In the movie “Up in the Air”, the marketing position is seen in a negative light. This movie is about a firm who gets hired by other companies to help them fire a mass amount of employees in an attempt to downsize. The main character, Ryan Bingham, was their main “firer”. He was very good at what he did. He helped people see the light at the end of the tunnel after something as hard as being let go. Little did Bingham know his way of life was about to be stomped on when a young college grad named Natalie, with no experience, waltzed into the mix. She introduced the company to a new way of doing business. She introduced software, similar to Skype, where the firm could fire employees over the internet. This set the negative tone for the rest of the movie.
Marketing Ethical Dilemmas:
The main ethical dilemma in this movie was the fact that this company that Bingham and his peers worked for, got paid to fire another companies’ employees. I think this is completely wrong. I don’t think there should be any companies out there who do this for a living. The way that this profession was portrayed was that the more people who lost their jobs, the more profits the firm would make. So, in essence they took pride in firing others.
I believe that if a company either makes the decision to downsize, or is required to by their corporate office, the manager of each employee to be fired should be doing the work. It seems like a major “cop out” by paying another firm a lot of money to do your dirty work. When people get fired, they want to feel like they were appreciated, and the only reason they are being let go is because there are just not enough funds to support them any longer. The only way employees may feel a little bit better about losing their jobs, is if their manager explains to them what is happening and why they had to let them go. By hiring an outside company to do this work, it creates a very impersonal atmosphere, in which no one will feel comfortable. All in all, when it comes to firing employees, it should be done by the company they work for, and not an outsider.
The second ethical dilemma I encountered while watching this movie was the fact that this outside company wanted to switch their firing process from talking with the employees in person, to firing them over the internet. This idea was brought about by a college grad with no experience at all. The company thought this would be beneficial for many reasons. First of all, they thought that they would save a lot of money. Sending firers all around the world gets to be expensive. The company thought that by eliminating these traveling expenses, the company could dramatically increase their profits. This could definitely be true. Bingham mentioned that he is allotted forty dollars for each meal while away on business, and he enjoyed spending every penny. There was a scene in the movie where he was in front of four different entrées at a restaurant, eating little bits from each. There is no doubt that cutting these expenses would increase the company’s profits.
In reality, by eliminating the traveling, the company would also dramatically decrease satisfaction by the fired employees. No one wants to be fired in the first place, but by doing it in such an impersonal way, people are going to be even more upset. Bingham also believed this to be the case. His whole life was devoted to this job of firing people, but he also had to make them feel okay about their futures. He also believed this would be an incredibly bad move by the company. This wasn’t only an ethical dilemma in my mind, but it was something that Bingham struggled with for the entire movie. Luckily, in the end the company decided not to do the firing over the internet because of the issues stated above.
The third ethical issue I came across while watching this movie was the issue between balancing work and home life. In this movie, Bingham mentioned that he spent 322 of the last 365 days on the road. He literally did not have a home life. He went from one client to the next, from one state to another, on a daily basis. This is clearly unethical for a company to expect this from their employees. It is important for people to have that time at home away from their work. It is important for people to have a life that doesn’t only involve work. The unfortunate thing was, Bingham liked being on the road. I am not sure if he liked it because he had no wife or kids, and this made it easier for him to cope; Or if he just got used to traveling, and it became his choice of life.
Bingham mentioned that he spent a total of “43 miserable days at home this year”. I think this is a very sad thing. Throughout the movie, he talked about how commitment was a bad idea and everyone should avoid it. I believe this way of thinking has to do with his job. He sees, on a daily basis, people losing their jobs. This cannot be a comforting thing for anyone to go through.
Other Ethical Dilemmas:
There were many other ethical issues throughout this movie. First of all, during the entire film, Bingham was having a casual affair with a young woman named Alex Goran. They met one night at a hotel restaurant, while they were both out of town on business. They completely hit it off right away. Throughout the movie, the two schedule many arrangements to meet during their business trips. For once in Bingham’s life, he feels he wants to get close to this woman and possibly make a commitment. One day, he decided to be spontaneous and fly to Alex’s house to surprise her. When he rang her doorbell, she opened the door with a completely stunned expression. Behind her ran two little boys, and her husband. She had been lying to Bingham the entire time. Not only was it unethical for Alex to have an affair and cheat on her husband, but it was also wrong of them to be making arrangements to see each other on business time.
Another ethical issue I saw while watching the movie had to do with the way the airport worked. Since Bingham flew so often, he was very quick at the process of checking in and going through security. Many people got irritated with him because he would go to the front of lines, and make it through the process faster than anyone. But the reason he could do this was because of his experience. He brought Natalie, the new college grad whom I mentioned earlier, on a business trip with him. He taught her all the tricks to quickly getting through the lines of the air port. One thing he said that made me believe this was an issue was, “Asians are the people to follow behind in the security line. They know what they are doing, and they do it quick”. Then Natalie said, “isn’t that racist?” And Bingham replied, “No, it’s not racist, it’s a stereotype. I always stereotype, its faster”. This seemed very unethical and unprofessional.
The last ethical issue I will talk about dealing with this movie is about the new college grad, Natalie. This young woman was hired by the company right out of school. She came in with an innovative idea, and wanted to implement it within the company. If I were an employee within this company, I would be upset about the fact that a girl with no experience in the firing business, wanted to come in and change the process.
I believe it is an exciting thing that Natalie got the job, but I don’t think it is ethical for a manager to let her take over the procedure. I believe it should have been talked over with the senior employees and maybe have made some compromises. I believe it is important for companies to have new and innovative ideas, but it is still extremely important to have people involved with a lot of experience. It is difficult to do something right in business without both kinds of people working on the issue.
What I Learned:
I learned a lot while watching this movie. It was nice to be able to keep in mind ideas we talked about in class, and apply them to real world (movie) situations. I learned that it is a difficult thing to be a completely ethical person. It takes a lot of thought and energy to always make the right decisions, especially in regards to business.
I also realized while watching this movie that I never want to be traveling that much while I have a family at home. I used to think I wanted to get into international business and travel all around the world. After watching this movie, I think I will reevaluate my future options. I want to have a family when I am older, and I do not want to leave them at home while I am on business. I want to have a husband to come home to at night, and I want to be there as much as possible to bring up my children. I know that by being the person I am, I will be working hard at what I do, but I made a promise to myself that I will never work so hard that I don’t see my family often. I promised myself that I will do my best to leave my work stress at work, and come home to relax with my family. All in all, this was a great movie with many important lessions both in business and in life. I would recommend it to everyone!