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Cases in Business Ethics

Preparing SCU students for the ethical challenges of a career in business and fostering a broad community of ethical support both on campus and in the working world. These cases were written by Santa Clara University seniors Alexis Babb, Saayeli Mukherji, Amanda Nelson, and Noah Rickling as part of their work as Hackworth Fellows in Business Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

The following postings have been filtered by tag Sales. clear filter
  •  Caught in the Middle: Where Does Your Loyalty Lie?

    Cindy recently graduated from Santa Clara University and was working in a sales position in a growing tech company. She worked very closely with her team and had a good rapport with them. She was the only woman on the team, but she still felt at ease with her colleagues. Part of her job involved traveling across the country and going to meetings and events outside of work with her team and other sales people from different organizations.

    During certain non-customer, internal events, she noticed that some of her married co-workers were bringing women other than their wives. Although she was uncomfortable with the situation, she wanted to keep her distance so as not to become too directly involved with her co-workers and their personal decisions. She had knowledge of what was going on but didn't think it was her place to intervene.

    One day, at an office party, the wife of one of her co-workers approached her. She wanted to know exactly what was going on during these trips. Cindy was frustrated to be put in this situation by her co-workers and she didn't know what to say. Should she put herself in the middle of a coworker's marriage and tell the truth about the situation? Is there another option? She didn't want to damage the team and be looked at as an outsider. She knew that she was not involved at all in these behaviors, but she still felt very uneasy about the situation.

    How should Cindy react in this situation? Is it Cindy's place to step in and say anything, or should she stay out of the situation all together? With so many different loyalties, between her co-worker, her own values, her co-worker's wife, and her job, what is most important in this situation?

    Posted June 2013

  •  Quality or Quantity: When Incentives Don’t Match Your Values

    Frank, a recent Santa Clara University graduate, recently landed a sales job for a Silicon Valley tech company. He is part of a team that qualifies sales opportunities. After talking to potential customers, Frank decides whether or not they are quality leads. If they are, he refers them to an account executive (AE) to close the deal, saving the company precious time in money in avoiding low probability contracts. If not, he will not pass them on and the sales opportunity is not pursued. Account executives expect prescreening of potential leads in order to maximize their time. Each referral Frank passes to the AE is added to a tally that counts toward his target monthly total, and there is a monetary bonus for all sales staff members who reach their monthly quota.

    This creates some controversy among Frank's team members, who are faced with conflicting incentives; pass on low quality leads to hit your quota, or focus on quality and risk missing the monthly target.  The pressure to "hit your number" comes from both the monetary incentive and management, who benefit when their sales team hits their quotas. To further complicate matters, since each sales representative self-reports how many leads they passed along, they can inflate their numbers in order to reach the monthly target goal: a common occurrence among Frank's coworkers.

    As Frank tries to adjust to his new job, he is finding it difficult to balance his own moral compass with the pressure of hitting his monthly number.

    How would you handle the dilemma between hitting the quota and submitting quality work you stand behind? What factors would weigh into your decision? What solutions would best solve this dilemma?

    posted June 2013