The OP presents a typical poser of the sort that HP used to pose in their "business ethics and responsibility" training programme. All new hires had to undergo online induction training in this. The ethics programme may have had little real benefit for HP though, as the organisation seems to have suffered from serial ethical execution errors from the top executive down, over a number of years.Golden rule #1 - Operate from the basis of principled action.
Formulate some ethical principles, and stick to them.
The principle here is clear communication upwards of any areas of ethical concern.
A general rule-of-thumb I was taught in consulting in the UK Defence/SS sector is to always report upwards in writing
any instances or circumstances of actual or suspected fraud or unethical practice in a client account or in your own organisation. Your opinion is irrelevant, and your job is not to sleuth out the truth or otherwise of the matter - it will be out-of-scope of the Terms of Reference for the project you are engaged in. Just the facts and salient points as you know them is all you need to communicate.
You would usually do this as an email to
your staff manager and CCd
to the account/commercial manager, and would ask the former (in that email) for advice as to what action (if any) he/she may require you to take other than reporting the matter.Golden rule #2 - Paranoia.
- (a) Always ensure that at least two (2) people are sent the email, but address it to one only (CC the other), so as to focus responsibility for action. Also CC a Central Corporate File, if your company operates such a thing.
- (b) Make sure you retain a personal copy of the email. You could forward it (do not Bcc it) to your private email address, and then delete the forwarded email from your outgoing email store, or (safer) print the email off and retain the hardcopy at home or somewhere else safe, but not in the office anyway. Scan it to a document image.
- 1. Monkey-handling: The removal of the monkey from your back and the placement of it on 2 of your superordinates' backs. They would generally be expected get on with discussing an appropriate action between themselves, and you would be entitled to the courtesy of a written response from your staff manager, answering your Q and telling you what their approach is to be.
- 2. CTAM (Cover-The-Ass-Method): as an insurance/protection of your own career. You can be certain that, "when push comes to shove" or if the SHTF, no-one else will be interested in protecting it for you, as they will be too busy protecting their own hides.
If you receive a verbal response from either of them, whether in a formal meeting discussion or just in passing, then send them both
an email confirming your understanding of the discussion.Repeat and rinse:
same paranoia and CTAM as above, with this email and any others.Golden rule #3 - Just remember to always keep it in writing.The proof of the pudding:
This training has served me well over the years as a sort of Teflon coating. It has enabled me to survive unscathed several serious attempts by defective, unscrupulous or politically-motivated characters - in my own organisation or a client or associate organisation - to drag me down, or get me out of the way, or associate and tarnish me with blame for their own and/or someone else's unethical/corrupt or otherwise unprofessional practices or mistakes.
I have felt obliged to leave some companies where I could not be bothered continuing to work in such dysfunctional organisations, but in each case I have been paid a lot of exit money ($$$) to keep my mouth shut
, and in two of the most egregious examples I was later invited back by senior management, to find that the defective people had been fired with prejudice in my absence and there was a saner working environment.