Imagine President Trump’s travel ban as a hiring freeze

For the second time, a federal judge has disallowed President Trump’s travel ban. Whether the ban or the judges’ reversal passes Constitutional legal tests is not within my expertise, not that such a small thing as expertise prevents either of us from throwing around opinions like old tomatoes. In America, everyone as a voice!

Is it ethical?

That’s my question. Two questions if you will permit “it” to refer to either the travel ban or the judges’ desist order. To get at the questions, we might consider something most of us can get our heads around, like a hiring freeze.

Let’s say you’re CEO of a factory. Your Chief of Operations comes by your office and drops a wet bag of compost in your lap.

She starts the conversation: We got a problem. You know we’ve had company secrets stolen by a few people in the last ten years. Our security team prevented at least a dozen more incidents.

We believe that students at six of the eighty schools we hire from have access to training in corporate espionage, but we have little evidence proving sources. We are very certain that the schools know about the training courses and ignore it because either they were bribed or they’re afraid to turn in the trainers. Whatever, they’re not helping.

None of the people we caught stealing secrets came from the six schools in question. In fact, the six schools have provided some of our best employees, and some of their other graduates working at other companies have helped us land contracts—all above board.

We’ve made a ton of money by working with those schools. I hate to blacklist them, but the risk is too high. We need to hire twenty people over the next two months. What do you want me to tell HR?  

A hiring freeze, even one based on shaky evidence, is not as big as a national travel ban. Truth is, what I have for lunch is not as big a decision as what President Trump orders. Still, by bringing it down to size, we can see that many of the same ethical categories come into play.

5 Big Questions

  1. Ethical decisions avoid gossip or slander. How credible is the source of the negative information about the six schools?
  2. Ethical decisions consider the consequences. What other consequences come with blacklisting the six schools? For instance, can you be accused of any sort of discrimination? If so, what steps will you take to mitigate the damage of unintended consequences?
  3. Ethical decisions consider the needs of the rest of the tribe and ways to make it easier for them to do the right things in the future. In this case, either way you decide, someone will feel they’ve lost. How do you encourage the desired behaviors from your colleagues moving forward?
  4. Can all your decisions on this matter pass ethical scrutiny from an independent expert?
  5. What will you do if your company's board overrules your decision?

Bonus: If you’re a person of faith, how does your faith’s collection of ethical propositions inform your decision