The application of ethical principles is an urgent issue in the modern business field. Today, many potential clients take notice of the corporate ethics of the enterprises they are contemplating becoming a customer of and may reconsider dealing with it if its tenets are dubious. Moreover, debatable principles can create an undesirable atmosphere within the organization and lead to the arousal of workplace conflicts and retaliatory actions. Consequently, such an environment can result in subpar performance and potential loss of revenue. Thus, it is essential to develop corporate guidelines that will be beneficial for both employees and the business as a whole. This essay will examine the Martin Marietta company and its ethics and propose the possible courses of action the corporation can take to improve the existing standards.
Martin Marietta is a company with a strong ethics program. The firm is an aerospace and defense technologies contractor for the U.S. government, responsible for the construction of the Viking and Magellan spacecraft (Paine, 2020). It is also involved in manufacturing missile and electronic systems and information management technologies (Paine, 2020). Martin Marietta’s primary client is the government, with most of the contracts being signed with governmental defense agencies (Paine, 2020). Meanwhile, other commercial and private military sales account for 10% of the total number of contracts (Paine, 2020). Overall, considering the sensitive nature of the company’s work, it is imperative to develop a comprehensive and balanced ethics program that will protect the organization’s interests and cater to the employees’ needs.
The Existing Program
Martin Marietta has a strict formal ethics program aimed at preventing misconduct in the workplace. According to Paine (2020), the company sought to “create and maintain a “do-it-right” climate” to avoid unnecessary scrutiny from the government and the public. In 1985, the firm created the Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct program that outlined moral behavior principles in the workplace for over 60,000 employees (Paine, 2020).
Notably, all staff was required to sign the letter stating that they have received and familiarized themselves with the code. The following year the company also became one of the Defense Industry Initiative on Business Ethics and Conduct organization, aimed at the promotion of self-governance, compliance with federal laws, and implementation of ethical principles (Paine, 2020). In addition, Martin Marietta agreed to voluntary disclosure to the Defense and Justice Departments, declaring that any transgressions by the employees would be divulged to ensure the security of the enterprise’s operation (Paine, 2020). Overall, Martin Marietta’s program is reasonably strict and aims primarily to protect its interests.
Nevertheless, certain concerns arise when examining the company’s ethical guidelines. Some complainants state that sanctions and corrective actions for misconduct in the workplace are not strict enough or, in contrast, disproportionately harsh (Paine, 2020). Moreover, there are confidentiality concerns as the persons behind the anonymous complaints were widely known to the employees. It is noted the investigation itself could indicate who the reporting party is and that the plaintiffs spread information about the reports they had filed (Paine, 2020). Consequently, three main issues should be addressed in future amendments to the ethics program: the regulation of penalties for different types of misconduct, confidentiality, and retaliation concerns.
Recommendations for Future Amendments
There are several possible courses of action available to Martin Marietta in order to address the existing ethics program issues. Penalties for various transgressions in the workplace should be regulated to avoid complaints of leniency or disproportionately strict response. According to Sison et al. (2017), reputational rewards and punishments are essential and can motivate employees to comply with the company’s ethics rules and regulations.
However, many workers are motivated by their self-interests and may behave in an undesirable manner if the organization’s code is too relaxed or if their misconduct is not reported. Sison et al. (2017) state that enforcements, audits, and evaluations conducted to hold employees accountable for their actions need to be regular and consistent. It is unacceptable to apply different disciplinary measures to different persons for the same transgression. Although it is appropriate to allow for the variation in circumstances, the company’s punitive actions need to be fair and unbiased.
Thus, one of the steps recommended for Martin Marietta is to standardize penalties. All types of misconduct should be listed, and the Audit and Ethics Committee should discuss appropriate and proportionate responses to each of the possible transgressions in the workplace. For example, while poor management resulting in the waste of resources can be penalized with a written warning and a fine, theft and security violations should be responded to with termination.
The committee should also consider reprimands for repeat offenders to ensure all personnel follows the company’s rules and regulations. To avoid false accusations, persons filing unsubstantiated complaints should also receive a written or oral warning and a fine if the misdemeanor is repeated. These changes to the ethics program should be documented in detail and sent out to all employees to ensure that every member of staff is familiar with these alterations to the code of conduct. Overall, instating standard penalties for various transgressions will exclude any concerns of favoritism, leniency, and bias.
The anonymity of the complainants is a concern when handling various misconducts in the workplace. In Martin Marietta, the identity of persons filing reports against their colleagues is often widely known, raising fears of retaliation. The corporation is recommended to establish a code system where the personal information is known only to the ethics officers. According to Sharpe (2019), compliance officers are required to investigate reports and work to uncover potential transgressions. In some cases, maintaining the reporting party’s confidentiality is often incompatible with these duties (Sharpe, 2019). Therefore, if the declaration of the complainant’s identity is necessary for the investigation, non-disclosure agreements should be considered for the staff members to whom any personal details of another employee are disclosed.
Acknowledgment of the reporting party’s identity may also be essential to establish whether there are personal conflicts between them and the person they are accusing of misconduct (Bătae, 2018). Furthermore, complainants should also be prohibited from discussing the issue with their colleagues to ensure an unbiased investigation. Written reprimands and fines should be issued to personnel disclosing the personal information of their colleagues to others.
Fear of retribution among the employees filing complaints against coworkers, especially their supervisors and department managers, is also concerning. Non-disclosure agreements discussed earlier can help prevent retaliation and discriminatory treatment of reporting parties. However, it is recommended to instate a probation period during which all the investigated employees’ decisions and actions towards the colleagues who reported them are reviewed and inspected. Any retaliatory actions should be viewed as serious misconduct and addressed with suspension or transfer. Overall, retribution in the workplace is unacceptable and must be responded to with strict disciplinary measures.
In summary, Martin Marietta has a strict but inefficient ethics program that should be amended to address the existing issues of disproportionate responses to misconduct, the confidentiality of reporting parties, and fear of retaliation. The company is recommended to develop standard disciplinary measures for transgressions in the workplace and consider coded investigation reports and non-disclosure agreements for persons involved in them. In addition, the actions of reported persons towards the complainants should be monitored in order to prevent retribution.
Bătae, O. M. (2018). Ethics and the impact on corporate governance. Cross-Cultural Management Journal, 20(1), 59–64.
Paine, L. S. (2020). Martin Marietta: Managing corporate ethics (A). Harvard Business School.
Sharpe, N. F. (2019). Prioritizing process: Empowering the corporate ethics and compliance function. University of Illinois Law Review, 2019(4), 1322–1352.
Sison, A. J., Beabout, G. R., & Ferrero, I. (Eds.). (2017). Handbook of virtue ethics in business and management. Springer.