often assume roles that go well beyond their technical
duties, such as that of employers. In what amounts to
a critical commentary on the 1990s, one observes that
although there are ample classes on higher mathematics,
surveying analysis and engineering, little attention
is paid to one of the foundations of our professions
perhaps best describes ethics in Death
in the Afternoon. He writes,
I only know that what is moral is what
you feel good after and what is immoral is what you
feel bad after. Webster defines it more practically
as, having to do with ethics of morality; of or
conforming to moral standards
conforming to the
standards of conduct of a given profession or group.
Although I prefer Hemingways romantic description,
in practice I test my own sense of ethical conduct by
exploration of the topic stemmed from a recent series
of events that forced me to evaluate my own code of
ethics. I recently posted a want ad to replace a departing
employee. As most employers will agree, finding competent
help is often difficult because of ever-changing technology.
Of my last six drafting employees, four were hired out
of college. Consequently I have spent considerable time
training and educating these people. My last employee
took nearly 14 months of training before she was productive
enough to generate a reasonable profit, and several
more months before she developed into a competent and
economically valuable employee.
Recently, I met with
her to discuss a salary review and, as a result, awarded
her a 10 percent raise. Combined with her other benefits,
she assured me she was quite content and looked forward
to a long and mutually rewarding career with my firm.
One week after that review, this happy employee
resigned. Dumbfounded, I asked why she was leaving.
She replied that she was going to work for another company.
When pressed, she said that this company (which I will
call Company X) had been after her for some
time. When I asked if her departure was based upon finances
or benefits, she replied that she was leaving because
Company X was larger. (I employ five people, while the
other firm employs 15.) That was her sole basis for
leaving. As it was obvious I could do little to expand
my firm to her liking, I simply wished her the best.
I later learned that
Company X had hired its last three employees in a similar
manner, i.e., by aggressively hiring from other companies.
In retrospect, one gets the impression that this maneuver
has become a yearly rite with that firm. As soon as
a firm trains its employees, they are offered a position
with Company X. Given this employees recent departure,
I have wrestled with the implications of such a policy
and, more important, whether the same comports with
ethical conduct. Is it proper to pursue another companys
employees aggressively when one is in need of new staff?
If so, what is the justification?
I was confronted with this question, my instincts led
me to Hemingways sentiments. In other words, how
would I feel if I were the one who had taken steps to
hire an employee away from another company? For me,
this was not a difficult question to answer, as I could
not pursue such a course of action. Instead I would
have published a series of want ads to attract another
employee. I also would have contacted the local technical
schools and colleges, since I am again prepared to train
students or novice employees in the hope that they would
develop into competent workers. Despite the difficulties
associated with this task, I believe it to be the proper
thing to do. One thing is certain: I would never think
of tampering with another companys employees to
fill the position.
In pursuit of Websters
definition, I contacted several employers for whom I
have a great deal of respect. To my delight, they responded
positively by pronouncing, clearly, that they too felt
the manner in which this employee had been hired away
was wrong. We agreed that if an employee were to answer
a want ad published in the newspaper, that was the nature
of business. Conversely, aggressively pursuing anothers
employees was unquestionably inappropriate. It is worth
noting that one of these individuals is the principal
of a large surveying and engineering firm noted for
its exceptional business ethics. He informed me that
his firm had recently experienced the same problem;
another company had covertly hired several of its key
the comments I received, I decided that to test my feelings
on this subject further, I had an obligation to evaluate
the matter from the other companys perspective.
I arrived at the following conclusions: First, they
do not have to run a want ad. As a result they will
save the minor costs in running the ad, not to mention
the expense of reviewing and responding to the responses.
Second, they will not have to conduct interviews to
evaluate the applicants capabilities, since someone
else has already done that. There are obvious savings
associated with this strategy. Third, they will reap
the benefits of another companys training and,
as such, they will enjoy extraordinary savings. Thus,
there would appear to be advantages in hiring away another
Do You Do?
the dividends associated with tampering with another
companys employees, doing so completely divests
one of any sense of ethical comportment. In my case,
it is not the way I do business. How do you find your