People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built ~~Eleanor Roosevelt,
Today I found out a newish employee ordered something incorrectly. This happens. No big shocker. But what was shocking to me is how it played out. Purchase order is sent for item A. Employee discovers days later, item B was needed not Item A. Employee calls local vendor and says, (I am assuming)” Oh gosh, I ordered item A but need Item B. Please order Item B.”
Local vendor ( who works with our company all the time) says “ok, but this manufacturer charges a 50% restock fee”. Newish employee says, “Oh gee, I am going to get in trouble. Please do not tell my boss. I will pay the restock fee.” Then proceeds to order Item B. Apparently without a signed purchase order from the boss or the sales manager. Mistake compounded.
Ok, so in my somewhat black and white world, I call this lying. Some might call this a sin of omission. I call that lying also.I started teaching my kids about this concept called “ownership of our actions and choices” around the age of 2. Telling mommy that you broke her vase is not much fun but surely a fundamental building block of what is called “character”.Despite the possible and probable punishment of some sort, a child needs to learn it is far better to face the music and own up to whatever transgression has occurred. And I am not sure when the concept really starts to penetrate but if you do not teach it and reinforce the idea over and over then I am not sure one grows up to grasp the concept as an adult.
I guess I do not see my role as the owner of a business to include character development. Mostly because I fear that if character is not pretty jelled by the teenage years, it is an insurmountable task for a owner/designer lacking psychological training ( or patience) to attempt. And, when do I have the time for this?
So here is the kicker to me. The local vendor, someone I know well, agreed to keep it “quiet” since the employee said they would pay the restock fee. Remember this “transaction” was handled by employee and vendor…on my dime. All this comes to light when the bill for the restock arrives at my office today. The employee is no longer employed by me. Now I have a bill for a restock fee I did not authorize. And an item B that had no signed purchase order. I was not afforded the opportunity to keep the item with such a high restock fee to sell to someone else. No, that decision was taken out of my hands. Money lost.
I ask you these two questions:
Is lying “ok” when one is in fear of their boss being angry? I do not beat my employees or designers (except for gum chewing) and the metal rack in back is just for sinks…..I promise.
Who is ethically responsible for this fee? The obvious answer from a business standpoint is me because I am the owner and the employee was employed by me at the time. I get this. I am responsible for actions of my employees. Okay.
But, does the local vendor have any ethical responsibility? Is it ok for another small business to make “deals” with employees of a company without informing the owner? Then expect the owner to pay the unauthorized fee that they did not bother to inform the owner about in the first place?
Let’s talk about character again for a minute. I may be terminally old fashioned but to me a person with character is someone who has the courage to stand before someone ( a teacher, a boss, a friend, a spouse) and take ownership of their actions and choices even when it is going to be difficult to do so and possibly could upset someone. Most would probably agree.
Here is my twist: I also think that character is found in those people who do not allow others to lead them by words or actions down the path of least resistance. Meaning: sometimes you have to speak up against what is wrong even when it is so much easier to stay quiet and give tacit acceptance. This might be considered “tattling” as a child, “narking” (my generational word) as a teen, or as an adult, having to say “sorry, I am not going along with that plan.”
What defines character to you? Is lying ever okay in a business setting?
Please let me know your thoughts.