Using Company Resources
XYZ Corporation permits its employees to borrow company tools. Engineer Al House took full advantage of this privilege. He went one step further and ordered tools for his unit that would be useful for his home building projects even though they were of no significant use to his unit at XYZ.
Michael was reluctant to directly confront Al. They had never gotten along well, and Al was a senior engineer who wielded a great deal of power over Michael in their unit. Michael was also reluctant to discuss the matter with the chief engineer of their unit, in whom he had little confidence or trust.
Eventually Michael decided to talk with the Contract Procurement Agent, whose immediate response was, "This really stinks." The Contract Procurement Agent agreed not to reveal that Michael had talked with him. He then called the chief engineer, indicating only that a reliable source had informed him about Al House's inappropriate purchases. In turn, the chief engineer confronted Al. Finally, Al House directly confronted each of the engineers in his unit he thought might have "ratted" on him. When Al questioned Michael, Michael denied any knowledge of what took place.
Later Michael explained to his wife, "I was forced to lie. I told Al, 'I don't know anything about this'."
Discuss the ethical issues this case raises.
Originally titled: "The Borrowed Tools."
Prepared with James Jaksa.
Case study originally published in Teaching Engineering Ethics: A Case Study Approach‚ by Michael Pritchard. Center for the Study of Ethics in Society, Western Michigan University, 1992.