Using Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle: “Business Leadership: Three Levels of Ethical Analysis”
This writing explains my personal experience occurred in my workplace last year, which lasted about one month. I encountered with a decision from CEO that reflects “The second level of analysis – the means of ethical leadership” (Palmer, 2009). I intend to use Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle to describe it, which according to Gibbs (2013), “its emphasis is on practical teaching and learning methods for implementing learning by doing.” (p.11)
The experience occurred last year when I was working in a Pharmaceutical Company as a Head of International Dept. focusing on supply chain process. There was a change in our CEO position. After two days of joining the organization, the new CEO gathered all the managers, supervisors and directors in his meeting room and explained a very important project regarding the production of Insulin Vials (A biotechnology product used by those who have diabetes). The new CEO had done market research on this product and explained to us about the profit of the product and increasing demand for that in society. He emphasized that the project should start in three months and the product should launch one year from the meeting date. The shocking part of his explanation about the new project was that he warned us implicitly: if we do not reach his goal by the due date, there will be a mass lay off in the organization.
Prior to the meeting, I was thinking that it will be an introduction meeting and new CEO will clarify his vision for the future of the organization and become more acquainted with us. I was preparing myself for the meeting during the last two days to talk about my department as efficient as possible, but he did not ask us to illustrate anything and only focused on his plan. The previous CEO never behaved this way; he was very respectful to his personnel and all the decisions used to be taken only after several meetings and consultations with all managers; however, the new CEO not only treated in an unethical manner but also ignored the capacity and equipment of the factory. After the meeting, I had a very bad feeling as being humiliated. I was sure that new CEO was experienced enough and was fully aware of all requirements, but he preferred choosing an autocratic leadership style and considered us as the only means of reaching his target without respecting our values and personhood.
The production and manufacturing of Insulin is a proprietary, complex, multistep process in which each stage can potentially introduce variability, possibly leading to adverse clinical and safety outcomes. A risk management plan and pharmacovigilance program may also be needed for the approval process (Kuhlmann & Schmidt, 2014). The clear fact was that our factory was not dedicated to such field of production and we all were unfamiliar with the requirement and procedures. I was responsible for supplying raw material, but I knew it is a time taking process, especially for Biotechnology and Biosimilar category and it requires auditing production facilities overseas. Moreover, the required equipment and machinery must have been imported from abroad. The production process should have been taught to the production personnel and approvals should have been received from the Ministry of Health. Hence, the team of Managers including production, R&D, QC, QA and I decided to send a letter to the Food and Drug Administration and ask them to inform us the obligatory requirement for the production of Insulin with an approximate timeline officially. Having received the guideline from FDA, we figured out that clinical trial tests should be done at least for 6 months and results should be evaluated with FDA initially before launching to the market. Then we prepared a detailed report including all requirements and submitted to the CEO. It signified in the report that at least 3 years of time is required to launch such a critical product to the market. After that, the CEO decided to extend the due date to 3 years after all.
In my experience, the main difficulty remained the manufacturing of a biological that can satisfy the requirements of similarity to the reference product with respect to its chemical structure, post-translational modifications, presence of variants, impurity profile, physicochemical properties, stability and many other parameters without necessarily having access to the proprietary know-how of the reference product manufacturer (Health Action International, 2017). The framework of the process was very similar to the WHO guideline and consisted of the following sections:
a)Introduction and Scope: definition of biosimilars, original brand, registration process and general consideration",
b)Quality: production process, characterization (physiochemical, biological activity, immunochemical, accelerated stability test), specifications, analytical techniques, stability",
c) Nonclinical evaluation",
d)Clinical evaluation: pharmacokinetic studies, confirmatory pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic studies, efficacy studies, safety and immunogenicity",
f)Prescription and labeling information. (Hadavand et al., 2011)
Except for the requirement of above-mentioned complicated procedures, this was a very challenging situation not only for me but also for all my colleagues. All settled down by our previous CEO as a culture in our organization was sharing ideas, asking questions, consulting with different departments and running the projects in a positive and collaborative manner. At a minimum ethical leadership involves respect for persons. In this view, the means of ethical leadership will exhibit fundamental respect for those being motivated to act (Palmer, 2009). To treat people with respect in this sense entails that we do not view them as mere means to our own ends (Kant, as cited in Palmer, 2009). Nevertheless, based upon the characteristic of the new CEO that was showing a lack of trust, I was sure that only an official regulatory-based declaration could convince him that such project could not launch in one year. There are principle differences between ethical and unethical leaders. Ethical leaders direct and influence from a profound place of understanding principles, values and the need for a clear acceptance of the role they play in enabling others to grow in their personal knowledge, self-worth and professional career (Martin, 2014). Unethical leadership harms individual employees as well as organizations. Employee anxieties, feelings of helplessness, frustration, low job satisfaction, loss of trust toward the leaders, work alienation and related negative consequences for private lives of employees – these all are the malign products of unethical leadership (Lasakova & Remisova, 2015). Our CEO considered his aim regardless of both organizational capacity and abilities of the workforce. In the meantime, as mentioned, the language he used was including threat and coercion, proved that he did not trust the members of the organization that he join recently. Referring to the idea that trust is strengthened or weakened due to the experiences, interactions, and context within which the relationship exists, trust is likely to develop differently in relation to team members, team leaders, and toward the organization as a whole. (Burke et al., 2007, p. 610) Leaders provide the team with structural components (i.e., design of work that is motivating and empowering, functional norms, and team composition) that facilitate the achievement of the direction and corresponding goal. Once core conditions have been established, creating and maintaining a supportive context (i.e, updated information, resources — educational and task related) and coaching assistance can further facilitate performance. (Burke et al., 2007, p. 612). Accordingly, all feelings I had during the preparation of the report was the combination of fear, humiliation, and anxiety due to not being sure if new CEO will be convinced, treat rational and trust us finally or not. We’re social beings from the get-go: We’re born to be engaged and to engage others, which is what trust is largely about. That has been an advantage in our struggle for survival. (Kramer)
I think my colleagues and I did the best thing that we could do. We did not discuss with the CEO in the first meeting and only tried to control ourselves based on his way of behaviour. An emotional reaction never produces mature behaviour (Giles, 2017).Then we have done our best to share all our knowledge according to our expertise area and experience. The positive point of this experience was that I strengthened my sense of trust in the knowledge of my colleagues. Before I used to double-check every procedure or instruction myself but in this experience, due to the lack of time, I trusted the others and referred them in the report, and fortunately, it was efficient. I also realized that I should always be up to date about procedures and regulations in the area of my job, to act rational and strong. For example, in this case, if I was not aware that the FDA has very strict rules for Biotechnology products, I would not convince the CEO considering reasonable due time for the project.
Although the outcome of my experience was positive and the CEO discarded his tough decision about launching date and laying off accordingly, I need to develop some aspects of my character to act more professional in future when similar incidents arise. For instance, after the meeting with the CEO, I was so anxious and stressful, so I started acting aggressively with others. This action resulted in some tension in our meetings and my colleagues did not feel well with my way of behaviour. Hence, I need to attend yoga and meditation classes and listen to audiobooks like “Rewire Your Anxious Brain”. Moreover, I realized that not all senior managers are ethical leaders and behave rational and professional necessarily and I should be ready and flexible for any type of personality and model of treatment and react rational and logic.
Using Gibbs’ Reflective Model helped me recall all details of the experience, focus on them and recognize my positive and negative actions far efficiently. Namely, now I can understand the reason why I felt so bad when CEO threatened us by talking about laying off: It was because of morality, which was floating in our organization already, and I did not observe such behaviour from our ex CEO. In the meantime, teamwork, negotiation, and collaboration were always the base of our work before and my colleagues and I could easily use it and convince the new boss. Moreover, I figured out that my level of stress in critical situations is out of my control and it brings about inappropriate actions and I need to overcome it.