Harvard Business School Essay on an Ethical Dilemma
Prompt: Describe an ethical dilemma you experienced firsthand. How did you manage and resolve the situation?
Example of What Not To Do. This is a poor answer to this question.
In April 1995,[company] had been repeatedly contacted by the management team of a factory in [city], who presented their company as a potential [deal] prospect. However, our prior investigations had classified the company as an also-ran, without great potential for improvement. We reasoned that a visit would be a waste of time and served no viable business purpose, but wondered: why not utilize this opportunity to wring industry information out of the factory? Afterwards, we could simply state our lack of interest with no loss on [company]’s part except travel expenses. Looking back, I recognized the dishonesty inherent in my team’s motives, but rationalized that the cover of being interested in the factory was a professional necessity. In any case, no one would be hurt, or so we surmised.
Most of the visit went smoothly; under the guise of interested investors, we toured the factory and interviewed management, laying the groundwork for negotiations that I knew would never occur. The factory manager was extremely responsive in providing answers and was a gracious host, toasting us with eloquent speeches at dinner. Afterwards, as we prepared to return to our hotel to arrange the next day’s travel, he surprised us by announcing a special post-dinner presentation. Following a short car ride down a deserted dirt road, we were brought to a ominous, isolated building and led inside. As we walked through the door, I recall nervously questioning what we were doing there and wondering if the factory had somehow learned of our true disinterested nature.
The first thing I noticed inside the building were the five hundred men, women and children in the room standing and applauding us; we were led to the seats nearest to the stage. Immediately, a group of young girls, perhaps ten years old, shuffled onto the stage and began to chime “song 1” and “song 2” in broken, but perfectly understandable English. The program on the table in front of me detailed a list of art demonstrations, comedy routines, and musical/dance exhibitions which were to be performed by troupes of workers and their families. The two-hour show displayed a great deal of time and effort and was truly one of the most special, and painful, memories from my time in [country].
I remember my ensuing letter of rejection to the factory with a sense of regret. I wish I could say I managed this dilemma well, but I realize that I failed to account for the fact that [country] factories are more social, educational and vocational unit than workplace. By not giving thought to the consequences of our actions, my team had caused wasted effort and dashed hopes. Through this, I have learned a valuable lesson on integrating business and ethics, and have vowed to utilize this insight into all of the decisions I make.