In this case the affair did not have any apparent effect on the business. In fact during the time of the nearly two-year affair profits actually rose. However the whistle blower believed that the affair was morally wrong, particularly because the boss was married with children.
The whistleblower believed that ultimately the affair would be detrimental to the business so he blew the whistle. He believed that the affair was an indication that the boss was a poor decision maker and that this poor decision making would ultimately cause the business some harm. Some people believed that he was not obligated to tell of the affair. However, others argued that it would be just a matter of time before the decisions that he made in his private life would affect the manner in which the business was run. In this instance the idea of preventing harm encompassed a broad scope. However theory of complicity does indeed encompass this scope because complicity is viewed as a moral wrong within itself. That is, not saying anything about the behavior of the boss would constitute a moral wrongdoing on the part of the employee. Therefore, the whistle blower in this instance was obligated to tell of the affair not only because it might ultimately do harm to the business but also because the boss was morally wrong in his actions. Failure to blow the whistle on this information would present amoral dilemma for the whistle blower that he was unable or unwilling to take on.
3) Does business have a role in putting a value on a human life? Should it take the lead from government agencies or an individuals's own spending preferences? If people tend to act recklessly (speeding, amateur body piercing, using over the counter medications to excess, or misusing products, like using a lawnmower to trim a hedge) should the government step in? Should business be held liable?
Many businesses do indeed have a role in putting a value on human life. This is seen all the time in the airline industry and the car industry. Such ideas about the value of a human life can be seen in what is called a cost-benefit analysis. In the airline and car industries companies often weigh the costs associated with adding certain safety features against the cost of not doing so. The costs of not doing so is calculated by determining how much money the company will have to pay in damages if a plane crashes or people are harmed in automobiles that could have been safer. If the costs associated with making the plane or the automobile safer is greater than the costs associated with paying the families of victims -- a company might choose to forego safety. This is a sad reality but many companies see it as one of the ways they can maximize profitability.
In some respects companies have to take the lead of the government or they will not be able to operate. That is, there are laws that govern the functions of business. In addition, depending on the industry there are certain government standards that must be followed or the company could be shut down. As it relates to the manner in which government handles unethical behavior, it is not necessarily a good model for businesses. The very nature of government is different particularly as it pertains to political figures who are nominated by the public. Because of this nomination process public officials have an obligation to behave in certain ways and when they don't they can be impeached or forced to resign. However, within the context of the private sector unethical behavior does not always translate into resignations or even suspensions because private enterprises are governed by different interests than private enterprises.
The government should not be obligated to step in when people misuse products. The government already has regulations that require companies to prig disclaimers on theor products. These disclaimers warn consumers not to use products in ways that are not consistent with their purpose. So if someone attempts to cut the hedges with a lawnmower the consequences of those action are on the reckless individual. The government cannot baby-sit everyone and constantly scold them for being reckless; this is a free society. The government can and has established laws that are designed to maintain order. The establishing of laws combined with the establishing of standards (IE disclaimers) is really the extent of the governments power over individual behavior. When everything is said and done the government cannot control other peoples actions or the consequences they must deal with because of their actions.
Finally, companies are not reliable for the recklessness of consumers. Companies are responsible for ensuring that consumers know what their products are supposed to be used for. In addition, companies are responsible if they somehow fail to meet the code and safety requirements associated with government regulations. Failure to do so can place the public in danger. For this reason recalls are common place within the realm of consumer products. When companies know that their products are defective and can cause harm to consumers they are obligated to take the appropriate steps.
Evidence of this could be seen in the summer of 2009 when Nestle tollhouse recalled their refrigerated cookie dough because it contained harmful bacteria. Even though all of the people who got ill from the cookie dough ate it raw (which is reckless) the company still recalled the cookie dough. In this instance the company understood the obligation they had. They also knew that if they continued to sell that dough and someone died the company might be held liable.
Additionally companies have what is referred to as corporate social responsibility. Corporate Social Responsibility is defined as "Business decision making linked to ethical values, compliance with legal requirements and respect for people, communities and the Environment (Dahlsrud, 2006)." Many companies have a social responsibility statement that establishes the business ethics associated with the company.
"there is growing interest among managers in the antecedents and consequences of CSR, especially for executives at multi-national, multi-divisional companies. These corporate leaders are mindful of the fact that business norms and standards, regulatory frameworks, and stakeholder demand for CSR can vary substantially across nations, regions, and lines of business. They are also aware that their divisional managers are under constant pressure from employees, suppliers, community groups, NGOs, and government to increase their involvement in CSR (McWilliams, 2005)."
These policies are designed to make clear the role that the organization will serve in the community and the types of behaviors that will not be tolerated. This type of policy benefits employees as well as stakeholders because it establishes what the company aspect from those that work there, while also ensuring stakeholders that business ethics is a concern for the company and that they desire to properly serve the community.
Dahlsrud A. (2006) How Corporate Social Responsibility is
Defined: an Analysis of 37 Definitions. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management.
Davis, Michael. Some Paradoxes of Whistle Blowing. Business and Professional Ethics Journal. 15 (1)
McWilliams A., Siegel D.S. Wright P.M. (2005) Corporate Social Responsibility: Strategic Implications. Retrieved November 24 from; http://www.economics.rpi.edu/workingpapers/rpi0506.pdf
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