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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Does spilling the beans put reader in the soup?

A building management firm orders lunch for tenant companies’ employees. Although the companies pay for the food, building management does the ordering. Once the food arrives, it’s put out as a buffet.

A couple of months ago, a reader took over the job of being the guy who orders food for all of the companies on a particular floor.

My reader and others in his position on different floors are allowed to eat from the buffet. Many also were ordering extra items for themselves. “I guessed this was allowed,” my reader writes, “and I did the same.” He points out no item ordered was expensive. More specifically, he would add on containers of soup that he would eat for lunch.

“I was talking about some soup I was eating, which I had ordered, and a higher-up asked me where I got it,” my reader reports. He told her that he had ordered it for himself and she responded, “Oh.”

Apparently, none of the higher-ups knew that the food orderers had been ordering small items for themselves until my reader spilled the beans.

“I got busted,” he writes, “and was told the others would be informed as well that this practice would not be allowed.”

Now, he feels bad, “like I’ve ruined it for the others.”

He disagrees with the policy, “but I would have followed it without ratting anyone out had I known.”

“Is there anything to feel bad about or is my guilt unnecessary?” he asks.

My reader acknowledges that he feels bad partly because he wants to be accepted and liked by the others who fill his role on other floors of the building. They’re all roughly his age and chummy with one another.

But my reader should have no guilt. He engaged in what he thought was accepted, common practice. That he was open about it with his higher-up suggests he wasn’t trying to hide anything.

The right thing would have been for the higher-ups to be clear on the unacceptability of the practice to those doing the ordering. And if the folks on other floors knew that what they were doing was not condoned, they weren’t being particularly chummy with their new colleague by not filling him in. If they knew this practice was against the rules, they should not have engaged in it.

My reader has it right. He might not have agreed with the policy, but he and others should follow it. It’s generous enough that they’re permitted to eat some of the food the companies order without having to pay for it. If they were pushing the limits by tacking on their own personal orders when they knew they weren’t supposed to, they were just being gluttons for punishment.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today’s Business, is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@comcast.net.

© 2010 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.









2 comments:

Bobby said...

Geezes Louise! Rules are made, some never "hear" about them. Rules are modified based on what happens after rules are made. This is called modifying the rules because any one rule can not anticipate all the variations that could or will occur(remember the IRS tax code or the DUI laws; they are continually modified based on planned sidesteps or unknowingly sidestepping).
The "sadness" the "gulity" part feels should not be felt since the action was non-intentional. If the "others" feel it has been ruined then they have a bigger ethical problem in their life. That problem being one of accepting non-intentional human error (remember someone wrote,"do not point out another's faults until you remove the log from your eye" or something liket that).
so:
1. It was unintentional
2. the rule was modified to clarify what it intented in the first place (think of the U.S. Law that benefits A.D.A.it has been modified 100's of times for this purpose)
3. the complainers need to wipe up the spilled soup and move on
4. Joe the soup spiller should enjoy the free meal and smile cause they did not do anything "wrong".

Bobby said...

Geezes Louise! Rules are made, some never "hear" about them. Rules are modified based on what happens after rules are made. This is called modifying the rules because any one rule can not anticipate all the variations that could or will occur(remember the IRS tax code or the DUI laws; they are continually modified based on planned sidesteps or unknowingly sidestepping).
The "sadness" the "gulity" part feels should not be felt since the action was non-intentional. If the "others" feel it has been ruined then they have a bigger ethical problem in their life. That problem being one of accepting non-intentional human error (remember someone wrote,"do not point out another's faults until you remove the log from your eye" or something liket that).
so:
1. It was unintentional
2. the rule was modified to clarify what it intented in the first place (think of the U.S. Law that benefits A.D.A.it has been modified 100's of times for this purpose)
3. the complainers need to wipe up the spilled soup and move on
4. Joe the soup spiller should enjoy the free meal and smile cause they did not do anything "wrong".