you do not lose all of your morals, values and ethics all at once.
References “ethic. ” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010. Merriam-Webster Online. 10 November 2010 < http://www. merriam-webster. com/dictionary/ethics> Professionals’ Quandaries, 9-800-371 (Harvard Business School April 18, 2000).