Monday, August 30, 2010


A supervisor with whom you've worked is up for a promotion. As part of the routine of the promotion process, his superiors send an e-mail to all company employees asking for any feedback on the fellow's performance and his suitability for the job.

You happen to know that the guy has been less than a stellar supervisor, failing to show up for appointments, bullying employees, playing fast and loose with his expense reports and hiring family members for positions once held by more competent employees. Based on past history at the company, however, you also know that, once things get to this stage of the promotion cycle, they are pretty much a done deal. Anything you raise as an issue is likely to fall on deaf ears.

Should you respond honestly and fully to the e-mail, including all the supervisor's blemishes that you can document? Or, figuring that this is a battle not worth waging, should you make no response?

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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. He is also the administrator of, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

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c.2010 Jeffrey L. Seglin

1 comment:

Bill Jacobson said...


As a pure ethical quandry, this issue is fairly cut and dry. As an employee of the company, you have a fiduciary duty to act in the company's best interest by reporting misdeeds such as falsifying expense reports or less than arms-legth negotiations done for personal gain, especially when the company specifically comes to you asking for that information.

In the real world, things get murkier. You still hold that same duty but it gets complicated by the fact that whistleblowers are likely to face retaliation for "doing the right thing". Is it worth the possibility of getting fired to notify the company of something they either already know or at least should already know? That's a balancing act that only you can make but if we're asking what is right, do the right thing and report the information that the company asked for but be prepared for the consequences.

William Jacobson
Cypress, CA