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Honesty & Deception

When is it dishonest to skirt the rules? Before answering this "never" remember that unions have perfected the "work-to-rule" slowdown as a form of collective action against management. These work slowdowns are accomplished by simply adhering literally to every rule for repair, clean-up, paper filing, etc. that has been established. It does significantly gum up the works. So in fact, one has to skirt the rules to get an organization to function at all.

There are clear cases of fraud, like the one perpetrated by Hughes, and we can condemn these straightforwardly. But between outright fraud and a work-to-rule slowdown there is a gray area in which people of goodwill can disagree. Labeling some of the chips "hot parts" and expediting their testing, or even babysitting them through the process, seems to be a legitimate bending of the rules. For each of these, using the ethics tests we have presented here help in establishing the important issues. The tests do not always make the answer clear, but they help to make the questions more clear.

Part of Goodearl and Ibarra's dilemma was that if they became "team players" according to LaRue and Saia's rules, they would be participating in the fraud the Hughes was committing. The doctrine of respondent superior helps some in this case, in that it holds the employer responsible to the action of the agent when the agent is really acting on the behalf of the employer. This is, in part, the reasoning that the jury used in not convicting LaRue of fraud, but convicting Hughes. Still, this legal rule does not let the agent entirely off the hook in the legal system, not does it address the moral responsibility of the agent. Goodearl and Ibarra knew that people would be placed at risk if the chips were not properly tested, and they decided that this risk outweighed the interests of Hughes.



Raven, B. H. (1993). The bases of power: Origins and recent developments. Journal of Social Issues, 49, 227-251.