A young manager was faced with a customer who had not been paying on time and was sitting on a large amount of unsold inventory. Concerned how he would appear to his bosses he decided to solve the issue himself and not escalate the problem. As time progressed the payment issues got worse. Everytime the topic came up he felt he had to keep defending his earlier actions and he kept giving explanations as to how he was handling the issue. His small white lies became bigger until at the end of the year the bomb exploded. Millions worth of goods had to be returned and the financials were badly impacted. The manager’s performance evaluation was very poor for the year and it impacted his chances of progress in the near term.

We are often faced with ethical situations where we are unsure of what to do – to share or not to share, to be open with the ugly truth or try to make it appear better than it actually is.

The golden rule in all such cases of doubt is to the do the right thing. 

What is the right thing you may ask ? 

The right thing is what you would do if it was your own company. The right thing is one were your mum would be proud of what you did. The right thing is always to share the problem or doubt as early as possible to get inputs from everywhere and make the decision.

We see data showing our launch is not working. The right thing to do is be the first person to share this transparently with your bosses and also define the action plan of what you are going to do to fix things and seek inputs from them.

We see a supplier has sent us some expensive wines as year end gifts. We are unsure if we can accept them or not. The right thing to do is to share it immediately with your boss or the relevant function to ask whether it is ok or not. If not ok return it immediately.

We become aware a distant relative is pushing for some business with our company and has offered us a stake in his venture. The right thing to do is to immediately share this with your boss and others to find out if it is acceptable or not. If not make a clear decision on the way forward.

You see a minor product quality defect that you feel will impact consumer perceptions of your brand. Stopping production will cost the company a lot. What should you do ? The right thing to do is to share the issue with the relevant decision makers with a clear recommendation from your side. Do not just allow the decision to slip past unmindfully.

You see someone be abusive and aggressive on a virtual call with the rest of the team. The matter does not affect you directly but it impacts others. The right thing to do is to give direct feedback to the person concerned or if not feasible instead find someone senior enough  who can then take action.

Your spouse has a specific habit that is annoying to you. However you often stop short of talking about it for the fear of upsetting them. Believe it or not this not only enables the annoying behaviour to continue but it also weakens your relationship as you are unable to give each other feedback. The right thing to do is find a kind compassionate way to transparently give feedback to your spouse. It may hurt in the short term but it will make things better in the long term.

There will be many moments at work and life when you will have doubts.
What should you do ?

Ask “what would make my mum proud ? or what would make my boss proud ? or what would I do if it was my company “

The answer will appear. 

When in doubt, be transparent, honest and share. 

It’s the right thing to do. It’s the only thing to do.

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