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Ethics Memo on Work Distribution

November 4, 1999

A team of workers only produces quality results when they work together as a unified body. When the harmony and rapport between the team members falls apart, the team becomes ineffective and costly. This is exactly the problem with the five of the newest engineers at XYZ Engineering. Assigned to a team to work on software design for one of the company’s largest clients, they ran into several problems relating to stereotypes, discrimination, and harassment which led to this review. The following memo identifies the several problems of the team, and explores the difference each member could make to improve their current condition.


It was decided in their first meeting that the work would be distributed equally so that all the team members could contribute equally to the project. The team seemed it be off to a good start, until their work was actually distributed. The first sign of stereotyping was not obvious, and was not directly spoken by anyone, but it existed. The males did the more difficult parts of the project, such as the technical work and the programming. The women in the group handled the drawings, the sketches, and the report writing. The males who obviously had taken on the duty of assigning the work had the misconception the women could not handle the tougher work.


By the second meeting, the stereotyping had worsened. As the women’s worked finished, Jane, who had worked on the drawings, asked to assist with the technical work. Nick, however, snickered and rolled his eyes, clearly making a point that Jane was not capable of doing the more difficult tasks. His only basis for this conclusion was that Jane was a female. Lee, who saw this behaviour, tried to resolve it but his own similar discrimination hindered any progress.


There was also discrimination between the females of the group. Lee was going to give some programming work to either Jane or Sarah. Jane said she would do it since Sarah was married and had children. She made the assumption the since Sarah had a family life, she could not handle her job responsibilities as well as Jane could. Lee agreed and gave the work to Jane.


Nick poisoned the environment by making jokes or remarks during the meetings which would always offend someone. Theses jokes could have very well crossed the line from prejudism and discrimination to harassment, since members of the team were offended. This creates an uncomfortable environment for the team, as they cannot feel at ease with one another. This poisoning environment eats away at the productivity of the team, reducing their efficiency and slowing their progress dramatically.


To overcome these hurdles, the team members will have to remove the stereotypes set in their minds about their other team members. It is these stereotypes that leads into discrimination and a poisoned environment in their workplace. The men will have to understand that the women are just as capable of technical work and programming. The work should be distributed according to the strengths of the individuals, not the unrelated characteristics such as gender. With this stereotype gone, Jane and Sarah could be a more integral part of the team, where they can contribute to their maximum potential. The personal life of a Professional Engineer should not be a factor in deciding what workload he or she can handle, unless the person informs their team about it themselves. More specifically, if Sarah had not made a point about her personal life interfering with her work none of the team members should have made that assumption. Each member needs to respect the other in order to create the harmony between them. The Racist and sexist jokes only adds to the poison created by the stereotypes and discrimination. The jokes must stop.
These guideline, if followed, should increase the efficiency of the group immensely and produce some high quality results.