Scenario (Draws from scenarios presented in Mike Markel’s Ethics in Technical Communication: A Critique and Synthesis, and Lori Allen and Dan Voss’s Ethics in Technical Communication: Shades of Gray)
Crescent Petroleum, an oil-refining corporation based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has issued a request for proposals for constructing an intranet that will link its headquarters with its three facilities in the United States and Europe. Rivera Informatics, a networking consulting company in Miami, is considering responding with a proposal. If hired, most of Rivera Informatics’ work will be performed at the Crescent Petroleum headquarters in Riyadh.
Crescent Petroleum was established 40 years ago by family members who are related by marriage to the Saudi royal family. At the company headquarters, the support staff and clerical staff include women, who are mostly related to the owners of the company. The professional, managerial, and executive staff is all male, which is traditional in Saudi corporations. Crescent is a large company, with revenues in the billions of dollars.
You are the technical writer for Rivera Informatics, a small Information Technology firm of 12 employees established two years ago by Denise Rivera, a 29-year-old computer scientist with a master’s degree in computer engineering. She is working on her MBA while getting her company off the ground. Her employees include both males and females at all levels. The chief financial officer and several of the professional staff are female.
Looking to gather the information you need for composing a proposal, you travel with Denise to New York to attend a briefing by Crescent. When you arrive, you find that all the representatives from Crescent are middle-aged Saudi men. Denise is also the only female among the representatives of the seven companies that attend the briefing. When Denise shook hands with Mr. Fayed, the Crescent team leader, he smiled and nodded as he did when greeting the other venders.
Still, during the break, Mr. Fayed and his team spent more time speaking with the men from the other six vendors, sometimes leaving you and Denise to stand awkwardly by yourselves. When alone, Denise confided that she got the impression that the Crescent representatives feel uncomfortable in her presence.
On your flight back to Miami, Denise discussed the possibility of gender discrimination but decided to bid on the project because she believes your company could write a persuasive proposal. Rivera Informatics had done several projects of this type successfully in the last year. Though Crescent would be, by far, the most lucrative contract yet.
You wrote the proposal and sent the first draft to Denise for her feedback. She sent the proposal back to you with the following comments and directed revisions:
You consider each of the directed changes and decide you don’t feel comfortable making them. Either some or all these revisions strike you as unethical. Unfortunately, Rivera Informatics does not have a code of conduct to provide guidance.
You look at the pile of work on your desk, the mass of emails in your inbox, at the clock reading 4:30pm, and at the empty bottle of Dayquil by your mouse. You take a deep breath, shake your head, and resolve that careful consideration of the dilemma is required. Once you have clarified the unethical nature of the directed changes, you will compose an email to Denise making your argument against them.
THE ASSIGNMENT: ETHICS EMAIL
Compose an email persuading Denise Rivera, president and founder of Rivera Informatics, that it is in her best interest, and that of her company, to omit some or all of her directed revisions because they would be unethical. Remember to use appropriate tone–she is your boss, not the other way around. Also, it’s totally okay to offer alternative suggestions–to be helpful instead of merely critical.
Though you’ll write your email in a Word document, you should create a header that looks like an email with an appropriate subject line. You’ll also want to create a signature that reflects your position at the company.
Make sure to organize your responses in a way that is easy to follow–Denise gets lots of emails everyday and she’ll need to be able to understand your answer without rereading her email to you. You can revisit the chapter on email etiquette here
(Links to an external site.)
Be especially careful of tone: you want Denise to understand what you will and will not change in the proposal you wrote without offending your boss. Since she’s your audience, you also want to convince her to get her on board with your choices.
Here’s how you’ll be graded:
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