November 8, 2007

Yesterday, I helped my CEO’s husband with some photos he had taken.  Well – he is “retired,” so to speak, from our company, and has recently taken up the hobby of photography.  He has decided, likely under the suggestion of our CEO, that he could donate some of his photography to our artwork database, in case we needed to use any cheap stock photography for any of our clients.  Today, however, our CEO has decided to use a chunk of his photography, nineteen pieces, for one of our projects.  That, in itself, is rather questionable, considering our stance on using artwork from within the company.  A little background on this – we will rarely use art from employees within the company on the simple basis of keeping fair representation of all artists, and for meeting a client’s demands in the most appropriate way.  We do not want to show favorable status toward those who work for us because, ethically, it is not right.  We have three or four professional photographers on staff (not as photographers; their photography is a separate profession) that we simply do not use.  If we attempt to, our CEO tries to talk them into offering the lowest possible price – or even giving freebies.  Back to the story, though…my boss not only decided to use her husband’s “hobby” photography for a client’s design space, but she also decided to charge a fee for each photograph.  Granted, to print the photo, we would have to charge, regardless of the source.  However, she decided to mark up her husband’s photography to the price of over a thousand dollars per image.  At the size they are being printed at, that cost would be a little high from a professional photographer.  This man is no professional.  He started this hobby, perhaps, a few months prior.  When I saw her doing this, I questioned it.  I knew this was unethical, and was in direct conflict with what our company stands for.  I also knew exactly why she was doing this, too.  Our end of year projection was going to be lower than anticipated.  She was worried mainly because all of the employees are buying out her shares of stock in the company this year, so she too can eventually retire.  As I thought of this, I realized that she had been adjusting all of her projects to gain a little more profit, and this is when I saw that something had to be said.  It is her company – she and her husband started it from the ground floor.  However, they always boasted their efforts to provide their services based on the client’s needs, and now she is manipulating her knowledge and reputation into padding her pockets.  I don’t believe she is concerned about the name that she may be making for the company if this were to come to light, but for the simple fact that those taking over will be my co-workers – people I have learned to respect and people who have worked hard to get into the positions they are at – that is what makes it so wrong.  So, I decided to ask her about it, since I was about to be the one responsible for actually inputting the information into our system.  I asked her to clarify the charges, and she did.  She clearly told me that these were to be the totals to put into our system.  I then entered them into the system, but still had a horrible feeling in my gut.  I eventually confided in another co-worker, who also became immediately furious about the situation.  However, knowing that it was the CEO’s decision, we were at a loss as to what our next move should be.  We discussed a few options and a few ways to undo this wrong, but came to no real solution.  After discussing it for a while, we decided to leave it for the day, and to try to come up with a solution at a later date.  I am beginning to feel the weight of what it takes to live a moral and ethical life, and am now faced with one of those decisions to do the right, or continue on to be a part in wrongdoings.  It is not an easy place to be, either. 


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