What To Do When Your Boss Asks You To Do Something Unethical or Illegal?

Recently I read a Business Insider’s article titled, “What to do when your boss asks you to do something unethical or illegal?” It instantly triggered memories from earlier in my career when I experienced very unethical conduct by my supervisor. While it had no direct impact on my work and I was the only person who witnessed the event – it did not change the facts of what I saw happen. I was shocked, speechless, and too afraid to confront my supervisor or tell anyone at my previous company about it. I didn’t know what to do or who I should turn to for help. I felt guilty because I knew I should do something about it, but at the same time I realized I could possibly jeopardize my career. Bottom line, I could no longer trust my supervisor.  What I saw negatively affected our working relationship and created a very stressful environment. I became more and more disengaged, and eventually I resigned.

Anyone following the news too often reads about employees reporting unethical or illegal behavior at work. While sometimes it might be a co-worker, often a supervisor or senior executive is to blame.  No matter how big or small a situation might seem, you should trust your natural instincts. Anyone can understand feeling pressure to report something your “moral compass” says is wrong.  It’s understandable to be at a moral crossroads with concerns about what others are doing, what you are being asked to do, and/or being afraid that by not complying with a request or speaking up that you might lose your job.  This becomes a more difficult decision given that many companies do not have a “whistleblower” policy on reporting wrongdoing, or they do but it is not enforced properly.

If you have faced a situation at work that concerns you, read this great article for some excellent tips and advice.

Has your company formally communicated and documented the importance of business ethics?  Has it implemented a policy on business ethics?  Is there a formal “whistleblowing” process?  Is training offered, and is it easily accessible for all employees?  Please share your comments below.

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