“We measure success by the way we touch the lives of people” (Chapman, 2012).
This was the vision of leadership or Guiding Principles of Leadership for Barry-Wehmiller, a manufacturing technology company. In 2009, amidst an economic recession, Barry-Wehmiller needed to review ways in which the company could save money to offset the 40% decline in new equipment orders they were experiencing for the year (Chapman, 2012). Upon consideration of their Guiding Principles, CEO, Bob Chapman took time to consider, “What would a caring family do when faced with a crisis” (Chapman, 2012)? “In the 1900’s layoffs, ‘downsizing’ became a popular catch phrase” (Chapman, 2012). While a business norm or fallback when under financial duress, Chapman elected for a more ethical universalism approach.
Ethical universalism is essentially considered to be choosing, “the lesser of two evils” (PSY 533, 2018). “If we adopt the principle of universality: if an action is right (or wrong) for others, it is right (or wrong) for us” (Chomsky, 2002). Barry-Wehmillers’ meta-ethics, or a standard one (organization) needs “…of what is right or wrong before one can act in a manner that either aligns with or violates those standards” (PSY 533, 2018) has been laid out as a bench of all conduct and ethical decisions company-wide in their Guiding Principles. The meta-ethical position of a universal ethic is “for all similarly situated individuals” (Kemerling, 2011) regardless of any discriminatory features as outlined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Gowans, 2008). The thousands of individuals that comprise Barry-Wehmiller and the universalism centered Guiding Principles led Bob Chapman to implement a crises plan centered on shared sacrifice. The team designed a furlough program in which all members of the organization would share the burden to make up for lost profits, not through layoffs, but rather a furlough program of four weeks unpaid time off per employee.
In this situation, the organization found a way to take “the lesser of two evils” (PSY 533, 2018) (furlough vs layoffs) via ethical universalism keeping their meta-ethics, or Guiding Principles, in the forefront of their decision making method. This leadership with ethical resolution for the group as a whole trickled down to team members resulting in intense feelings of association and loyalty to a company that cared about their individual interests in addition to the financial interests of the organization. To CEO Bob Chapman, decisions center on heart-counts more than headcounts.
Chapman, Bob (December 5, 2012). “Walk Your Talk”. Retrieved from https://www.trulyhumanleadership.com/?p=356&p=356
Chomsky, Noam (July 2, 2002). “Terror and Just Response”. ZNet. Retrieved from https://chomsky.info/20020702/
Gowans, Chris (Dec 9, 2008). Edward N. Zalta, ed, ed. “Moral Relativism”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2012 Edition). Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2012/entries/moral-relativism/
Kemerling, Garth (November 12, 2011). “A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names”. Philosophy Pages. Retrieved from http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/u.htm#unvby
Northouse, P. G. (2015). “Leadership: Theory and Practice” (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
PSY 533 (2018). L03 Ethical Theories. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1896721/modules