Morality and Competitor

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As the chief executive officer of a Silicon Valley software company, you become aware that your chief competitor is working on a new computer program that will revolutionize interactive voice-based applications. You know that if you can find out about several key functions relating to your competitor's program, your own programmers can duplicate the function of the program without actually copying its code. Is it ethical for you to hire away from your competitor a secretary who may have overheard something that will be useful to you?

Is it ethical for you to send an attractive employee to a bar where your competitor's programmers hang out in the hope of getting the information you want?

Is it ethical for you to have someone hunt up and read everything published by your competitor's programmers in case they may have let slip something that will help you?

In pursuit of profit maximization, many CEOs and Managers no longer look to their moral compass for guidance or adhere to organizational codes of ethics. The need for competitive intelligence as a basis for strategies, questions the methods of collecting such information and often have tongues wagging about what is or is not ethical.

Is hiring a competitor’s secretary unethical? The act in its self is not unethical, the Intention is. If the secretary is being hired, not for her skills and abilities but to get her to divulge trade secrets then the act is unethical. However, it must be pointed out that in the corporate world where ethical acts which are not enforced by the state are regularly ignored, it becomes the responsibility of companies to ensure that all employees sign non-disclosure agreements.

Asking an attractive employee to visit a bar where the competition’s employees hang out in the hope of getting information is unethical when one considers the Formalist approach of absolute morality. The act is either right or wrong in every situation. Is this something the manager would...
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