Do companies care about the intent of one’s actions, or just the results? While we think that our intentions should matter, if an unethical action takes place, do we really care why?
Let me know what you would do in the following dilemma:
Alternative #1 –
You are taking care of a chatty 3-year old. While strolling past a market your companion sees her favorite food, a banana, in the window of the market. Your friend needs to have a banana…NOW. Unfortunately you have no cash on you, having left your wallet in the car 6 blocks back. The child is now making quite a scene. Would you go into the store and take a banana without paying for it? If so, how would you justify it?
Alternative #2 –
Your are shopping with your 3-year old companion inside the market. She is in the shopping cart. As you pass through the fruits and vegetable section you put a bunch of bananas in the cart. She of course wants one now. You give her a banana to eat while you shop, fully intending to tell the cashier at check-out that your child ate a banana. However, you are understandably distracted during the check-out process and only after getting the groceries in the car and “Precious” into her car seat do you realize that you didn’t mention, or pay for the banana. Do you go back into the store and pay for the now eaten banana? If not, how do you justify it?
The intent of the actions in the two alternatives seem quite different. One seems like shop lifting and the other seems like just another day of parenting. Yet the results are the same: the store is left with one unaccounted for banana.
An ethics issue? In the next post we’ll look at the ramifications inside a company for similar decisions.