To Go or Not To Go

Topic: Staffing/Training and Development

Characters: Boris Zvernisky, senior accountant at a large accounting firm
Julie Corradino, partner at an accounting firm


Boris Zvernisky, a senior accountant, has just completed his third year at a large accounting firm. During this time, Boris has been consistently evaluated as an above average performer and a “team player. ” Lately Boris has been concerned about the heavy work load in this firm and has decided to enroll in an MBA program. He recently applied for admission to several of the nation’s top business schools. The school in which Boris is most interested had an October 1 deadline for a trial financial aid package, designed to attract top candidates, which covers all costs and pays $10,000 per year. This is the first year for the program and there is no guarantee that the program will be available in future years. Based on his conversations with university officials, Boris is quite optimistic about being admitted and receiving the funding, even though a final decision will not be made until February. Boris plans to enter an MBA program, even without the special funding, beginning in August of the following years, but he has told no one at the firm of his plans.

Julie Corradino, a partner in charge of training and development for the local office, has just received information from the national office of the firm related to a five-month accounting internship-exchange program the firm has arranged with offices in Europe, Australia, and [Russia]. Applicants must have three to five years with the firm, be above-average performers, have long-term career potential with the firm, and be fluent in the host country’s language. Julie immediately thinks of Boris, who is a first-generation American with strong family connections in [Russia]. Julie arranges to have lunch with Boris the next day.

At lunch Julie confirms that Boris is fluent in Russian and then presents to him the information on the five-month internship in the Moscow office, from January through May of the following year. Boris and Julie talk with excitement about the personal and professional benefits of five other relatives who live in Russia. The firm would benefit by having someone with experience in the Moscow office. Julie thinks Boris has an excellent chance of being selected for the program and offers to write a recommendation letter for him. She gives Boris an application and encourages him to complete it immediately, since it is now mid-October and the application deadline is November 1.

That night, Boris sits down to consider his career plans. Although he is very excited about the opportunity to go to Moscow, he is also convinced that he would love to enroll in a full­time MBA program in the fall. He realizes that it is possible to intern in the Moscow office from January through May, return to his current office for June and July, and then begin the MBA program in August. Boris wonders if he should talk to Julie about his MBA plans, but he hesitates. He knows that firm policy requires only a two-week notice prior to leaving the firm. Boris decides that there is no harm in applying, but he questions his long-term intentions with the firm and wonders what to do.

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. Boris is planning to leave the firm in the following August to enroll in an MBA program.
  2. Boris has personal reasons for being interested in an internship at the Moscow office.
  3. The firm is looking for individuals with long-term career potential for participation in the international exchange program.
  4. Boris meets all of the firm’s criteria for the internship program, except for his private plans that indicate the lack of long-term commitment to the firm.
  5. Given the limited number of people in the firm who meet all the criteria, including the ability to speak Russian fluently, Boris has a high probability of being selected for the position.
  6. Boris has the possibility of receiving a special financial aid package for an MBA program beginning in the fall, but he will not know for sure until February.

What Are the Ethical Issues?

  1. At what point is Boris morally obligated to reveal to the firm his personal plans to leave the firm?
  2. If Boris reveals his plan in October to leave the following August, will he be treated differently by the firm in terms of assignments, pay raises, etc.?
  3. If Boris applies for the exchange program, receives the opportunity, and accepts it, does he have any moral obligation to stay with the firm on a “long-term” basis?
  4. (How do you define “long-term?”)

Who Are the Primary Stakeholders?

  • Boris
  • Julie, as Boris’ sponsor in the program
  • The firm, both the local office and the Moscow office
  • Other applicants for the internship

What Are the Possible Alternatives?

  1. Boris can decide not to complete the application, based on his commitment to begin an MBA program in the near future.
  1. Boris can reveal to Julie his plans for an MBA program and then get her advice on whether he should still apply for the Moscow exchange program.
  2. Boris can complete the application, and:
  3. If accepted, accept the Moscow exchange program and delay the MBA program.
  4. If accepted, accept the Moscow exchange program, return for two months, and then leave the firm in August to begin the MBA program.
  5. If not accepted, continue plans to leave the firm in August for the MBA program.

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 Boris and (b) to the other stakeholders?
  3. Do the benefits outweigh the costs to Boris? To the other stakeholders?
  • Ask questions based on a “rights” perspective.
  1. What are Boris’s rights to privacy, as related to personal plans?
  2. Does Julie or 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 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. Boris must make the decision about the exchange program before information on the MBA program and funding will be available.
  2. Although Boris has a high probability of being accepted for the exchange program, as well as the MBA program, acceptance is not guaranteed.

What actions should be taken?

  1. What should Boris do?
  2. If you were Julie and Boris chose to confide in you, what would you advise Boris to do?
  3. Which ethical theories are the most helpful in resolving this situation?