Let’s Play “What’s Wrong With This Guy?”!

Hi there, everyone! It’s time to play the exciting ethics game that’s sweeping America: “What’s Wrong With This Guy?”! As you know, contestants are asked to name which ethics virtues are missing from the miscreants in our stories, and, if they can, explain how they got the way they are.

Are you ready, contestants? Then let’s play, “What’s Wrong With This Guy?”! Introduce our subject for Round I, Johnny!

“Sure thing, Jack! Meet Ian Clifford!

“He’s an IT specialist who started to work for American software company, Lotus Development in 2000 after it was purchased by IBM in June 1995. Poor Ian went on sick leave from September 2008 to 2013, and then protested to IBM that he hadn’t received a pay raise or vacation pay in that time—five years—though he had not been working. As a settlement of that grievance, IBM offered Clifford a deal where he would be put on the company’s disability plan, meaning that he would be paid without working and would receive 75% of his salary at the time he became ill until recovery, retirement or death, and he had more that 30 years ahead of him before he reached 65. After taxes, Clifford gets £54,028, or $67,693.57 a year in US. dollars.”

“But that’s just the beginning, Jack! Last year, Ian sued his employer again! His argument: because of inflation, the value of his salary (for not working) was shrinking, and he still wasn’t getting his vacation pay, though you can’t go on vacation when you aren’t working anyway. He argued that he was being discriminated against for being disabled.”

“Judge Paul Housego dismissed his case, saying, in essence, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

“The claim is that the absence of increase in salary is disability discrimination because it is less favorable treatment than afforded those not disabled. This contention is not sustainable because only the disabled can benefit from the plan. It is not disability discrimination that the Plan is not even more generous.Even if the value of the £50,000 a year [were] halved over 30 years, it is still a very substantial benefit. However, this is not the issue for, fundamentally, the terms of something given as a benefit to the disabled, and not available to those not disabled, cannot be less favorable treatment related to disability. It is more favorable treatment, not less.”

“Thanks, Johnny! What a concept! Being paid to do nothing is a better deal than having to work for living! Well, contestants, what’s your answer? What’s wrong with this guy?

“And for bonus points, how did he get this way?

13 thoughts on “Let’s Play “What’s Wrong With This Guy?”!

  1. He’s probably regretting he wasn’t working three jobs when he became disabled so that he could have then gotten three pay-outs.

  2. He is someone who should have the original settlement rescinded and then have his suit dismissed with prejudice.

  3. They gave him free stuff, and now he wants more. I’m not sure there is anything wrong with him. Sounds like a normal mammal to me. He is just hitting the little button that makes the food pellets come out. This is why communism does not and cannot possibly ever work.

  4. Stipulated: The plaintiff’s disability could be a legitimate one. We don’t know. That doesn’t really change my answer.

    How did we get here?

    The Deep Pockets Rationalization aka The Jo Polniaczek Excuse: Named for Nancy McKeon’s character on the ’80s show “The Facts of Life”. In one episode, Jo borrows a watch belonging to her frenemy, wealthy Blair Warner, without asking so she can time herself while taking an exam. On her way back, the watch is damaged when she jumps into a quick basketball game. She blows it off because Blair is wealthy and has a lot of watches.

    The Deep Pockets Rationalization states that the person with the most money should pay even if not at fault. A guy driving a Hyundai hits a guy driving a BMW. The Hyundai driver tries to argue that the BMW driver should pay for everything because he has more money. A person trips in a store and tries to compel the business to pay even though she tripped because she wasn’t paying attention to what she was doing. Or a restaurant is pressured to pay for a disfigured child’s surgery after the family failed to extort money with false allegations against employees (Remember the KFC incident from a few years’ back?).

    The Faultless Corollary can be added to this which covers when no one is at fault, as in a weather event or,
    possibly, Mr. Clifford’s disability. This Corollary is the infamous “I don’t feel that this is my fault so I shouldn’t have to pay” excuse that is the bane of Customer Service reps everywhere. In other words, it’s not Mr. Clifford’s fault he is disabled so the company should afford him the same benefits as those who are working.

    The Slacker Rationalization aka the Fairness (or Equity!) Doctrine – The Slacker is the guy or gal at work that doesn’t show up on time, fails to do his or her best work and yet still expects to be given raises, promotions and other benefits equal to hardworking, reliable employees. These are sometimes those who rely on the Seniority Fallacy which states that an employee who’s worked at a business longer than others should make more money than those who have worked there for less time, regardless of merit. A relative by marriage of mine is a good example: slow to change habits or learn new things, prone to mood swings and unpleasant public reactions, calls in sick at the first sight of a snowflake (to the point of getting warnings for attendance) and yet complains when no raise has been forthcoming for years.

    Add a bit of the One-Sided Social Contract Rationalization aka the My Former Co-Worker Excuse: One day, I read a ridiculous story about how some city government somewhere was suggesting paying criminals not to commit crimes. A co-worker, who ironically moved to Massachusetts later because she’d been accepted to a Harvard adult-extension style class, nodded her head and opined, “That’s a good idea.” I explained the philosophy of the Social Contract as it pertains to citizens agreeing not to do certain things for the betterment of the culture, including not committing crimes. Of course, this is the same co-worker who, when I foolishly attempted to explain how we got a professional Civil Service by relating how, prior to reform, Civil Servants were picked by the political party in power, interrupted me right there with another “That’s a good idea” because, apparently, she thought her own political party would always remain in power…or something? So maybe it wasn’t ironic that she got to go to Harvard. But I digress…

    The practitioner of the One-Sided Social Contract would have no problem demanding that society honor its duty to protect or provide for those in need while not holding up his or her end of the bargain at the same time. As a result, such a person believes that people should be paid to behave themselves and those who are not working should be getting the same benefits and perks that those who are working receive.

    We got this way because of well-publicized arguments over many, many years about how rich people should pay “a little more” in taxes, large companies should pay their share, wealthy minorities should “give back” to their community.

    We got this way by permitting the idea that fairness means everyone gets the same, regardless of merit. From children being given presents on a sibling’s birthday to everyone getting the same grades at school to minimum base pay for everyone, our culture is being poisoned against innovation and invention. We got this way by allowing sympathy to set untenable economic precedents for individual, companies and governments.

    We got this way by forgetting the Social Contract.

      • Thanks, OB. The Ethics Corrupters’ tactics have trickled down into society itself and given the ethics dunces among our population the tools to violate societal norms at will and without thought for others. This blog has had to address the big-name Ethics Villains so much because they are so prevalent and obvious that there is rarely the opportunity to address how their philosophies seep into the culture and grab individual dunces like Ian Clifford.

  5. I’ll play.

    I see a lack of many virtues, but to keep this in the novella length rather than a full Robert Jordan novel, I’ll stick to the ones that require minimal defense. I also will only use those listed on “Virtues, Values, and Duties” though I reserve the right to redefine some of these for better exposition of the issues. I will use the Steve Witherspoon method of defining my terms so that we can all understand from which paradigms I am beginning my analysis.

    The first virtue missing is that of Humility. I am going to use the Catholic definition of this virtue, which can be summed up as knowing one’s self and acting accordingly. This virtue requires an honest assessment of ourselves and the knowledge of what we should expect and behave like. It is not humble for a peasant to require others to treat him as a king. However, a king can still be humble while requiring a certain degree of deference due to his status. Indeed, lowering himself to a level below his status can be considered to be as much of a bane to humility as the peasant holding himself at too high of status. This is similar to Jack referring to how a President should conduct himself.

    This man lacks humility because, instead of seeing himself in the position of a non-industrious member of a company, he still believes that he is deserving of the salary and benefits of a valued employee. He not only has an inflated sense of self, but a requirement that others treat him above his status. Requiring money for not working (lack of Ben Franklin’s industriousness virtue, most likely, though if the disability is real, perhaps this can be skipped) shows a distinct lack of humility.

    For secondary virtues, I will discuss them by category. I am assuming that his disability status is real, not the typical “allergy to work” that afflicts so many today. Were this disability an allergy to work, then the virtues lacking would be more involved, with greater exposition needed.

    – Reliability: “fit to be relied upon” This should be obvious. This man is not reliable for his job and its duties. You could not rely upon him for anything of merit.
    – Integrity: “The quality of moral uprightness” There is no integrity in asking for what you have not earned, and upon receiving it, asking for even more. If he truly was deserving of the income (which he is not), asking for even more now would show a distinct lack of integrity.
    – Loyalty: “the feeling of support or allegiance” If this man was loyal to anyone but himself, he would not ask for what is not his. To support or ally with another, for example the company that he wishes to treat him loyally (or extravagantly), would require a certain degree of reciprocity, of which he has shown no inclination.

    Overall, this man is not trustworthy in the slightest. No one should trust him, certainly not those from whom he has relied on for generosity. You cannot rely on him to do anything, he will not hold himself up to a valued standard, and he will not return any good you give.

    – Autonomy: “the capacity to act in accordance with objective morality rather than under the influence of desires” Res ipsa loquitor.

    He shows no respect for his employer, yet demands it in return. Respect is a lacking virtue.

    – Diligence: “careful and persistent work or effort” If there is no work or effort, it seems that having careful and persistent work/effort is right out!
    – Accountability: “the fact or condition of being responsible” Ok, so I couldn’t find a definition that didn’t reference responsibility as I wanted, but the man is obviously not holding himself responsible for his own actions or lack thereof. Desiring pay and benefits for not doing anything is not accountable.
    – Self-Restraint: “self-control” This is most easily seen in the fact that not only was this man getting paid for not doing anything, but instead of controlling his desires for money, he is demanding that he get even more. He chose not to control his own greed.
    – Prudence: “caution or circumspection as to risk” I could discuss some classical definitions of prudence here far beyond what this definition goes into, but I think we can simply say that when you have been gifted with something far beyond what you should have, it is not prudent to demand more.

    There is no responsibility in this man’s actions. He takes no responsibility for himself, nor does he show any sign that he acknowledges where he is lacking.

    – Proportionality: “the quality of corresponding in size or amount” Even assuming that the 75% salary for doing nothing is equitable given his disability, asking for more, with no increase in what he gives is very much not proportional.
    – Equity: “the quality of being fair” At no point can one argue that getting a salary for doing no work for years is equitable. A fair wage for doing nothing, no matter the disability, would be nothing. Now, a fair solution could be trying to find the man a position that his disability allows. Allowing him to keep a position, with no wages, could also be valid, if there is any sign of him attaining the ability to work again. Given that this has occurred since 2008, I do not believe that it is realistic to state that he will regain the ability to perform, and it would be equitable to let him go.

    It is contrary to fairness to allow a person to take money that should be allocated to the benefit of those who bring value to a company. This is unfair to the company and all other employees. It also causes harm in society, allowing a person to live off of doing nothing as it suggests to others that they can do the same, causing scandal (attitude or behavior that leads others to committing evil) in society. A person demanding this is lacking the virtue of fairness.

    – Charity: “to love the neighbor as oneself (the Golden Rule)” To demand that someone give of themselves to you, rather than the opposite, to demand that you receive what you are not due, is the opposite of charity. There is no Golden Rule found in this man’s actions. All we see here is selfishness.
    – Benevolence: “the quality of well meaning” There is no well meaning in demanding a salary for work that you have not performed. I would also argue that it is hard to see any lawsuit coming from benevolence, but there can be ones that follow the ideal of justice, requiring a utilitarian balance of the two. If I sue someone for the wrongs they have done to me, I do not mean well for them, but they may truly deserve the lawsuit. Perhaps I could be convinced of the contrary, but certainly not in this case. There is no well meaning in any of his actions.
    – Consideration: “thoughtfulness and sensitivity toward others” This person thinks only of himself. Consideration is only a factor in his actions if we use the definition “a payment or reward” which is not associated with the word as it is found in a list of virtues.
    – Generosity: “showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected”. Res ipsa loquitor.

    Caring is not a virtue found here at all. The only care this man shows is for himself.

    – Loyalty: see above
    – Participation: “the act of taking part” He is not taking part in the company’s work, so there is no sense in taking part of the company’s benefits.

    Citizenship is yet another virtue that is lacking in spades.

    Why is he like this? Now this one is hard, and I’m going to point to Null Pointer’s response, which is far better than anything I can provide. I especially agree with the Slacker Rationalization and the One-Sided Social Contract, but find no fault in the Deep Pockets Rationalization or Faultless Corollary, though I believe those are a step further distant from our subject than to be called a direct cause. The breakdown of the Social Contract that Null Pointer referred to above and that was deservingly placed as a COTD is truly the largest problem we see in this sort of behavior today.

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