Martin Marietta: Corporate Ethics Management

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Martin Marietta is a leading supplier of building materials and a producer of technology for the government. Founded in 1961, this American-based company operates in more than twenty states. In the past decades, Martin Marietta earned significant public recognition for its performance and collaboration with federal authorities to create effective industrial programs. Business operating in an environment exposed to ethical threats such as corruption and fraud, the entity was ready to revamp its image and remain principled. Usually, working with good morals enables better relationships and sound decision-making.

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Ethical practices benefit a company as a whole insufficient decision that can support long-term success. As such, Martin Marietta’s approach to ethics program catapulted a decade of formation and development to maintain an environment where people produce quality work. The purpose of this paper is to address the Martin Marietta Case of corporate ethics management.

Problems and the Root Cause

Two significant issues are faced by the company’s ethical committee and involve employees’ fear of retribution as well as how to measure corporate ethics programs effectively. Martin Marietta firmly held its ethical ground to ensure the best outcomes for committed teams. To do this, ethical programs were incepted and emphasized to avoid instances of mistakes and misconduct. However, what implementers failed to consider or paid little attention to is the impact of workers on coercive ethical guidelines.

The fear of retribution can be traced from the company’s ethical program background. In the case study, Martin Marietta had an ethical culture of doing what is right during a period where the business faced attacks from the government and the public over fraud issues (Paine et al., 2004). The Associate general counsel, Jacques Croom, proposed a formal code of ethics that appeared to indulge fear and threats to workers who could act unethically.

Workers can be a source of business intelligence, yet most are afraid to share their views or voices, especially in an organizational climate that is formal (Abdulgalimov et al., 2020). In this case, the fear of raising concerns in the ethics offices may have been caused by a hostile environment. As long as workers feared retaliation, they would have likely avoided reporting and increased chances for wrongdoings. The other problem is determining the effectiveness of ethical programs, and a lack of reporting system might have caused this.

Assessing Martin Marietta’s Ethics Program

The Ethics Program Elements

One feature of the ethical program is voluntary disclosure, where employees were required to show commitment in ethics effort. However, this approach had challenges as some saw it as irrelevant in making ultimate resolutions of matters disclosed. The company took a voluntary disclosure stance as a critical element in administrative settlement of travel billings issues (Paine et al., 2004). Another program’s component linked to the voluntary approach was the total audit function. The company’s audit offices were reinforced to strengthen the company’s self-governance. The audit process enabled investigative services of the ethics program.

Effectiveness of the Ethics Program

A significant objective that Martin Marietta’s ethics program intended to meet was dealing with workers’ concerns and complaints. In this area, the plan effectively revealed workplace issues affecting employees and those that threatened their maximum operation. Workers were encouraged to raise concerns about ethics with seniors or personnel representatives through channels to point out allegations or questions regarding wrongdoings (Paine et al., 2004).

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For example, a local ethics representative was a support source and was better positioned to deal with rising problems. Additionally, the ethics program allowed workers to directly contact the corporate ethics office and report confidentiality concerns or dissatisfaction. The entity has maintained a policy to accept anonymous complaints even though it has been doubted for a while. Some issues have been brought forwards relating to drug use, erroneous or false records, security violations, theft, racial and gender discrimination, safety issues, and conflicts of interests.

Ethics Program Costs and Benefits

A significant benefit of implementing an ethics program in Martin Marietta is revamping public reputation, which carted a positive image in the public domain and, in turn, leads to improved sales. As noted in studies, business ethics are critical in times of fundamental changes, such as those faced by modern profit or non-profit organizations (Prasad et al., 2017). During the change process, usually, there are no clear moral directions to guide leaders in complex situations about what is right or wrong. In Martin Marietta’s case, an example of difficult moments where the moral compass was handy includes the period of defense industry initiative (Paine et al., 2004). As the company expanded defense spending, allegations of contractor fraud rose, and ethical guidelines were required to navigate the change process.

Another benefit of the Ethics program is the cultivation of effective teamwork and productivity. Employees Martin Marietta were aligned in terms of behaviors. The company saw adjustments in handling issues through reporting, which shaped ethical values preferred by leaders. Typically, businesses find it surprising that there is a disparity between desired values and those reflected in workplace behaviors. Ongoing communication about values in an organization builds a culture of openness, integrity, and partnerships. Martin Marietta did this by enabling employees to address issues, voice concerns or questions through appropriate channels.

Possible Course of Actions

A potential course of action at Martin Marietta is to establish a more specific program that is easy to monitor and measure. Educating and reporting workers’ misconduct for more than 60000 people seems as an impossible approach (Paine et al., 2004).

Adopting smaller strategies is better, and the company could benefit significantly from more specific rather than general plans. To appropriately assess the ethics policy’s success or failures, the company needs to scale back the program to more uncomplicated dimensions. For instance, workers should report and voice views regarding misconduct in circumstances where an organization is at risk (Abdulgalimov et al., 2020). Voluntary disclosure led to the revelation of personal issues, creating an opportunity for minor problems such as gossip. Auditors should focus on dealing with enormous issues to make employees focus on the job instead of worrying about being reported to the ethics committee.

On the contrary, personal matters do not have to be ignored or deemed insignificant as they can affect morale. Martin Marietta must establish divisions that consider punishment systems of minor and major problems. For example, there should be issues to resolve through verbal or written corrective approaches and critical matters to address through suspension or job transfers.

Concerns about Fear of Retribution

Employees’ fear of retribution can be due to some factors that Martin Marietta should pay attention to. For instance, they include constant negative feedback for leaders, neglect of employees’ voice, fear of demotion or job loss, and perception that there is no procedural justice (Abdulgalimov et al., 2020). People decide whether to report or not to say anything, and the chances are that majority choose the safety of remaining silent. In that way, a business and its leaders miss valuable information that could be used to make impactful changes. The concern in this context is that, while there are some actions to address workers’ voices, the organization’s leaders should embrace training and coaching practices.

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The company will foster a culture where suggestions are given, and employees are listened to while relevant feedback is provided. A focused group to explore the consequences and antecedents of workers’ silence must be conducted routinely after survey outcomes. Despite the approach used to understand the fear of retribution, the result should be a climate that promotes information flow and feedback.

Recommendations

The ethics committee at Martin Marietta should adopt the following approaches in partnership with the organization. First, the ethical steering team must advise the organization’s internal analysis. According to the bad apple theory, disregarding unethical behaviors might not be the perfect solution since individuals can be generally good or bad (Grund et al., 2018). The company should internally assess factors contributing to the accumulation of unhealthy behaviors to spoil the good deeds. Second, the organization’s management must develop a positive and healthy culture grounded on ethical values such as transparency in operations. In that way, employees will automatically follow ethical practices initiated by individuals instead of being directed on what to do.

Finally, ethics education and training need to emphasize the importance of codes of ethics on business and legal environment prospects. An educational approach aimed at enlightening workers on organizational ethics should not be tailored majorly on what to do or how to behave but accompany the reasons and benefits of ethical issues. Owning reasons to why someone has to act in specific ways is impactful with long-term outcomes than just knowing what needs to be done.

References

Abdulgalimov, D., Kirkham, R., Nicholson, J., Vlachokyriakos, V., Briggs, P., & Olivier, P. (2020). Designing for employee voice. In J. McGrenere & A. Cockburn (Eds.), Proceedings of the 2020 CHI conference on human factors in computing systems. Web.

Grund, C., Harbring, C., & Thommes, K. (2018). Group (Re-) formation in public good games: The tale of the bad apple? Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 145, 306–319. Web.

Paine, L. S., Choy, A., & Santoro, M. (2004). Martin Marietta: Managing corporate ethics (A). Harvard Business School.

Prasad, N., Kumar, V., & Kapoor, S. (2017). Business ethics: A decision between right or wrong. Journal of Public Policy & Environmental Management, 1(1), 20–30. Web.

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