As I talk with colleagues about their experiences with a wimpy boss, invariably, more descriptive adjectives begin to emerge. “Political wimp” came to mind immediately of one ex-corporate executive. She was not referring to “Obama a Wimp?”, but to political correctness inside the organization; and how she dodged the bullet.

As you climb the corporate ladder, make no mistake, you may find yourself in this dilemma at some point in your career. Everyone at some point faces this test and how you handle it will define — you.

Take this case in point. An organization’s leader is rewarded for delivering results. Companies establish protocols or rules for operating responsibly to protect themselves from rogue employees. An organization’s level of sophistication is evident in the systems, processes and other functions available to you for guidance. Functions such as quality control, accounting and human resources, have a greater role in auditing how well you are doing against those principles.

If these functional organizations only play the supportive role of assisting problems brought to them, the cocoon is still warm and cozy. However, if you lead one of these organizations who proactively discover breaches of policy, which may impact bottom line results negatively, pay attention to the bells going off in your head!

You have landed in the “hot seat”. The scramble begins and the wimpiness test is in full motion for everyone in the organization. Undoubtedly, internal questions begin to mount:

  • What do I do about this problem?
  • Will my boss be supportive of me?
  • Who can I trust?
  • What kind of reaction will I get from upper management?
  • Is there someone in the organization I can blame?
  • Is there someone else who should be bringing the issue to management?
  • Am I on a career suicide mission?
  • What would happen if I don’t bring up this problem?
  • Are our findings conclusive or is there enough room for error?

And the list goes on….

The moral and ethical dilemma is upon you. The consequences may be severe. Stepping up to management shifts the focus onto you -there is no debate on this. The only debate is how to handle it.

If the management is willing to accept the issue, take ownership and correct it, it may be a proud defining moment in your career. A measure of humility will go a long way.

If management avoids acknowledging the mishap and shifts the blame to remove their personal responsibility (often right back on your shoulders), then you may be facing the political wimp in action. At this point, get ready for a difficult choice to stay or leave the organization. In either situation, you may feel embarrassment, lost of confidence or career derailment.

Staying in an organization can be difficult. The management may not want to be reminded of what they did not address. You may feel an internal conflict, knowing some action should be taken, but feeling helpless. Sometimes the choice to leave seems insurmountable.

In fact, it may be your best option if the issue is serious. I know from experience, I left an organization because of an “ethical dilemma”. A few years later, the legal system caught up with them; and I thankfully removed myself from any liability. You can recover and know you did the right thing.