Case | HBS Case Collection | October 1993 (Revised July 1994)

A Brush with AIDS (A)

by Joseph L. Badaracco Jr. and Jerry Useem


A product manager at a health products company is responsible for marketing sharps containers, which hospitals use to store used needles in order to protect medical workers from being pricked with AIDS-contaminated needles. After hospitals report repeated instances of needles penetrating the container walls, she realizes the defective product poses a health hazard for medical workers. The product manager must decide whether or not to fix the containers when doing so would significantly decrease her profit performance for the year. The company mission statement stresses quality commitment to customers, but all compensation and advancement incentives are geared solely toward profit objectives.

Keywords: Health; Cost vs Benefits; Motivation and Incentives; Safety; Values and Beliefs; Profit; Goals and Objectives; Compensation and Benefits; Medical Devices and Supplies Industry;


Badaracco, Joseph L., Jr., and Jerry Useem. "A Brush with AIDS (A)." Harvard Business School Case 394-058, October 1993. (Revised July 1994.)