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2. What Customers Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Them, or Will It?This case primarily covers decision-making topics. The case is fictional and describes an employee (Elena) of a rental-car companywho is being questioned by another employee from the company’s legal department about a car that she rented that was involved inan accident. In a flashback, it is revealed that Elena realized that there was something wrong with the vehicle but decided to rent the car anyway.Determining why Elena rented the car creates several topics for discussion. First, Elena feels strong pressure to do“whatever it takes” to rent vehicles to customers – even if that means lying or overlooking potential safety concerns. For example,Elena decided to lie to two customers who had a reservation for an SUV because her supervisor implied a reward for doing so (“Ifyou want to be a manager, start acting like one”). Thus, by disregarding the reservation in order to obtain a higher rental rate, Elenabelieved that she would be positively reinforced by her supervisor. Related to this, at the conclusion of the case, Elena is debatingwhether to tell the legal representative that she knowingly rented a car with a damaged tire. She realizes that punishment is likely tofollow if she tells the truth, but that if she lies, and gets away with it, she may eventually obtain the management position she is seeking and thus will be inadvertently rewarded for her unethical behavior.An additional topic for discussion involves attribution theory. Specifically, students could be asked whether Elena is to blamefor her behavior or whether external factors (e.g., Elena’s supervisor, the unethical climate at the rental office) are responsible.Discussion could then segue into the components of attribution theory (distinctiveness, consensus, consistency).Finally, the notion of escalation of commitment is relevant. Elena’s “small” lie (the reserved SUV broke down) leads to lyingto other customers, which culminates in renting a damaged vehicle. Though it is unclear whether Elena will confess in the end, giventhat Elena appears to be achievement-oriented, she may be more likely to escalate by lying again.Questions for Discussion1. Using concepts from reinforcement theory, explain why Elena might be motivated to lie to customers. With reinforcement theory in mind, do you think that Elena will confess to the legal representative? Why or why not?2. How might the rental office’s climate influence Elena’s behavior? What factors contribute to the current climate? What steps could you take to improve the ethics at this office?3. Do you blame Elena for her behavior or do you attribute her behavior to external factors? How do concepts from attribution theoryfit in?4. Consider Elena’s personality. Would you predict that escalation of commitment will occur (and she will lie to the legal representative), or will she decide to come clean? Explain your answer.5. Do you think Elena would make a good leader some day? Why or why not? What factors might this depend on?6. What emotions might Elena be experiencing? How might Elena’s emotions affect her decision to tell the legal department manager about the incident with Mr. Reynolds?

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