One would think that an educated professional individual, with a
Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, being employed for over twenty
years, would know the difference between conflict of interest and unethical
business conduct. However, in this imperfect world, this would not be the
case of one engineer.
An employee has an obligation to his profession and his employer.
Trust must exist between the employer and the employee, as well as honesty
A metal forging company that manufactured seamless rolled rings for
the aerospace industry employed a young man, freshly out of college with a
Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. The employee was bright and
learned everything he could, from the planning stage to the final forging.
He was rotated to different departments, since the company liked to cross
train all of their engineers. The employee finally settled in the
Engineering Department, where he designed the tooling used to manufacture
The designed toolings were manufactured there on site, but were sent
out to be machined at different machining companies. Other than the
material used for the forging, this was sometimes very costly.
While working in the Engineering Department, the employee met many
people from different companies, including the machining companies he did
business with and he was frequently invited to the machining companies to
witness their process of machining.
The employee left the parent company and returned after five years.
He was reinstated with all the company benefits and hired as the Assistant
Manager in the Engineering Department, which consisted of the two managers
and four additional engineers.
In the Engineering Department, before any tooling was sent out to be
machined, the manager and/or assistant manager would have to approve
machining, however, it was the engineers choice as to which machining
company they wanted to use. Well, this employee would not approve any
machining unless it was being sent to his preferred machining company. It
turned out that the machining company was the most expensive and the work
was too often unsatisfactory. Sometimes, the toolings had to be sent out
again to a different machining company to be fixed. The engineers started
to complain to the managers, but nothing was ever done, other than
occasionally approving some tooling to go out to different machining
One of the engineers complained to a manager from a different
department, showing concern with being forced to use this one machining
company, regardless of the poor results and expensive invoices. He raised
questions and was suspicious, however, he was told to just do his job.
The accounting department had hired a new controller and as he was
going through the finances, he noticed that this machining company had many
invoices and their service was more expensive that the other machining
companies. He started to investigate and found that both the managers in
the Engineering Department had no good answer why they were more expensive.
The controller then wanted to meet with the decision maker of the
machining company, and was surprised when he was sent their deliveryman and
told that the owner was not available. This response drew a red flag right
away. The controller brought this to the attention of the
company’s President, CFO and other managers. They all decided to commence
an immediate investigation.
As the managers investigated, they discovered that their employee, the
Assistant Manager of the Engineering Department, owned the company. During
his five year leave, the employee had gone out and started his own
machining company and then returned to the company guaranteeing himself
The employee knowingly conducted himself dishonorable, irresponsible
and unethical. His honor, reputation and usefulness of the profession were
disgraced. However, because he had been with the company for over twenty
years, he was asked to resign due to a conflict of interest and so the
This affected the engineering department greatly, especially the
engineer who had voiced concern with being told to use that machining
company even against his wishes. They began to question the honesty,
morals and ethics of not only their managers, but also the other department
Ethics play a vital role in today’s business world and when company
policies don’t exist, employees still have a responsibility to behave
ethically. An employee should consider if one’s actions are in compliance
with applicable local, national and international laws. An employee should
ensure one’s actions are in keeping with the values of the company and are
honest and fair in every respect and that coworkers view one’s action
positively and reflect positively on the company.
The engineer was deceptive and promoted his own interest at the
expense of the dignity and integrity of his profession. This was not a case
of conflict of interest, but of unethical behavior displaying the lowest of
standards of honesty and integrity..