Computerworld poses the following seven ethical questions (my answers shown below each):

Question 1: You open an e-mail to find a huge file of your company’s HR data that was sent to you in error. You can see how much everyone makes, their performance reports … everything that is pertinent to their employment. So, do you a) take a quick skim through before notifying the sender; or b) close it immediately and notify the sender? Is it wrong to look even if you keep the information to yourself?

This is the trickiest of all the questions. There is a line between what I believe to be right and what I would actually do. I think you should close it and delete it, notifying the sender of the error. However, I would most likely take a peek at the file, before notifying the sender.

Question 2: You find that you can examine people’s expenses claims and you see that your boss is cheating for a hundred or so dollars per month: Would you a) report him if you wouldn’t face any consequences; or b) report him, consequences be damned, or c) forget about it?

B) Report him who cares the consequences. My wife would say that I feel this way because I have never really had a boss, but I know I could never work for someone I knew to be cheating the company.

Question 3: Now assume the false claims amount to thousands, not hundreds of dollars: What do you do now? If your answer is different to your answer from question 2, explain.

Same as above.

Question 4: In these tough economic times many people are desperate to get a job. Is it unethical to intentionally and significantly underpay a highly qualified candidate?

No, I don’t believe this to be unethical. I see hiring the same as sales. The person hiring wants to pay as little as possible (just like a buyer) and the person trying to get the job wants as much money as possible (just like a seller would). If one party sucks at negotiating a good salary it is not unethical, however it is not a sustainable business practice. Resorting to underpaying employees will always lead to them leaving as soon as they can.

Question 5: You “know” you are underpaid. You can pad your expenses and get away with it and in the grand scheme of things, your overbilling would be virtually negligible. Is this wrong? If it isn’t, why not? If it is wrong, why?

Yes it is wrong, who would think it is right?

Question 6: You discover that a service provider has violated their terms of service and should have refunded some small portion, say a few dollars, of what they charge your organization, but they don’t make a correction on their bill. If you say anything, it’s going to be a huge fuss and could make your life difficult. Do you a) keep quiet or b) make a fuss. If you keep quiet because it’s only a few dollars then how much would it have to be before you took action?

There are a lot of factors at play here, I am inclined to answer A, remembering the info if there are later problems. I look at it as a cost factor, if I spend an hour trying to get back $3, then is my time worth less than $3 and hour? Certainly not. So I would wait until the amount was equal to or more than the amount I feel my time is worth to deal with the claim.

Question 7: You are part of the team looking for a new CIO. You are down to three candidates and, given the importance of the job, you have the candidates’ backgrounds investigated by a private investigator to see whether there is any “dirt” on them. Is it ethical to probe their backgrounds like this? If you were the candidate, would that change your answer?

I think it would only be unethical if you did not inform the candidate that this was part of the process. Made even more unethical if this is not something that you do for all applicants, only ones that you feel are hiding something.

There you have it, my moral standing.

Posted by Ben Brooks