Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Business Ethics Scenarios

by Jim Balassone

1. Receiving a Holiday Gift:

A supplier sends a basket of expensive foodstuffs to your home at Christmas with a card: "We hope you and your family enjoy the 'goodies.'". What action(s) might you want to take?

2. Sales Expense:

The purchasing manager for a large company agrees to give you an order (their first), expecting you agree to make a $200 donation to his favorite charity, a local youth sports team. How do you respond?

3. Sales Expense Reimbursement:

A customer executive from Southeast Asia will visit your HQ facility and meet with your executive team. Your independent Southeast Asian agent requests that you reimburse the customer for his expenses, including expenses that could violate your company's policies. The agent will reimburse you. How do you proceed?

4. References:

A large, prospective client calls you and asks about a competitor's reputation. One of your long time customers had a very bad experience with this competitor. What information do you share with the prospect? How do you respond to the prospect call?

5. Gratuities:

A customer has a large sailing yacht on a vessel that your company will be discharging. The customer is present and is watching the off-loading operation.

The five stevedores you manage pull off a very tricky maneuver, safely transferring the yacht to the trailer. The customer is elated, and reaches into his pocket, pulling out a big wad of $50 bills. What do you do?

6. Conflict of Interest:

As department manager, you are hosting an informal celebration in the office. The food budget is $200. Your next door neighbor has just started her own catering business and asks to supply the food. Since she is just starting out, she'll do it at cost and provide extra items at no charge. What might you want to consider?

7. More Competition:

You are in a head-to-head battle with your arch competitor, Evil Enterprises. One of your co-workers approaches you. He has recently joined your company after having worked for a second competitor for several years.

He suggests, "I made notes on all of Evil's bids when I could get the data. They use some clear cost standards. Would you like me to bring my notes to the office tomorrow and let you look through them?" How do you respond?

Jim Balassone is executive-in-residence at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

January 2008


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