Let me introduce you to a woman we call “The Ethics Nazi”. She manages a department of about 15 at a University in New York and my friend happens to be one of the lucky employees. In every team meeting she makes it a point to remind people that it’s unethical to show up late, leave early, or miss work without documenting it all. The amount of time employees have off is precise and unless they have accrued time, they can’t take off. She has gone as far as to make the managers in the department fear what will happen if their employees break these rules.
I just can’t wrap my head around this type of management style. Do I agree that employees need to put in their hours, do the job that their organization is paying them for, and do right by the organization? Absolutely.
The problem comes in when this woman’s definition of “ethical” causes managers beneath her to stop using their judgment when dealing with one-off employee situations.
Take for example when my friend had to rush to the hospital because a family member of hers had been admitted suddenly. Rather than understanding her situation, my friends manager sent her an email telling her that she needed to document the hours she was out of the office so it could be deducted from her time off. Sure, in the end, my friend would have been fine taking those hours off, but it was the last thing she needed to hear from her manager at that time.
Shocked and disgusted by the lack of trust, compassion, and overall understanding of the people in her department my friend decided to start looking for a new job.
My advice for the Ethics Nazi:
- Have a little faith in the employees you hired. If you don’t trust them to do the right thing the only person at fault is you.
- By constantly repeating your opinion of what ethics means to your employees you’re making them feel like they are in kindergarten. You hired adults, treat them as such.
- Managers who are rigid with employees tend to loose the good ones because they know they can get more freedom, trust, and appreciation elsewhere.