Ethics and business have had their struggles for as long as they have been around. While I was working for a McDonalds franchise a number of years ago as a general manager I had a shift manager that was committing time clock theft. Basically she would stay punched in on the clock past her shift and hang out in the lobby with her friends getting paid. Once I found this out I let her go for the theft per company policy. To me stealing of any kind is unethical and she had no reason to do it other than she had been getting away with it. I did not feel bad firing her for what she did and feel I did what was right. Next thing I know she had gone down the street and got a job at a McDonalds that was part of the same organization that I worked for and was even the same district manager that I reported to. I would have gotten in trouble myself for just letting the theft go, however my supervisor knew about the theft and yet hired her again. I did not think any of the situation was ethical but it was out of my hands so what was I to do? Poor ethical practice is not new to business and most times does not stop until a lawsuit gets field.
Sometimes we see companies acting on their own to correct issues that are found internally and do what needs to be done regardless to who the guilty parties are. Look at Microsoft just this last year. An internal investigation by Microsoft found that two of its key players in the Bing department had committed violations to company policy related to mismanagement of company assets and vendor relations. The company would not give any more details then that according to article by Alex Wilhelm back on March 19th 2012 posted on The Next Web site. I was somewhat shocked that Microsoft did all of this without it becoming a scandal first. I total respect their actions in this matter. One can only imagine what these guys were doing but they were key players with a major search engine. I don’t even want to guess the damage these two caused for not just the company but think of how many people that used Bing under their tenure that could have been affected. If the violations had gone on it could have been very harmful to not only Microsoft but to countless other business and internet users. Without a doubt Microsoft made the right decision to get ride of these guys no matter how valuable they were to the company.
To me the CEO of Microsoft had not only to think about the company but he also had to make it from a social standpoint as well. No company is invincible and a big scandal could even hurt or even take down a company as large as Microsoft. Plus, he has shareholders to worry about as well as company stock. Because so many people around the world use the Internet as their life’s blood the effects of a serious issue with a major search engine could cripple many a small business and would probably put many of them out of business even if Microsoft weathered the storm well. Next, you have to look at all the users that could have been affected. Not acting on this matter could have had devastating effects to Internet users and companies all over the world. That is a lot of responsibility and I think Microsoft made the right call on this one. I would have done the same thing.
In a study done by Crawford Camiciottli, Belinda entitled “Ethics and Ethos in Financial Reporting: Analyzing Persuasive Language in Earnings Calls” they looked at the language used by executives in communicating in earning meetings to better understand the usage of ethics-related language. The way the top brass talks about things as important to a company as earnings in an ethical manner will effect the behavior of those under them for right or wrong. In the case of Microsoft I think it could not have been more clear as to the message they sent to company employees as that of letting go of two key figures to a department for policy violations and that is a message of no tolerance for that type of actions. For a large company like Microsoft a no tolerance policy is the way to go to protect everyone both internal and external to the company.
In conclusion I feel that Microsoft made the right decision in this matter. The only thing I might have done differently was use better reporting and tracking to make it harder for violations to go undetected for any length of time. Also, better communication from the top down setting clear expectations might also have helped to avoid or at least lessoned the damage done. To be fair to Microsoft they very well could have been doing these things all along. It just cost less to do things the right way the first time and not have to clean up messes. I just wish everyone felt the same way, it would make doing business so much easier.
“Microsoft fires two Bing marketing execs for ethics violations” by Alex Wilhelm on March 19th 2012 on The Next Web website (http://thenextweb.com/microsoft/2012/03/19/microsoft-fires-two-bing-marketing-execs-for-ethics-violations)
“Ethics and Ethos in Financial Reporting: Analyzing Persuasive Language in Earnings Calls” by Crawford Camiciottli, Belinda in Business Communication Quarterly; Sep2011, Vol. 74 Issue 3, p298-312, 15p, 3 Charts, 1 Graph