Workplace Rights

Weekly (8/10/09)

Topic of the Week  Transformers… Staying on the right side of the law at work

Do the Right Thing at Work:
· DO encourage disagreement and dissent.
· DO reward experience, data and analysis.
· DO punish.
· DON’T take eye off ball.

Your Rant: How do you ensure your corporation will do the right legal and ethical things?

911 Repair,
Enron, Lehman Brothers, Circuit City, the corporate hall of shame for mismanagement just keeps growing. Which raises a very difficult question, is there anything we can all do to stop this decline? This reminds me of a 37-year-old woman who was recently arrested in DeKalb County, Georgia for drug possession. Turns out that she had $13,000 worth of methamphetamine in the padding of her bra. Jeez, call me old school, but I remember when simple Kleenex would suffice.

Proof of her crime was right under the police’s nose, but most corporate misdeeds are different. They’re much harder to spot. That’s why it’s important to create safeguards against illegal or unethical actions. I’ve included three Do’s and one Don’t for increasing the odds that our organizations will do the right thing. For more, check out “Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep It From Happening to You” by Finkelstein, Whitehead and Campbell (Harvard Business Press, 2008).

DO encourage disagreement and dissent. After most corporate implosions we discover people like Sherron Watkins. A V.P. at Enron who was one of the first people to spot the corruption, games and rot that would eventually take down the company. We need a lot more Cassandras, we already have enough “yes-people” who just know how to do whatever they’re told.

DO reward experience, data and analysis. For all the talk in business schools of business plans, ROI and extensive reporting requirements, much of what I see going on in organizations involves talking a good game but always jury-rigging the results so they are exactly what is needed. Take quarterly reports, please! If corporations did a better job of honestly using the experience of it’s people, collecting data and analyzing it, many problems would be caught early.

DO punish. Some people would drive at the speed limit if there were no police or speeding tickets, but most wouldn’t. Because consequences matter. But the executive suites always seem to look the same after the huge losses, borderline criminal behavior and massive layoffs. This needs to change, executives need to share in the consequences of their non-performance. That’s why I think it’s so important to actually pull a Donald Trump, at least the Apprentice version, and fire people when organizations lose billions of dollars and lay off thousands.

DON’T take eye off ball. This is the “suspenders and belt” part of this issue. On top of all these other strategies, it’s important to have a back up plan of constantly monitoring what’s happening inside the organization. Newspapers have ombudsman, people who create a platform where the business can be evaluated by objective eyes. Corporations need to create similar place where people can challenge the way business is being done, safely.

Follow these tips and your people will do a better job of staying abreast of the laws and policies that they should be following at work.

For more information about workplace ethics visit Workplace Fairness' resouce page on whistleblowing.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

Thought of the Week

"The greatest homage we can pay to the truth is to use it."

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Top Five News Headlines

    List of the Week

    from Beyond

    Hiring surprises… Hiring trends from last quarter:

    • Nearly 75 percent of all job postings in Q2 were for candidates with zero to three years of experience.
    • Small business with fewer than 50 employees accounted for more than 50 percent of hiring in Q2.
    • Top areas of hiring were for: Information Technology, 11.8 percent, Healthcare & Medical, 9.5 percent and Human Resources, 6.7 percent.


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