The first question is to ask if you are
the right person to investigate. If not,
maybe your responsibility is to be sure
an investigation is conducted by a more
appropriate person. The investigator must
be experienced with the issues and have a
strong reputation for fairness, especially
if the results are likely to become public.
Remember, by selecting that person you
will likely be jointly responsible for the
results, so be careful in that selection.
Additionally, consider confidentiality. If
others have a need to know, tell them an
investigation is occurring. Sometimes it
can begin confidentially, but as soon as a
likelihood of misconduct is uncovered,
give them a summary as soon as
practicable. Likewise, be careful not to
share the information with the wrong
people (those who have no need to know
about the investigation). Remember that at
the “right” time, the accused parties should
have a right to confront the evidence.
A Case Study
An anonymous allegation was made on
the company’s compliance telephone line
that a Plant Manager in Australia was
spinning the safety results. Our company
received 1,200 such calls annually
and about 90 percent had little to no
substance. However, every complaint was
I sent the manager with the company’s
best safety record keeper to Australia to
investigate. She called a week later and
informed me of 50 unreported incidents.
Most were minor first aid cases, but four
were more serious, recordable cases.
She spoke with the victims and the
safety manager. In each case, they were
instructed by the Plant Manager not to
report the incidents. When confronted, the
Plant Manager denied the allegations but
could not refute the evidence.
These facts were reported to the
Operations leaders of the company. They
invited me to a meeting in New York City
where they asked if the company had to
fire the employee in question. I responded,
“No, he’s already fired himself. Now 60,000
employees are watching you to see what
you do about it.”
ETHICAL DILEMMAS 13 Upcoming articles in this series will take
a closer look at each dilemma.
STANDING UP TO POWER
Someone in power is asking you to do something
MADE A PROMISE
Conflicting commitments force you to choose.
You see something wrong. How do you proceed?
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
Multiple roles put you at cross purposes.
SUSPICIONS WITHOUT ENOUGH EVIDENCE
You believe something is going on, but you’re not sure.
Achieving justice but by doing something unethical.
SKIRTING THE RULES
Bending a rule for a better outcome.
Misrepresenting the truth for better outcome.
Giving up ethical stance to protect valued relationship.
SACRIFICING PERSONAL VALUES
Living ethically might put burden on others.
When opportunity exists to wield an unfair upper hand.
When you are responsible for a mistake.
You could grant forgiveness, but you don’t know
if you should.