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Workplace ethics

Workplace ethics

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We're doing a bit of research here at into workplace ethics and we're keen to get members' views.

It seems that not only do finance departments have to deal with unapologetic late payers, angry payment chasers and a host of other troublesome issues, they often have to contend with their own peoples’ natural tendency to hide or misrepresent things which they feel make them look bad.

How do you spot when someone in another department is being less than truthful with you? What are the most common things they don’t want you to know about and what kinds of cheeky subterfuge and subtle trickery do they use?

Most importantly, how do you deal with it? 

Please share your views below!

Replies (5)

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By welsh_dragon
10th Dec 2009 19:13

It depends

There are as many answers as there are people.  Every one's ethics, values, and morals are different - that's why we need laws.

The ones that worry me are the ones who claim to be "perfect" and look down on others.  Either they are hiding something, or, they are deluded.

It all depends what you yourself view as subterfuge. 

Are we talking about a "white lie" such as - "of course I remembered it's your birthday / our anniversary etc" - a line most men use shortly before a frantic dash to the nearest shop on the excuse (another white lie) that they are going to the post.  

Are we talking about - "yes I finished that yesterday" - when really they mean - "I had an idle day so I'll take it home and finish it tonight, the silly fool will never know". 

Or are we talking about - "yes the petty cash balances" - when they really mean - "how the hell do I put back or cover up what I've taken".


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By Anonymous
11th Dec 2009 11:28

Withholding invoices

One or two departments have in the past had a habit of sitting on suppliers' invoices so they don't go into the profit and loss accounts for that particular month, which affects the profit-related bonus payable. This practise becomes noticeable when it's carried on over a few months (via supplier statements etc). Time is wasted getting copy invoices from suppliers, then the original suddenly turns up from the office in question. Infuriating. Other than a firm word to say it's not acceptable, I fear there's not much else can be done. Except at the end of the VAT quarter when I point out that if we don't have the invoice in the system, we can't claim the VAT. That does tend to bring a flurry of paperwork. Other suggestions welcome.

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By Anonymous
11th Dec 2009 11:55

Corporate Culture

It's always a good idea to look for the root cause. As Virgil put it 'Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas'. And yes, I'm sure Gina will give you a prize if you can translate that.

The root cause of 'covering up' is usually a blame culture. OK you've got to know when things go wrong. But the reason you want to know is so that you can (1) put it right and minimise the damage (2) put something in place to stop it happening again. It's NOT so that you can (3) bawl out the person that - in your opinion - was to blame. If you can switch your organisation from a blame to a no-blame culture you're half way to instilling the sort of ethics that you want.

A wise man who once struggled to teach me the art of management said 'Always watch your people like a hawk, and see if you can catch them doing something right.'


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By Anonymous
15th Dec 2009 16:47

People wot I have met

I'm aware of a certain marketing executive who will somtimes massage his campaign ROI data to please his FD. I think its because £s spent on marketing, that could have been put to better use somewhere else, will make him look pretty shoddy.

Also, I happen to know a kindly HR manager who sometimes neglects to mention staff paid sick days and flexible working arrangements. "What he doesn't know won't hurt him," is her attitude... not sure if 'he' would totally agree with her though.

And if I had a penny for every sales manager I ever met that spread their deals over the most lucrative bonus timeframes rather than trying to bolster the quarterly company targets, I'd probably have enough for a burger and fries; at a Gourmet Burger Kitchen!

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By scohen
06th Jan 2010 12:04

Ethics - matter of corporate culture


I agree that it's a matter of culture - the culture has to be nurtured. As someone has put, you need to catch people doing something right, and then congratulate them on it.

Give regular, specific, feedback on the positive (because most people do most things well, they don't get that feedback) and not just on the small % which is negative. Give the feedback privately and then post good results publicly, in some way.

Find a way to give someone the negative feedback and show them the consequences for them or the business as a whole (not for you who is getting it "in the neck"). Eg - if a junior person doesn't get something done on time, they have to explain to the senior team why it's late, not pass the buck to the manager in the middle. If some things are on a long timetable, then establish check points in between and ensure everything catches up and isn't left too late.

Demonstrate the ethics and values you want to promote - consistently and never bawl someone out, public or private, no matter how much they've not performed. If the under-performance is critical, then manage that.


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