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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

Comments Comments

achandrakar said on Sep 12, 2014
Cindy's own personal values and a commitment of loyalty to them is certainly the most important aspect in this situation. She would neither like to take a middleman's approach unless she is a family friend to one of them, nor would she be allowed to remain ignorant and dumb-folded for longer. Hence to the wives she must talk about all the great contributions to the team their spouses have made and how inspired she feels about their professional commitments. For the co-workers she must work with human resources to organize frequent offsite events where employees are supposed to come with their families, introduce them to colleagues and talk about how they balance work responsibilities with personal responsibilities and leisure. Also think about every time such events are organized, an official invitation is sent to family/spouses. That's the charter of employee engagement at workplaces.
Patrick said on Sep 15, 2014
I find your analysis helpful for attempting to alleviate the problem in the future, but what do you recommend Cindy say when she is face to face with the wife who confronted her?
Rage said on Dec 9, 2014
Cindy shouldn't be the one to tell the wives of her co-workers that their husbands are cheating pieces of hogwash. She isn't a family friend and that would just cause drama. Cindy should be worried about the reputation of the company and to resolve this situation she needs to talk to HR about what her co-workers are doing with these side-girls of theirs so that somebody higher up can get these co-workers to stop their nonsense. This gets Cindy out of the mess and fulfills her obligation to the company to protect its reputation.
fdfhhh said on Dec 9, 2014
I think you should stop pretending that you know what you're talking about.Just kidding you make a great point
JulieAnn, Eric said on Dec 9, 2014
There are two possible outcomes... one being her role to the company, if she would tell, would probably damage her partnership in such a successful growing tech business. The other being if she were not to tell, she might be going against her values and loyalty to not only the co-workers wife, but to herself also. Cindy, not only has two options but also has another option available. The third option is to deny she has any knowledge about the situation to the wife, and go anonymously report it to them such as a letter or even an E-mail if you create a new account. We have decided that she think through her options and hopefully decided that the best option is the third one, where she keeps her values but also respects the loyalty to the wife, and her partnership in the company will not be ruined.
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Tags: Coworker Tension, Mid Career, Sales, Sexual Harassment and Misconduct