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Posted by:
Jodi O'Callaghan

What would you do? Your weekly ethical dilemma challenge

A small boutique insurance company has been hammered by a slowing economy. Sales are off dramatically, cash flow is dwindling and lines of credit are nearly exhausted. The company is bleeding money. The founder and CEO is trying to ride out the storm, but the situation has deteriorated enough that he must do something to stop the financial haemorrhaging.

The option that would reap the greatest savings for his struggling company is to lay off some of his longest-tenured employees (each of whom contributed to the company’s prosperity in better times) because they cost the most in salary and benefits. But given his company’s precarious finances, he would be in no position to offer these workers any meaningful severance beyond two weeks salary.

What would you do? What ethical considerations would you give to your decision-making? Why? Why not? 

We encourage you to post your answers in the comments so we can create a healthy discussion, with the aim of learning from our peers, becoming aware of differing perspectives and challenging our own biases.

If you would like to submit an ethical dilemma to feature in an upcoming weekly challenge please email: dilemma@thebfo.org.   

Photo by Joshua Davis on Unsplash


Kirsty on Friday, 07 Jun 2019
Here is one perspective to consider. This need not be an all or nothing situation. Unless there are reasons that prevent disclosing the situation to employees (eg regulatory reasons), this could be an opportunity to discuss with his team and work through options together. I have worked in a business where this happened calmly and successfully. For example, they might determine that they can work differently or a while and ride out the situation together eg working fewer days each week on the absolute essentials, for a period of time. Not everybody will be able to afford or want that option but enough might. I consider that having no information or advance warning -- though they are likely to have some sense of the situation -- and no control where they might have been some self-determination is the situation in which employees feel most challenged and disappointed by an employer's choices.

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