Abusive Workplace Behavior  

Dona recently started a new industry research job, joining the interactive technologies team. In graduate school, her advisor had collaborated with several members of the team on several research projects, involving and highlighting Dona’s contributions whenever possible. The team had been impressed by Dona’s work and recruited her as she was approaching graduation.

Mark, the team’s technical leader had built a reputation as a brilliant expert but he was an inconstant person. His team’s contributions were highly cited within the field, as Mark was always claiming a primary authorship as the team leader. The team’s work was also highlighted frequently in popular press, always with quotes only from Mark. Despite the team’s repeated successes, Mark would blow up with verbal and personal attacks for even their minor mistakes. He would yell at any team member and rudely berate them in internal chat forums. On multiple occasions, women team members have found their names removed from journal manuscript submissions as punishment.

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Dona soon found herself the target of one of Marks’ aggressive attacks when she updated a code that led to a timing glitch in the prototype shortly before a live demo. Angrily, Mark refused to allow Dona to join the team on stage which made her feeling that his reaction was unprofessional and abusive. Consequently, Dona approached the team’s Director, “Mr. Taylor” who agreed that the experience she went through was unpleasant, but that was the price to pay for working in an intense, industry-leading team.

Mr. Taylor advice to Dona was to “Grow up and get over it.”


Q1. Four fundamental ethical principles play an important role in our life and in workplace operations– justice, autonomy, beneficence, and non-maleficence. These principles play an important role when taking important decisions in the workplace.

What of the ethical principles was violated by Mark’s abusive behavior? 

Q2. Up using power is one of the most serious global threats of our time as it has important effects on the environment and economy, and is linked to a crisis of democracy and rising inequalities.

a. Do you think that leadership style and poor working conditions are directly accusable of abuse of employees’ integrity?

b. Does Mark’s retaliation demonstrate a violation of any of the ethical principles? Can we consider it as a clear abuse of power that limits women team members’ fair access to the work environment? 

Q3. In organizations, when important decisions are to be taken, mostly a conflict arises between the leader’s choice and the employee’s duty.

a. How do you evaluate Taylor’s advice to Dana and his inaction behavior? By allowing Mark’s behavior to continue unchecked, did Taylor fail to support the HR policy that reflect ethical principles?

b. How can the ethical code principles help to create better decisions and resolve conflicts?

Q4. Some specialists argue that “most employees and workers are victims to excessive working hours, job insecurity, exhaustion, sexual harassment, and mental stress?

For managerial application, how can Ethics code principles make a great difference in developing HRM systems and programs?

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