This case study analyzes the experiences of Courtland Kelley at General Motors (GM). Courtland Kelley a third generation GM worker put his job on the line by pushing the GM managers and executives to fully respond to the safety issues found while working as a safety inspector at the company. Kelley along with his supervisor Bill McAleer first discovered the issues while auditing GM cars at rail yards across the country, a spot check of vehicles before the cars were cleared to be delivered to the dealers. McAleer was taken off the audit as a result, who subsequently sued the company seeking whistle-blower protection. The case was eventually dismissed by a judge in favor of ...view middle of the document...
Ferrell’s & Gresham’s Contingency Framework is a model which is used as a guideline for the development of theory of ethical/unethical actions in organizational environments. According to this framework ethical/unethical decisions are controlled/moderated by three independent variables, which are individual factors, significant others in an organizational setting, and opportunity for action. According to Ferrell & Gresham the three variables can be further categorized into individual and organizational contingencies. Individual factors like attitudes, knowledge, values, and intentions are assumed to be interacting with organizational factors, such as significant others and opportunity factors to influence an individual involved in an ethical/unethical dilemma. In the following paragraphs we will analyze how these individual as well as organizational factors interplayed in Courtland Kelley’s situation at GM.
Based on the individual factor construct of the framework it is assumed that knowingly or unknowingly an individual may use a set of philosophical assumption as a basis for making ethical decisions. The philosophical assumptions about ethics are divided into two basic types – teleological and deontological (Beauchamp and Bowie 1979). We can assume that Courtland Kelley exhibited teleological behavior where he was not worried about his personal well-being but rather was more concerned with the betterment of the society in general. Kelley’s attitude was in line with teleological philosophy which deals with the moral worth of behavior determined totally by the consequences of the behavior. Another form of teleological philosophy is called Utilitarianism which considers it unethical to engage in an act which leads to personal gain at the expense of the society in general. Had Kelley not raised his concerns and sued GM there would have been greater harm to the society in the shape of more customers getting killed in car crashes due to the known faults in GM automobiles. Kelley had avoided an unethical decision by following the Utilitarianism or Teleological philosophy.
Organizational factors deal with the internal pressures which seem to be a major predictor of ethical and unethical behavior. Since majority of the organizations are profit oriented, anything that takes away from profits including, ethical behavior, is looked upon as a hindrance towards upward mobility, which forces individuals to take unethical decisions. This applies to the situation where Kelly clashed with a product investigator named C.J. Maritn who thought that Kelly was over aggressive in his approach to solve the problem. According to Kelly, Martin was more concerned about the cost of recalling the vehicles which directly takes away from profits. Courtland Kelley however avoided such organizational pressure and continued his efforts to highlight the problems and took the issues public.
Significant others variable deal with the learning process where...