Toxic Workplaces

A cooperative ethics card game.

This game is designed to bring about discussion of the ethical situations that engineers may face during their career. Using specific example situations and responses, the players will rank the responses as if a group of their peers were surveyed and asked to choose one of the actions. They must rank them from least likely selected to most likely selected.

The Game Components

This game comes with 37 ethical situations, each having 6-17 possible responses.


The Set Up

Pick a scenario, place all the response cards that correspond with that scenario face down in a pile and shuffle. Read the scenario out loud to the group. Draw the first card from the response pile and place it face up on the table. You are ready to begin the game.


How to Play

First, read the scenario out loud. Next, place the first response card facing upward in the center. Then, select the next response card, discuss amongst the group, and agree upon one of two actions:

  1. Place the card to the left of the first card if the group agrees that less people would select that response than the first card.
  2. Place the card to the right of the first card if the group agrees that more people would select that response than the first card.

Continue to select one card at a time from the response pile, discuss, and decide where in the series of responses the card belongs. Place it in the series so that the cards are arranged in an order from least likely to be selected to most likely to be selected. Once a card is discussed, agreed upon, and placed, it cannot be moved, but new response cards may be placed between two cards that are already placed in the series. Continue this process until there are no more response cards in the pile.

At the end, the cards should be ranked from least likely to be selected to most likely to be selected. Then flip over every card exposing the percentages of people that selected to continue with each action.


The Scoring

Starting with the left-most card, see if this card has the least percentage of people who chose this, if it is, award the team a point. After this, if the next card is greater or equal to the card immediately to the left, award a point. Continue on until you reach the end tallying up all of the points.

Example: These players would score four points out of a possible six.

screenshot from the toxic workplace game

  • They would earn a point for card A because it has the lowest percentage out of all of the cards on the table.
  • They would earn points for cards B, D, and E because those cards have a higher percentage than the cards immediately to their left.
  • They would not earn points for cards C and F because they have a lower percentage than the cards immediately to their left.


Let's Practice!

Case 2. The Plagiarized Proposal. You have been asked to submit a proposal and cost estimate for the foundation investigation for a proposed mid-rise condominium at First and Main Streets by a developer for whom your firm has done work previously at the site of the Hillside Court project.

You go to the developer’s office to discuss the scope of the work in preparation for writing the proposal and note that in addition to the red BMW convertible and the steel gray Jaguar with gold trim parked in front of the one-story, single-office building, the lettered sign on the door indicates: Hillside Court Development, Inc. Grandview Enterprises, Ltd. First and Main Associates, Inc.

As you enter the building, you note that there appears to be one secretary (who also acts as the receptionist) in a general office function area, plus two large executive offices. At the meeting in one of executive offices, the developer, Barry Young, indicates that he is retaining I. M. Strong, principal of Strong Engineers, as the structural engineer for the project. He also states that due to the peculiar architectural layout of the proposed building on the site, the structural engineer will be responsible for considerably more work than normal for this type of structure. Nothing of any substance can be done on the structural design until the foundation report is received. You are familiar with the Strong structural engineering group, having worked with them on one or two projects recently, and know that they have a good reputation in the local engineering community.

Young indicates that he does not know what needs to be done regarding the foundation investigation and requests that you outline the specific items in your proposal to him for the work. You return to your office and prepare a detailed scope of work, including it in your proposal for the foundation investigation. You have the proposal delivered to Young’s office and get on with other projects on your list of things to do. Three weeks later, having heard nothing from the developer, you call to ascertain the status of the project.

Mr. Young apologizes for not having called you, and explains that he gave your scope of work to one of your competitors, who agreed to do the work for the same price as your budget estimate, but also agreed to bill the developer for only the field work by the drilling contractor (about 25% of the total budget) until the condominium complex is completed and 80% occupied. In fact, the field work is scheduled to start in about two weeks. What, if anything, do you do?