Workplace Ethics and The Three Monkeys
November 17, 2009
Broward County, my hometown, has made the national headlines again. First, it was hanging chads (remember them?), then Anna Nicole Smith, now a Ponzi scheme. The local news has been crazy lately.
It started a month or so ago with the indictment of three local politicians on federal corruption charges. Shortly thereafter, another local politician was cited for ethics infractions. Then, a prominent attorney was accused of running a $1B Ponzi scheme out of his law offices, taking the prestigious firm to the brink of bankruptcy. So far, one CEO has pleaded guilty to fraud. The FBI and IRS are camped out here and the local media has dubbed us “Corruption County.” Are the incidents related? Who knows, but it sure makes for interesting reading.
While I realize you might not care about the specific people or organizations involved, there’s a huge business lesson here I couldn’t resist writing about.
It won’t come as any surprise to you that, for all of these people being accused of wrong-doing, there are an equal number of associated people saying, “I had no clue this was going on.” For which my reply is – get real. If your business partner gives you a Ferrari for your birthday or your boss sells you his half-million dollar condo for $100, ask yourself the question – where is the money coming from?
Face it, board members can’t stay in luxury hotels, get nice gifts, and eat fancy meals and totally ignore the balance sheet. It reminds me of the three monkeys – see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Just because they didn’t witness firsthand ethical compromises, company infractions, and possibly even crimes, that doesn’t absolve them from responsibility. That’s just naïve (and stupid).
It can’t be said too many times that people need to speak up when they feel their integrity, or that of the organization they represent, is being compromised.
- — If you know your boss gave a contract to a friend or family member without following proper procedure, you’re just as guilty for ignoring it.
- — If someone tells you they suspect the purchasing director is using their position for personal gain and you don’t do anything about it…again, you’re as much a part of problem as they are.
When you’re asked to be a part of an organization, do your homework – then do your job. If you join an organization filled with politics/mismanagement, you become a part of that. Whether you like it or not. And, this doesn’t just apply to situations at work. Sadly, it can apply to our volunteer lives as well.
Saying “I had no clue” is no excuse. You know it. And so does everyone else. You need to decide if you’re going to grow up, grow a pair, and do something about it. It might not be popular or profitable, but your credibility is at stake. And what value do you place on that?