Everyone strives to act in a professional and ethical manner both at work and in their private lives. However, there may come a time when you may be conflicted or unclear as to what an appropriate response is to a given situation. Let’s look at a few tips that may help resolve those situations in the best possible manner.
What Is the Company Policy?
Ideally, your employer will have a written policy as to how employees should handle situations that are ethically murky. This policy may direct you to talk to corporate counsel or call the police if certain criteria are met. In almost all cases, it is best to follow that policy as best as possible. At the very least, it could limit your liability as the matter unfolds.
What Does the Law Say?
If the law says that what you’re doing is illegal, it may be best to not engage in such behavior. For instance, if an employer asks you to fudge an accident report to avoid a workers’ compensation claim, you should simply state that doing so could constitute fraud or negligence. Your next step may be to contact the authorities or an attorney if you are retaliated against for making such an assertion.
Think About Your Legacy
It only takes one bad act to undo months or years of good work. If you take actions that result in a criminal conviction or any sort of professional sanctions, you may never be seen the same again by your peers. This may be true even if you devote years or decades after the incident to doing the right thing.
Follow Your Instincts
As a person of integrity, you have an understanding of what is right and wrong. If you feel like your actions could be illegal or unethical in any way, you are probably right. Therefore, you should consider another course of action even if it may not win much support from a manager or other executives within your company. Even if you are fired for taking a moral stand, it is usually better than dealing with the emotional turmoil an illegal or unethical act may bring.
If you are put in an ethically or legally murky situation, you shouldn’t do what your boss says to placate him or her. Instead, it may be best to follow existing company policy or existing legal guidelines. If you are still lost, it may be best to do what you feel is right and face whatever consequences come from that decision.
Author Info: Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys kayaking and reading books by the lake. You can find her on Twitter.