Question: you are the manager of a regional manufacturing outlet for...
You are the manager of a regional manufacturing outlet for a large international company. This manufacturing outlet is located in a small African country that has been riddled with poverty and a civil war for over 15 years. Peace has come to the country but the people are still filled with despair and a general belief that the government cannot be trusted. Your company is the first foreign firm to return to the region since the end of the war and it is hoped that its presence will be the first step to economic development and lasting peace.
This is your first international management assignment that you have had with the company but you have been its employee for over ten years. You are proud to be an employee of the company not just because it is strong and profitable but also because it is a great corporate citizen with a strong vision that the company not only must make a profit but also be a leader in improving the lives of everyone in any community where it does business. You believe in that vision as well as the mission that states, in part, that the company and all of it’s managers must always exhibit “uncompromising integrity” in every dealing it has with its internal and external stakeholders.
On Monday as you start your day you are confronted with difficult news. An employee was found stealing from the company. The theft was small (less than $50.00) and consisted mostly of office supplies. What makes it particularly disturbing was that the thief was a young man, about 20 years old, who had been an excellent employee up to this point. He lived in a village that was 10 kilometers from your company. It was decimated during the civil war though now people are starting to return. His father had been an elder in the village. Soldiers of the opposing force beat his father to death and kidnapped the rest of his family and moved them across the country. It has been three years since the attack and a full year since the treaty but there was still no word about the whereabouts of his family. The young man had started working for the company shortly after the treaty was signed and had become exceedingly popular with the rest of his co-workers as well as with you. It seemed that the young man had adopted the company and the people that worked there as his surrogate family and you had become quite fond of him.
Unfortunately the company’s policy towards employee theft is quite clear and in accordance with the belief in “uncompromising integrity”. You are to fire the employee and report him to the police.
You were about to call the authorities so they could be there when you fire the young man when the floor manager, an old man who remembered the country before the civil war, came to you. “I just found out about the theft and I wanted you to know that in this country we punish people who steal in accordance with old traditions”, he said. You hung up the telephone and ask him what he means by “old traditions”. The floor manager looks you in the eyes and says “If someone steals from you his hands are cut-off. If he steals from your guest he is put to death. You are a guest in my country.”
With that he left your office. What should you do?