Conflict Paul

Sharon’s situation is not only an unethical conflict of interest, but can also be considered theft. Sharon is using her position within the company to benefit herself and her boyfriend, David. She is responsible for awarding contracts and instead of reviewing her options fairly and in an unbiased manner, she has chosen to unilaterally award a contract to David. She believes that his product is superior to others; however, there is no evidence that she took the time to compare his product to that of any competitors, nor does she have evidence showing the superiority of David’s product.

By misusing her authority, she has set the company up for liability. If they are accepting bids for contracts on the open market, then they are obligated to review and assign the contract to the lowest bidder or most qualified company. Instead, Sharon has ignored the other vendors and has chosen to benefit her boyfriend.

The second problem is that Sharon herself is a beneficiary of David’s success. She and David live together and she is benefiting from the $7 million contract. Sharon is indirectly stealing from her company. This is not only unethical but illegal. Sharon’s supervisors most likely have no idea what is going on; if they did, they would probably move Sharon to a different department.

Some ethical issues within an organization are so minute that it is difficult to ascertain whether it is just a difference in values or if it poses a real threat. This is not the case with Ken. If Ken was watching pornography at work, he could be reprimanded, reminded about the policy involving computer use (most employees sign a contract stating that they understand the allowable uses of the Internet) and warned not to do it again. In some cases, he would be immediately dismissed and would have trouble getting another job. After all, regular pornography is legal. The problem is that Ken is watching kiddie porn, which is not only illegal, but it is entirely unethical.

This type of pornography is made with children who cannot legally consent to the activities in which they are participating. For this reason, Ken’s actions not only pose a threat to his freedom, but a threat to the company as well. My significant other should take the risk of reporting Ken’s activities. The first step would be to go to the supervisors in the organization and remind them that he’s doing something illegal at work that could come back to haunt them.

The police (or other law enforcement organizations) can trace Ken’s IP address when he logs on to the site. His company does not need a reputation of advocating child pornography. If the supervisors refuse to listen, the next step would be to go to the police. Even though the job market is tough and my significant other might be risking benefits and retirement, the greater risk is to the children who are forced into pornography.

The managing director of a temp agency spoke to me about trade secrets and confidentiality in the organization. The first question I asked was whether or not the organization had any trade secrets. The director considers their training process, timekeeping software and high standards to be trade secrets. The training process begins with a video that explains what is expected from the temps. It covers everything from how to greet a supervisor, dressing for success, and adapting quickly to a new environment.

Next, they have software that any employee can access online. This software has two parts: the first part is to keep track of the employees’ hours so that they don’t have to turn in a timecard every day. The second part is a survey that lets the agency know if they ran into any problems on the job. In addition, the employer can access the website to confirm employee hours and to complete a survey to let the agency know if they liked the temp and if they would like to use him/her again.

As for their high standards, they are not permitted to dress down (no casual Fridays), use slang, or to have down time on the job. Instead, they are given a list of “common things to do if you’ve finished everything”. This list includes taking out trash, dusting, offering to assist other employees – anything that will ensure that the company’s temps will be used again and again.

My next question was how these trade secrets are protected. I was told that other temp agencies have their own training video and no one has tried to access theirs. The software, however, is a different story. Six months after the program had been implemented, a competitor began to use a similar program. It turned out that the programmer realized that he had a great program and decided to sell it to other companies; he didn’t realize that under the contract, he wasn’t permitted to sell the program to anyone else. As a result, the temp agency began to sell the program to other agencies, so it is no longer a trade secret.