Ryan Redgrave was young, inexperienced in industry and naive about industry methods of
operating. He did, however, possess superb qualifications in statistics and in computer
programming and applications. He was hired by XYZ to improve quality control in plastic
Ryan began implementing elements of statistical process control, and steady improvement
in the quality of plastic parts was observed. Ryan noted that one vendor, IMP, a small
company, produced a high-quality raw material that gave a superior part except that
frequently, when color was involved, their batch-to-batch color consistency was not good.
He called this to the attention of IMP's sales representative, Mark, a personable young
man about Ryan's age. Mark asked for Ryan's help in solving the inconsistency problem, and
over dinner one evening Ryan outlined a series of experiments to get to the root cause of
the color consistency.
Mark agreed that IMP would supply the necessary material samples, and Ryan worked late
several nights to conduct the experiments he had devised. As a result of these
experiments, Ryan was able to suggest some formulation changes to Mark to improve the
color consistency of their raw material. To show his gratitude, Mark took Ryan and his
wife to an expensive restaurant for dinner. "This will make up for some of the late
hours you worked trying to solve our mutual quality problem," Mark exclaimed.
The formulation changes Ryan suggested did work and the color consistency of the IMP
material improved markedly. Mark continued to check its performance on frequent sales
calls at XYZ. The friendship between Mark and Ryan grew, with Mark frequently taking Ryan
to lunch. On several of these occasions, Mark urged Ryan to recommend that XYZ buy more of
its plastic from IMP.
Ryan did recommend to his Procurement Department that, because of the improved quality
of the material, XYZ buy more from IMP. A small increase was put into effect, although
Procurement told Ryan that IMP's price was the highest of any of the plastics vendors with
which XYZ dealt.
Identify and discuss any ethical issues this case raises. Has Ryan done anything wrong?
Mark? Since Ryan worked extra hours, without pay, to improve IMP's color consistency is
this an instance of "good works" on his part?
Shortly after IMP was granted a larger order, Mark stopped by Ryan's office at XYZ to
invite him to accompany several other IMP customers on a short ski trip to Colorado.
Although only a beginning skier, the thrill of skiing the Colorado slopes was so appealing
that Ryan accepted the invitation.
XYZ policy prohibited accepting favors from vendors, but this had never been
communicated to Ryan and he saw nothing wrong with accepting the invitation. He did not
know that two members of XYZ's Procurement Department had also been invited on the trip
but declined because of the company's policy.
When Ryan mentioned the ski trip to a fellow employee in Quality Control, he was told
he was violating a company policy. But Ryan decided he had earned the trip, would go
anyway and told his fellow employee to say nothing. Ryan advised his supervisor he was
going to take a couple of days vacation "to catch up on some repairs on the
Ryan enjoyed the skiing trip immensely--especially as its cost was beyond anything he
could have managed on his own budget. Unfortunately, he was not as expert a skier as he
should have been. ON the last day he took a bad fall, strained his shoulder and returned
home with his arm in a sling. At work the following Monday he explained that he had fallen
off a ladder while cleaning ice from the eaves of his house.
Secrets are difficult to keep, even in industrial plants. Word reached Ryan's
supervisor about the ski trip, and he called Ryan in to discuss the policy violation. Ryan
pleaded ignorance of the policy and the supervisor let him off with a verbal reprimand and
the instruction that he contact IMP and repay the cost of the trip.
Ryan telephoned Mark, asked how much the trip cost, and told him why he needed to know.
Mark laughed. "Forget it, Ryan, you earned that trip for what you did in helping us
with our quality. If anyone asks us, we'll tell them you paid for your share. We may need
your help again!" Ryan was greatly relieved because there was no room in his family
budget to repay such a trip.
Identify and discuss the ethical issues in this case. Should Ryan have accepted Mark's
final offer? Why would XYZ have a policy prohibiting free ski trips? Did Ryan's co-worker
have any special responsibility to more aggressively discourage Ryan from taking the trip?
Do you think Ryan's supervisor handled the situation well?