Oliver Sparling and Bible Books, Inc

2 Pages Posted: 30 May 2017

See all articles by Andrew Wicks

Andrew Wicks

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Jonathan Neeley

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Jenny Mead

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

What happens when personal values and beliefs conflict with business decisions? This case, suitable for MBA, undergraduate, and executive learners, prompts engaging discussion of this issue. Oliver Sparling was a highly successful senior analyst at AFI International, a top consulting firm in Chicago with an open and tolerant workplace. He was also a gay man who had lived happily with his partner for over 10 years. Sparling encounters trouble, however, when one of the firm's clients, Bible Books, Inc., takes exception to his “inappropriate” openness about his sexuality (including wearing his commitment band). Sparling's boss calls him into the office and asks him to tone it down when he's at Bible Books, Inc. “These are not easy economic times,” said the boss. “And this project is a big one for us. Basically, you're doing the company a favor if you lay low, and once the project is finished, it will be like it never happened. Besides, you know that you don't have anything to hide while you're at home here in Chicago. This is just for when you are in Birmingham.” Sparling must decide what course of action to take.

Excerpt

UVA-E-0355

July 6, 2010

Oliver Sparling and Bible Books, Inc.

Oliver Sparling was a senior analyst at AFI International, a top consulting firm in Chicago. After working in the financial management department for two years, Sparling had developed an impressive body of work, receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from clients and co-workers alike while clearly delivering results. Sparling was also a gay man who had lived happily with his partner for over 10 years. At AFI, Sparling felt completely comfortable being open about his relationship, and nobody in the company had ever voiced an issue with it. A number of other employees were in nontraditional relationships, and the general feeling both in and outside the office was that sexuality was a nonissue.

Recently, AFI had been contracted to work with Bible Books, Inc., a Christian publishing company based in Birmingham, Alabama. Sparling was head of the project, and his job would be to help Bible Books evaluate and reconstruct its business model, placing particular focus on digital books and new media. Sparling was excited about the project since he was especially interested in helping companies find a place on the cutting edge of new publishing technology. More importantly, Sparling was aware of an executive position at AFI opening up in the coming months and that he was among those being considered for the position. If the Bible Books project ran smoothly, Sparling knew he would probably be promoted.

Over the next few weeks, Sparling and his team made multiple trips to Bible Books' offices in Birmingham. By meeting face-to-face with the company's top leadership, Sparling was able to get a better feel for both the issues they faced as well as the direction they wanted to go.

. . .

Keywords: ethics, business ethics, stakeholders, personal values and beliefs, homosexuality, publishing, ethical situations, discrimination, religion, diversity

Suggested Citation

Wicks, Andrew and Neeley, Jonathan and Mead, Jenny, Oliver Sparling and Bible Books, Inc. Darden Case No. UVA-E-0355. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2974162

Andrew Wicks (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/wicks.htm

Jonathan Neeley

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Jenny Mead

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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