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Topic: Taking Credit for Work

Word: 5000

Characters: Janice, chief of research and development John, Janice’s underpaid assistant


Janice is a highly educated top executive in charge of research and development. John is her underpaid assistant, struggling to support his family. His performance evaluations have always been more than adequate.

As one of his research projects, John designs a creative software package that addresses major concerns within the company. He shares this program with Janice, hoping it will bring him much needed promotion and raise. Janice’s boss has asked her to design an innovative and efficient program. But pressures of her position keep her from setting as insufficient time to do the requested work.

Janice, eager to successfully complete the job her boss assigned, is thinking of presenting John’s program to her boss and passing it off as her own. If John objects, she can threaten to lower his performance evaluations or possibly even fire him. If he agrees to go along with the scheme, she can give him a raise and a promotion.

What should Janice do?


Case Analysis approach:


  • What Are the Relevant Facts?
  1. Janice is John’s boss.
  2. Janice’s supervisor has asked her to create an innovative program, but the pressures of her job have prevented this.
  3. John designs a creative software package which he shares with Janice, hoping it will bring him a promotion and raise.
  4. Janice is thinking of taking credit for John’s program. If John objects, she will fire him; if he agrees, she will give him a promotion and raise.


  • What Are the Ethical Issues?
  1. If the software is developed on company time, to who does the program belong?
  2. Is John being treated justly? Are his rights being protected?
  3. Is Janice telling?
  4. When, if ever, is it ethical for a manager to take credit for the work of a subordinate?
  • Who Are the Primary Stakeholders?
  1. The company
  2. John and his family
  3. Janice
  4. Janice’sboss
  • What Are the Possible Alternatives?
  1. Janice can proceed to take John’s work.
  2. Janice can create a team environment in which the team, in this case, Janice and John, present the work together.
  3. Janice can give John full credit and print the package to her boss in such a way that it makes both Janice and John look good.
  • What Are the Ethics of the Alternatives?
  • Ask questions based on a “utilitarian” perspective. For example:
  1. Which alternative would provide the greatest benefit to the greatest number of stakeholders?
  2. How would costs and benefits be measured?
  3. What is the value of the public knowledge of ownership?
  • Ask questions from a  “rights and duties” viewpoint. For example:
  1. What rights does each stakeholder have?
  2. Who has the right of ownership for a program developed on company time?
  • Ask questions based on a “justice or fairness” perspective. For example:
  1. Which alternative distributes the benefits and burdens most fairly?
  2. If John receives the promotion and raises that he wants, are the benefits being fairly distributed to him if Janice claims south or ship of the program?
  • What Are the Practical Constraints?
  1. Janice will incur considerable professional risk if she claims authorship of the program. It could damage her career in the same way that subsequent discovery of plagiarism in a doctoral dissertation can come back to haunt a person with a doctorate
  • What Actions Should Be Taken?
  1. What alternative should Janice choose?


Analyze any 4 of the following 5 cases given below. Each case analysis carries 25 marks.


Note: Be informed that there is no right or wrong answer; you need to analyze the cases and come to an ethical conclusion based on which marks will be awarded.  Sample case analysis is given above, analyze the following cases based on the below questions.

  • What Are the Relevant Facts?
  • What Are the Ethical Issues?
  • Who Are the Primary Stakeholders?
  • What Are the Possible Alternatives?
  • What Are the Ethics of the Alternatives?
  • What Are the Practical Constraints?
  • What Actions Should Be Taken?


Case 1:

Rachel works as a Quality Assurance Engineer at a large electronics company. She is responsible for the final testing of her company’s servers and is part of a team which decides when new products will be shipped to distributors for sale.

Rachel’s company has a contract with another company which makes the chips which are incorporated into the servers Rachel’s company makes. The business model for this product is to release a new generation server approximately every six months, meaning Rachel has a limited timeframe to conduct her Quality Control tests.

Because there is such a short amount of time between the release of each next new product, the Quality and Assurance department cannot perform every possible test on the servers to ensure they are defect-free. Rachel will not ship a product if there is any possibility that the server could malfunction and cause physical harm to the customer. However, she will ship a product that has a higher likelihood of failure resulting in data loss for the customer, because she knows that if she doesn’t, her company’s competitor will.

Is this an ethical way to conduct business? How should she determine when to ship a product with known defects?


Case 2:

Anne is an established electrical engineer at Onerous, a computer hardware company. Not a stranger to incidences of favouritism the company, Anne recently encountered a particularly unfavourable scenario involving a few of her close co-workers.

Two employees, who had been newly hired, were given visible roles in a prominent project. Upon the project’s successful completion, the new-hires were given generous promotions by management. On the other hand, Anne’s co-workers were asked to play supporting roles in the project and were not given any special recognition (i.e., promotions) for their work.

Anne’s non-confrontational co-workers were angry and came to Anne for advice since they knew she had broad professional experience. They told her that they were going to leave the company if management did not stop playing favourites.

Although strongly inclined to bring this matter up to her manager, Anne felt like doing so would be futile because her manager is stubborn and inflexible. How should Anne deal with this situation?


Case 3:

Victoria, a recent college graduate, recently started a new job as an analyst at a boutique investment bank. The office is a small, all-male environment, known as “The Bullpen.” After her first two months at work, the company is set to hold its annual summer outing.

As the outing is some distance from her house, Victoria is pleased when one of the executives, Luke, offers to drive her home. During the drive, Luke invites Victoria for “a casual dinner.” She feels pressured to accept. Since they are currently working together on a deal, she hopes that the dinner will be a great opportunity to collaborate on business. Instead, she is ill at ease when Luke continuously brings up personal matters.

Back in the car, Luke is even more insistent that Victoria comes to his house. She is extremely uncomfortable, but sees no way out of the situation, feeling as if she cannot decline. At his house, Luke makes a direct advance toward Victoria. By this point, she has had enough and is visibly upset. Immediately, she confronts Luke as to why he is placing her in such an inappropriate situation. Victoria then calls a cab and departs, mulling over her options.

Victoria is unsure of what action to take. Her first two months on the job were going so well and she wonders what impact this incident will have on her work environment. She does not feel comfortable approaching her firm’s HR department, a one-man operation who seems to exhibit and condone the firm’s “bullpen” attitude. Victoria fears that if she does not speak up the advances will continue, but considering that she has to work with Luke on their current deal, she wonders if forgetting the incident will make it go away faster.

What should Victoria do?


Case 4:

Five years after graduating from Santa Clara University, Ilene Kennedy got a job in contract sales, selling high-end office furniture to large companies throughout Northern California. Ilene was a manufacturer’s rep who represented ten lines of furniture to dealers who then sold the furniture to the end user-law firms and financial companies in remodel or expansion processes.

Ilene had learned about the strict chain-of-custody within the contract furniture industry from a close friend in the business. This chain was a custom in the business which permitted only certain individuals to sell to and represent those immediately above or below them in the “ladder.” In the system, designers and architects who were remodelling law firms and company offices specified furniture to buy from the dealers who would, in turn, buy the furniture from the manufacturer. As a manufacturer’s representative, Ilene would only be selling to dealers, architects and designers. She would not be selling to end-users.

But when this chain-of-custody system was explained to Ilene by her new boss, he told her that, in reality, it often didn’t work that way. He had hired Ilene to sell directly to the law firms and companies-thereby cutting out the dealers, architects and designers. By eliminating the dealers, architects and designers in the process, Ilene’s firm could make a bigger profit margin. In many large deals, Ilene was bidding against dealers, architects and designers she often worked closely with-dealers she was supposed to be using at the time. The entire process made Ilene feel very uncomfortable-she felt like she was cheating the system. It was apparent that her company was using a less accepted strategy.

After a couple of months, she brought the concern to her boss, the owner of the company, who was completely unsupportive.

Her boss told her that she was, “too idealistic and not a true salesperson.” They were in the business to make money, not to make friends. He said she could leave if she didn’t feel comfortable with the arrangement.

“I just realized I was hired for a position that was completely unethical,” said Ilene.

Frustrated, Ilene did her best to balance both her role as a manufacturer’s representative and her forced role in the bidding wars. On several occasions, she bowed out of potential deals with end-users when she was faced with bidding against her own dealer client. In these instances, the dealers knew that Ilene was going after the profit. She wasn’t proud of the strategy and, knowing well that she may have to work with the dealers in the future, she decided to take herself out of the awkward situations.

But Ilene couldn’t handle the balance. “I told my boss that I was uncomfortable selling to the end-users for ethical reasons,” said Ilene. For the next six months, Ilene only sold to dealers and designers-as the chain-of-custody intended it.

“The option was less lucrative for me and for the company, but at least I was doing what I thought was right and fair,” said Ilene.

After those six months, Ilene quit the job and began a sales job in another industry where she’s found ground-breaking success.

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you think the sales strategy of Ilene’s boss is unethical or just an aggressive tactic?
  • What would your advice be to Ilene on how to deal with this discomfort she felt with selling directly to end-users?
  • How could this practice of breaking the chain-of-custody impact the industry?
  • Does Ilene have the obligation to push for broader changes within the system, rather than only changing her own job responsibilities to align with her personal ethics?
  • Is it ethically forbidden to go out of the sales chain?


Case 5: Attempt any 3 scenarios:

All employees are expected to act according to their organization’s Code of Ethics or Conduct, based upon the values of the organization.

Furthermore, product safety engineers are asked to:

  1. Determine the “safety” of products
  2. Obtain various non-governmental agency certifications for products
  3. Confirm that products comply with government regulations
  4. Examine and test products according to various standards

They are required to do this using the minimum time, money, and a number of product samples – usually at the end of the product development process when changes are more difficult and everyone wants to ship products.



Scenario 1:

Some agencies authorize companies to test products, provide the data to the agency, and ship the product bearing the agency mark. The company’s capability has been evaluated by the agency and a contract signed to allow this.

A new high-end computer is ready to ship – except for one test that you will not complete for another three weeks. The probability of failure is low – and even if the test fails, corrections can be made and sent out later to customers. Marketing is VERY anxious to ship because the end of the fiscal quarter is next week.

Should you put on the agency mark and ship while finishing the test?

Your boss tells you that this has occurred before; the company shipped the product, and there was no problem. He also says that if you do not want to sign off, then he will do so.

What should you do?

Products were shipped before this test was completed – but it happened when you were on a business trip. The production manager apologizes but doesn’t want to take any action.

What should you do?


Scenario 2:

The company records-retention policy instructs employees to discard development records and test results for products five years after End of Life is declared. This policy is in compliance with local legal requirements.

Because of the press of work you have not disposed of some old records, and they are a couple of years over the limit for the company policy. You finally get time to clean out your files, but you receive a legal request for any information about the old product that is involved in an injury case. Your records may or may not be applicable to the case.

Should you destroy the records?


Scenario 3:

You have just discovered that a country in the Far East has new regulations that apply to your product. The requirement is to submit a report and get a file number to apply to your product – after the government department has given its OK. However, you know from industry contacts that there is no enforcement of the law at this time.

Should you delay shipping products until they are compliant or take other action?

Products have been held at customs in this country, and you ask a local agent to investigate. Later you hear the products were released without any charges and without certification.

Should you look further into this event? Why or why not?

You make the identical product at two factories, but only one is authorized to apply a certain certification mark. Unfortunately, the wrong factory shipped the product to the country that requires the certification mark. Returning the product and shipping out the identical product with a different mark on the label would be very expensive and time-consuming, and your customer would be very unhappy.

What are your options?


Scenario 4:

Your company’s product uses some supplementary circuit protection in larger units. While visiting the factory for another reason, you tour the production line and notice that the protectors are different from the ones you originally evaluated. They seem to have the same ratings, but you suspect they may not be suitable as a substitute.

This product is not your responsibility, and you would have to do some research to figure out if there is a problem.

What course(s) of action should you take to investigate the potential problem?

The production line supervisor tells you the substitution has been approved by the factory safety engineer, but you are positive these protectors are not suitable.

What should or could you do?


Scenario 5:

The latest edition of the standard that applies to your products now has three pages of “safety” markings and warnings specified. So many warnings about very unlikely situations greatly reduce the impact of warnings that might prevent dangerous events. You have actually surveyed customers and found that to be true.

Should you reduce the warning labels to only to the important ones or just follow the standards of the certification agencies?

Your marketing department wants you to colour-coordinate and reduce in size the warning labels. The new version still would comply with the standard, but it would not stand out on the machine.

Should you resist the change?


The factory has a lot of old inventory with silk-screened markings that do not comply with the new requirements, although they did comply with the previous edition. To change them would cost thousands of dollars.

Should you let the company use up the old stock, although it is technically not in compliance?


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