In The Workplace

I work for a family corporation. I am a witness to some issues committed by our management that are technically illegal, if not utterly unethical or immoral. Even the audit manager asked me to keep silent about those issues and told me the owners want everyone to be loyal to the organization. Time and again, we are reminded that the owners would rather keep the loyalists in their fold rather than be saddled with whistle-blowers, no matter if they are competent fast-trackers. What can I do under the circumstances? — Pink Lily.

A 79-year old millionaire was very energetic with his lovely 26-year old bride, but sometimes wondered whether she might have just married him for his money. So he asked her: “If I lost all my money, would you still love me?”

She replied: “Of course, I would still love you. But I would miss you!”

In your case, would you still profess love and undying loyalty to your company, if and when the authorities discover your illegal activities? Would you continue to condone their unethical and immoral actions? What would you do next? But first, let’s examine the definition of competence and loyalty.

“(C)ompetence,” according to Jorgen Sandberg of the University of Queensland’s Graduate School of Management in Brisbane, “is something more than a list of attributes” such as those items Human Resources test for in job applicants. “However, (managers) sense that a person’s way of seeing work is just as important; competent workers have a particular vision of what their work is and why it is that way,” writes Sandberg in Harvard Business Review.

This means competence should not be defined as merely a set of skills. It also includes how a person values the work and understands its rationale. And if I could add my two cents’ worth, the job holder must discover how those skills (including critical thinking) could help solve problems that may put the organization in trouble with government authorities or other entities.

On the other hand, loyalty is a complex term for so many people. Management researchers David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom say that “(l)oyalty just might be one of the most elusive concepts to grasp for organizations, leaders, and employees. It’s one of those things that is obvious when it exists, crystal clear when it doesn’t, and sadly, nearly impossible to pinpoint when it lands somewhere in the gray area. Ironically, that’s where most people fall — in the gray.”

Writing for Forbes, Sturt and Nordstrom ask the following questions: “What does the word loyal mean to you? Does it mean they’ll steal from the company, and sell trade secrets? Does it mean the employee is speaking negatively about the company or team? Or, does it simply mean you think this person would take another job if the opportunity arose?”

In addition, would it mean being blind to the illegal, immoral, or unethical policies of the organization? You’ve to answer these questions as honest as you can be.

Longtime senior executive at Walt Disney Co., Roy Edward Disney (1930-2009) was right: “It’s not hard to make decisions, once you know what your values are.” Therefore, the first thing for you to do is to define your personal beliefs, morality and values. If there’s a clash between your personal values and the unwritten values of the corporation, like the wrongful expectations about one’s loyalty (like for everyone to remain blind), then how would you decide?

If you know your values, you can make a ready decision whether to prolong your stay in that organization. But what if you don’t know your personal values?

Forbes senior contributor Kathy Caprino has the answer: “There are many ways to identify your values, but one powerful way is to focus on identifying qualities or virtues which were present during times of success or expansion in your life, or, absent during times of failure or contraction.”

So what are your personal values that made you succeed in life?

In an ideal set-up, many people don’t want to be a part of the company’s illegal, immoral, or unethical activities. But for many economic reasons, they can’t simply let go of their jobs, no matter how they become stressful, and at times fearful of the future. Resigning a job because you want to preserve and uphold your principles makes you a rare gem not only in this country but anywhere.

Given all these, are you ready now to resign because personal beliefs clash with corporate practices? It’s your choice. Make a firm decision as soon as you can before the circumstances catch up and pull you down.

ELBONOMICS: Seeking loyalty from people when you’re wrong is stupidity.


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