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Solving an Ethical Dilemma Using the SAD Formula

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Tara Chernoff

on 21 March 2014

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Transcript of Solving an Ethical Dilemma Using the SAD Formula

West Coast Agency, as the moral agent, must decide how to respond to Microsoft by weighing multiple, and competing loyalties against each other.

Since Microsoft and Adobe are not competing clients, the context of the situation may involve good intentions rather than corporate espionage. Microsoft has put us in a situation where we are being asked to compromise our values. Adobe gave us new product information with the expectation that we would not disclose it. However, Microsoft has the expectation that we have both a business and personal relationship that may entitle them to special treatment.

In an effort to maintain our professional integrity, we need to maintain trust with potential clients so we can grow our business. The consequences of not providing the information to Microsoft may signal that we do not value our relationship with them. Alternatively, if we give Microsoft what they want, and the information gets leaked to a direct competitor for Adobe, we may cause harm to Adobe's business, and our company could be open to legal action.
principles & values
ethical dilemma
Our ethical dilemma pits many personal and professional loyalties against each other. First, as practitioners of advertising and media, we must be loyal to our financial supporters who pay the bills and make it possible to compete in the marketplace. They include, among others, advertisers, clients, individual subscribers, and other benefactors. In our situation, Microsoft is a significant financial supporter.

Second, we also must consider our loyalty to our friends. In this scenario, the person asking for the confidential information is a close friend. It is important to think about our personal and professional boundaries. What kind of investment do we have in the personal relationship and what ramifications will there be personally and professionally if we don’t pass on the information?

Third, we must consider loyalty to potential clients. Although West Coast Agency didn't win the contract, Adobe trusted us with confidential information. Sharing their confidential information with a third party without Adobe's knowledge, would be very disloyal.

In some cases the moral duty to society must override corporate gain. Our task is to balance our financial success between social responsibility, because, as Day states our ethical judgements must take into account all parties, including ourselves to which we have allegiance.
COMM 460: Communication Ethics
Assignment 2
Team 1:
Lexie Angelo, Tara Chernoff, Kristy Fallon
Dena Jackson, Dawn Michelle Russell

When pitching new clients, we want to build relationships with them. We need to establish their trust. A potential new client trusts us with their business plan to make an effective presentation in order to win their business. So to be a respected company within our industry, we need to respect information companies give us - not disclose that information to others.
personal ethics
Professional Integrity
Law and Liability
Professional Standards
Personal Ethics
As the moral agent and decision maker, West Coast Agency decides to take Aristotle's golden mean approach:
Inform Microsoft that we respect and appreciate their business and as such we would not release the same information if we were approached by another client about sharing their company’s information so we cannot release the business plan to them.

However, we do believe in providing opportunities for our clients to further their business interests and grow so we will approach Adobe and see if we can connect you with them to see how you could work together and in the process share information as a way to grow and support each other as potential partners for the future. This would put the next step back into the hands of Microsoft about whether they would be willing to share the same kind of information should we approach Adobe

Approach Adobe and share how Microsoft is interested in sharing information and working together to advance in the sector and see if we can set up a meeting.

These actions would keep the integrity of West Coast Agency intact while still respecting the relationship with Microsoft. Approaching this situation as an opportunity to link two clients together that could benefit from a relationship seems like a way to keep both relationships intact without compromising our values.

solving an ethical dilemma using the sad formula
Do we, as a professional organization, do business based on assumption?

This analysis is based on an assumption that Adobe doesn’t want us to disclose confidential information. This may not actually be the case. It may be a desired outcome for Adobe to develop a partnership with Microsoft. Our ethical dilemma stems from not being prepared for the possibility for these situations to occur. It would be important for future dealings that disclosure be discussed.
In this analytics phase, ask yourself, "what if I was Adobe?"
"What if I was Adobe?"
Should West Coast Agency share details about Adobe's software and business plan with Bill Gates from Microsoft?
According to Day, there are at least four things to consider when analyzing an ethical dilemma.
1. Weigh competing principles and values.
2. Consider external factors.
3. Examine duties to various parties.
4. Discuss applicable ethical theories.
law & Liability
While discussing the best course to take, we considered the fact we did not sign a nondisclosure agreement with Adobe. However, instinctively, we agree with Day that not all issues can be, or should be legally codified. Legal obligations are based on moral codes. And while our ethical system may not provide waivers, our best course of action is to respect and protect the best interests of both clients.

As a business owner, we must consider - is this good for our business? It is our responsibility to protect our brand and reputation. If we betray the trust of potential clients, we will not be in business for very long. If we disclose sensitive information and our existing client somehow gives that information to another competitor, we could be liable, and open to legal action.
None of these things can result in legal litigation as there was no disclosure agreement signed, but how will you sleep at night and how will you feel attending the next technology conference with your buddy Microsoft and Adobe walks past. Can you feel the heat rise in your face?

We could not justify the benefit of what we alone could gain with disclosing Adobe’s trade secrets to Microsoft. And we appreciate the aspect of the Utilitarian model that protects the greater number of our client’s interests.

West Coast Agency has a good relationship with both Microsoft and Adobe. Future pitches with Adobe could be compromised if we disclose confidential information without their permission. Conversely we want Microsoft to know we will act with integrity with their confidential information.
What should I do?
"understanding a specific moral expectation, and upgrading our moral code of trust between a client promotes a dynamic moral ecology” ~ Louis Day
Choice #1
A deontologist would follow a rule that could be universally applied regardless of the consequences of their actions.

The universal rule that could be applied here, is "never break a promise", or more specifically, "never break a promise of confidentiality."

If we apply this to our situation, we would not hand over the information to Microsoft, because we would believe that by doing so, we'd be failing our moral obligation to honor our promise of confidentiality.

choice #2
A consequentialist would consider the consequences, or the benefits and harms for the individuals or groups affected by this decision.

If we decide to share Adobe's confidential information with Microsoft, Adobe is put in harms way. Although Microsoft is not a direct competitor, they may share the information with someone who is.

Whether we share the information or not, West Coast Agency is also likely to be harmed. If we share the information we risk damaging our reputation and the respect of our professional peers. If we don't share the information we risk losing a valuable client and damaging a friendship.
choice #3
If we apply Aristotle's golden mean to this situation, we would apply a moderate solution; somewhere between the extreme positions of breaking our confidentiality agreement with Adobe and handing over the information to Microsoft, or refusing to hand over the information to our friend and client Bill Gates.
After much debate, we decided to ...
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