Foundation of Human Resources/ Ethical Dilemma - Case Study 3. What ethical and legal matters are involved? The major ethical aspect of the case is with respect to Pauline’s privacy. She is entitled to keep her private affairs confidential both by law as well as by common standards of civility. But Pauline’s privacy will have to be weighed against the general interests of the sales team in particular and the organization in general. The question to be asked is whether Pauline’s privacy more sacred than the performance prospects of the sales team with its impending sales targets to be met.
As long as David’s inquisition into Pauline’s personal life is limited by its relevance to his sales office, he is well within his rights to do so. But the fact that her alleged sexual harasser – Bob Ripley – is from the same organization adds complications. The salient question here is whether Pauline is acting against principles of team ethic in accusing a colleague of sexual harassment. On the other side, Pauline has a legitimate claim to be acting as a ‘whistleblower’ within the organization – an act that could save other vulnerable young women from possible harassment.
(Sauter et. al, 2000, p. 1148) The other legal concern facing David is how much trust can he place on an anonymous email? Obviously, anonymous emails do not carry the same weight as identified emails in a court of law. So he has to bear this point in mind before acting further. (Quick & Tetrick, 2010, p. 156) 4. If an employee refuses to discuss an issue, does a manger have a responsibility to pursue the matter further?
The answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. The manager has a legitimate cause in pursuing the matter if it is in the overall interests of his team and the organization. Obviously, in the case of Pauline Chengg’s refusal to divulge her erratic behaviour is dragging down the performance of the team and the organization. So, it is only proper and responsible on part of the manager (in this case David) to pursue the matter further. Having said so, the manager will have to consider the sensitivity and delicacy of a particular issue.
The alleged sexual harassment angle to Pauline’s underperformance is obviously a delicate matter, and hence a more empathetic approach is warranted. Employing a female colleague of Pauline to handle with the issue is a sound idea, for Pauline may not be comfortable talking of her situation to a male colleague. But ultimately, David is responsible and answerable to his higher authorities. (Rowe, 1996, p. 242) To this extent, he needs to carry out investigations as to what is ailing a member of his team. Not only does David have a responsibility toward his higher authorities, but he is also responsible for the wellbeing of his team members.
The continued distress of Pauline will be a black mark upon his personnel management skills. Hence, for the interests of the organization and the individual in distress, the manager should pursue the issue further, albeit by adopting appropriate strategy. (Bingham et. al, 2002, p. 14) This ideal strategy will respect the privacy of the individual to the maximum possible while also understanding the sensitivity of the issue.
References: Bingham, Clara, Gansler, Laura Leedy. Class Action: The Landmark Case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law. New York, Anchor Books, 2002 Rowe, Mary, "Dealing with Harassment: A Systems Approach, " in Sexual Harassment: Perspectives, Frontiers, and Response Strategies, Women & Work, Vol. 5, Margaret Stockdale, editor, Sage Publications, 1996, pp. 241–271 Sauter SL, Murphy LR, Hurrell JJ, Jr. . Prevention of work-related psychological disorders. American Psychologist 45(10): 1146-1158 Quick, J. C., & Tetrick, L. E. (Eds. ). (2010). Handbook of occupational health psychology (2nd ed. ).
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association