Family Plans

Topic: Staffing

Characters: Barbara, the controller of Atex, Inc., a small manufacturing company Sam, the controller of Smith, Inc., a small manufacturing company


Barbara is a controller of Atex, Inc., a small regional manufacturing company. During her four years of employment at Atex, she has worked her way up through the ranks. She has been the controller for the past year and has consistently received favorable evaluations. Barbara enjoys her work and is good at what she does.

Atex, Inc., is close to finalizing a merger with Smith, Inc., a similar manufacturing company. The merger will be finalized in two weeks, on July 1. When the companies merge, various positions will be eliminated to avoid duplication of efforts in the merged company. A variety of positions will be cut, including manufacturing workers, office staff, and management positions. The decisions on personnel cuts will be announced August 1.

Sam, the controller of Smith, Inc., has been with that company for less than a year. He is perceived favorably by management. The newly merged company will need only one controller, and Barbara has received unofficial confirmation that she will be the controller of the new firm and that Sam will be dismissed.

Barbara has had significant responsibility for her parents during the past two years. Her father has terminal cancer, and the specialist has given him only six months to live. Her mother is emotionally distressed and needs special attention from time to time. In addition, after years of trying, Barbara has recently found out that she is pregnant. She plans to take a short maternity leave and then return to work full-time.

Barbara realizes the time demands of her current and experted family and also the time demands of working as the controller of the newly merged company. She feels that she will be able to balance her personal and professional life in such a way that her job performance will not suffer. Yet, she wonders if she should make her boss aware of her responsibility to her parents and her pregnancy.

Author: Dr.  Cynthia  J. Rooney,   CPA, CMA, Asst. Prof., College of William & Mary

Co-author: Mary Loyland, Assistant Professor, University of North Dakota

What Are the Relevant Facts?

  1. Barbara has already received the unofficial offer of the controller’s position in the new firm.
  2. Barbara has significant family issues that will require her absence from work and may significantly impact her work performance.

What Are the Ethical Issues?

  1. How much privacy is an individual allowed?
  2. At what point is Barbara obligated to reveal her pregnancy to the company?
  3. If Barbara reveals her personal responsibilities, will a different controller be chosen?

Who Are the Primary Stakeholders?

  • Barbara
  • Sam
  • The newly merged company
  • Barbara’s parents
  • Barbara’s unborn child

What Are the Possible Alternatives?

  1. Keep quiet until after the merger and the official announcement of the controller’s position.
  2. Talk to the new management about the parental issues and the pregnancy.
  • What Are the Ethics of the Alternatives?
  • Ask questions based on a “utilitarian” perspective (costs and benefits).
  1. What possible alternative would provide the greatest benefit to the greatest number?
  2. How would costs be measured in this case? What are the potential costs (a) to Barbara, (b) to Sam, and (c) to the other stakeholders?
  3. Do the benefits outweigh the costs to Barbara? To the other stakeholders?
  • Ask questions based on a “rights” perspective.
  1. What are Barbara’s rights to privacy, as related to personal plans?
  2. Does the corporation have any rights to information in this case?
  • Ask questions based .on a “justice” perspective

(benefits and burdens).

  1. Which alternatives distribute the benefits and burdens most fairly among the stakeholders?
  2. Which stakeholder(s) will possibly benefit the most from the situation?
  3. Which stakeholder(s) will possibly bear the greatest burden from the situation?

What Are the Practical Constraints?

  1. Only one controller is needed for the new company.
  2. Family responsibilities will require Barbara to be absent within the next year.

What Actions Should Be Taken?

  1. What should Barbara do?
  2. If you were management and Barbara chose to

confide in you, what would you do?