The recent past has seen Apple Inc. struggle with several ethical dilemmas. The American technology giant has been in the news since the year 2011 as a result of employee maltreatment resulting from the companys outsourcing strategies (Lashinsky, 2013). The poor working conditions were vividly evident in the rampant suicides that became synonymous with working at the Foxconn Company, which is a major partner of Apple in China. While the suicides and deaths put the two companies in a bad light, it is nothing compared to the current ethical dilemma that Apple Company is facing. When the company thought employee suicide was too much to handle, especially vis-a-vis the companys reputation, another huge dilemma set in amidst the transition in the leadership of the company. Tim Cook had just ascended to the helm of the company when the ethical dilemma of location and identification of stolen products versus privacy became a major ethical issue for Apple Inc. (Liang, 2014). While such a dilemma has stayed with the company since its founding, the change of leadership (which meant a different mode of administration and decision-making) highlighted the situation and threw the company into the limelight once more. It is worth noting that this particular dilemma is typical of every technology and electronics company. However, the dilemma became a major issue for Apple Inc. due to the companys position in the industry and its reputation. Most Apple products are not only prestigious, but also expensive and enticing, thus, making them a primary target for thieves (Vranica, 2010). Besides, the products are synonymous with the middle and upper-class members of the society who are not only aware of their legal rights, but also concerned about the safety of their gadgets. Such a fact tears Apple Inc. between the location and identification of the products versus the privacy of their customers, which may both attract a legal tussle if handled incautiously.
Furthermore, the dilemma is likely to reach a point of stretching the companys operational costs. A system that monitors theft would require the company to allocate a huge budget towards such an initiative given that approximately more than 100 million iPhones are contemporarily used throughout the world. As the company grows more popular, so does the number of their products in the hands of the clients. Presumably, cases of theft and misplacement of the gadgets are also expected to rise, resulting in a proportionate increase in the budget if the company was to unveil a theft monitoring system. Pascal-Emmanuel (2011) argues that Apple Inc., nonetheless, has the ability and the requisite technology to succeed in tracking, locating and identifying each of its gadgets. However, the question of privacy comes in. For the company to successfully track, locate, and identify a particular gadget, it would need specific information from the owner of the gadget. Accessing some of the information may elicit both social and economic consequences on the side of the company or the client. In extreme cases, such a practice may lead to legal suits and ruin the reputation that the company has always strived to build. Subsequently, the company requires a set of ethical guidelines, proper decision-making skills and good leadership to solve the dilemma. Such is the probable reason the company has been on the news, especially as the media attempts to dissect the leadership levels of Tim Cook vis-a-vis the existing ethical dilemma.
Critical Examination of the Dilemma Using the Managerial Ethics Theories
The first managerial ethical theory whose tenets could be used to examine Apple Inc.s current primary ethical dilemma critically is the Economic or Individualism theory. The theory maintains that company leaders should do all they can within their power to satiate the profitable needs of both their shareholders and owners (Regenia, 2010). In that respect, the company should maintain a positive reputation that will translate into sales and consequent profits for both the company owners and the shareholders. The endeavor can only be achieved through an all-encompassing solution to the prevailing dilemma. Evidently, as a result of the higher budgets associated with large-scale tracking systems, it will be challenging for the company to avail such services to their clients for free. It is noteworthy that Apples products are already somewhat expensive, meaning that most clients would be reluctant to pay extra fees for such services (Philip, 2011). The result is that the company may find it hard to balance the operational costs and profitability if they have to avail free tracking and location services to their clients. Thus, if the companys leadership were to make a decision based on the Economic or Individualism theory, two major issues would obscure the endeavor, profitability and privacy. While the former can be compromised, at least after careful consideration, the decision on the latter does not lie solely with the company, making it a hard nut to crack. Even after incurring all the costs of tracking (if the company was to do so), compensation resulting from a privacy or security breach would dwindle the companys profits even further resulting in a violation of this theory. It suffices to say that such a move will be detrimental for Apple Inc. based on the Economic or Individualism managerial ethics theory.
Another managerial ethics theory that would be applicable in this case is the Utilitarianism theory. It holds the position that anyone, leaders included, should do things that not only maximize happiness for them, but also for the highest number of people (Rachels & Rachels, 2012). Regarding the ethical dilemma in question, it follows that the Apple Inc.s leaders should find a way to locate the stolen gadgets for their clients without breaching their privacy. In that manner, the leaders will be elated at the success with the fact that they can cater to the most delicate and challenging needs of their clients. On the other hand, the clients will be happy with the companys endeavor to do more for their safety and gadgets. Apple Inc. has the requisite technology to locate any lost Apple product that has been reported missing since the company retains a database that contains the serial numbers and the internal kill switch for any Apple gadget (Lauren, 2011). The switch can erase or completely shut down any application in a gadget if the company determines that the phone is being misused. Besides, Apple phones come with an inbuilt global positioning system (GPS) with a capability of enabling the location of a particular gadget anywhere on the globe. Maximizing the happiness of the customers would mean that the company first increases the customers confidence in owning their gadgets. Such would require the company to improve their existing tracking and locating systems. Thus, the company would have to maintain a database with the addresses, names of the clients and the serial numbers of their gadgets. Information such as names and addresses are particularly sensitive, and the company would have to accept liability for any harm their client faces as a result of unauthorized access to such information. Evidently, such privacy issues would increase the operational costs of the company, and as such cases increase, the company would not only lose credibility, but also profits as customers shy away from buying their products. As such, maximizing happiness prescribed by the Utilitarianism principle regarding the dilemma would be costly for Apple Company in terms of both profitability and credibility. However, it is noteworthy that it can be achieved through integrated cooperation with the clientele base to ensure their privacy is not at stake during the tracking process.
Besides, analysis of the dilemma could draw from the microcosms of the Kantian Theory. The theory states that one ought to act with high levels of rationality while formulating business decisions, honor the people and assist them in making rational decisions because it is the moral thing to do (Robert, 2011). Thus, a leader must not only make rational decisions concerning a particular business project, but also help their subjects in doing so. As the overall authority, Tim Cooks is required to make ethical decisions on the current dilemma and ensure that all the companys employees and members of staff rationally help in implementing whatever decision concerning the dilemma. Thus, for instance, if the company is to establish and integrated theft monitoring and tracking system, the rational thing to do would be to alert the clients of the privacy issues associated with such practices and seek their opinion before the implementation of the system. Besides, since not all the customers may agree to the mandatory breach of their privacy during the tracking process, the company should ensure the tracking only occurs on a voluntary basis. As such, the company will not have to force the tracking practice on their clients. The company leader should also ensure the staff members and the employees understand the tenets of such a decision and make rational decisions when faced with such a dilemma at their specific leadership levels. It is a fact that the company owes its clients some level of security, but also owes the same clients technical assistance concerning their gadgets. While the balance between privacy and tracking of the lost gadgets may be challenging, a good leader equipped with top-notch decision-making skills should be able to design a rational business solution that will not only solve the ethical puzzle, but also leave both the clients and the company satisfied.
The final theory that would apply to the critical analysis of this dilemma is the Virtue Theory. The virtue theory states that a person should endeavor to do things in a virtuous manner through abiding by the four primary virtues of temperance, courage, justice and honesty (Daniel, 2013). Apple Inc. requires a courageous, honest and just leader to deal with the tracking versus the privacy dilemma currently threatening the prosperity of the company. In managerial ethics, this theory would require Tim Cooks and his team to reveal to the clients all they are doing to solve the puzzle, how their move will affect the clients, and how the clients could cope with the changes. It is important to note that the company also has the option to secretly breach the privacy of their clients and help locate their devices. While, in some cases, the not-so-tech-save clients may not realize, the idea is completely unethical, dishonest and unjust to the affected clients. Thus, it boils down to the ethical values of the leader as described by the Virtue Theory. Evidently, by using this theory, the company could easily find a common ground of agreement between them and the clients concerning the dilemma. If the company is honest with all their clients and barely lays the technicalities of the processes involved in the tracking and location of the devices, the clients may endorse the process, and this makes it easy for the company to solve such issues. As mentioned, the profitability challenges associated with the dilemma could be compromised since it is a sole prerogative of the company while, in the case of privacy, the clients have more say. Adopting a virtuous way of solving the dilemma seems to be the only strategy the company has to help it fight the managerial, leadership and business challenges associated with the pending dilemma.
Examination of the Relationship between Ethics, Leadership and Decision-Making
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