Home > Management, Market Solutions > Raiding the supply cabinet

Raiding the supply cabinet

I wrote this just now, for a class; Organizational Business Management at UALR. The chapter is on ethics and social responsibility. The book lays a heavy hand against corporations and has a distinct Left tinge. That is to be expected though.The question I had to answer were:

1. Is is stealing to take office supplies from your workplace? Also use examples of ethical rules, standards, and/or approaches from Chapter 4 to support your position.

2. At what point does employee theft become grounds for firing? (Again state your position and use points from the Chapter to support your point of view.)

1. When you take any property that you haven’t either paid for or earned in some way, it is stealing. It is not only illegal but also unethical. It’s not right for a CEO or manager to steal company money or misuse company property. The same rule, Justice Rule, applies to employees, which are also stakeholders in the company. It’s only fair that everyone in a company is held to the same standards and values, no matter what position they hold in a company. When an employee goes to the supply cabinet, they should think about the Practical Rule. Would they be comfortable telling their children, spouse or pastor what they are doing? If any of those answers are no, then the behavior is unethical and they should not engage in it.
Employees and Management have to have trust in order to work productively. When either a manager or employee violates that trust, the company suffers. When the company suffers, all the stakeholders suffer as well. An employee might think a simple box of pens is not a “big deal.” When you aggregate all the boxes of pens, pencils and office supplies, they add up to huge sums of money, over $17 billion. How many jobs could that have saved in rough economic times? Public sentiment looks down on companies that outsource to reduce costs, but why is there no public outcry over employee shrinkage. Shrinkage waste resources that could have gone to an employee’s raise or to hire more employees. The next time someone raids the office supply cabinet, they need to think about opportunity cost, they might be laying off an employee with a family to feed, because they are too lazy to go to Staples.

2. I think a company or organization needs to have a policy in place that deals with employee theft. It would depend on each company and their core values. If I were in charge of such a policy, it would be simple. Employees get one warning, after that theft is grounds for immediate dismissal. People will copy unethical behavior, especially if they don’t think there is any consequence to their action. If theft is left unpunished, more and more employees will engage in it, and company resources will be squandered. Employees need to think of the unintended consequences of their actions. A pen here and a stapler there, pretty soon the company has to downsize to stay profitable. Would that employee like to pick which of their co-workers has to lose their job because of their selfish need? It’s much more equitable to make the employees that are stealing pay for their actions.
Once employees see that there is a consequence to their actions, they will act in a more ethical manner. I’m a firm believer that the only reason people act unethically, is because the opportunity cost is so low. Once they realize that the cost of such behavior is high, unemployment, they will act in a way to reduce their own costs; in this case, going to Staples to buy their pens.

There was also a blurb on Napster. That got me thinking about property right. You had a free product which was in demand. Any simple economic analysis would tell you that it would be overused. As a result, music companies went after file traders with a vengeance. What is really interesting is how the market reacted. Apple started iTune. Now I’m not a big Apple fan, even though I have a iphone. I’d have an Android phone if AT&T would get their shit together, but I digress. Apple did a wonderful thing, something that kind of defies elementary economics (not really). They took a product that was free and charged for it…and made a hell of a lot of money doing it. How did they do it? The chapter on ethics would have you think it’s because people want to act ethically. I think that is partially true, people do want to act ethically when they can. In this case, the opportunity cost of downloading for free is/was a huge fine from the courts for IP infringement. What Apple did, was instill a defined property right regiment in a free for all market, and the people chose to do the “right” thing. It’s facinating. That is the kind of work that won Elinor Ostrom a Nobel Prize this last year.

That is an example of how the market can really work in the absence of Government. Order will emerge from chaos. It seems to defy the Law of Entropy in a way. Human beings are wonderful things.

  1. yttik
    January 30, 2010 at 09:40

    I like that, Zombie.

    I’m sometimes amazed by the number of things that are “free” that somebody had the ingenuity to market, and we avail ourselves of these products. Bottled water, for example, when I was growing up water was free and it came out of the tap. I would have laughed at the thought of selling water. LOL, ah, but that was before we had city water that was unpredictable and undesirable. Now we have purified water delivered, people take water bottles to every event, and there’s a whole new market in environmentally sound and very expensive stainless steel water bottles. Of course my state has now decided it wants in on the action so we’re about to pass a water bottle tax.

    One thing that drives bottled water sales is an innate distrust of government. People try to argue this, but it’s true. Most city water systems are watched over by governments and people are left feeling uncertain about the quality and safety, and not without precedent, you get a few screw ups and orders to boil your city water and your trust level goes down. People feel safer purchasing purified water from a private company. In theory a private company must provide a good product or they’ll lose business, so consumers feel as if they have a say in the matter. But a government service is mandatory, you cannot take your business elsewhere and if they provide crappy service there is no recourse or accountability. Deep down people know that there is nothing to protect them but a government’s good intentions and that does not instill trust.

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