Asked to Lie

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about to omit complaints:

I am constantly asked to not record documents in a client’s file that has become a complaint because it might need to be produced later…What should I do?

Signed, Asked to Lie

DearĀ Asked to Lie:

Check with your policy book and any other published material available in your workplace regarding keeping/not keeping records. From what little you say in your query, it is not clear what kind of complaints are being made that have prompted this order. Are these complaints simply client annoyances with how service is delivered or are these complaints about serious lapses such as those pertaining to medical matters? From what you do say, it appears that someone in your organization is “shredding files” by omission, and that can be a crime. A major accounting firm that shredded files to avoid having to produce them later ended in bankruptcy several years ago.

A pharmaceutical company’s officer would be at risk that orders no records be kept of customers’ complaints. A tire manufacture that followed “keep no records” of reported tire defects would suffer a serious wrongful death judgment should a court learn of such a policy.I do not ignore that you might feel uneasy about challenging an order you think is dishonest and or unwise. But since you have labeled your query “Asked to Lie”, it is a clear sign that you do not want to be asked to lie. Therefore, you apparently are weighing if you should voice this discomfort and when and how. Have you raised questions with your superior(s) about the ethics and wisdom of such orders? What were the exact words you were told to justify that order? If such orders were by a co-worker, you should confront this individual and check with your superior about it. You use the word “constantly” told.

Can you recall the specific times and instances of who said what and when and who might have observed such orders? It would be good to have such documentation should you be fired for disputing such orders. Documentation will help should the individual(s) who told you to keep no records say that they did not say that. After an inquiry about a “keep no records” order, if you determine that such is unwise and/or dishonest, what is the policy within your organization should you want to question such an order? Do you have a Human Resources Department, ombudsman, or personnel office where you might seek advice? If not, might you tell the one or ones who “constantly” tell you to keep no records that you think you should meet with her/his superior to better understand if this order is wise?

Think of yourself as an owner of a company who wants to produce and deliver the best quality possible. To do that one must know what is not pleasing the customer. With such an attitude in mind, you can approach voicing your questioning the wisdom and ethics of the “keep no records’ suggestion or order. One final suggestion, approach first as an inquiry; however, do so with your head held high and with a positive attitude. Do not pussyfoot, gossip or approach it in an accusative manner? Approach it as seeking clarification with the possibility that it all could be a misunderstanding and that you want to do what is right.Will you keep us posted on what you do and what you learn? Working together with hands, head, and heart sometimes requires courage. That takes and makes big WEGOS.

Follow Up: Thank you. I knew your answer before I asked but had to try. It is the owner who is doing this. As I am the Controller I have a huge problem with these practices. It goes far beyond just the complaint issue. The exact words were, “I do not want that communication in their file in case I am asked to produce their file.” I must contact via phone either employees or clients so that there is to be no paper trail. I can only call from certain numbers…it is feeling dirty. Signed, Feeling Dirty

Reply to Feeling Dirty: An owner makes the rules. He/she can choose to be honest or dishonest. Since you are privy to what is going on and you feel dirty, you must think or know something is going on that is not honest. You don’t say what precisely you judge is dirty, something unfair to clients or illegal, but you say you are being asked to hide, lie, or at least deceitfully look the other way. Also you do not say if you have frankly told the owner how you feel about this. Apparently you are afraid to.

Soooo your three options are: 1. To continue to feel dirty and do dirt, 2. To girt up your courage and confront the owner and come to a resolution that you feel is fair and honest to clients or 3. To vote with your feet. You have skills and experience that should be valued by other employers–honest ones.

William Gorden