Ethical Business Decision Making

Web porn at Work

Al Smetana, the founding president of Rayburn Unlimited, a medium-sized Midwestern manufacturing company is proud of the way the company has expanded and the organizational culture he has nurtured based on honesty, integrity, and intrinsic value of each individual. Thus, when the president became aware that one employee had tapped into the computer system and accessed other employees’ emails, it was only right for him to fire him. As he left, he unveiled a secret about Craig Lindley on his computer usage. Al Smetana gently questioned Craig who admitted being addicted to pornography on the web and using the office computer to view porn at work.  However, after Craig confessed to his habit, Al Smetana is confused about the necessary steps he should take bearing in mind that Craig is ashamed of his habit to talk to his wife or anybody else. Consistently, this raises several questions.

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Is Craig Behavior an underlying psychological problem and should Al fire him?

For several years, researchers limited addiction to physical and mental dependency characterized by substance use that caused various disorders. However, in recent studies, the American Psychiatric Association acknowledged that both substance use disorders and behavioral addiction affected the human brain in a similar way (Love, Laier, & Brand, 2015). Scientists who support an addiction to pornography as a psychological disorder assert that, it is a behavioral addiction that follows the same neurological motivation and reward-seeking trend in the brain. In simpler terms, the brain is designed to enjoy and seek things that are important for individual happiness and survival purposes. However, when the brain is unable to decipher when a need is fulfilled, then it becomes an addiction. Consequently, a behavior becomes an addiction when the individual loses control over it and continues with the behavior despite knowing about its adverse consequences. In the case of Craig, although it is not clear whether he violated a company policy, it is clear from his reaction that he knew that what he was doing was not right. Additionally, as with most addiction disorders, the most appropriate way to solve the problem is to seek professional help for the individual. Craig has a family and a reputation to maintain; firing has the potential to lead to other health-related issues such as stress-related disorders and loss of his reputation. Shaw (2015) also notes that strict compliance with company procedures may not always ensure fairness. It is important for employers to distinguish between their responsibilities including helping workers when they are in need. Thus, Al Smetana should not fire Craig. Instead, he should help him overcome the problem with personal or even professional counseling and let him go with a warning.

Is Al Justified to Dismiss Craig?

Morally, Craig behavior was wrong, regardless of company policies or lack of them. Therefore based on Craig behavior Al Smetana is justified to terminate Craig employment. If the company has a policy on web pornography at the workplace and Craig helped draft the policy, then the president was justified in dismissing him from work. However, as Shaw notes, termination of employment based on employee morals requires careful consideration as employers have a responsibility to make employment termination as painless as possible.

Is being a valued member with a long service record make any difference?

Ideally, terminating an employee is sometimes the only viable solution to a problem such as gross misconduct. However, despite the reason, when a valued employee leaves an organization, the effect can be significant (Demkin & American Institute of Architects, 2008). This means if the company can prevent a valued employee from leaving a company by letting him or her off with a stern warning, then that is the most viable solution to the problem. In this case, Craig is the associate vice president for human resources, which means he holds a critically significant role in the company. Importantly noted, being Al Smetana’s friend does not give Craig the right to violate the company policy. Thus, being a valued member with a long record of service would make a difference in deciding the fate of Craig and not based on the fact that he is Al’s friend.

Was it right for Al Smetana to ask Craig about his computer usage?

With modern day technology, employers can easily monitor several aspects of their employees’ workplace activities. However, under certain circumstances, employees are protected from a computer and other forms of electronic monitoring by union contracts and employment rights. According to Shaw (2015), privacy is a fundamental right, although corporate behavior and policies sometimes violate this privacy. Al Smetana relied on information from an aggrieved employee to ask Craig about his computer usage. Based on employee right to privacy, Al violated Craig’s right, but for the collective good of the organization, he was justified to question Craig about his computer usage. Furthermore, Al did not use electronic means to monitor Craig without his knowledge; instead, he directly asked him, and Craig would have lied about his behavior.

Was it fair for Al to Treat Craig differently after firing the employee who violated the company’s computer system?

Virtually, the employee who had tapped into the company’s computer system did it to read their email and view the websites they visited. The behavior of the employee violated the privacy of all the employees of the company. First, almost everyone wants to protect and control their personal and intimate information and not make it easily accessible to everyone. Second, people wish to preserve certain thoughts and behavior from the scrutiny and monitoring of strangers. While it is unknown what the employee wanted to do with the information he collected about the employees, it is evident in his outburst that his intentions were not good. On the other hand, Craig is suffering from a psychological problem that can be let off with personal counseling and a stern warning. Besides, after the president questioned Craig, he admitted to his mistake and even showed remorse. Therefore, it would be unfair to treat Craig, the same as the other employee.

Are integrity, honesty, and intrinsic worth of an individual in conflict?

Rayburn Unlimited is committed to upholding its company values on honesty and integrity. Unfortunately, the values support dismissal of Craig from his employment. On the other hand, the intrinsic worth of the individual calls for lenient treatment towards raising the ultimate question what is the way forward. Ideally, as Shaw points out, while it is important to uphold company values, employers have a responsibility to ensure fairness. The company must make the process less painful because firing is likely to trigger psychological and financially devastating problems for employees. In this case, taking the position of Al, the most appropriate step to take is to let Craig off with a stern warning and educate him on his responsibilities towards the company policies.

Business ethics provides the moral guideline to conduct business based on the notion of doing what is right and fair. Most people rely on their background to make the right decisions often relying on their moral and religious backgrounds. However, corporate leaders may feel pressured when making business decisions and may behave unethically when dealing with colleagues. Social responsibility ensures that business observes their role in enhancing the welfare of the society. Nonetheless, it is important to understand that when making an ethical decision about employees, employers or leaders should consider carefully the reasons leading to the decisions and the factors that led the employee to behave in such a manner.


Demkin, J. A., & American Institute of Architects. (2008). The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update. Behavioral Sciences (basel, Switzerland), 5(3), 388-433.

Shaw, W. H. (2015). Business ethics. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

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