Each worker must determine own ethics
Suppose a chronically late co-worker asks you to keep their tardiness a secret. Should you? What if a customer asks for a special discount that they did not qualify for? Do you give it to them? Imagine your boss encourages you to “fudge” on a company expense report. Can you?
These scenarios represent ethical dilemmas that employees face frequently in the name of doing business. But bending the rules could end up breaking your career. Therefore, business ethics should be carefully considered and referenced at each questionable crossroad.
First, make sure that what is being asked of you is truly unethical before you become too concerned. While some requests are obviously unethical, you should understand the request before challenging the source. Ask yourself, “Do I have all the facts?”
You may want to bounce the issue off of other employees. If you feel there is someone at the company you can trust, explain the general issue at hand. You don’t have to mention names, just ask if company policy allows you to do whatever your boss is requesting of you.
Next, decide on how much you are willing to risk. Individuals must decide for themselves just where to draw the line. You may not have a problem telling a specific customer that your boss is out for the day, even when he isn’t, because you know that this particular customer is a bothersome, habitual caller. On the other hand, you may be uncomfortable telling the same story to the owner of the company when he or she calls and asks to speak to the manager.
You also need to ask yourself, whom your decided action will affect? What will the costs be? If you consider what harm or benefits can be derived from your choices, then you are in a better position to make a decision.
If the matter is important enough to you, then you need to take some risks. Let your boss know that the situation makes you uncomfortable. However, don’t be accusing; give your boss a chance to save face.
If your boss gives you an “I don’t care” attitude and tells you to do it anyway, you need to go over his or her head. There isn’t any guarantee that this will improve matters, so be sure you are aware of the risks.
If the people you have turned to for help don’t have a problem with the requests, and/or there isn’t anyone higher to turn to, then it may be time to think about a job change. You need to determine whether this is really the company you want to work for. If your boss’s values are in conflict with yours, then you need to realize that staying may compromise your values.
Unfortunately, no formula exists for evaluating an ethical issue or offering a plan of action. Each situation and each person is different. You can choose to bend the rules and compromise your values slightly. You may also break a rule and accept the risks, or you may quickly bolt by refusing to sell out.
Once you determine your comfort level and personal code of ethics, the choices will become much clearer.