Managers show themselves to be less than ethical

Management By Lynne Curry

Q. I'm retired military. I expect a certain level of ethics from those with whom I associate. I'm not finding it among the managers in my company.

I like the work, and I've been well rewarded in the years I've been here. Despite this, it grates on me to listen to my boss talk a good story and use the word "integrity" while slanting the truth whenever it's to his advantage, regardless of whom he hurts. It's also an open secret that several managers cheat on their expense accounts and claim to be at meetings when they're golfing.

As a result, I'm looking for a new employer. Before I leave, I'd like to tell my boss why. I don't want to raise a stink, but I need to work around people who tell the truth. How do I best do this?

A. Say it straight up.

Don't we all wish just one of the senior administrators at Penn State had simply told the truth and raised a stink about Jerry Sandusky? While many people view Penn State's management cover-up as an aberration, an amazing number of individuals talk a talk they don't walk. And the rest of us let them.

Your management position gives you a platform from which to try to fix things. Instead of leaving for a magic kingdom in which all managers are honorable, could you inspire renewed honesty in your current company? If you don't tell your boss why you're leaving until you depart, without first trying to fix what's happening, you leave behind employees as stuck as the Penn State janitors who didn't voice their concerns for fear of being fired.

Individuals like you, guided by ethics, need to take a leadership role in fixing the incremental corruption we see in our workplaces and government. If we don't raise a stink, we let those who rationalize their behavior continue unchecked. Managers who indulge in unethical behavior need to realize lower-ranked employees see right through them.

Unless we each act according to "if I see it, I own it," we'll continue get the workplaces we deserve. Only you know what may result from telling your boss how much it matters to you that he and others shave the truth. Perhaps your boss doesn't see the other managers' behavior or realize how obvious his own double standards are. Those who give lip service to ethics often need a jolt to bring their behavior up to the level of their mouths. You like your work and you've been well rewarded. Could you offer to stand beside your boss in cleaning up a culture of small-time cheating? In the long run, can you do more good by staying and saying something?

Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Questions can be directed to her at thegrowthcompany.com.


Management By LYNNE CURRY