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Business Ethical Dilemma One

Being the sole engineer in my discipline at a large company certainly had its advantages.
It was difficult for people to disagree with me, I generally was able to get involved in everything,
and I was, in a way, able to be my own boss. This was simply because most people around me
didn’t understand the technical aspects of what components I was designing. Of course, the
advantages can also be disadvantages. If I ever had questions or needed help with a design I was
essentially on my own. Just like any other profession, just because an engineer is labeled as a
certain type (electrical, mechanical, etc.) does not mean they understand every aspect of the
discipline. For instance, a mechanical engineer that has designed pistons may not understand the
technical aspects of designing a suspension system. Because of this, being a sole engineer in a
company can also be a challenge.
I was working for a consumer products company where I was designing lighting systems
for the products. Like most companies that design and manufacturer their own products, there
were certain development dates and milestones that needed to be complete in order to complete
the development process before the product can be released to production. In addition, there are
certifications that need to be completed from regulatory agencies like UL, SAE, and CE.
Product development cycles at companies are generally aggressive and relay on very few failures
occurring. If at any point the development timeline, cost, etc. slips, upper management must sign
off on the changes. Hence, engineering must work very carefully to ensure no mistakes are made
otherwise key performance parameters will be missed.

Designing Components

My only response was. “Chris. I was testing some components in the environmental chambers when I received a phone call from UL. especially their electronics division. I reluctantly signed up for an aggressive timeline and cost target of the product knowing that I was potentially setting myself up for failure. I was designing electrical power supplies to help power lighting systems. If this power supply failed. The person replied on the phone. schematics. this is Juan from UL. The entire UL certification process took about eight weeks. In addition. With my background. this is Chris”. I was exasperated with how often management kept asking me for status updates. The Design Error I remember the afternoon very clearly. “Engineering. I knew that the entire project would not meet regulations and therefore production would be delayed. I answered the phone. we encountered some problems with the power supplies you submitted. but you have to understand we are small customers of theirs.I was in the middle of a design phase with a new product launch. I submitted several components. Juan stated he was going to put testing on hold until a .” Immediately my heart sank. I did not have a great understanding of the regulations needed to pass UL testing to certify the safety of the power supply. I was working with a supplier who did not have a history with designing this type of product. so if I missed anything the process would start over and the project would slip. and specifications to UL testing labs to verify that my power supply would meet regulations. In addition. Keeping this thought in the back of my mind. I had management breathing down my neck to provide any information on this key component.” Management did not accept this response but there was honestly not much else I could do. as Juan begins to explain that the enclosure (that I chose to save money of course) designed was actually causing issues during testing. “I am pushing UL as hard as I can.

however. I called the supplier Jim and told him the news about the enclosure. I hung up the phone and put my hands over my face. Sometimes these prototypes are destroyed from testing but occasionally units that are in perfect condition remain. numerous prototypes and production replicas are created to test and validate during the development process. I asked if there were any alternatives. Jim stated the best part would be that nobody would know that we made a mistake. If we inserted a protective liner on the inner walls of the enclosure it would pass testing. What was I supposed to do? Business Ethical Dilemma Two: Background Working in the engineering department of consumers products can be a fun and rewarding experience. My inability to comprehend the specification was going to cause a major delay in the validation of the power supply. Because of this. Hence. UL might need to resubmit testing. and he said to design a new enclosure that would add major delays and costs. Probably the best part of this experience is working on products and innovative ideas long before the product will ever be introduced into the market. The size of the project and cost generally determines the amount of prototypes that are created and tested. He stated that he had a solution. To make matters worse. there is a greater risk for safety issues arising down the road. due to my solution was provided. resources. The worst part about this would be that I would have to admit that I made a mistake that caused major delays in the program. when a project is complete thousands of dollars worth of prototypes are generally leftover. Most companies have a disposition policy to destroy . but it comes with some safety risks. He also stated that depending on the change. The product development process takes an immense amount of time. I did not have a single clue how to fix this issue. and testing to ensure that products are safely designed before they are released to consumers.

Hands down. it was because he was going to take it for himself! Roger was my . As I was walking back to the bathroom. I was not expecting anybody else to be around. Roger said he needed it to be removed so we could bring other products into the lab for testing.test units and dispose of the units properly. and efficiency standpoint. cost. To my surprise. “Disposition of the Test Unit” I stayed later then normal that night to finish up my test report. I had to walk back by the shipping department. I decided that before I went home that I would quick run to the bathroom. Hence. I noticed that Roger had backed his truck up to the dock. He said he would gladly assist in removing and disposing of it. I said that I was going to dispose of it eventually but I hadn’t got around to completing this yet since the test was just complete this week. It beat the competition from a performance. this was one of the best products that our group had ever created. but I noticed that Roger was loading the unit that I had finished testing into his truck. an engineering manager from another division. there was a lot of excitement surrounding the products and employees were excited to use the products. it prevents the company from putting questionable units into the field. approached me. I had just shut down the final test of the products and was busy completing the test report when suddenly Roger. It finally dawned on me why he was so eager to help me out with the disposal of the unit. Roger asked me what the plans were for the left over test units and I stated I had not thought of that at this point. I did not think anything of it and gladly accepted his assistance. it seems ridiculous to destroy perfectly good units. The Issue We had just designed an innovative new product that we were about to release to the public. Although Roger’s offer was abnormal. In order to get to the bathroom. I was not sure of what was going on. Although.

What was I supposed to do? .superior and accusing him of stealing a unit could have a tremendous impact on my career.

My manager said that Roger cleared it with the General Manager of the plant so there was nothing that I could do. I quantified the risks associated with both options to make the decision as black and white as possible. Eventually. At that point. I nervously approached his office and stated that we need to discuss some issues that have developed with the lighting project. Still the whole situation did not feel right but I simply ignored it. I approached my manager about the topic. I used the excuse that the unit was going to be scrapped anyway so it was not costing the company any money. I told him that I saw Roger loading up the test unit into his truck and I was not sure of what he was using it for. I stated that due to an oversight on my part.What Actually Happened? Dilemma One: With the risk of losing my job. I never confirmed whether . the enclosure was not meeting regulations testing at UL. The next morning. Dilemma Two: I sheepishly ignored Roger loading the unit up into his truck. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and got to working on the new. As I was driving home that night. I then realized what type of organizational ethics (or lack thereof) existed in the company I was working for. He then stated that I actually lucked out because the project was being delayed already because of issues related with equipment on the production line. Later. I decided that the best approach would be to contact the project manager and express the issue with UL. I recommended using the safer enclosure because I was concerned about the product safety and our company’s reputation. the product was released with no ill-effects from mistake. I decided that I was going to talk to my immediate manager in the morning. the General Manager of the plant was fired and Roger went with him. safer enclosure. The project manager thanked me for being open and honest with him. I presented the two options that were available. I tried to justify in my head that what Roger was doing was ethical.

.the reason for severance was related to the test unit. I did eventually leave the company and a big reason was because of the ethical environment.

In the first situation. I simply turned a blind eye to what was going on around me. I will be more cognizant of my surroundings and try to do something about it. Not knowing what Roger’s intentions with the test unit where could have resulted in bad situations such as personal injury to occur. I would have been in a lot bigger trouble. After analyzing each situation. I could have easily taken the easy route to save my short-term reputation and avoid taking the blame for making a mistake. In the second example. I decided to not doing anything about it. Next time. Hence. It is critical to understand that sometimes allowing for unethical practices to continue can be easier then doing something about it. I learned that it can be very easy to let unethical environments flourish. sharing the actually status prevented any irrational and unsafe decisions from being made.Summary This exercise made reevaluate two situations that I have not contemplated for sometime. if the power supply would have been considered unsafe and a consumer would have been injured. Also. It made me analyze my choices and my immediate reactions when I was placed in unethical situations. Even though what I felt was happening was wrong. I need to understand. it is important to maintain honesty and integrity when in the work environment. I feel two separate conclusions were formed. that just because management says it is ok does not make the situation ethical. I am disappointed that after talking to my manager. the issue reminded me that being open and honest about the current status of a situation is always the best option. . In this situation. In this case. Later on.