Research Paper: Ethical Breakdowns

Submitted By Scott-Slawson
Words: 1237
Pages: 5

MNO 3370 Ethics Paper
Ethical Breakdowns:
Recently in the media, a controversy has been brought to light in regards to Hillary Clinton and her use of a personal email while serving as Secretary of State. During Mrs. Clinton’s four-year tenure at the State Department, she never had a government email address and did not take action to have her personal emails saved on government servers. Clinton’s lack of a government email, which is required by the Federal Records Act, was viewed as “alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.” (Schmidt). As officials began to look into the issue further, they also found that Clinton did not sign a separation form declaring she surrendered all of her official records after she left office in 2013, which is reportedly required. Further fueling the controversy was a press conference that took place on Wednesday March 10th, in which Clinton revealed the method of sorting the emails that was used. It was described that once the request was made by the State Department for the emails to be turned over, Clinton and her personal staff sorted through the emails and decided which ones were work related and should be shared, and which ones could be considered private. While she repeatedly emphasized that she and her staff “erred on the side of providing anything that could possibly be work-related”, many politicians were outraged that a neutral arbiter was not given the task, especially given Clinton’s involvement in the 2012 attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi. When scrutinizing a situation such as the one that Hillary Clinton is currently caught up in, it is easy for people to point fingers and assume that it was of dishonorable intent or poor character that caused such a situation. More likely, however, is that Clinton fell prey to multiple of the ethical breakdowns that many negative situations in business (management) can be attributed to. One of the most immediate connections that can be made in this case is with the “slippery slope” breakdown. In multiple of the news articles covering the scandal, it is recognized that while lower (and high level officials) level officials in the past have not complied with the Federal Records Act in keeping a government email address, it is Clinton’s highly public and high level title that makes the situation be viewed as so unacceptable. In this case, the breakdown can be attributed to a government regulation error, not on Hillary Clinton. In the slippery slope breakdown, small mistakes or illegalities are committed and allowed, which in time continue to grow in severity. As the name suggests, it is not one giant step to the ultimate action that is called to attention, but rather a multitude of small ones that increasingly get worse and worse. By having the infractions grow incrementally rather than occur at once, actions that originally would have been spotted right away as unacceptable are able to slip through. With the government regulation in Clinton’s case, it is their historically lax approach to enforcing the Federal Records Act regulations that enabled such an event to occur. It is likely that if the “slippery slope” had not been paved for Clinton, with lower-level officials before her using personal emails with no consequence, that it is an infraction that would have never been committed; and even if it had it likely would have been flagged right away by regulators instead of years later. A second breakdown that can be seen to have connections with this situation is the “motivated blindness” breakdown, in relation to the way in which Clinton’s personal staff would have chose to sort her emails. In a statement by Clinton’s office which outlines the process which was used, they revealed that they sorted the emails by separating anything with a “.gov” email address and through various keyword searches. Many critics were quick to point out