What do you do if your boss or employer asks you to do something that you consider to be unethical? Is it time to confront them head on or do you just sit on the sidelines and hope that you won’t get caught up in the fall out?

First, you do not want to get caught being a part of the mess, especially if it is clear that you will be made the fall guy or girl or scapegoat.

It is important to know when someone is just cutting corners that might not follow policy explicitly but does not violate any legal, moral or ethical protocols. There are often gray areas or judgment calls on what is acceptable.

If the situation that you are being asked to do is truly unethical behavior, then you have to take some kind of action to protect yourself.

Here are some examples of unethical behavior:

  • In the financial industry, “Churning,” or continually moving a client’s investments in order to earn commissions on the same monies without regard for the client’s best interest.
  • Disclosing personal confidential employee information to unauthorized personnel.
  • Submitting inaccurate documents such as expense reports, commission reports or other financial records for personal gain.
  • Omitting, falsifying or revising internal documents to reflect the company’s financial position inaccurately.
  • Misrepresenting the time you worked for the company for financial gain.

One of the tactics I advise people who find themselves being asked to do something that is morally wrong or unethical is to ask your manager to sign on the dotted line. Prepare the document or put it in writing and ask them to sign off on it.

Ultimately, the responsibility for any decision will rise to the top person who has their signature on the document requesting the action to be taken.

If the manager knows what they are asking is illegal, then they will undoubtedly back down. If not, it is appropriate to discuss the risks of any decision or action with them and let them know you are uncomfortable with it.

If they insist on you continuing with the action, ask them to reassign the work to someone else or suggest that you and the boss discuss the situation with their manager.

There is a chance that you might not have all the details around what is being requested and what you are being asked to do is not out of the norm.

You probably should be taking note that there is a strong signal being sent to you about how the manager or company operates in sticky situations. It might be in your best interest to reflect on if this is the right place in the long term for your conscience and career.