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Posted by:
Jodi O'Callaghan

What would you do? Your weekly ethical dilemma challenge

You have been part of a team working on a large and complex project. You have heard that a fairly major error has shown up as part of the financials for the project. Apparently your manager feels that one of your colleagues is to blame for this, however, you are certain that the mistake is actually your fault.

The colleague your manager is blaming is someone you do not particularly get along well with. You feel he is incompetent and you have a suspicion - which you cannot prove - that he has embezzeled funds from your company.

You feel that it would benefit your company for your colleague to be 'let go' and him being blamed for such a major error may - along with other factors - contribute to this happening.

What would you do? What ethical considerations would you give to your decision-making? Why? Why not? 

We encourage you to post your answers in the comments so we can create a healthy discussion, with the aim of learning from our peers, becoming aware of differing perspectives and challenging our own biases.

If you would like to submit an ethical dilemma to feature in an upcoming weekly challenge please email: dilemma@thebfo.org

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash


Alex Sell on Monday, 01 Apr 2019
So, 'what' the right thing to do is pretty obvious but we know that in practice that isn't always straightforward. We need to understand 'why' the right thing is important because that will help us guide our response in practice. For example, how can I trust my organsation in relation to its treatment of me and others if it is willing to treat this colleague this way; how does not properly investigating the issues potentially lead to them recurring with all the consequences that flow from that; and, what message does it send more broadly on ethical matters - that they are malleable depending on what simply suits us!?
Richard Hincks on Thursday, 21 Mar 2019
Firstly separate the 2 issues raised to enable each to be attended to without the other imposing. On the error would own up to it and work through what the consequences are. Would try to provide a few changes for management to consider ways to reduce these errors occurring in future. As for the embezzlement would raise via the appropriate channel within the company. Management in first instance.
Kelly-Ann Harvey on Thursday, 21 Mar 2019
I would acknowledge my manager's concerns about the colleague, but take full responsibility for the error immediately.
David Armstrong on Wednesday, 20 Mar 2019
If it was my error I would 1st of all own up to it. Secondly , I would bring up the fact that if the blame had been directed to the other person I would discuss with my superiors my concerns, but not lay blame.
BR on Wednesday, 20 Mar 2019
Most people wouldn't openly say anything contrary to the obvious here; which is to own up to causing the issue, and to deal with the separate issue of embezzlement and incompetence in other forums. But the reality is most people will allow the other to take the fall, particularly if they have been personally affected by the person's behaviour and assuming there is limited chance of the blame being traced back to them. Only a culture that tolerates failure (as part of the personal and organisational learning process), and encourages accountability (like being able to safely admit those failures) will make its people act ethically and responsibly. And yes - it is a shame that such enticements are needed...
Ross Langford on Wednesday, 20 Mar 2019
If I was at fault I would own up to the error, apologise & not make excuses. I recently made an error in my work which affected a colleague. I immediately published a correction & apologised.
Jellina White on Wednesday, 20 Mar 2019
If I was at fault I would own up to it and look st ways to fix the issue. So far as the potential of embezzlement I would mention this in separate context to enable the company to do their own investigations. At least I had given a heads up about it.

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