Organizational Research and Theory
One day, shortly after 8 a. m. , Stan Parrish of Quality Lumber inquired with Bob Hopkins of White Lumber the price and availability of 600 pieces (equivalent to one truckload) of 3 x 12 Doug-fir-rough-sawn grade 2 or better, with a length of 16 feet. Bob Hopkins replied that he would make these available the following day at 470 $ per thousand board feet, a price that pleased Stan Parrish. Later that day, Bob’s partner, Mike Fayerweather asked the former if he had gotten any inquiry on a truckload of 16-foot scaffold planks.
Bob negated, but he was alarmed by the similarities in Stan’s inquiry and that of Mike’s question. Scaffold planks require certified types of graded lumber because these are typically-used by painters and window-washers in high-story buildings. The lumber for scaffold planks needs to be free of the typical lumber defects and they need to be extra dense and strong as obviously, the safety of the users are at stake. Stan’s inquiry with Bob did not include specifications for scaffold planks, but that with Mike did. Bob discussed these concerns with Mike.
The latter argued that the scaffold planks were not included in the inquiry with former, so there was nothing to worry about. The latter was not legally bound to comply since Stan did not specifically communicate the scaffold plank requirement. With this, Bob decided to call and clarify the requirement with Stan, against the advice of Mike that Bob should not call and clarify with Stan. Upon clarification, Stan confirmed that the wood requirements were indeed for scaffold planks. Both knew that White Lumber’s products are not certified for use as scaffold planks.
Moreover, the lumber was required that coming Friday in the work site. Locally, there was also no available certified lumber for the scaffold planks. White Lumber’s best products are the best match to the scaffold requirement considering the thickness and roughness. This is notwithstanding the safety certification. Bob expressed his anxiety and disagreement with Stan over the exclusion of the “scaffold plank” requirement in the enquiry. The discussion between Bob and Stan did not end very well. The following day, John White called Bob Hopkins to his office.
Mr. White gave the Quality Lumber sales order slip under “Bob Hopkins” account to the latter. Bob became very angry because the order was processed without his consent. He expressed displeasure and disagreement with the order. Mr. White expressed his disagreement and dissatisfaction with Bob for acting as if he is the only employee or person in the company. John White also admonished Bob for acting as if he is the only ethical person in the industry. Mr. White told Bob that in real business ethics, the welfare of the many (the employees) should be considered.
According to Mr. White, the company is not responsible for the end use and the end users of the lumber. So long, as the lumber was delivered in accordance to the required specifications of the party who made the order, White Lumber can not be held responsible for what happens in the end. This discussion seemed to enlighten Bob because he wanted to quit his job before speaking to John White. After their discussion, he realized that the latter had practical points and he could be right. Nevertheless, Bob Hopkins was still in a deep dilemma. 2. The Ethical Issues
The ethical issues in this case revolve around the ordering of grade 2 (or better) lumber with 3 x 12 specifications. Stan Parrish of White Lumber placed such an enquiry with Bob Hopkins without telling the latter that such lumber were to be used for making scaffolding planks. Surprisingly, Mike Fayerweather, Bob’s sales partner and John White, the owner/manager of the company, were aware of the fact that the lumber is to be used for scaffolding planks. There is already an ethical issue here in terms of transparency and open communication. There seems to be “hidden” or different negotiations between Stan, John White and Mike, excluding Bob.
It seems that there was intent to keep the truth from the latter. Another ethical issue is on the lack of concern for the safety and well being of the end users of the lumber. With full knowledge of the dire consequences of using the inappropriate grade of lumber for the scaffold planks, Stan Parrish, John White and the foreman are all just concerned about making the sale and cutting cost on the expensive grade of lumber appropriate for the scaffolds. The three are intent on circumventing the safety requirements for the sake of money and business survival.
Another ethical issue is John White’s issuance of the sales order for the lumber in question to Bob Hopkins’s with the latter’s name already written on it. Apparently, Stan Parrish and Mike Fayerweather have reported to John White Bob’s disagreement and apprehension regarding the sale. Since Mike agreed with the sale, why not put his name on it? Apparently he didn’t want the liability as well. Since, Bob would probably not agree to the sale of the lumber, John White approved the closing of the sale with Bob’s name on it. This happened without even asking Bob first. 3. The Primary Players
The primary players in this case include Bob Hopkins, the trader who was hired by John White from the bank. The latter had been Bob’s customer in the bank where he worked for before transferring to the White Lumber Company. John White was a director of the bank and one of the community’s leading citizens. The third player is Stan Parrish, the lumber buyer at Quality Lumber, White Lumber’s best retail discounts. Another player is Mike Fayerweather, Bob’s partner. Another key player is the foreman who was buying the scaffolding lumber from Stan Parrish. 4. The Possible Alternatives
Apparently, the best alternative for White Lumber is to take and process the order for the grade 2 lumber without specifically noting in the inquiry and sales documentations that the lumber would be for scaffold planks. If White Lumber would want to be safe, it will have to supply the certified and appropriate grade of lumber for the scaffold planks by procuring from another state or another country. Another alternative is simply not to accept or take the order from Quality lumber since there is no appropriate and certified lumber suitable for the purpose of scaffold planks.
5. Ethics of the Alternatives Accepting and processing the order for the grade 2 lumber without noting that it will be for scaffold planks is apparently the only feasible alternative for White Lumber. There is no available certified and appropriately graded lumber for the scaffold planks in White Lumber and in the entire local market, as well. Whether or not White Lumber will take the order, Quality Lumber might still procure from other local competitors the non-certified lumber which would not be suitable for the end purpose.
According to the case, some suppliers, such as Haney Lumber, might even quote and supply lumber whose grade and quality might be inferior to that of White Lumber. If White Lumber will be taking this order from Quality Lumber and delivers, the possibilities are that the lumber would indeed be used as scaffold planks. In this case, there is the possibility that the planks might easily break if loaded with more than the tolerable weight load. This could cause not only injuries but in the worst-case scenario, death. There is also a chance that the planks might not break at all, provided that they are not heavily-loaded.
This chance would of course be left to “good luck”. If the scaffold planks indeed break and the cause attributed to the unsuitability of the lumber used, the foreman, the Quality Lumber and White Lumber would all be held responsible as all of them were aware that the lumber ordered was for scaffoldings. If it is found out later that all three inadvertently ignored the safety concerns for the lumber, scandals, legal suits, fines, government suspension or business ban could be imposed on those responsible. Locally, there are no available lumber types for the scaffold planks.
If Quality Lumber would want to be considerate about the safety of the end users, another alternative would be to procure the certified and suitable lumber from another country or state. This would take a longer lead time which would not be acceptable to the job site as the lumber were already required in the job site that coming Friday. Moreover, the job site (foreman) expressed his desire to keep the operating costs down. Importing the certified and suitable lumber would definitely cost more as the lumber would be more expensive and there would be freight or shipping cost involved, as well.
Another alternative for the White Lumber is not to accept the order. However, Quality Lumber’s order is a truckload, and at a price of $ 470 per thousand board feet, White Lumber would be losing considerable sales from one of its best customers. The loss of this sales order would also bring adverse results to White Lumber’s industry status and its profits as well. This would exacerbate the company’s financial standing in the midst of the recession and the downtrend in the housing and construction industry. Moreover, there is no guarantee that White Lumber’s ultimate sacrifice would be worth the cause.
After all, if White Lumber will refuse the order, Quality Lumber will just order the uncertified and inappropriate lumber from another local lumber shop to the jobsite. The same hazardous results would be brought forth to the end-users. 6. The Practical Constraints It is not easy for White Lumber to refuse this order from Quality Lumber. There are several lumber traders in the locality. Quality Lumber could easily switch or procure from other suppliers. The country is also in recession, and as such, the construction and housing industries are also having a downtrend.
As predicted by the lumber traders, the industry might suffer more in the coming months. Losing the sales order from Quality Lumber would be a financial blow to White Lumber. In due time, the company might be forced to cut down jobs, salaries, and worse, close the entire company. Not taking the order from Quality Lumber does not guarantee the safety of the end-users of the scaffold planks. It only guarantees White Lumber’s non-involvement with any adverse incidents which may occur henceforth. 7. Actions to be Taken Ethically and legally speaking, neither Quality Lumber nor White Lumber should supply the inappropriate lumber to the jobsite.
That is, despite the verbal and “cordial” approval of the job site foreman. If the lumber will be used for scaffolding planks, there is a chance that these may not withstand the weight load and gravitational pressure since they do not fit the required grade for such purpose. Given that the chance of death, injury resulting to paralysis or fractures may be minimal, it would be irrational and inhumane to take such a chance. I agree with Bob in telling John White that there is no reason why White Lumber should take such the “slight” chance just to close this sales deal.
The title is very appropriate “…. Incident” because if the slight chance of breakage occurs, it won’t be an “accident” because people responsible for such knew it would happen. If I were in Bob’s position, most probably I would refuse to be involved in such a sales deal and I would leave the company. John White, as the authority in White Lumber should not take this order as well, unless the company can provide the appropriate grade. Delivering this lumber and earning profits are definitely not sufficient guarantees of surviving the recession and the construction and lumber industry decline.
After all, if any untoward incident occurs because of the lumber, White Lumber and Quality Lumber may even suffer worse downfall because of the looming scandal or criminal and civil charges that can be filed against them. The profits that they gain may not be sufficient to cover damages that can consequently emerge. Reference Malone S. C. & Brown B. (2010). The Scaffold Plank Incident. In Jones, G. R. , Organizational Theory, Design and Change (pp. 487-49). 6th Ed. Global Ed. United States of America: Pearson Prentice Hall.Sample Essay of StudyFaq.com