Impossible Choices: An Examination of Engineering Ethics

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In a few months time, Searle Lawson went from an ambitious engineer to a helpless employee, trapped in a messy debacle that affected himself, his company, and those external to the company as well. The events surrounding the failure of the A7D brake design involved the moral compromises of engineers and managers alike, each motivated by their own morals and priorities. However, here we will examine Lawson’s experience personally, looking at the ethical approaches and consequences the young engineer may or may have not considered. Approaching this dilemma within the context of Immanuel Kant’s core philosophy helps reinforce what makes Lawson’s predicament so ethically dubious. To Kant, morality was simply “performing the actions intended to do his or her duty” (Badaracco, 1997, p. 26). This overreaching moral hypothesis, when applied to this problem, never provides a defined solution. The beginning of Lawson’s dilemma places him unambiguously as an engineer tasked with creating a final product for testing based on the design of his superior. However, the obvious failures of the prototype brakes set against his superiors’ personal agendas would put Lawson at a crossroads. Lawson’s role as an employee would come to stand against his duties as an engineer. In one sense, Lawson was an engineer, with a particular set of job requirements. While he didn’t make major design decisions, he was responsible for “determin[ing] the best materals to use for the linings and discover[ing] what minor adjustments in the design would have to be made” (Vandivier, 1992, p. 207). It was specifically his job to ensure the final product was completely functional. Discovering critical design flaws most certainly were a part of his role. As an engineer, L... ... middle of paper ... ...be presumptuous to play the ‘ethical Monday-morning quarterback’ and condemn Searle Lawson’s actions; that is to say, this case study doesn’t highlight a ‘wrong’ answer to a ethical dilemma. Rather, it illuminates the moral gray area that most businesses and employees find themselves in every day. In these cases, the ‘right’ thing to do most importantly involves understanding the impact a decision will have on everything it affects. Works Cited Badaracco Jr., J. L. (1997). Defining Moments When Managers Must Choose Between Right and Right. United States: Harvard Business School Pr,1997. Ciulla, J. B. (2002). The Ethics of Leadership (1 ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing. Ermann, M. D., & Lundman, R. J. (2001). Corporate and Governmental Deviance: Problems of Organizational Behavior in Contemporary Society (6 ed.). New York: Oxford University Press, USA.

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