Table of Contents

Situations Related to Ethical Principles

1. Fulfilling the letter or the spirit of the law?

2. Ensuring diverse points of view

3. Putting a square peg in a round hole

4. Protecting an individual's right to privacy

5. Ethical decisions in instructional media selection

6. Computers: Issues of health and safety

7. Adopting and promoting new ideas

8. A clash of cultures

9. Harassment, bias, and discrimination

10. Whose views? Yours or your institutions?

11. All the facts, please

12. Competing with your employer

13. Handling gifts, gratuitites, and favors

14. Engaging in fair and equitable practices with vendors

15. Greasing the squeaky wheel

16. Influencing your colleagues

17. Exploiting professional affiliations

18. Helping one another

19. Is honesty the best answer?

20. An ethical approach to doing business

21. Fair assignment of responsibility

22. Facing new copyright challenges

23. When a colleague is wrong

Competing with Your Employer

The Situation
At the age of 27, Bill Travers is employed as a course developer for one of the nation's largest and most prestigious training consulting companies. This is Bill's first job after graduating with a master's degree in instructional design. It has been an exciting position. While on the job he has encountered a wide variety of experiences and has learned several valuable new skills including how to develop multimedia instructional materials.

In spite of his professional growth and apparent success, Bill is unhappy. The chief cause of his dissatisfaction is money. Triad International, Bill's employer, charges Bill's time to clients at the rate of $1,000 a day. Even including benefits, Bill's pay is less than $150 a day. Bill feels that his employer is making too much money at his expense.

After thinking over the situation, Bill has decided that, because the clients with whom he works are already paying for him to design instruction, he should open his own company and compete with his employer. After making some careful calculations, he has figured that in order to be successful in his own business he would have to persuade five clients to withdraw their business from Triad International and contract with him instead. Although Triad has the reputation of being one of the best training companies in the nation, Bill has decided that in order to get started in his own business, he would contact Triad's existing clients and convince them that he could better serve their needs.


The AECT Code of Ethics—Section 2, Principle 3
In fulfilling obligations to society, the member shall not use institutional or Associational privileges for private gain.

This is a common situation in today's business world where many professionals want to be entrepreneurs or, at least, move quickly into high executive positions. On the surface, it is admirable for an individual to take a risk and set out to start a business. Many people would like to be their own bosses. But what about Bill's strategy?

Is it possible for Bill to continue to adequately represent his employer at the same time that he is trying to convince the clients that he could better satisfy their needs? If Bill's only complaint with Triad is that they are underpaying him, is it ethically correct to suggest that once he is independent he would do a better job for the clients? Furthermore, what about Bill's obligation to his employer? Triad International spent considerable resources to help Bill increase his skills and to develop a client base. In fact, would Bill have any client relationships without Triad's efforts?

It is obvious that Bill is facing a number of sensitive issues for which there are no easy solutions. How much of a professional's skill belongs to the company and how much to the employee? What about business relationships? Can Bill's behaviors be rationalized because it is "just business?" At the same time, is it fair to keep a worker bound to an employer just because they will have to compete for the same profit potential? What about the clients? Don't they have an obligation to get the best work available for the lowest price?

Indeed, because of the complexity of these issues and due to his relative inexperience in the business community, Bill should seek professional assistance in thinking through the entire situation so that he does not make decisions that may bring about short-term rewards but could result in a long-term negative professional impact.

Leslie Moller
Assistant Professor of Education
Pennsylvania State University at Great Valley

Updated January 21, 2008
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