Business Ethics Discussion
Q1. As an employee or a manager in either the legal office or the engineering department, how would you have prevented this incident?
Upon reading through the Volkswagen scandal, what seems amiss is communication and transparency in the organization and department. From the article, there is an assumption to what they felt occurred during the scandal between both the engineering and legal department and then goes on to assign a probability for every situation they introduce. The primary problem that occurred in each of the scenarios is the breakdown of communication and even intentional non-communication (Hölzel 2017). In addition, it also seems that the lawyer may not be aware or understand what the engineers were doing hence it was impossible to intervene.
Therefore, as a manager, it would be my mandate to ensure that I understand everything that is taking place in the engineering department. I have an ethical and legal duty to make sure that my employees are acting and working accordingly, and I have to ensure that the organization’s well-being is always at the top of the list. Moreover, as a manager, I would consider making sure that I have a good and healthy working relationship with top management and legal team. In regards to this, in case I feel that something is not right, I will be comfortable to report the case to the superior for further action. However, I was working in the legal department, and then I think that it would be my duty to understand how each department operates and if I do not understand anything, then I would seek for more information.
According to Lippe 2015 not knowing is just a bad as understanding something but with reluctance. Perhaps, we should begin to talk about a mandate to known and understand what is happening in every department, especially as a manager. For one to have a feeling of fully comfortable in the legal department is to have a clear understanding of the employee’s actions because they are acting on behalf of the organization. As a manager of either the legal or engineering department, I would begin a communication system that would bring in all the important decision-makers in the process. Through this, everybody within the department will be informed and in the loop of what is happening within the departments. I guess this would be of great importance to the organization because it will result in long term profits and a good reputation which was destroyed due to the scandal.
For instance, it would have been easy to adhere to the clean air act which states that any air pollutant, a plan which gives for implantation, maintenance, and enforcement of such important standard in every quality control region. Based on the scandal, Volkswagen engineers knowingly committed an egregious act of installing sophisticated software in their diesel vehicles with the intention of passing the emission testing. It is morally and ethically wrong to install a system that cheats on the emission test. Therefore, I believe a good communication system, especially in matters of ethics, would have prevented the occurrence of such acts in the organization.
It can be hard for employees to stand up and face management when they notice something wrong such as corrupt activities and even harder when they notice it among their team members engaged in similar activities. According to Proverbs 28:18 “Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall. As an employee, it is important to understand the results of such actions to an individual and organization in general. In the US, there exist a whistleblower protection act which safeguards anyone that should step forward with valuable information regarding illegal activities (Calvasina, Calvasina & Calvasina 2016). For instance, the clean air act which was violated by Volkswagen in an unlawful act which could have been prevented if an employee reported the incident.
Q2. As the CEO of the diesel division of Volkswagen, how would you have responded when the situation became public? How would this response prevent future incidents?
Although CEO Matthias Mueller responded that he was unaware of the incident, he is still held responsible for the corporate culture which resulted in unethical behavior among the employees. The engineer accused assisted the auto make install defeat software on diesel-powered vehicles after he realized that the engines could not meet stringent US emission limits in keeping the fuel economy and performance as anticipated by clients (Jung & Park 2017). It is evident that it was a tough scenario, but the unethical and illegal techniques they chose was not the best option. For instance, the cost of doing a re-engineering on the vehicles was high, but it does not exceed the cost of enacting as penalties.
Therefore, as a CEO of the diesel division of Volkswagen, I would apologize to clients, stakeholders, shareholders and the whole public especially those who contributed to the organization and its brand when the situation went viral. As a leader, I have to make sure that both the corporation and the public is safe. In regards to this, I failed this requirement because we violated federal laws and endangered the lives of the citizens. After the apologies, I would consider training the employees on the importance of being morally and ethically right in every activity. It is evident that there was a lack of education on matters relating to good behaviors and conduct especially in corporate social responsibilities (Johnson 2018). Therefore, all workers must understand their role in making sure that all actions of the organization are ethically and morally oriented. I would also set a task force whose mandate will be to investigate and report any scandal within the organization.
For example, various Countries such as Britain, and Japan among others have increased their internal inspections to make sure there is compliance with national environmental regulations. Thus, setting up an independent auditing process does not only transfer some of the risks but also makes sure that they can be more assured to be free of environmental standards violations. However, the issue is that environmental audits can be time-consuming and expensive. Thus, this goes with a Bible verse Proverbs 10:9 which states that anybody who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways in crooked will be found and punished (Cox 2018). Therefore, it is important for an organization to conducts its operations with integrity to avoid being found and penalized as well as the destruction of its reputation.
It is important to note that the future occurrence of such incident depends on the result of the response. After making a public apology, it was important setting up a third-party audit on the performance of the organization. It was also important to educate the employees on the significance of ethical and moral conducts. First, setting up an internal audit system will make sure that the organization does what is right at all times and all violations are handled internally. Secondly, educating the employees on good behavior will create a culture for corporate social responsibility making sure that such scandals do not repeat itself within the organization.
Cox, B. (2018). How to Have a Better Life: God’s Wisdom from the Book of Proverbs in 175 Daily Devotions. WestBow Press.
Calvasina, G., Calvasina, R., & Calvasina, E. (2016). RESPONDING TO OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION (OSHA) WHISTLEBLOWER INVESTIGATIONS: POLICY AND PRACTICE ISSUES FOR EMPLOYERS. Journal of Legal, Ethical & Regulatory Issues, 19(1).
Hölzel, M. (2017). Crisis Management, CSR, and Crisis Communication in the Volkswagen Emissions Scandal.
Jung, J. C., & “Alison” Park, S. B. (2017). Case Study: Volkswagen’s Diesel Emissions Scandal. Thunderbird International Business Review, 59(1), 127-137.
Johnson, C. E. (2018). Organizational ethics: A practical approach. Sage Publications.