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Make sure an ethical lapse is all that it appears to be

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in Your Office Coach

Q: “I have learned about some unethical behavior in the small community bank where I work. A few years ago, the CEO’s son was hired as a loan officer. He drives the bank car to lunch and takes it home every night. His secretary says he uses a bank credit card to fill up his truck and has even charged some personal items.

“This amounts to stealing from the bank, which is especially annoying because employees received no raise last year. I would like to report him to the Board of Directors, but my only evidence is what his secretary told me. I'm also afraid that I might jeopardize my job. What should I do?”

A: Although something unscrupulous could be going on here, you should be cautious about jumping to conclusions based on hearsay, because you may not have all the facts. Managers often drive company cars home, and people frequently pay back their personal credit card charges.  

If you do obtain hard evidence that the CEO’s son is violating regulations, you will have to decide what to do with that information. In a small-town bank, directors and executives are often friends, so you would need to assess the Board’s objectivity. If state or federal regulators provide a “whistleblower process,” that might be another option.

The bottom line is that your job could be at risk, so don’t let irritation cause you to act impulsively. Remember that doing the right thing does not always guarantee fair treatment.

Unethical management can be a good reason to change jobs. Here are a few more: Is it Time to Leave Your Job?

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