The Situation Room: Truth Telling
You are fairly new to a job as a human resource leader. Anxious to learn all you can about the organization and make a difference. You jump in, meeting everyone and understanding how the business works.
You discover an issue. It’s not a small issue. It is an ethical dilemma that can cause your organization serious problems legally as well as send off red flags in the public eye. If left unaddressed the organization could experience extensive fines, its tax exemption status could be challenged (for non-profits), and key decision makers could face possible prison time.
The more you research the situation the more restless nights occur. You get up in the mornings with a growing pit in your gut. You know that taking on this ethical dilemma will not be popular among powerful decision makers in your company. Trying to correct the problem could lead to your sudden job loss. But still you know that doing nothing means acceptance.
What do you do?
- You need your job and nothing has happened to the organization all this time anyway. You could be wrong. Stay silent.
- Gather facts and educate. Sit down with your boss and educate him/her on the implications of staying with the status quo.
- The company created the problem they can fix it on their own. Find another job and go away quietly.
- There are no such things as ethical dilemmas in the workplace. It is all leaders job to follow laws, policies and procedures.
This is a tough one. Sadly this situation is not made up.
The unfortunate truth is professionals get thrust into situations such as this more frequently than we may ever know.
According to the 2014 Global Fraud Study:
- "Survey participants estimated that the typical organization loses 5% of revenues each year to fraud. If applied to the 2013 estimated Gross World Product, this translates to a potential projected global fraud loss of nearly $3.7 trillion."
According to the 2013 National Business Ethics Survey of the US Workforce:
- "Among those who observed misconduct in 2013, 63 percent reported what they saw, compared to 65 percent in 2011 and 63 percent in 2009."
- "For the second straight survey, more than one in five workers who reported misconduct said they experienced retaliation in return. In 2013, 21 percent of reporters said they faced some form of retribution, virtually unchanged from a record high of 22 percent in 2011."
Ethical issues may not always be an outright legal violation. It may also be something that falls short of illegal and may include bullying behaviors, ignoring organizational policy and performance expectations, lying such as taking credit for someone else’ work, or calling in sick when well, favoritism and so on.
There is good news and especially for truth tellers.
There are organizations that value truth telling and encourage transparency and accountability at all levels of the organization. There are leaders who have discovered fostering transparency within the business can contribute to positive employee engagement and thus positive business results.
Take a look at the 2015 World’s Most Ethical Companies Recognition list. Ethisphire.com recognizes The World's Most Ethical Companies® designation to companies that truly go beyond making statements about doing business "ethically" but also translates those words into action. Honorees exceed legal compliance minimums and shape future industry standards by introducing best practices today. There are organizations in virtually every industry that are stepping up to the ethical plate.
Perhaps they know something that others do not. China Gorman points out in her blog post “Good Ethics = Good Business” that there may be a correlation to better profits and ethical workplaces. See China's post here.
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Tresha D. Moreland, MBA, MS, SPHR, SSBBP, founder of HR C-Suite, is an HR thought leader in Human Resource Strategic Management. She has held key human resource leadership roles for over 20 years in multiple industries most recently a senior vice president in the healthcare industry.
Tresha is the founder and publisher of HR C-Suite (www.hrcsuite.com). HR C-Suite is a game changer results-based HR strategy website. It is a first-of-it's-kind site that organizes HR strategy based on desired business result.
She has developed a business philosophy of integrating human resources with business strategy, thus creating a hybrid HR leadership approach. This approach enables the leveraging human resources to achieve business results.