Recently, a friend (we’ll call him Bob) painted a charming picture of how his boss ordered him to lie to auditors.
Bob and three co-workers had been doing a job they were uncertified to complete due to the incompetence of their other co-workers. If the auditors discovered that fact, the company could lose their certification. Losing the certification would be a catastrophe for the company. Clients would flee. Money would be lost.
His orders were simple, get the auditor out of his cubicle as fast as possible. If they ask about his name being attached to the blueprints, lie.
What to do? The decision is not an easy one.
In an ideal world, the manager wouldn’t have asked for Bob to lie. The manager would have fired the incompetent employees and hired new employees who did have the skill to do the job.
Successful managers realize that 33% of the US workforce want to leave their jobs, so it’s their responsibility to cultivate a fair workplace that will entice them to stay. A working environment where the employees can’t trust the employer to not put them in ethically difficult situations will just push workers out the door faster.
Bob was wedged between a rock and a hard place. To lie, or not to lie? If you find yourself in a similar situation, keep these factors in mind.
To Lie or Not to Lie Under Pressure
1. Do You Believe Lying is Wrong?
Do some soul searching. How do you feel about lying in general? Will telling the lie haunt you till the end of your days? No judgment here. Everyone has a different belief system about how wrong the act of telling a lie is.
Founder’s Note: Of course you are reading this article on Classy Career Girl, so we have to add that we believe lying is wrong no matter what.
2. Will the Lie Hurt Someone?
Some lies are harmless. Other lies can lead to financial, environmental, or personal damage.
Bob’s potential lie, I just reviewed the schematics, falls into a gray area. Bob and his team might not be certified but they have the engineering knowledge to create safe blueprints. The danger in the lie is that engineers without the certification aren’t guaranteed to have the required knowledge. All it takes is one bad hire in his department to create a public safety concern.
3. Does Your Profession Have a Code of Ethics?
Not all professions have a code of ethics. Professionals like doctors, lawyers, and engineers agree to uphold the ethical standards of that profession.
According to the Ultimate Guide to Engineering Ethics, the ethical standards for engineers are “obligations towards the public, employers, and the profession.” These standards are meant to help individuals in a profession from making mistakes that lead to “potential problems.”
What problems are we talking? Engineering failures could lead to construction failures, bystander injuries, and death. From a professional standpoint, if an unethical act is reported, the professional could face civil liability, professional sanctions, and a loss of practicing license.
If you do have an industry code of conduct, you might want to think hard about taking any action that goes against that code.
Is the main manager or owner of the company asking you to lie the head honcho? If he is the head honcho, there might not be much you can do, but try to say no. If it’s a manager, you might want to approach another manager or the ethics committee. The order to lie might not be sanctioned by the company.
5. Can You Afford to Say No?
The truth can hurt, and financially, you might not be prepared for the fallout. Refusing to tell the lie might lead to job termination, poor reviews, and harassment. Or it might not. It’s a gamble.
But that’s wrongful termination, isn’t it? In most cases, you’ll need to prove that you were fired for refusing to do something illegal. That’s harder than you would think. Unless you have documentation or a recording, it comes down to he said/she said.