[u][b]Situation[/b][/u]: New random drug program catches an employee on the first random. Upper management feels policy is too harsh for this employee, and having him test positive is "damned inconvienent" and disruptive to day-to-day business. Some in upper management want to "water down" the policy. Senior management feels that the policy is harming this employee's livelihood and career.

I am a "sometimes" advisor to upper management on HR-related issues. On this issue I am directly involved because I'm trying to enlighten upper management to the risks of not following their own policy, and the risks of making case-by-case exceptions to it. One senior manager supports my position; one opposes it, and the CEO/owner is most influenced by my opponent, and sees the issue only from the hardship imposed on the "positive" employee.

Our drug program consultant agrees with me, but the CEO will not return their calls to discuss it. The company's outside attorney agrees with me. I have not passed this information up because of the refusal of the CEO to return calls to our drug program consultant.

Catch-22: If I continue to push the CEO/owner he is going to get angry that I am interferring with him operating the company as he sees fit, which is the position of my opponent on this issue. (P.S. - my opponent is my boss).

I feel I have an ethical responsibility to get all the issues out in the open so the executives can make an informed decision. Once I do this should I disengage and let them make decisions that significantly increases the liability to the company?

bflynn's picture

[quote="UP2L8"]Someone suggested I get a meeting with the CEO and tell him what he should do. Well, I think that would be like "spitting into the wind". I have to wait for the CEO to respond. He has the information he needs and information I don't have..[/quote]

That was me - misunderstood the situation and thought you reported directly to him.

At this point, you have done everything you can. Refocus on your results and let this thing play out. It isn't your problem right now.


Cdnric's picture

I'm glad to see some movement on your companies policy.

If you allow, your role can be that of bringing a win/win solution to the table.
The CEO is fully aware of the awkward situation he's in; and needs an out that protects the company and seeks to reconcile the issue with the employee.

Daily screening for the employee(no work if under influence), and substance abuse assistance could mitigate the issue.


ascott's picture

Three words: Memo to File.

Your job here is to speak truth to power, and clearly communicate the action required by the policy, and potential risks associated with deviating from said policy (death, bodily harm, diminished credibility of the policy, decreased compliance, succcessful future wrongful dismissal suits based on inequitable application of the policy, etc.). The decision, ultimately, is not yours, so obey the direction given, once the decision maker has been properly informed of the facts.

The memo to file documenting the advice you have given is simply sound personal risk management, and an appropriate ethical response to what you will continue to perceive as wrongdoing.

Also, it is very helpful at the coroner's inquest where everyone but you gets thrown under a bus.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Wow. Lots of energy here. For once, I am glad I was too busy to reply - afriad I would have scared away some other posters.

You are an ADVISOR. You are not the CEO.

Have you given your advice? Have you done your best to make your case? [b]If so, be quiet about it, for heaven's sake.[/b]

You lost, it seems. You think that ignoring policies is bad in the long run, and you are probably right, in most situations. But that does not justify beating this dead horse.

I promise, you have NO IDEA how hard it is to be CEO. It is a crushing weight, and one that almost no one I know of is up to. Sometimes, with the spotlight burning a hole in your forehead, you have to do the thing that looks craven and small, but you know to be a reasonable deal with the devil.

True story: I was advising a CEO about a management issue, and he said, "Hey, I hear you, I'm going to do it the other way, just so you know."

I was aghast (this was years ago, and I was MORE naive than I am now.)

I argued.

And he said something I'll never forget: "Don't confuse understanding an issue and knowing what you WOULD do WERE you i the role with ACTUALLY being IN the role and actually HAVING TO DO IT. And next time, recognize the compliment I paid you by telling you in advance, would you please?"

He was right, I was wrong... and it was beautifully done, really.

I'm not against the memo to file...but frankly, that's an attempt at legal immunity that holds no weight in the senior management community.

You're going to lose sometimes. You lost this time, and power won.

It's going to happen again...learn from this experience.


UP2L8's picture

Sorry, it has been so long since I last updated. The Forum is a good resource, but I'm paid to do other things that have taken priority.

I basiclly did as Mark outlined in his reply. I got all the issues out and discussed, but the bottom line is, "the CEO knows best". I did as he wished and we have moved on.

Thanks to all who replied. The discussion was valuable to me. In this case the forum allowed me to express all my thoughts and emotions; thus saving me from putting my foot in my mouth.

hans111384's picture

I would have presented the best argument that a rational person would find persuasive and then let them make whatever decision they deem necessary. That's all you can hope to do. The CEO probably wants your input, with all the information you can give about the pros/cons of any action taken, and then to be left alone to make his decision. Mark's post sums it up beautifully, what the CEO chooses may appear irrational to you.

I just completed a course in BioIndustry Ethics preparing me for my career in the difficult arena of biotechnology/pharmaceuticals: where we deal with using embryonic stem cells, having perfectly healthy volunteers die in clinical trials, setting prices for drugs that directly extend lifespan, etc.

The core of the class was to learn how to make a persuasive recommendation on an ethical dilemma, much like UP2L8's position of making his recommendation to his boss and the CEO.

Outline for recommendation to the CEO and others:
-Executive Summary -> your recommendation and why
-Background (if needed)
-Most persuasive argument for action based on deontology
-Most persuasive argument against action based on deontology
-Most persuasive argument for action based on teleology
-Most persuasive argument against action based on teleology
-Reasons why you find one argument the most persuasive overall

deontology: What you should do based on rules and duties; US laws, company policies, professional societies, moral duties
teleology: What you should do to increase utility for company/society; may have some "calculus" here (how likely is it that legal action against the company will result because of this employees actions in the future)

Obviously this style of writing applies to un-ethical decisions as well: present both sides of the argument and then describe why you find one more persuasive than the other.

Fascinating thread, should have used our "parking lot" for many of the points about testing logistics, etc.... maybe MT can update the forums to include "parking lots" and sidebars. :)