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Volkswagen’s DieselGate outrage was one of the biggest crises in the automotive landscape yet undoubtedly not an isolated case. Fiat Chrysler Jeep’s, fuel tanks caused fires when involved in rear impact collisions. This caused 185 lethal crash fires, 270 deaths and numerous brain injuries (Whyte, 2016). Certainly automobile manufacturers are not the only ones involved in such deceitful activity. All these corporate misdeeds and wrongdoing left consumers not only shocked, but hungry for answers. With all the rules and regulations in place, this make us wonder how a breach of integrity happens at such a high level.
It is disheartening to see the lawyers and engineers at Volkswagen who had the ethical duty to prevent this from continuing, did not do so.
As an employee or a manager in either the legal office or the engineering department, how would you have prevented this incident? According to Robertson (2017), Volkswagen was accused of emission violation in 2014. A team funded by the International Council on Clean Transportation at the West Virginia University discovered emission violations in Volkswagen diesel vehicles.
Upon looking into this further, the engineers at Volkswagen were under time and financial restriction. With these constraints, they weren’t able to find a technical solution to meet the U.S. emissions standards (Goodman, 2015). So they decided to cheat by installing a software that produced lower emission results during the emission testing phase. In real world the emission level is 40 times higher than the legal limit, the EPA says. Cheating is sinful and dishonest when the desire to victory and accomplishment supersedes your moral commitment to truthfulness, cheating become temptations.
Believers must strive to glorify their Lord with their thoughts and actions (1 Corinthians 3:16). As an employee or a manager in either the legal or engineering office, I have the ethical duty to ensure that my actions are ethical and legal for me and my organizations sake. I would emphasize on communication and transparency across all major divisions involved in this product development. Involve key business stakeholders during all critical decision making stages. Some of the stakeholders would be research, product development, quality assurance, legal and finance.
For example legal has to be in involved in the design phase to make sure the design meets the legal standards and guidelines. Finance to discuss budget constraints. Another thing I would focus on is creating an honest and transparent culture and reward those behaviors. Employees value authenticity and transparency from organizations and leaders. In an honest and transparent organization, team members are engaged and it becomes easier to build trust and strong employee relationships. In the long run, employees will naturally exhibit these behaviors and it can help build stronger consumer relationships as well. As the CEO of the diesel division of Volkswagen, how would you have responded when the situation became public? How would this response prevent future incidents? In spite of the fact that the CEO, Matthias Mueller, cases to have been uninformed, he is capable to some degree for the corporate culture that favored productivity over moral conduct. Lippe writes, “In Volkswagen, not knowing was as bad as knowing and consenting. Perhaps we should start talking about a duty to know what’s going on” (2015). Deceptive and illicit techniques unquestionably were not the best move to make. It would have been tedious and exorbitant to re-design the engines, yet likely a small amount of the expense of the punishments Volkswagen now faces.
On the off chance that I were the CEO of the Volkswagen, I would openly concede the bad behavior and apologize for the benefit of the organization. Next, I would atone genuinely and approach God for absolution and direction. As the scripture states in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; recognize Him in all your ways, and He will guide your path” (NJKV). The trustworthy course of action is to acknowledge the accusations and to share any known facts, and to initiate a full, urgent and independent enquiry. I would immediately work on recalling the cars with affected engines and pay the fines imposed. Immediately dismiss the leaders that knew about this and let it continue. I would call for an all stakeholder meeting and explain the financial implication this would have on the company. Although this would make a huge financial impact in the organization. It is the right thing to do as we start to work towards building an honest and transparent culture. Ethical culture ought to be thought of regarding a multi-framework structure that incorporates formal and casual frameworks that must be adjusted to help moral judgment and activity. In particular, top management attention to ethics has been shown to increase employee satisfaction (Vitell and Davis, 1990) and to reduce the occurrence of opportunistic behavior by members of corporate research departments (Kelly et aI., 1989).
Leadership is fundamental to driving the moral culture from a formal and informal point of view. Leaders guide their team informally through their own behaviors by being role models. Actions speak louder than words (Abraham Lincoln, personal communication, 1856). As someone who has worked in compliance training department. I would hire a Chief Compliance officer to implement ethics and compliance trainings. All employees should be required to take these trainings. (a) Strict standards and guidelines would be imposed.(b) Develop a continuous learning framework.(c) Set clear expectations of the training outcome. (d) Model and exhibit the expected behavior.
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