In both large and small ways, we expect our teams to behave ethically. That's the easy part; the hard part is knowing how to respond to the many ethical questions and challenges we face. Match your skills with the experts' by taking this true-or-false quiz:
___ 1. One of my people tells me his last manager, one of my peers, is embezzling. I know he had problems with that manager, and it wouldn't be appropriate for me to put her reputation at risk.
___ 2. If a team member asked me for permission to use office equipment to complete a school project, I would be more likely to approve than if she simply used the equipment without asking.
___ 3. If employees call in sick, I take them at their word, even if I don't know they're actually ill.
___ 4. I would give my people cash gifts out of my own pocket, but I would never accept a cash gift from a team member.
___ 5. I don't feel the need to monitor team Internet usage, but I would begin to if I discovered a team member viewing pornography.
___ 6. Even though I know our information systems aren't all they could be, I still expect my people to take responsibility for their own errors and not blame the technology.
___ 7. I know the company isn't going to miss a few boxes of supplies, so I won't create conflict with my people by blowing the whistle when they use those supplies for their own personal needs.
___ 8. If I'm the only person who knows about an employee's ethical lapse, I'll try to handle the matter without alerting anybody else.
What do your answers mean?
Here's what the experts say:
1. False. Maybe he had problems because she was acting unethically. Use caution, but don't ignore his concerns.
2. True, if you'd approve the use based on consistent practices that are OK with your enterprise. Otherwise, it doesn't matter if she asked or not — it's still unethical.
3. True. Unless there's an obvious pattern of abuse, if you expect honesty, you're more likely to get it.
4. False. If you have real friendships with your people, then gift-giving (of cash or whatever else) should be reciprocal. Otherwise, out-of-pocket gifts should be avoided, period.
5. False — but ... Pornography can create special liabilities for your enterprise, such as sexual harassment claims. But Internet shopping, for example, is just as much a misuse of your time and property.
6. True. If there's a problem with the technology, your people should let you know before their work is due and look for other solutions.
7. False. "Blowing the whistle" may just be a gentle reminder, but you should insist that your business property be used for your business.
8. True, if you can in fact deal with the issue in private. Even with the best intentions, covering up an ethical problem makes it a worse ethical problem.