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Professional Ethical Analysis Paper 1

Professional Ethical Analysis Paper

Christian Larin
BIS 345
Professional Ethical Analysis Paper 2


I am currently working for Starbucks Coffee Company. I am a Store Manger. In

this paper I will be discussing the moral dilemma around social media and employee

accountability. The six case studies discuss the complex nature of being a middle manger

and the dangers of social media and privacy. The younger generations are used to living

their lives on social media. They tend to share everything. I have had to recently have a

discussion with one employee about a posting they shared. It created a firestorm with

other employees commenting some negative things. The case studies that I presented

helped me process and decide how to proceed by looking at different perspectives.

Secondly, I interviewed my district manager and another district manger that is in the

neighboring district to mine. They didnt know about the posting that I came across and

wanted to use the interview process to gain some insight around how they view things.

Finally, I will present the discussion where I will share the thought process around the

ethical dilemma I found myself in and what lead me to take the actions that I took.


Case Study 1 - Campaign Shenanigans - When volunteers behave unethically

By: Hana Callaghan

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, January 22, 2016. Santa Clara University.

The daughter of a long time donor has a paid staff position on your campaign. One of

her tasks is to recruit college student volunteers and supervise them when they show up
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for campaign events. At the State convention she has organized a spontaneous rally

providing great optics for the press on how the youth vote supports you. The students are

provided all access to the convention parties including free alcohol. The morning after

these parties all of your primary opponents signs, displays, and materials have

mysteriously disappeared. The evidence strongly suggests that the culprits were your

student volunteers, led by your donors daughter. Not wanting to offend your donor, you

laugh the charges off with a shrug and a chuckle saying, Kids will be kids.

Commentary: Managers and leaders need to have the leadership courage to have

conversations with those that they lead. The college student volunteers are representing

the campaign. If the individuals were thought to be involved, then it would be up to the

person responsible for them to have that conversation. Having that direct conversation

would allow the donors daughter to show that she is in charge. If the students were

found to be those responsible, then they need to be held accountable. Those students may

also go further next time if they are not held accountable or confronted. We need to be

able to have direct conversations with each other. This ability used to be more common


Case Study 2 - Ethics and the Middle Manager

By: Kirk Hanson

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, May 09, 2008. Santa Clara University.

Creating "Tone in The Middle"

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Creating a culture of ethics is often frustrated by a lack of attention and commitment

by middle managers.

Creating a culture of ethics requires all levels of employees believe that the organization

wants to act ethically in all it does. Emphasis since 2001 on "tone at the top," one of the

legacies of the misbehavior by top management in the Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and other

scandals, has helped many top executives realize they must create this tone by their own


Too often, however, the behavior of middle managers remains unchanged, and

undermines ethical messages and the creation of an ethical culture which is a corporate

priority. If middle managers are not committed to the values and ethics, this is

immediately apparent to the lower level employees. The implementation of ethics in an

organization is only as strong as its weakest link as it flows down into the organization.

An organization's "tone at the top" must be translated into a "tone at the middle" before it

can reach the rest of the organization.

What is needed in every organization is an understanding by the top management and by

the ethics/compliance professionals that they are seeking to influence specific behaviors

of middle managers, just as they have focused in recent years on specific behaviors by

top executives.

The problem of motivating middle managers, however, is in many ways more difficult.

Middle managers are given explicit and often unyielding financial, sales, and cost control

goals to achieve. At times, they may perceive that top management is actually giving

them the message to focus on the quantifiable business goals and not on the "softer"
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ethical goals, that the ethical messages were "for the record" and not real. At other times,

they may perceive that top management simply does not realize they cannot meet the

stretch performance goals without "stretching" the ethical standards of the organizations.

In these cases, many middle managers decide for themselves to take the expedient path.

There are specific behaviors which middle managers must demonstrate in order for lower

level employees to understand that the organization is serious about ethics.

It is possible to specify the middle management behaviors that will help the creation of an

ethical culture. These are similar to that of the top management but include some unique

actions. The key behaviors are:

1. Talk frequently about the ethical values and ethical commitment of the


2. Anticipate ethical dilemmas which typically arise in his or her area of


3. Talk about how the ethical values and commitments apply to the work of the

specific group

4. Talk about how the ethical values and commitments apply to specific decisions

the middle manager makes or participates in.

5. Recognize ethical issues when they do arise

6. Ask questions when the ethical action is unclear

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7. Make ethical decisions consistent with organizational values and ethics

8. Report concerns about ethical and unethical actions to top managers

There are specific techniques which help the top to communicate the organization's real

ethical commitment to the middle managers in ways that convince them the organization

is serious.

Motivating middle managers to reinforce the ethical culture of the organization by their

own actions requires several specific actions by top executives. Among them are:

1. Top executives must themselves exhibit all the "tone at the top" behaviors,

including acting ethically, talking frequently about the organization's values and

ethics, and supporting the organization's and individual employee's adherence to

the values

2. Top executives must explicitly ask middle managers what dilemmas arise in

implementing the ethical commitments of the organization in the work of that


3. Top executives must give general guidance about how values apply to those

specific dilemmas

4. Top executives must explicitly delegate resolution of those dilemmas to the

middle managers
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5. Top executives must make it clear to middle managers that their ethical

performance is being watched as closely as their financial performance

6. Top executives must make ethical competence and commitment of middle

managers a part of their performance evaluation

7. The organization must provide opportunities for middle managers to work with

peers on resolving the hard cases.

8. Top executives must be available to the middle managers to discuss/coach/resolve

the hardest cases

Selected Resources:

"Who Wants To Be A Middle Manager?" (USA Today, August 12, 2007)

Commentary: With organizations growing so large, it will be the next level boss

that determines what and how things are implemented. The CEO may have the

vision, but with companies like Starbucks and Amazon growing so large, most

low-level employees will not every get a chance to speak the CEO. The middle

managers are the ones that will interpret and implement a lot of the vision for the

company. These are the mangers that need to have a very good compass around

ethics. I lead a few dozen employees and they look for me to help set the tone

around what is right and what is not.

Case Study 3 - Off the Clock

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By: Clare Bartlett

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, August 26, 2015. Santa Clara University.

Sarah was recently promoted to a managerial position at her industrial engineering

company. With her new position, she is now responsible for overseeing the companys

production factory, meaning approximately 50 factory workers now report to her.

Although Sarah previously worked as an engineer and does not have any experience

running a factory, she is excited to begin her new position.

At the end of her first day, Sarah is confused to see her factory workers continuing to

work well past the end of their 8-hour shift. She then goes to the factory supervisor (who

reports to her) to express concern because the factory does not have the budget to pay so

many workers overtime. The supervisor smiles at Sarah and explains that the factory

meets production goals by making the factory workers work off the clock. The workers

are well aware of this expectation and went along with it in order to keep their jobs. Sarah

is shocked to learn this illegal practice had become part of the company culture, but the

supervisor explains that the companys CEO (who is Sarahs boss) is well aware of this


What should Sarah do?

Clare Bartlett was a 2014-2015 Hackworth Fellow in Engineering Ethics at the

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

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Commentary: With big organizations it is usually the two next level managers that will

determine the experience you have in that organization. In this case, if Sarah chooses to

bring this practice of working off the clock up to her boss, she may put her job in

jeopardy. She also has the option of just taking control of the situation and forcing the

supervisor to start not allowing the workers to work off the clock. At this point, the

supervisor may just ignore Sarah or go above Sarah to the CEO. This is an ethical

dilemma for a lot of middle managers. When we dont agree with a decision or direction

that our company is going/making, then when do we speak up? I would hope that she

would feel secure in having a discussion with the CEO. If the CEO did know and just

told Sarah to not worry about it, then at least she tried. However, if the CEO did not

know, then maybe they can look at needing to fix the issue as to way they need to work

off the clock.

Case Study 4 - LittleBrother is watching you

By: Miriam Schulman

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, November 20, 2000. Santa Clara University.

If you happen to be reading this article online from your computer at work, your boss

may be reading over your shoulder-electronically. New technologies allow employers to

check whether employees are wasting time at recreational Web sites or sending

unprofessional e-mails. But when do an employer's legitimate business interests become

an unacceptable invasion of worker privacy?

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Last year, a software package came on the market that allows employers to monitor their

workers' Internet use. It employs a database of 45,000 Web sites that are categorized as

"productive," "unproductive," or "neutral," and rates employees based on their browsing.

It identifies the most frequent users and the most popular sites. It's called LittleBrother.

Though the title is tongue-in-cheek, LittleBrother does represent the tremendous

capabilities technology has provided for employers to keep track of what their work force

is up to. There are also programs to search e-mails and programs to block objectionable

Web sites. Beyond installing monitoring software, your boss can simply go into your hard

drive, check your cache to see where you've been on the Net, and read your e-mail.

Did you delete that message you sent about his incompetence? Not good enough. The e-

mail trash bin probably still exists on the server, and there are plenty of computer

consultants who can retrieve the incriminating message.

All told, such monitoring is a widespread-and-growing-phenomenon. Looking just at e-

mail, a 1996 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 36

percent of responding companies searched employee messages regularly and 70 percent

said employers should reserve the right to do so.

The Law

Legally, employees have little recourse. The most relevant federal law, the 1986

Electronic Communications Privacy Act, prohibits unauthorized interception of various

electronic communications, including e-mail. However, the law exempts service

providers from its provisions, which is commonly interpreted to include employers who
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provide e-mail and Net access, according to David Sobel, legal counsel for the Electronic

Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C. A federal bill that would have required

employers at least to notify workers that they were being monitored failed to come to a

vote from 1993 to 1995.

The situation in the courts is similar. "There aren't many cases, and they tend to go

against the employee," according to Santa Clara University Professor of Law Dorothy

Glancy. "Often, court opinions take the point of view that when the employees are using

employers' propertythe employers' computers and networksthe employees'

expectation of privacy is minimal." When courts take this view, Glancy continues, "if

employees want to have private communications, they can enjoy them on their own time

and equipment."

In a presentation on employee monitoring, Mark S. Dichter and Michael S. Burkhardt of

the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius explain that courts have tried to balance "an

employee's reasonable expectation of privacy against the employer's business justification

for monitoring."

For example, in Smyth v. Pillsbury Co., Michael Smyth argued that his privacy was

violated and he was wrongfully discharged from his job after his employers read several

e-mails he had exchanged with his supervisor. In the electronic messages, among other

offensive references, he threatened to "kill the backstabbing bastards" in sales

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The court ruled that Smyth had "no reasonable expectation of privacy" on his employer's

system, despite the fact that Pillsbury had repeatedly assured employees that their e-mail

was confidential. In addition, the court held that the company's interest in preventing

"inappropriate and unprofessional" conduct outweighed Smyth's privacy rights.

Privacy as a Moral Matter

But the fact that employee monitoring is legal does not automatically make it right. From

an ethical point of view, an employee surely does not give up all of his or her privacy

when entering the workplace. To determine how far employee and employer moral rights

should extend, it's useful to start with a brief exploration of how privacy becomes a moral


Michael J. Meyer, SCU professor of philosophy, explains it this way: "Employees are

autonomous moral agents. Among other things, that means they have independent moral

status defined by some set of rights, not the least of which is the right not to be used by

others only as a means to increase overall welfare or profits."

Applying this to the workplace, Meyer says, "As thinking actors, human beings are more

than cogs in an organizationthings to be pushed around so as to maximize profits. They

are entitled to respect, which requires some attention to privacy. If a boss were to monitor

every conversation or move, most of us would think of such an environment as more like

a prison than a humane workplace." But, like all rights, privacy is not absolute.

Sometimes, as in the case of law enforcement, invasions of privacy may be warranted. In

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"Privacy, Morality, and the Law," William Parent, also a philosophy professor at SCU,

sets out six criteria for determining whether an invasion of privacy is justifiable:

1. For what purpose is the undocumented personal knowledge sought?

2. Is this purpose a legitimate and important one?

3. Is the knowledge sought through invasion of privacy relevant to its justifying


4. Is invasion of privacy the only or the least offensive means of obtaining the


5. What restrictions or procedural restraints have been placed on the privacy-

invading techniques?

6. How will the personal knowledge be protected once it has been acquired?

These questions can offer guidance as we consider both sides of the controversy.

The Case for Workplace Monitoring

If an employer uses a software package that sweeps through office computers and

eliminates games workers have installed, few people will feel such an action is an

invasion of privacy. Our comfort with this kind of intrusion suggests that most of us don't

fault an employer who insists that the equipment he or she provides be used for work, at

least during working hours.

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Why, then, should we balk when an employer tries to ensure that his equipment is not

being used to surf non-job-related Web sites? Hours spent online browsing the recipe files

of Epicurious are no less a breach of the work contract than games playing.

"The underlying principle is value for money," says Joseph R. Garber, a columnist for

Forbes magazine. "If you don't deliver value for money, in some sense, you're lying."

Garber gives this illustration: If we hired someone to paint our house, and they didn't do

the northern wall, we would feel moral outrage. Similarly, if we pay workers to give a

good day's work and they are, instead, surfing X-rated Web sites, we are also morally


Such "cyberlollygagging" is no small problem. A study by Nielsen Media Research found

that employees at major corporations such as IBM, Apple, and AT&T logged onto the

online edition of Penthouse thousands of times a month.

Beyond worry about lost productivity, employers have legitimate concerns about the use

of e-mail in thefts of proprietary information, which, according to the "Handbook on

White Collar Crime," account for more than $2 billion in losses a year. The transfer of

such information can be monitored by programs that search employee e-mails for suspect

word strings or by employers simply going into the employee's hard drive and reading the


In a case last year, a former employee of Cadence Systems was charged with stealing

proprietary information and intending to bring it to the rival software maker Avant!

According to prosecutors, before leaving Cadence, he e-mailed a file containing 5 million

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bytes to a personal e-mail account. Such large messages suggested that he might be

sending source code for the company's products and prompted Cadence to contact the


Electronic communications can pose other dangers for employers besides breached

security and lost productivity. More and more, employers are being held legally liable for

the atmosphere in the workplace. Although the case was ultimately dismissed, employers

worry about litigation like the $70-million suit brought by Morgan Stanley employees,

who claimed that racist jokes on the company's electronic mail system created a hostile

work environment.

Sexual harassment cases also often hinge on allegations of a hostile work environment,

which might be evidenced by employees downloading or displaying pornographic

material from the Web or sending off-color e-mails. "The days of guys putting naked

bunnies up on their computer screens are gone because that's actionable stuff," Garber


To prevent such abuses, Garber argues, employers need to be allowed to monitor: "We

can't make corporations responsible for stopping unacceptable forms of behavior and then

deny them the tools needed to keep an eye out for that behavior."

The Case Against Workplace Monitoring

Consider this scenario: It's lunch hour. An employee writes a note to her boyfriend. She

puts it in an envelope, affixes her own stamp, and drops it in the basket where outgoing
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mail is collected. Does the fact that the pencil and paper she used belong to her employer

give her boss the right to open and read this letter?

Although most people would answer no, that's just the argument employers are making to

defend monitoring e-mail, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center's

Sobel: Employers claim that because they own the computer, they have the right to read

the e-mail it produces. The situation is complicated by the fact that work and personal life

are not as clearly delineated as they once were, due, in part, to the very technologies that

are being monitored. Employees may telecommute, doing much of their business through

e-mail and the Net. Often, they work a good deal more than 40 hours a week. If they take

a moment to send a message to Aunt Margaret in Saskatoon, do they not have a right to

expect their e-mail will be confidential?

"Most people don't work 8 to 5," says Anthony Pozos, senior vice president for human

resources and corporate services at Amdahl Corp. "We pay people to do a job; we don't

really pay by time increment. Employees probably do use our e-mail or Web access for

personal matters; it's analogous to using the telephone. People do sometimes need to do

personal things on the job, but as long as it doesn't interfere with work, that should be


Another ethical consideration in the debate is fairness. Usually, it's not corporate higher-

ups who are subject to monitoring, but line workers. That's particularly true when it

comes to key-stroke monitoring, a form of electronic surveillance that measures the speed

of data entry. According to an article in Public Personnel Management, "The majority of

employees being electronically monitored are women in low-paying clerical positions."

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Then there's Parent's question about whether the invasion of privacy (represented by

monitoring) is the only or the least offensive means of obtaining the information

employers seek. In a survey conducted by PC World, slightly more than half of the

executives interviewed were opposed to monitoring employees' Internet use. Scott

Paddock, manager of PC Brokers, told the magazine, "First, I trust my employees; that's

why they work for me. If there were to be any problems with an employee, those

problems would present themselves without the need for me to get involved in cloak-and-

dagger shenanigans. And second, if I spent time monitoring their Web usage, I would be

just as guilty of wasting time as my behavior implies they are."

Trust is often mentioned by opponents of monitoring as a major ethical issue. As Rita C.

Manning writes in the Journal of Business Ethics, "When we look at the workplaces in

which surveillance is common, we see communities in trouble. What is missing in these

communities is trust."

If, Manning continues, employers create trust, employee behavior "will conform to

certain norms, not as a result of being watched, but as a result of the care and respect

which are part of the communal fabric."

Some Possibilities for Common Ground

It is possible to moot many of these ethical issues by arguing that monitoring all comes

down to a question of contract. That is the view of David Friedman, an economist and

professor at SCU's School of Law.

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"There isn't an agreement that is morally right for everybody. The important thing is what

the parties agree to," he says. "If the employer gives a promise of privacy, then that

should be respected." If, on the other hand, the employer reserves the right to read e-mail

or monitor Web browsing, the worker can either accept those terms or look elsewhere for

employment, Friedman continues.

Friedman's argument doesn't address the problems of lower-income workers who may not

have a choice about whether to accept a job or, if they do, may be choosing between

entry-level positions where monitoring is a feature of the work environment.

But he does point to an area where some common ground may exist between opponents

and proponents of monitoring. Most parties to the debate agree that companies should

have clear policies on electronic surveillance and that these should be effectively

communicated to employees.

A recent study by International Data Corp. suggests that such clarity does not currently

prevail. A survey of employees at 110 businesses showed that 45 percent thought their

company had no policy on e-mail at all. Most of those who did know the company policy

had either learned it by word of mouth or were directly involved in writing it.

Spelling out company policy "is our bottom line," says Sobel. "We would like to see an

outright prohibition on e-mail monitoring in the workplace, but, at the very least, there

needs to be notice to employees if that's the policy."

Pozos believes that involving employees in the creation of a monitoring policy is also a

way to find common ground. By bringing employees and managers together to develop
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principles and guidelines for electronic mail, Amdahl was able to create a policy that was

acceptable to both sides, Pozos says.

In any case, employers who reserve the right to monitor should attend to the

considerations Parent proposes, ensuring at least that the monitoring serves a legitimate

purpose and follows clear procedures to protect a worker's personal life from unnecessary

prying, either by LittleBrother or by Big Brother.

Commentary: The privacy concerns are starting to make headlines as more and more

individuals actually realize how little privacy we all have. The fact that most workers did

not know of the policy around checking email and Internet usage is alarming. The best

thing any company or employee can do is making sure that everyone knows what the

rules are. I am from the generation that just assumes that everyone is monitoring your

usage at school or at work if you are using one of their computers. The smartphone and

tablets do allow an individual more privacy by not allowing the need to use one of the

computers at work/school. I do know that I would leave a trail of what websites I did

visit, but there is also ways to go around that. The privacy that we all used to have in the

work place and at school are all gone. As long as we are told what is and is not searched,

we must just assume that it will all be searched unless we use our own equipment.

Case Study 5 - Should Executives be Allowed to be on Social Media

By: Patrick Coutermarsh

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, May 6, 2014. Santa Clara University.
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Friday night, recently hired (and now fired) PayPal director of strategy sent out a

series of both odd and inflammatory tweets. The messages, by Rakesh Agrawal, read

more like drunken ramblings and included derogatory remarks toward specific executives

of PayPal. The company responded on Twitter: Rakesh Agrawal is no longer with the

company. Treat everyone with respect. No excuses. PayPal has zero tolerance. As the

social media craze continues, companies are increasingly asking their executives to

cultivate an online presence, but they are very sensitive to the kind of presence. While

there are a number of benefits for companies letting customers put a face to the

company, showing a commitment to users, and cheap advertising the Agrawal v.

PayPal debacle demonstrates how the process can go awry. As executives craft their

personal brands, they do so with the name of the company in their taglines and bios.

Are the risks too great to ask an executive to blog and tweet with his or her corporate

identity? On the other hand, can a company impose restrictions on what an employee

says online?

Kirk: Companies seem to want it both ways. They want the credibility of an executive

interacting online as an individual, but also want to control the positions and image they

present. Clearly a company cannot afford to have employees criticize customers or other

shareholders, but its on them to call it like it is: its not free speech; its corporate PR.

With that as the starting point, companies can then come to an agreement with employees

who enter the social media sphere on behalf of the company.

Patrick: The line between professional and social life is increasingly disappearing:

does listing where you work on a profile mean you are continually representing the
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company in an official capacity? I agree with Kirk when applied to employees who are

online at the companys request, but things get more interesting when their efforts are

unpromptedor better yet, when a disgruntled former employee takes to social media.

Then again, an interesting byproduct of social media is that anyone can create a platform

to voice their thoughts: an important balance to the power differential between employees

and employer.

Commentary: This case study spoke to me due to the nature of where social media is in

our daily lives. Most individuals check their social media multiple times a day, if not

hourly. With this feeling of being so connected to a digital world, the ethical dilemma

arises when individuals are held accountable for personal views that they may have on

their personal social media accounts. More companies want the free publicity of their

worker on social media. If they are giving free publicity to their employer, then should

they be compensated? Should each company just hire a department to run the social

media content/accounts of very public executives?

Case Study 6 - To Read--or Not To Read--the Comments

By: Irina Raicu

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, March 1, 2014. Santa Clara University.

When you read online, do you read the comments? Over the last few years, a "Don't Read

the Comments" movement has swept the Internet. (@AvoidComments, a Twitter bot

launched in late 2012, which tweets out daily reminders not to read comments, once
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boasted more than 33,000 followers including prominent journalists, academics, and


Many Internet users have come to feel that online comments are often not thoughtful

responses but angry, simplistic, hate-filled tirades, or personal attacks against authors or

other commenters. As a resultas Scientific American blogger Krystal D'Costa notes

"many readers ... routinely skip the comments, particularly for material that touches

upon controversial topics. When they do read the comments, their response is typically

some variation of 'I read the comments. I shouldn't have read the comments. Why did I

read the comments ?!'"

In March 2014, Jeff Atwood (a blogger, software developer, and co-founder of the Stack

Exchange network) wrote a response to this movement: "Please Read the Comments."

While acknowledging that online comments can be awful, Atwood argues that the

appropriate response is not to stop reading the comments, but for the community to

moderate them; he writes, "if you are unwilling to moderate your online community, you

don't deserve to have an online community." He links to a post by another well-known

blogger, Anil Dash, who argues that website operators have a moral obligation to

moderate comments on their site; Dash adds, "if you don't, you're making the web, and

the world, a worse place. And it's your fault."

Recognizing, however, that comment moderation is difficult and costly, Atwood has

developed a software-based solution that allows a community of commenters to moderate

itself. As he describes it, "Civilization begins with software that actively works to help
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you create safe environments for having reasonable conversations with other human

beings. On the Internet, even!"

However, even with the help of such software, some members of the online community

would still have to read all the comments, as part of the process through which those

comments would get sorted and prioritized. And while some people argue that words

can't really be harmful, others disagree. For example, Caroline Criado-Perez, a feminist

blogger, points out the misogyny prevalent in many comments sectionsand though she

also challenges women to do more than just stop reading comments, she acknowledges

that the reading has a cost, too:

I see the sense in 'Avoid the Comments,' I really do. Who has the mental and emotional

capacity to take on the bilious internet herd? The times I have 'waded in', I am routinely

left with that dead feeling in my stomach. I feel hopeless and exhausted, and reluctant

to ever go back. ... [T]he daily dose of internet bile, and the daily reminder that there are

big signs hung over large swathes of the internet saying 'Women Keep Out' does nothing

to help this.

Confronted by similarly demeaning personal attacks in online comments, members of

other groups feel the same way. In addition, in some contexts, uncivil comments may

cause a different kind of harm. In September 2013, for example, the online content

director of the magazine Popular Science announced,

Comments can be bad for science. That's why, here at, we're shutting

them off. It wasn't a decision we made lightly. As the news arm of a 141-year-old science
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and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as

we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and

spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter.

She went on to cite a study showing that "uncivil comments not only polarized readers,

but they often changed a participant's interpretation of the news story itself. ... Simply

including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study

participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they'd

previously thought."

Despite such decisions, Atwood remains convinced that comments overall do more good

than harm and "reliably produce crowdsourced knowledge in aggregate." Through his

new "Discourse" software, he hopes to alleviate the problem that led to the "don't read the

comments" meme. For now, tools like "Discourse" are not the norm in online



1) Do we have an obligation to readand help moderatethe comments? This might be

described as a question of Everyday Ethics:

2) Do you comment on articles or blogs that you read? Why, or why not?

3) Do website operators have a moral obligation to moderate comments on their sites?

Why? Do bloggers have the same obligation? Why?

4) Would disabling comments be preferable to enabling comments but not reading them?
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5) Are there particular contexts in which the effects of uncivil comments may be

particularly harmful? If so, which, and what might the effects be?

"Don't read the comments! (Why do we read the online comments when we know they'll
be bad?)":

"Please Read the Comments":

"Don't Read the Comments? Why the Hell Shouldn't I?":

"Why We're Shutting Off Our Comments":


Irina Raicu is the Internet ethics director at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

Commentary: The anonymity of the Internet has allowed many individuals to be trolls.

These are individuals that go online just to stir up trouble. They might say mean and

hurtful things to cause trouble. If employees make harsh remarks on a post of a fellow

employee, would this considered harassment? It would without a doubt, harm the

relationship between the co-workers. However, at point would a manger need to

intervene? Would that manger need to step in and mediate a conversation between the

co-workers? As our world becomes more digital and social media is more present, these

are questions leaders of today have to deal with that past leaders did not have to.


I chose to interview two District Mangers for Starbucks Coffee. The District

Manager role is my next level boss. This is also the next position that I would be
Professional Ethical Analysis Paper 26

promoted to. I chose my own District Manager Katie Burkey. She has worked for the

company for over 8 years. She has been a District Manager for over 3 years. The other

District Manager I picked was Sarah Snyder. She has been with Starbucks for over 9

year and has been a District Manager for over 4 years. They both used to be Store

Mangers, the same position as I am currently. I conducted both interviews in person.

1. What do think of when I say ethics and integrity?

2. Do you think that ethics and integrity expectations change depending on position,

such as a barista (lowest level worker) and a store manger or district manager?
3. What are your feelings around employees and social media?
4. Do you have a social media account, if yes, do you share work things on it?
5. If an employee shares something alarming on social media, do we have the

obligation or duty to talk to the worker about it?

6. What if the employee is wearing their work shirt or apron?
7. Do we have the right to ask an employee to take down a posting on social media

if we feel that it is not appropriate or does not represents the brand well?
8. Would employees commenting on fellow employees posting be considered

harassment if they are aggressive comments?

9. Would you ever ask a Store manager to take down a posting if you thought it was

10. Do you monitor social media for any of your employees?


KB: Katie Burkey

SS: Sarah Snyder

1. What do think of when I say ethics and integrity?

KB: I think of what a person should be like when they are at work.
Professional Ethical Analysis Paper 27

SS: It makes me think of what a partner (employee) does when they are working.

What choices they make around following policy or just acting in a professional

manner and not like they would act like at home

2. Do you think that ethics and integrity expectations change depending on position,

such as a barista (lowest level worker) and a store manger or district manager?

KB: I want to say no, but I really think there is a difference. We expect you guys

(Store Mangers) to be the owners of your store. You are not just an employee,

this is your store. There should maturity. There should be modeling the behavior.

You set the tone and the rest follow

SS: Of course. The average age of the barista is 20-28 years old. Sometimes it

sucks, but we are the parents. We teach them what is ok and not ok to do. I

looked at my parents for examples of how to act not act like a fool. So, yeah,

there is a difference.

3. What are your feelings around employees and social media?

KB: Yeah, that is very tricky. We dont have a right to tell partners (employees)

on what they do on there own time. It is there platform and they can do and share

what they want. But, if they were the company logo, it is different.
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SS: As long as they dont do anything stupid. If they are doing something illegal

and post it, then it makes me question their decision making on two levels. First,

why would they choose to break the law? Second, why put it out there for

everyone to see? What they share is up to them, but dont make it so I get a

phone call and that I need to have a conversation with someone over a Facebook

post. Just need people to use some common sense.

4. Do you have a social media account, if yes, do you share work things on it?

KB: I used to have an Instagram. You know that. But, I just truned it off. It was

the first thing I checked when I woke up and didnt like that feeling. But, I did

share work things on it.

SS: Yeah. I have an Instagram and a Facebook. I do use it for certain hashtags

for work. It is a great way to connect with a lot of my younger partners in our

district. We use it as a way to voice and share the great things that we are doing

because we are proud to be a partner (employee).

5. If an employee shares something alarming on social media, do we have the

obligation or duty to talk to the worker about it?

Professional Ethical Analysis Paper 29

KB: I would be careful. What they post is public, but it is an opinon. They can

choose what they want to share, but they will also be held accountable if they

make a wrong choice. My on Wyatt gets spanked if he hits his brother. Actions

have consequences.

SS: Of course. They are our employee. If they are crying out for help, then we

need to make sure they are ok. They are also young. They might not understand

that you dont need to share everything that is going on. They will learn that you

cant take back certain things they post or say online. There is no delete, the

Internet never forgets.

6. What if the employee is wearing their work shirt or apron?

KB: As long as it is appropriate. As long as they represent the brand well. If

they are just voicing an opinion, I would hope they would take off the apron or

logo. If they have become a spokesperson for the company to the many

followers, then they have put themselves in a position of responsibility. As long

as only those few friends see it, it doesnt matter. If I get another phone call, then

I have to step in because someone in corporate saw it and felt it wasnt


SS: Then they need to make sure they dont do anything dumb. They have a

responsibility the moment they choose to share something about the company.
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They sign an agreement when they are hired. I would hope they have all learned

to make sure they share good things and not dump or borderline bad things.

Common sense. Just use common sense. Would I want my mom or grandma to

see this?

7. Do we have the right to ask an employee to take down a posting on social media

if we feel that it is not appropriate or does not represents the brand well?

KB: Yes. I have had to ask individuals to take things down. It is easier if they

understand why I was asking. Certain partners (employees) dont get it and I ask

the multiple times. They see me and automatically just say, I did it again?. It is

the younger ones that seem to have that problem. They are so used to sharing

what cereal they ate for breakfast.

SS: What did Katie answer? No, tell me. Sorry, but yeah. All of the district

managers get a few emails about an inappropriate post. We have to give the

information to you and try and have the partner (employee) learn not to post

things with the company logo on it. There may or may not have been a few

instances where someone has lost a job. Did Katie talk about that? Never mind.

8. Would employees commenting on fellow employees posting be considered

harassment if they are aggressive comments?

Professional Ethical Analysis Paper 31

KB: Nice question. Depends. It is the gray area. Black and white is policy. The

gray area is all the human emotions and not so easy stuff. It depends if it affected

the working relationship. We all know it will effect the working relationship.

SS: It all depends. If it is a posting with mostly all Starbucks peoepl, then you

need to know to make sure and watch what you say. The moment you choose to

tag the rest of the partners (employees), then you know you are not in an open


Side question What if it is a normal post and one partner (employee) is

not nice to another one?

Than they need to deal with it. If they choose to be friends, then I hope they

choose to be nice to each other. Very rarely I have had to get involved because

two people got angry over what one of them said.

9. Would you ever ask a Store manager to take down a posting if you thought it was


KB: Yes. I would hope we have trust that I am looking out for your best interest.

I would also hope that you know I am coming from a positive place. Most of the

mangers do know what is appropriate and not. I also feel that they are all older

and know better. I think that most of the managers want to keep moving up in the
Professional Ethical Analysis Paper 32

company. Employers look at social media. I know I look at potential Store

mangers and see what they post. I want to get to know what they think is ok to


SS: I would ask. It would really have to be bad for me to ask. I have asked a few

to have one of the peers (other store mangers) take a look and see what they

thought. I am also a bit more sly. I tend to ask one of the other mangers to have

that conversation. That way, the Store manager can save face.

10. Do you monitor social media for any of your employees?

KB: No. I dont spend my time looking for stuff. I have too much to do. It is

easy to get lost in social media which is why I turned mine off. I only use it to do

some research of someone who is trying to get hired as a Store Manger or

Assistant Store Manger. Like I said, it gives me chance to see what they are

willing to share. But, no, I dont actively spend time looking at my employees

social media.

SS: Monitor. I dont think I do. If it comes up on my feed, then I look. I dont

spend the time to look for people specifically. I will use it to check out someone

who I might be interviewing. It is more common to do that now. Everyone

knows you clean up your Facebook before an interview.

Professional Ethical Analysis Paper 33


Being a leader in this era of social media brings certain changes that were not

there in previous generations. The lines between work relationships and social media are

blurred more and more everyday. I recently had a situation that had me in an ethical

dilemma. I had an employee make a post dancing in my store, while wearing the

company logo, off the clock, but dancing to a song that did have some profanity. This

was posted to a group page of fellow employees in the city that we all work that is used

to cover shifts. The posting was received with mixed reviews. Since the post was

originally posted onto the employees personal page and then uploaded to the employee

group page, it had a mix of employees and non-employees. I will be sharing with you the

thought process that I had to use to guide me through the ethics around asking the

employee to take down the post and if the employee should be held accountable.

The first case study talked about accountability for a store manger. The donors

daughter is the boss of the kids who are volunteering. Even though the college kids are

volunteers, they still represent the organization that they are volunteering for. The ethical

dilemma here is if the person in charge should confront the volunteers. The manger has a

responsibility for how those college kids are representing the organization/candidate.

The second and third case studies talk about the middle managers. Most

organizations are very large. They follow the classic top-down flow. The CEO is at top

and there are many layers of managers. At the very bottom, you have the low-level

employee. Most of the CEOs will not ever have direct contact with the lowest level

employee. This means that it is up to the middle managers to interpret what it ethical and

appropriate. The middle mangers will interpret the vision and the implantation of plans
Professional Ethical Analysis Paper 34

and objectives to the lowest level worker. When we take a look at Wall Street and the

banking industry, it is the managers that dictated what ethics looked like. This also was

prevalent in the third case study that talked about working off the clock. The middle

manger is the one who determines what is ethical. The manger from the third case study

can easily look the other way and not rock the boat.

The fourth case study talks about the privacy in the work place. This has come to

be a major issue in present day. The privacy that an individual has at the work has

dramatically been altered with the introduction of tools that monitor keystrokes and can

search email. This also brings a dilemma if an employee should be using company

computers for personal reasons. I have an understanding that company hardware will

always be monitored. I do think that the work place should have very open dialogue

about the current practice of monitoring email and computer activity. This would allow

the employee to make an informed decision around whether to use company equipment

or just bring a tablet from home to do anything private.

The fifth case study revolves around executives and social media. Many

companies are encouraging their executives to have a presence on social media. This

gives the company access to free publicity. The moral dilemma is if an employee can be

held accountable for a posting they share that might be inappropriate in their employers

view. This leads me to think that if employers want to present a certain image, then they

should just manage the profile on social media. If an employee does share something

inappropriate on social media, then it should be addressed with that employee when it

might hurt the image of the employer. This is just part of the new era that we live in.
Professional Ethical Analysis Paper 35

The last case study revolves around reading the comments on the Internet. The

comments have a lot of hurtful things. The study showed that there is a movement

around not reading the comments. In the situation that occurred at my work, I found that

there were some employees from other stores that had made harsh comments. There was

also some that defended the employees in the video by making harsh comments to other

employees. This caused a dilemma because I know had fellow employees talking to each

other on social media in an inappropriate tone. Even though this was a group of

employees from different stores, it still showed how mean individuals can be when

leaving comments.

The interviews did show me that there are some similarities around the view of

ethics and leadership. Both Katie and Sarah shared very similar views. I also agreed for

the most part on the balance of holding employees accountable. I did not share with them

the video that my employee had made or shared. I also do not know if they were told or

knew about the video before I interviewed them. I made the choice of not to share since I

dealt with the situation myself. Considering that a District Manger is my next role that I

am pursuing actively, it was nice to see that I shared similar outlooks around social media

and ethics.

In the end, I decided to have a conversation with my employee about the video. I

understood that it was his personal space and he had made a choice to post something.

As we talked, the conversation revolved around branding and imaging of Starbucks

Coffee. I also brought up the comments that individuals had left either defending or

condemning the video. He still did not really understand why there was something

wrong, because in his eyes, there was nothing wrong. As we kept talking about the video,
Professional Ethical Analysis Paper 36

I asked him if the comments that were left were comments that would be considered

appropriate if two employees were talking at work to each other. He agreed that they

were not. We talked about the fact that his video had employees talking aggressively

about it. This is what finally caused him to view the video in a negative manner. I shard

that I thought the video was not inappropriate, just that it had caused a group of

employees to start an inappropriate discussion. I also shared that if the video had not

been posted onto the work group site, then it wouldnt matter. The current situation is

that the video was causing conflict among employees. He took down the video. I

thanked him for doing that. I understand that he made the video on his own device and

off the clock. The video was in no way endorsed by Starbucks and you can tell it was

just employees goofing off and having fun. I did not give any kind of formal write-up to

the employee. I did connect with the other managers and encouragd them to have a

discussion around the mean comments that they posted in response to my employees

video. Some managers did not feel it was within our duties to have those conversations.

In the end, some mangers did and others made the choice not to. Social media has

blurred the line between personal and employee/employer since each generation keeps

sharing more and more. Managing ethical questions around if postings of employees are

appropriate and the privacy around computer/internet monitoring at work will not go

away anytime soon. It will be up to the middle mangers to regulate a lot of what will be

considered appropriate and ethical.

Professional Ethical Analysis Paper 37


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