I have learned today that my co-worker decided to go to the President of the company with the information about our CEO’s photography price-fixing. He was furious about different issues than those of my own, however. His main source of contempt was the assumption that we would be paying the CEO’s husband approximately twenty-thousand dollars that we are charging (the total amount of the images alone) the client. The issue, in his eyes, was no so much about using amateur photography and trying to sell it as professional work. Nor was it any other issue I felt to be unethical. It was simply all about the money he thought we would pay out for the images. Either way, the issue had been addressed with on of our authority figures in the company. I do have a high respect for the President of our company, too. She was put in her position for a reason, and one of those reasons is due to her high ethical standards. She keeps people in check, as far as that is concerned, and would have likely caught this, even if we simply did our job and let it go. However, if we had simply done our job (well, if I had simply done my job, as my co-worker was just a confidant at this point), how would that have looked for us? Even if it is not your job to question, even if your job is simply from point A to point B, you have to decide for yourself how to get there. In this way that we were going, I was not comfortable with. Before the President of the company spoke to the CEO about it, she asked me about it, and then why I had not brought the issue to her when it first happened. Wow – I really did not expect it to come back to me like that, but in hindsight I should have. Of course, I did have a reasonable defense – how do I, a simple employee, confront the owner of the company on how she is running her company? After talking about it, the President came to realize my point of view, and, more importantly, got all of the facts behind the case. She handled the situation really well, too. She sent out an e-mail, taking full responsibility for finding the images in our inventory, and then questioning the price, explaining the proper process that should have taken place. Surprisingly, the CEO owned up to it, taking responsibility for setting the price, and actually apologized for her error. We did not change the price for this particular client, however, as she had quickly turned in the paperwork to the client and the client had, in turn, sent out a purchase order. The President and CEO did, however, have a lengthy discussion about the right and wrong of such an event, and how it wouldn’t be tolerated in this company. They finally came to a compromise, in which we would not charge anything but a printing fee for employee stock photography, mainly from her husband. I also learned a little more about my own responsibility and authority of calling things such as this into question, which makes me feel a lot better about my job. Through my own questions and discussions with other employees, I was actually able to help turn around an otherwise unethical situation at work. It was a little less painful and stressful than I had honestly anticipated and changes were made to halt these actions in the future. I will have to admit; it feels pretty good. It gives me a little hope, and more confidence to question authority when it is wrong, and makes me realize that I do not have to fully compromise my own ethics and standards, or even my own conscience at my job. It is a victory indeed. A small one, but a victory, nonetheless.
November 13, 2007