Smoking is not only an unhealthy and disgusting habit, but it costs companies thousands of dollars each year in additional healthcare expenditures and lost productivity. For these reasons, Rob chose not to hire Cathy, a smoker who was otherwise well-qualified for the floor manager position at ShopRight Super Store. This was the deciding factor that led him to hire another equally qualified candidate. He was trying to do what was right for the company according to his perspective, but was his decision justifiable, legal, ethical and even biblical?
I will address these questions and the implications of this decision. Then, using the decision-making framework provided by the Values-Aligned Leadership Model, I will recommend the best course of action for ShopRight—an ethical decision that will ensure the best candidate is hired based upon cultural fit rather than smoking preferences. Rob rationalized that smoking was reflective of an undesirable character trait and would be a liability to the company. His personal assumptions and attitudes towards smokers created a negative impression of Cathy.
There is some validity in this thinking, because it has been shown that smokers cost employers $6,000 more per year on average in addition to lost productivity due to smoke breaks (Fox, 2013). So, does this justify his decision to not hire Cathy based on her smoking habit alone? Under the doctrine of employment at will, he could chose to hire or not hire someone for any reason at all for this common law states that “in the absence of law or contract, employers have the right to hire, promote, demote, and fire whomever and whenever they please” (Arnold, Beauchamp, & Bowie, 2013, p. 45).
By this view, his decision could be justifiable since he doesn’t need a reason to hire or not hire someone. However, federal and state laws do prohibit employers from discriminating against people for a variety of reasons. In 29 states this includes discriminating against smokers. According to Workplace Fairness, “In these states, it is illegal for an employer not to hire you simply because you are a smoker. Employers may be able to get around anti-discrimination laws in certain states if being a non-smoker is an important part of a specific job’s qualifications” (“Smoking,” n. . , figure 6).
So, unless Rob could argue that the job qualifications of the floor manager position requires that the individual is a non-smoker, it could be considered illegal for ShopRight to deny employment to Cathy because she is a smoker and therefore, unjustifiable. If Rob were in a state that doesn’t prohibit discrimination against smokers and he is able to hire or deny candidates for any reason, would it then be considered an ethical decision? Just because decisions are legally permissible does not mean that they are necessary ethical.
If we were to assess Rob’s decision through the lens of virtue ethics, would we say that he demonstrated virtuous character and the correct motivation? According to this theory, “The practice of business is morally better if it is sustained by persons whose character manifests enthusiasm, truthfulness, compassion, respectfulness, and patience” (Arnold et al. , 2013, p. 32). I believe that it may be questioned if Rob’s character displayed such compassion, respectfulness, and patience. As Christians, we should ask, what virtues represent the virtue of God?
Francis Schaeffer says that Christian ethics is grounded in the character of God as he writes, “He exists; He has a character; and not all things are the same to Him. Some things conform to His character, and some are opposed to His character” (Noebel, 2006, para. 1). If we consider God’s character, He is a God of love, compassion, joy, justice, mercy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and goodness. We are called to represent these same virtues, displaying the fruits of the Spirit. In order to do so, we must remain in relationship with God as John 15:5 tells us, “”I am the vine; you are the branches.
If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NIV). When we remain close to the Lord, we will be more likely to be loving and compassionate, rather than judgmental. Rob must be careful to not cast stones at Cathy for her smoking habits; instead he should seek to offer kindness and compassion as the Lord calls us. Rob’s controversial decision may be likely to lead to claims of discrimination and unethical hiring practices, which may result in negative brand awareness, team morale issues, and leadership conflicts.
Rather than face these consequences, ShopRight should consider the alternative options by using the nine step process of the Values Aligned Leadership Model, which leads to the best ethical decision. This model considers the purpose and values of the organization and ensures that decisions are consistent with these stated values and assesses the duty to all stakeholders involved (King, 2003). In following these steps, ShopRight can prudently manage this decision-making process and will be able to wisely choose the best candidate for the position, who will best serve the purpose of the company.
After completing an analysis of this decision based on this model (found in Appendix A), I would like to recommend a course of action that will serve the interests of the most stakeholders. Rather than make a fast assumption on Cathy’s character based on her smoking habit, I believe that Rob should consider more criteria and character traits to make a more informed decision. It is important to consider not only skills and experience when hiring, but to assess the attitudes of each candidate. In his book, Hiring for Attitude, Mark Murphy says, “Attitude, not skill is the top predictor of a new hire’s success or failure.
Because even the best skills don’t really matter if an employee isn’t open to improving or consistently alienates coworkers, lacks drive, or simply lacks the personality to succeed in that culture. Skills still count, but the data overwhelmingly tell us that attitude is the hiring issue that should demand more focus” (Murphy, 2012, p. xv). Murphy suggests discovering the attitudes and traits that most often lead to success and top performance. I believe that Rob should enlist the help of other leaders or managers to discover these traits so that he may expand his view of each candidate.
When he does this, hopefully it will illuminate the best candidate for the position—the one who most closely fits within the culture of the company, who aligns with its values, and is motivated by the purpose. This serves the customers by providing better service, the team members by selecting the best manager to lead them, the executives by sharing the passion and vision for the company, and ultimately, the shareholders by generating more revenue and profit in an ethical way. Making an ethical decision often involves removing our personal bias and subjectivity.
To do so, we must strive for fairness and justice and seek to serve others over ourselves. We must seek wisdom and guidance in making these decisions through prayer and careful deliberation. Using the Values Aligned Leadership Model helps to remove such bias and to lead to better decisions that will provide the best outcome. Rob’s personal beliefs and assumptions about smoking may hinder his ability to make a wise decision in the best interest of the whole company, therefore he should be slow to act on this belief and instead follow the steps of this model. In the end, this will lead to greater results for all stakeholders involved.