Pressured to do the wrong thing

By Joseph L. Badaracco via hbr.org   Article

When You Feel Pressured To Do The Wrong Thing At Work

“Here’s how that advice applies to dealing with a situation where you think you are potentially being incentivized to do the wrong thing:

Make sure you really understand the situation. … In what specific ways does the practice that concerns you violate ethics, customers’ interests, or even the law? What is the alternative view of the situation – the one that says this practice is OK or even good for customers or others – and does it have some merit? …

If you can, check with others. In other words, don’t be a solitary genius. Try to find a knowledgeable, discreet person in your organization and run your concerns by him or her. Explain your evidence and your logic. Then ask if you might be missing something and if there might be other ways of thinking about the practice. …

Do a simple decision tree. … use the proverbial back of the envelope, list your options, put down the possible consequences of each option, and ask yourself how likely these consequences are. If you blow the whistle, what may happen and how likely is it? If you do what you’re told, what risks are you running? What are the low probability, but calamitous possibilities – like your being investigated or indicted – that you really need to focus on. …

Think creatively and practically. When someone tells really good managers that the choice is A or B, they often reply what about C or D? Good managers are creative optimists about problems. They think there are better options out there and are willing to work at finding them. …

Consider having a fairly candid conversation with your boss. … To raise the chances of success, you need to have a sound alternative for your boss and the right way to frame it. And you will probably have to pull your punches. Telling people that are behaving unethically usually comes across as an accusation, not argument. The better framing is usually along the lines of: I think we’ve got some serious legal risks here, we’re doing something that could backfire with our clients or regulators, or the longer-term consequences of what we are doing could really backfire and hurt our careers.”

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