The Time Has Come

All of us are called to make decisions about what we stand for in terms of our lives and work.  I think both are the same in terms of who we are as people. So often I see compromises that should not be made or decisions that should not be reached when the truth is changed to fit the needs of one.

These events are not frequent but when we are forced to make difficult decisions that appear to be wrong, I see a majority of the workforce taking what appears to be the easy way out.  It is not the right decision to make and most likely someone has told the person what to do, but the time has come to take a stand and do the right thing and not what is the most convenient or easiest pathway.

We have all been there.  The ethics of the leader or organization suggests that the right decision is the wrong decision.  I have seen individuals terminated for all of the wrong reasons.  At times I was the person who terminated the manager, staff or executive for those very same wrong reasons.  I was told to complete the task, it was my job.

Throughout my career I always wanted to make sure that any termination or forced resignation ended with dignity and honor for the person who just lost their job.  Forced resignations are often a result of what the organization deems as appropriate and would really not be supported by any majority view. This happens with long-term and short-term employees.  It happens to males and females.  It happens even when the decision has been challenged and yet the decision to terminate continues.  It also happens in reverse, when the offender should be released and is not. 

Several years ago I terminated one of my employees for the manipulation of pay.  I talked with my boss and his boss about what should happen.  My recommendation was suspension.  It was not a critical issue and could be fixed without anyone being aware of the situation.  It was also a first offense.  The person thought they were protecting the organization but they had violated the law.  This was a violation that resulted in a pay manipulation of just $4.  An employee was underpaid by $4.00.

At the end of the discussions I agreed that the amount was not important but rather the action was very important.  In the end I agreed to terminate my employee and have regretted it to this day.  Not because it was the wrong decision but rather because of a decision that was made two years later.

This was a decision that was not only wrong but completely inappropriate.  No one wanted to step up, other than myself and say it was wrong.  Of course, I was the one who really suffered over the decision.  This is just one of the challenges of being the person who is forced to make policy decisions and then be overruled by the leadership.  A majority of us have been there.

Two years after releasing my employee for this $4 error in judgment, I was involved in a purposeful action of overpayment in overtime pay.  The amount of overpayment was in excess of $100,000.  The director of the area had signed off on the overpayment without any review or questions asked.  The director was interviewed by me and the compliance officer.  At the end of the interview I met with the compliance officer, the CEO and the director’s supervisor.

The CEO went around the room after some discussion and asked what should happen to the director.  I indicated that the director should be terminated.  The compliance officer agreed.  The CEO asked the director’s supervisor and the supervisor indicated that suspension with a loss of pay for 7 days was enough punishment.  “After all this was not intentional, it was just stupid.” was the supervisor’s comment.  I considered it to be purposeful and demonstrated incompetence on the part of the director and had told the director this during our first interviews.  I reminded everyone about the termination of my employee over an unintentional $4 issue.

The CEO indicated to the director that he thought I was correct but he would leave the decision up the supervisor.  The director received the suspension without pay for 7 days, was required to read the policies for overtime payments and placed on a 90 day evaluation period.  I have never forgotten this terrible decision.  I have also never gotten over the sadness I feel about releasing my excellent employee who believed they were doing the right thing to protect the organization.

This was not the supervisor’s decision to make.  It was the CEO’s decision.  I had always admired this CEO but this hurt our trusting relationship and it was never the same again.  The director’s supervisor was also my supervisor and this one decision hurt that relationship also.  The only person who objected to the decision was me.  No one else would stand up and say that it was the wrong decision and that alone hurt me and my career. It did not matter, I was right and the director misappropriated $100,000.

We all make sacrifices in our jobs, specifically when we take a stand about what is right and wrong.  After 40 years in management I have learned that taking a stand often hurts but it remains the right decision.  The Time Has Come to make a difference and take a stand. Do not release individuals unless there is “real” cause.  Stand up and take a position on the right side of the decision.  It is the ethical thing to do.  Do not allow incompetent management to support poor decision making.  Do not participate in or allow this nonsense to continue.  It is time to take a stand.  Make a difference and not let power control the lives of others when this power hurts the lives of those who are making a difference. 

We all know what is right and wrong and enabling those who do not know the difference to make decisions that are unethical, inappropriate and potentially illegal needs to stop.  Today is the day.  Start NOW.

About Jim Jones

Jim received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in Human Resource Development and has over 40 years of management experience in 5 different industries. He has consulted for Raytheon, Century 21 and Motorola. He retired in 2005 as the Sr. VP, Human Resources for Trident Health System (an HCA facility). His specialty is talent-based organizational development.. Jim has recently accepted a position with Shorter University as the Associate Vice President for Online and Professional Education. Shorter University's primary campus is located in Rome, Georgia. His role will include the strategic management of online programs for the university to include the College of Adult and Professional Programs located in Rome and Atlanta. Dr. Jones is looking forward to helping change the lives of those he touches every day in the pursuit of excellence in adult education. This includes students, faculty and staff.
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