I have a serious problem that I hope you can help me with. I found out that my manager is doing some things at work that are not very ethical. Some of his misdeeds include misusing business funds (e.g. Takes his wife for dinner and his buddies for drinks claiming these personal outings as business expenses), treating employees like dirt and telling lies to the owner of the store where I work. What should I do? I love my job and the other people I work with and I don’t want to lose my job, but it’s getting harder and harder to work with this man! What should I do?
Upset in Ontario
As kids we called it tattling, in the grown-up work world we call it whistle-blowing. It is easy to do the whistle-blowing if you are asked or forced to perform unethical acts yourself, but when it comes to blowing the whistle on someone else doing them, it can get to be pretty nasty.
Ethics are based on generally accepted principles of right and wrong. Teaching ethics in universities and colleges has become big business, it’s just too bad it’s not a required course. Most companies and professional organizations have specific ethical codes that employees should adhere to; this way an employee has a better sense of knowing what exactly upper management considers ethical and unethical. If an act that is deemed as unethical derives from an established code of ethics, there is more support from both the company and your co-workers than if it is simply derived from a personal ethical sense.
On the flip side, even though ethical codes and standards are in place stating that employees should behave in a particular way, enforcing these codes and standards is extremely difficult. Certain codes are also up for interpretation; for example a company may promote honesty in their code of ethics, but what is their definition of honesty? It all comes down to one’s personal values. No one is 100% honest, we all tell little white lies (e.g. telling a friend you can’t attend their Tupperware party because you are busy that day, when you are not just to spare their feelings), but each one of us differs as to where the line is drawn between a white lie and full-fledged dishonesty.
So what are your choices?
Do nothing. Maybe the problem will just go away. You’d better hope that no one else knows that you know he is being unethical, because if his misdeeds ever come out along with the fact that you knew all about it, you’ll most likely be in the same boat as your manager – the unemployment boat. If he is getting away with it now, do you really believe his behavior will change? Probably not, meaning you are eventually going to get fed up and quit and the circle will continue with some other poor chump taking your place wondering if they should blow the whistle.
Tell your manager that you know what he is doing is wrong and ask him to stop. I’d pack your bags on this one first as you’ll probably have something blamed on you the next day resulting in your dismissal. If you don’t get fired immediately your work environment will be about as painful as childbirth or gallstones. If you confront someone who is being “bad” they will go out of their way to discredit you before you make your knowledge of them public. He may not try to discredit you immediately; instead he’ll spend weeks or months preparing his case against you. He may resort to questioning other employees and even customers about things you have done or said, probably amplifying the actual incidence 10 times to discredit you. Maybe, you’ll open his eyes and he’ll realize what he is doing is wrong and he’ll stop, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Go straight to the top boss. This will probably work as your manager is misspending your boss’s money; try to have some physical proof to present to your boss rather than just hearsay. However, what about those employees back at your level that may have been loyal to your manager. He may not have treated every employee like dirt. Once he finds out you “told” on him, his anger will probably propel him to take you down with him; make sure there are NO skeletons in your closet for the reasons I’ve stated above. On the other hand if he is treating employees like dirt, you may gain some respect by getting rid of him. Your main boss, if you handle the situation with the utmost professionalism, may even give you a raise or promotion OR, he could see you as a trouble maker, it’s hard to say.
Be Anonymous. Don’t expect an “anonymous” tip to result in the dismissal of your manager, I’m sure the FBI gets thousands of “anonymous” tips every day from disgruntled wives, co-workers and just plain crazy people convinced that Satan lives next door and is planning to take over the world. Face it, there’s no credibility in an anonymous tip.
Go External. Call up the newspaper or the labor board to “expose” your manager. If you choose this option, it is highly recommended that you resign first as you are unavoidably going to get fired if you have not tried to deal with the matter internally first.
Take into consideration how your decision will affect others in your personal circle (your family, friends, and co-workers), how it will affect the company in general and the people the company serves, and how it could affect your career. For each of those questions ask yourself what is the worst that could happen and the probability of it happening. Of the options presented above, one will just seem natural to you. A friend once told me that your initial reaction to a decision or question is usually the one your conscience is begging you to go with. I’ve given you some options and the repercussions involved and now it’s up to you to decide how to proceed.
I realize that I presented options to you that may not seem too desirable, but in reality we are a society that frowns upon whistle-blowers that is why it is important to really think about how you plan to proceed. Good luck!
I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! TELL ME YOUR TROUBLES. YOUR CONFIDENTIALITY IS ASSURED.
This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of firstname.lastname@example.org