Are Unpaid Internships Ethical?

Christmas may be the most wonderful time of year for many, but for managers, it’s summer that often brings the greatest joy. After all, this is when millions of college students and recent graduates offer their services for little or no pay. What could be better for business than voluntary unpaid labor? The federal Labor Dept., however, is cracking down on these arrangements, on grounds that they may violate labor laws.
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Apple’s No. 1 Opportunity for Growth: Pay Store Employees More

When it comes to technological achievements, marketing muscle, and overall coolness, Apple (AAPL) is the undisputed world leader. No one does a better job of creating gadgets that millions of people want the moment they’re available.

But a disturbing report in the New York Times details how Apple store employees average less than $12/hour and do not earn commissions, no matter how much merchandise they move. The enormous popularity of the iPhone and iPad has significantly enriched Apple’s bottom line, but the company apparently is not eager to share that wealth with the folks on the front lines. The retail employees clearly deserve better, and Apple is significantly bumping up the pay of some store workers, but both ethical intelligence and smart business call for more to be done.

True, Apple has no legal obligation to alter its labor policies, and it does pay workers more than the minimum wage. But Apple hasn’t come this far by doing merely the least of what is expected. It would be just and good management practice—as well as in the company’s financial interest—to give store employees a percentage of the sales they make. If, as the Times reports, Apple wants retail employees to remain in their positions for six years, this would be a great way to accomplish that goal.

A base salary with commissions would acknowledge the workers’ significant contributions to the company’s success, help to retain the ones who do the best job (which will ultimately boost Apple’s revenues), and evince the same kind of leadership in employment policy that Apple has earned in research, development, and marketing.

With regard to those in the Apple labor force who toil at the lowest end of the pay scale, it’s time for Apple to think—and perform—differently.

Originally published on Bloomberg Businessweek’s Management Blog on June 25, 2012.

Let’s Abolish Caveat Emptor

Why should the buyer beware? It’s up to companies to be honest and transparent about the products they are selling.

By Bruce Weinstein, PhD

When I was 10, I bought some gizmo that turned out to be a piece of junk.

Caveat emptor!” my mom told me when I showed her the busted toy I’d just spent my hard-earned allowance on.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“Let the buyer beware,” she said. “You can’t believe everything people tell you when they want to sell you something.” Continue Reading →

Toyota: Sorry Seems to Be the Easiest Word

Should we praise someone who does what he or she is ethically required to do?

by: Bruce Weinstein

The Ethics Guy Podcast:  Toyota.mp3

Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation, has apologized for his company’s debacle surrounding design flaws with various car models. Should we praise someone who does what he or she is ethically required to do? Continue Reading →

Five Easy Principles?

It’s not enough to know what to do. Understanding why is important, too, so the Ethics Guy explores the deceptively simple guidelines that govern behavior.

Over the past four weeks, this column has looked at some ethical questions that arise in professional and personal life, such as the ethics of New Year’s resolutions, whether it’s O.K. to lie to help the company, and collecting for kids at the office. By now, you might be wondering, “On what are you basing your analyses, Ethics Guy?” After all, it would be easy for anyone to shoot from the hip and say what he or she feels is the right thing to do when presented with an ethical dilemma.

As a professional ethicist, however, my responsibility is not merely to explain what we ought to do, but, perhaps more importantly, to say why we ought to do it. My ethical obligation to you is to provide good reasons for how we ought and ought not to act. Continue Reading →

The Ethics of Outsourcing Customer Service

Sending jobs overseas may be good for the bottom line in the short term, but frustrated customers will vote with their wallets.

It’s a familiar scenario: A product you purchased recently has developed a problem, so you call the company’s toll-free number and are connected to a “customer service associate” in India or the Philippines. You describe your problem but have a hard time understanding what the company representative is saying. You try several more times to communicate why you are calling but cannot get information that you can comprehend. You ask to be transferred to someone in the U.S. and are then put on hold for what seems like an eternity. You hang up in frustration and vow never again to purchase anything from this company. Continue Reading →

The Ethics of Multitasking

Stop the multitasking madness: Put down the iPod and your BlackBerry, and pay attention to the task at hand

By Bruce Weinstein, PhD

I’ll never forget how great I thought it was when I first discovered multitasking on my computer. Suddenly it was possible to switch between tasks seamlessly; with multiple windows, tabs, and programs open simultaneously. I could write articles, check e-mail, do research, and build spreadsheets—barely pausing between activities. I felt as if I were doing everything at once. It seems like ancient history now, but being able to move quickly and smoothly from one activity to another on a PC was nothing short of a revelation. Continue Reading →

A Memo to New Graduates

To: Business School Graduates, Class of 2009
From: The Ethics Guy at
Re: Your Future

Congratulations! Your hard work and persistence have paid off, and you are now on your way to a successful career in business. Continue Reading →

The Ethics of Work-Life Balance

The recession pushes some to work harder than ever, but overextending yourself won’t save your job, and it’s unethical, too .

By Bruce Weinstein, PhD

We are a nation in pain. According to a Mar. 12 Gallup poll, the number of people in this country classified as “suffering” has increased by 3 million over the past year. Managers and business owners experienced the greatest loss of well-being; 60.8% of businesses were thriving in the first quarter of 2008, but this number decreased by almost 14% by the fourth quarter. Continue Reading →