You are here: Home / News Release Archives / 2014 / March / Gioia Encourages Students to Consider Ethical Dimensions of Business

Gioia Encourages Students to Consider Ethical Dimensions of Business

Dennis Gioia, the Robert and Judith Klein Professor of Management and chair of the Department of Management and Organization at the Penn State Smeal College of Business, visited with a class of undergraduates last month to discuss an ethical challenge that helped shape his career and the American auto industry.
March 10, 2014

Dennis Gioia, the Robert and Judith Klein Professor of Management and chair of the Department of Management and Organization at the Penn State Smeal College of Business, visited with a class of undergraduates last month to discuss an ethical challenge that helped shape his career and the American auto industry.

In the early 1970s, reports began to surface at the Ford Motor Company that its new model, the Ford Pinto, could explode upon rear impact. It wasn’t until 1978, after nearly 30 deaths, that the vehicle was finally recalled. Prior to the recall, Gioia worked as the company’s recall coordinator and was initially in charge of handling the Pinto case.

“I invited Dr. Gioia to meet with my class because I wanted the students to have a first-hand look at the kind of difficult decisions that they may be faced with in the workplace, even just a few years after they graduate from college,” said Jennifer Eury, instructor in management and organization and director of honor and integrity for Smeal.

“An ethical dilemma is defined by the collision of competing values. Resolving these dilemmas is never simple."

She continued, “In class, we talk a lot about how understanding our values and thinking about them in the context of ethical decision-making can help us face ethical dilemmas like this one.”

Gioia led the students in a frank discussion about the circumstances surrounding the Pinto case. Though it seems like it should have been an easy decision in hindsight, he explained to the students that situations in a real-world work environment are much more complicated.

“At the time, I never actually saw the case as having an ethical dimension,” he told the students. Instead, he explained, the case did not fit the normal decision-making criteria for initiating a recall.

He encouraged students not to make the same mistake; instead, he wanted the students to always see business decisions as having a potential ethical component.

“An ethical dilemma is defined by the collision of competing values. Resolving these dilemmas is never simple,” said Gioia. “When I talk to students about this case, I want them to understand the complexity of the decisions they will have to make on the job.”

Gioia stressed how crucial it is for students to develop a core set of values early in their career and to prepare to have courage when faced with even the most subtle of challenges to those values.

In addition to his corporate experience with Ford Motor Company, Gioia has also worked as an engineer for Boeing Aerospace at Cape Kennedy during the Apollo/Saturn lunar program. He joined the Smeal faculty in 1979 and currently teaches in the Penn State Smeal MBA Program and the Smeal Executive MBA Program. His research focuses on cognitive processes in organizations, change processes, corporate recalls, and organizational identity, image, and reputation.

Eury’s class, Business, Ethics, and Society, is an upper-level class devoted to developing students’ ability to understand and manage ethical conduct and social responsibility in business organizations. Students learn how to think about and manage their own ethical conduct, the conduct of the people who will work for them, and the social responsibility of the organization. The course, required for all management majors, was developed by Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behavior and Ethics Linda Trevino, who also co-authored the textbook used in the class.

Recent News
Urban Outfitters, Inc. Chief Development Officer David Ziel to Speak at Smeal Leadership Lecture Series 01 Oct

David Ziel, chief development officer of Urban Outfitters, Inc. will share his perspectives on business and leadership with the Penn State Smeal College of Business on Friday, October 10. His visit is part of the college’s Executive Insights series and the Melvin Jacobs Retail Leadership Lecture Series.

Penn State Smeal MBA Students Use Improv Comedy to Enhance Communication Skills 30 Sep

During their two-week orientation to the program, members of the Penn State Smeal MBA Class of 2016 called upon improvisation comedy techniques to improve their communication and networking skills in a session with CSz Business. A new initiative this year, the MBA Improv Communications session offers a number of exercises aimed at improving listening skills, brainstorming techniques, and teamwork.

Ethical Behavior Can Be Contagious 30 Sep

A new study from Penn State Smeal College of Business faculty members Steven Huddart and Hong Qu examines the power of social influence on managers’ ethical behavior. The Department of Accounting researchers find that managers tend to become more honest after observing honest peers and more dishonest after observing dishonest peers.

Smeal to Contribute to GE-Supported Center to Study Natural Gas Supply Chains 25 Sep

GE announced that it will invest up to $10 million in Penn State to establish a new innovation center focused on driving cutting-edge advancements in the natural gas industry. The Center for Collaborative Research on Intelligent Natural Gas Supply Systems at Penn State (CCRINGSS) will engage Penn State researchers and students from many disciplines in collaborative work with various industry stakeholders. The center will seek to advance efficiency and environmental sustainability both through technological innovations and improved supply chain management.

Supply Chain Researchers Claim a Shift Toward 'Supply Ecosystems' 25 Sep

A new article from Penn State Smeal College of Business faculty member Christopher W. Craighead and colleagues David Ketchen at Auburn University—a 1994 graduate of the Smeal Ph.D. Program—and Russell Crook at the University of Tennessee suggest that disruptive technologies are creating an evolution from supply chains to “supply ecosystems.”

More Recent News... More Recent News...