Thursday January 11, 2007

Code of Conduct

The Company that Employs Me has requested that all employees work through an online business ethics course called "Code of Conduct". No biggie there; it wasn't difficult.

However, I found myself greatly bemused by one section. Obviously, the authors of the course and I read different books...

To summarize the course, it's set as a story. In the story, Alice and her coworker, Rick, are members of their company's vendor selection committee. During a break, the VP of Sales for one vendor makes Rick an offer:

... I was impressed by your questions during the meeting. ... I'd love to get your honest reactions to some of our business ideas... and we'd pay for your time. ... this has to be confidential. But don't worry. We'll never show your name in the reports. ... I'll get you the down payment check as soon we're picked as your vendor.
Okaaaay. Sounds pretty sleazy to me. I think I know where this is going.

So Rick, being rather naive, not only agrees to this shady deal, but is just busting to tell someone about it. He tells Alice, who is less thrilled and more concerned.

The next morning, Alice noticed Rick yelling into his phone. After he hung up with a bang, she went over to see if she could help.

Alice: Rick, what's wrong?

Rick: My car needs a new transmission. The garage wants a deposit before they'll even order the parts. Now I really need that consulting check...

Alice: Rick, I need to talk to you about that. I couldn't sleep last night. This vendor thing...

Rick: Alice, it's really none of your business.

Alice: But I take this vendor selection process seriously. I feel like we have a responsibility—

Rick: Look, Alice. I'm tired of this. You cast your vote any way you want. But don't tell me how to cast my vote.

Alice: But I know what's going on.

Rick: Alice. You be responsible for you, and let me be responsible for me.

Alice: Okay. Okay. But please don't tell me anything more about what you're doing. I just don't want to know.

And then we got to the part that caused me to ponder the differences between myself and the course writers. The course presented "the Right Way" to do things, or What Should Have Happened:

In this version of the story, Alice tells Rick that she has a responsibility to report his unethical behavior.

Rick: Alice. You be responsible for you, and let me be responsible for me.

Alice: No, Rick. It doesn't work that way. Not when my integrity and the company's integrity are at stake. I can't pretend not to know what's going on. I'm going to have to do something about this.

I agree that this is the "Right Thing to Do" (for Alice), but I also think it's the wrong timing and the wrong Way to handle the problem. My thinking is surely biased by the kinds of books I read, but the way I see it, this is the point in the story where Rick bops Alice over the head with a paperweight as she turns to go out the door.

What do you think?

Code of Conduct ( in category Random Thoughts ) - posted at Thu, 11 Jan, 23:23 Pacific | «e»