You receive an email from Big Boss requiring you to complete mandatory supervisor training by the end of the month. You reply that you’re exempt since you’ve been a supervisor for more than 20 years. How does this attitude affect the ethics of your team and organization? -e-Factor!® scenario

business ethics word cloud on a vintage blackboardWhy do situations like this really happen? What options would you have in this case? And where do you go for help in defining ethical behavior and dealing with situations like this one?

This is a true story; one I experienced helping my supervisor achieve 80% ethics training completion rates for the top leadership team. I was a mid-level manager at the time, instructed to take our live four-hour ethics program and turn it into a 90-minute on-line program that could be completed from anywhere on the computer. The top leaders did not want to take the ethics training, and I did not have “enough authority” to enforce the company’s requirement. So what are the ethical considerations in this scenario?

First, what is the actual ethics issue here? Let’s look at what we know. It appears we have a compliance requirement but people feel they do not need to be held to the standards because they’ve “been there, done that” for many years. So the ethics issues are accountability and ethical leadership that could have serious consequences in teaching younger staff that they, too, can be “exempt” from doing certain tasks they don’t like or want to do. Whether we like it or not, our workforce watches what we do and tries to emulate our behaviors and attitudes. And this situation could have serious fines or penalties because the training is legally required.

What we don’t know is how many times we’ve taken the training and what was included in the training. So part of our attitude might be due to the fact that this training has been repeated many times and the content has not changed.

Options for dealing with this situation might include letting us skip the training (in other words ignore the training requirement) or reprimand us and impose fines or penalties for failure to comply with policy. We could also discuss the issue and learn what the real complaints are, which could include poor quality or lack of new material in the training. If it actually has not changed in many years, you might have a legitimate issue here, although there could be better ways to express opposition to taking the training! We may also need to explain the potential fines and penalties for failure to comply with mandatory training.

These are just a few options, each with specific consequences. The real question, though, is how would you handle the situation? It’s time to take action, so let us know what you would do!