Question: When and how should personal or social values influence the decisions of business leaders? Please explain how personal or social values have influenced a business decision in which you were involved. Alternatively, evaluate a recent decision of a business leader and how it aligns with your own personal and social values.
Another stop traffic sign on my way home. Another orchestrated routine of braking, stopping, looking sideways and proceeding. But as I pulled into the garage, it all became too obvious. I discovered the solution to my conundrum.
It all started when I was inspecting a software module. The deadline of the all-important software project was a couple of weeks away. I discovered that our source code was strikingly similar to one of my earlier open source projects. After confronting him, my colleague confessed that he had copied the code but he did not realize that his acts had legal repercussions. I went into turmoil.
I had two choices: report the incident or ignore it. Delving into the issues, I discovered that the software’s open source license required that any derivative software be released under the same license. By releasing a software product under our proprietary license, we would not only corrupt the spirit of the open source but also infringe on its copyright. I realized then that this was an elementary case—we could not use the open source code.
As I strolled through my teammates’ cubes, the half-eaten slices of pizza, towers of empty Pepsi-cans, and carelessly strewn pillows reminded me of their tireless dedication over the previous six months. The new version of our software product was poised to put us years ahead of our closest competition. By reporting the incident, I would jeopardize the product release and undo all of their labor. I recognized that my issue was with my colleague’s action rather than the colleague himself, and that by reporting him I would not only destroy the project, but also put his job at risk. With the ethical debate reopened, I subscribed to the dichotomy of my ethical watchdogs.
From my readings of Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative, I reasoned that any moral person would choose to report the coworker. My understanding of Mill’s utilitarian approach, however, taught me that morality is not about rules and duties, but consequences.
In this confused state of mind, the stop traffic signs, on my way home, showed me the way. Like the stop signs, our moral and ethical values serve as signposts in our life. A failure to observe these signposts at seemingly unimportant occasions can very well manifest into a deep-seated habit. A glance at the corporate world revealed that all unethical business practices started out as minor violations to observe these signposts; Gradually, these unethical methods became the way the business was run. In the short-term, failure to report the incident would have resulted in a smooth release of our product and bring happiness to my team. In the long-term future, however, there were sure to be repercussions to both my teammate’s actions and my decision, as order and accountability were defenestrated.
I was convinced that reporting the incident was not only the right choice, but also the only choice. I reported the incident to my manager, but made sure that the ignorance of my colleague was also highlighted. My manager was very cooperative and instantly formed a special team to develop our own solution to the problem and replace the offending code. After a lot of hard work, we managed to finish the new coding shortly before the project deadline.
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