What If Your Boss Wants You To Do Something Wrong?

There are plenty of stories all over the internet of people stealing reusable sticky note pads, pens and more, and then they feel varying degrees of guilt over the actions they chose.

Sure, people agree that stealing from your employer is wrong, but what about when the leaders of your company are the ones encouraging the wrongdoing?

Many people haven’t thought about what they would do they were being pressured to do something bad for business, bad for customers and, in some cases, illegal.

In recent news about Wells Fargo, regulators found that employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses. Wells Fargo is paying $185 million to resolve the claims that they opened more than 2 million accounts and that thousands of employees were involved in the practice.

Some situations may look clearly wrong, but not everything is always so cut and dry. What should you do if you are in a situation where your boss wants you to do something that doesn’t seem right and there are indications that if you don’t go ahead, he/she might harm your career in some way.

Before you take any steps, Joseph Badaracco (Professor of Business Ethics at Harvard Business School) recommends that you should look at the situation as a manager and think like a rational human being.

As a result, you’ll be able to present a logical, well-organized, detail-oriented response and resolution.

Before you do anything, try and understand the situation objectively.

Put yourself in another’s shoes and look at the situation from many angles.

Is anyone being hurt or experiencing damage? Is this illegal? Is this ethical? What is the standard or best-practice?

By giving yourself some time to conduct such analysis, you can better judge the situation and key players.

Find a trusted confidante.

Look for someone you can trust in the organization who might have more knowledge of the company’s business practices than you, and ask that person for his or her opinion on the situation.

A fresh, new perspective might help you understand the reasoning behind the decisions and actions your boss is asking of you. You can also get some pointers on how to handle the situation.

Write it down.

There’s a reason your parents told your younger self to write down all of the pros and cons — the list making technique is extremely helpful.

Write down each of your option for handling the situation and think through all of the positives and negatives of each, from getting fired to earning a raise. Also consider the probabilities of each happening.

Use this time to also think through another response to the situation that would be legal and still accomplish the same purpose.

Talk to your boss.

The reason it’s important to think through everything and take a good look at your options is so that rather than encountering negative reactions or responses from your boss when you talk to him or her about the situation, you can present yourself as a team player looking out for the best interest of the company (rather than an employee who is accusing their boss).

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