Why executives won't talk with their people

Journal of Business Ethics 7 (9):671 - 680 (1988)
Abstract
Three years ago Robert Saltonstall, Jr., Associate Vice President for Operations at Harvard University, faced an increasingly common problem in business and institutions today when he severed 68 long-service, wage employees to solve a problem of low productivity in a particular trade group. He did this using relatively conventional and creative techniques. But now three years later, he asked Nona Lyons of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who is researching the ethical dimensions of executives' decisions, to assist him in evaluating how these employees felt about the process. The employees' loyalty in spite of everything has caused Saltonstall to rethink the ethics of both his decision and its execution. In this article Saltonstall asks and answers many of the questions executives face when challenged to handle work reduction decisions in a more ethical way. And Lyons assists him with commentary on some of the current research on moral decision-making which will help executives to understand why they find some of their decisions to be moral dilemmas. The article challenges executives to think about reorganization decisions in a participative way and suggests seven central issues executives should consider before commencing a participative approach. The article reaches no specific conclusion, but introduces some new ways to think about lay-off decisions and their ethical implications for those affected.
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