Finding an Appropriate Balance
Case Study Continues…….
Consider what Tebogo told Otsile about the real estate market. A positive attitude about the product on the part of salespeople is not morally wrong. Salespeople are advocates for products or services; their job is to present what they are selling in an appealing light. What Tebogo did in persuading Otsile to buy the house went beyond that. He took advantage of someone who was struggling financially and who would probably have been better off not buying a house at that time. Without question, she would have been better off not buying that particular house.
Sellers need not mention every last defect in a product or service; however, they should mention more defects than Tebogo did. From an ethical–as well as legal–point of view, salespeople must mention all major defects. Tebogo was prepared to do this. Moreover, salespeople have an obligation to make a significant effort toward matching the right product or service with the right customer. For Otsile, who had little money available for repairs and no skills of her own, all the small problems with the house amounted to a major problem. Tebogo, in his eagerness to sell, ignored this issue so he could earn a quick commission.
Salespeople have a strong obligation to the people who hire them; Tebogo did not recognize this. Salespeople should achieve a more appropriate three-way balance among the interests of the customer, the seller, and themselves. If Tebogo had been more candid with Otsile and had held out for a more suitable buyer for the house, he could have bargained more aggressively with that buyer. He would have produced both a more satisfied homeowner in the long run and a more satisfied seller.
Why are there so many salespeople like our Tebogo? Is it because the market is so highly competitive that people are driven to behave unethically? Is it because we espouse short-term goals and quick fixes? Is it because our society strongly endorses self-interest and individualism, and successful individuals are measured by the money they make?
Competition for sales does exert strong pressures on salespeople such as Tebogo, but there is nothing unique about these pressures. They bear heavily upon people in other lines of work as well. There are pressures on physicians to spend too little time with each patient; on researchers to cut corners in collecting data; on professors to grade students’ papers in too much haste; on farmers to use excessive amounts of pesticides; on composers to appropriate musical ideas from others. In every walk of life there are conflicting values that must be balanced – particularly when success requires measuring up to the achievements of other people or to monetary, goals. Everyone in the workplace faces pressures from many different and conflicting directions.