Ethics Case Study 30

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A former employee who was fired due to poor quality work, absences, and lateness related to her drinking problem, informs you that she has applied for a position at another company and has already given your name as a reference. She desperately needs a job (she is a single parent with three children), and she asks you to give her a good recommendation and not mention her drinking, which she assures you is now under control.

She also asks you to say that she voluntarily left the company to address a family medical crisis, and that the company was pleased with her work. You like this person and believe she is a good worker when she is not drinking. You doubt that she really has overcome her drinking problem, however, and you would not recommend your own company hire her back.

  • What do you say to this woman?
  • What do you say to an employer who calls you for a reference?
  • What if the prospective employer was a friend?
  • Suppose the problem was a theft?
  • Suppose she had asked you to be a reference prior to supplying your name to her prospective employer?
  • What values are at stake? Do some of the values conflict with one another?

Source: Here

48 Responses

  1. I would mention clearly that I wont agree to lie.its against mine and hers ethics rather I would tell her that ” I will assure to recommend , only if she completely quits drinking by taking medication”.if she had lost job just coz of drinking ,while referring I would definitely mention abt her drinking habit and abt medication last in addition to her performance . I want to help her in a long term perspective. since she is very poor try to help her in financing for medication if required. if drinking would be the only reason for her fire ie if she was very good at working then I will take up the responsibility of her job , may be I can recruit her back if I get assured about her medication.

  2. neuro says:

    What do you say to this woman?
    ANS. I’ll promise her that i am going to definitely help her if she assure me that she left drinking by a prescribed medical professional. I’ll also ask her if she can get any senior for recommendation also. I’ll also advice her not to commit the same mistakes in new office as this” also spoil his image.

    What do you say to an employer who calls you for a reference?
    I’ll tell them that she is a good worker but suffering from some personal problems. They should not solely rely upon us and get this information confirmed from other sources if they want.

    What if the prospective employer was a friend?
    Then i’ll tell him that lady is really in trouble, as she is already fired from our office, so we can’t take her back. Right now she is in need of work, so if you have any vacancy then accommodate her. But before that make sure that she is not alcoholic any more.And if she is still alcoholic then its your discretion.

    Suppose the problem was a theft?
    If she is kleptomaniac then I’ll won’t recommend her at all. Theft will affect not only organisation but also other staff members

    Suppose she had asked you to be a reference prior to supplying your name to her prospective employer?
    Even in that, as she is a good worker i’ll recommend only if assures me medically that she is not alcoholic

    What values are at stake? Do some of the values conflict with one another?
    1) Conscience: My conscience doesn’t allow me to trait anyone. So i can’t lie to employer or my friend.
    2) Compassion: Its compassion which doesn’t allow me to ignore anyone who is in trouble.
    There’ll be a knower-doer split within me if I’ll lie to anyone knowingly.

    • Yashraj says:

      Good answer. At the same time, try to analyse the issue from different perspectives first i.e. all possible effects of your giving a false assent (she left the company voluntarily) on her, the company, the society and yourself.
      Try to think about some more values at stake. can be honesty, integrity, helpfulness etc.
      All in all, a nice attempt. :)

  3. Yashraj says:

    A former employee who was fired……………………………………………… which she assures you is now under control.

    Facts of the case
    It is clear that the woman is an alcoholic. Her claim to have overcome the addiction is suspected. I believe she has the capability of being a good employee, save for her drinking addiction. Thus she was fired from my company. She has given my name as a reference without my consent and asks me to confirm. She desperately needs the job and has 3 dependents.

    I have the following options:
    1 To grant her request and confirm the reference along with stating that she left the company voluntarily.
    2 To deny the reference and inform her prospective employer about the truth of the situation.
    3 To not confirm the reference but at the same time not informing her prospective employer too i.e. to do nothing.

    If I grant her request she might get the job and therefore she gets a respite. The employer may find out the truth and this might jeopardise my company’s reputation and with it my own credibility. Further, since her addiction is not sure to be controlled, her likely inefficiency may reduce the value of my references.

    The act of lying here is universally unsustainable. If every employer does the same, employer’s references will no longer be trusted and the whole purpose of getting her a job will be defeated.
    In deceiving the employer I am undermining his rationality and autonomy and thereby treating him as a means to an end.
    My act has been made out of the fundamental character of deception, which will promote such character in my employee as well as in the society.


    I will explain my reasons to the employee and deny her request at the same time encouraging her to go ahead with her application albeit, without false references.
    If the employer calls me, whether a friend or not I will tell the truth. I will also inform the employer about the qualities of the employee, when she isn’t drunk and ask him to give her chance.
    If theft was the problem, my action will be the same; to tell the truth.
    If she asked for my reference earlier, i would write one for her. I would also state her shortcomings in my reference.
    Values such as compassion, obligation of an employee towards his organisation, truth, integrity, objectivity etc. are at stake here.
    Yes, values such as compassion and truth are conflicting here. Given the reasons above, i will have to uphold the truth.

  4. anurag says:

    1)What do you say to this woman?

    At first i would tell her that it was not fair and ethical on her part to mention my name as a reference without my prior permission, this shows that her desperation may drive her to adopt such unfair means in future also to achieve any other intentions. As she was not honest to her prospective employer initially she may continue this behavior and i might put that employer and his organisation at risk along with my own honesty and integrity. I would say to her that despite her saying she overcame her drinking habit which i am not myself sure of she still lacks integrity and honesty as she lied to get her hands on the job and mere stopping drinking did not certify that her other Grey areas like late coming and poor work quality will show improvement. We in life may face such dilemma’s more often but we should not act emotionally always as unfair means are never going to benefit, it will be unethical on my part to concur on her claims to her prospective employer. I would recommend her to tell truth to her prospective employer and then i might talk to him if he calls and tell the employer about her positives and her present conditions.

    2)What do you say to an employer who calls you for a reference?

    Ans- I would tell him regarding her problems and her efforts to get rid of those bad habits, i would highlight her positive facets also and will also inform him about her present family conditions. I would tell him that she has tried to overcome her weakness and is now willing to work with proper work culture as required by any reputed company or organisation. I would not give surety of her conduct but i may ask him to give her chance if he is willing to give her a chance to change for good as she is in need of a job desperately because she is a single mother catering to three children.

    3)What if the prospective employer was a friend?

    Ans- It will be easier for me to explain the situation to him, although i would not recommend her to my company i may ask my friend to give her chance and give permanent employment only after he is sure that she is now changed and is well suited to work as habitual drinkers show behavioral changes after they suffer from withdrawl of the alcohol.

    3)Suppose the problem was a theft?

    Ans- Theft is an offense and it should be judged by the magnitude of theft, but legally theft is theft either of small or big magnitude. If an employee commits thievery in organisation it will be cheating to the organisation and to his employers and to his/her conscience also. It is also an criminal offense which attracts punitive actions. I may not be in position to recommend her if it was proved that she indeed committed thievery. Despite her being a single mother of three i may not overshadow her conduct of theft because she has to cater to three children alone. But i will tell employer that she was a good worker at large, and he should try to visualize her overall performance and situation before arriving at any decision.

    4)Suppose she had asked you to be a reference prior to supplying your name to her prospective employer?

    Ans- If she had asked me to be reference prior to giving my name as one, then i would have heard to her, regarding her situation. If i get assured that she indeed has stopped drinking and is she is willing to work and start again with proper conduct and honesty i might recommend her to the employer but i will not keep him in dark regarding her past, i will explain him situation in which my company removed her and situation now, i would explain as i can not recommend her in my company due to her past deeds as it might not get accepted by my company, he can give her chance to rectify her past mistakes for a good future of her kids of whom she is a single parent.

    5)What values are at stake? Do some of the values conflict with one another?

    Ans- Here along with ethical values like Honesty, Integrity and work values which makes me marketable as a person whose recommendation matters in organizations other than his own and My values like selflessness and altruism conflict with each other. I may lie and help her gain employment by unfair means and me being a partner in this misdeed or i can tell the truth to retain my honesty and integrity, i may by being honest
    tell employer about her, but i may being selfless and sensitive towards the employee’s problems try to convince the prospective employer to consider her and give her one chance as she is desperate for the job and she is willing to overcome her drawbacks and may in future prove to be an asset to the prospective employer.

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