May 25, 2011

When Everybody is Watching

I posted this at work recently...

When approached to tap out a post for Ethics Week, my first thought was: that sounds about as safe as unicycling with a boiling crockpot of jalapeno cheese dip cradled on my lap. 

I'll keep this brief, then skedaddle for the hills.

The old line from Ethics 101 is doing the right thing when nobody is looking.  Perhaps it's deploying self control and refraining from that which one shouldn't do.

I think a braver slant on ethics is doing the right thing when everybody is watching, even when doing so may be unpopular, politically unsavvy, embarrassing or inconvenient.  It may require rubbing the cat's fur in the wrong direction and getting dirty. 

Recently on the slog to work, a car was pulled over with hazards pulsing and a tire deflating.  The driver looked to be a young professional, surely on her commute to the office.  Car after car passed by, offering only a drooling gawk and a blip of the gas pedal.  I did the same. 

It was easy to justify. 

I needed to be at work by 7 a.m. and would be late if I helped her. 
She surely had a cell phone and a wrecker was en route. 
She'd Taser me in the eyeballs/crotch the instant I tapped on her window.

Coasting into the parking ramp at work, my conscious muttered, "Jerk, you should have stopped." 

Yes, pulling over would have been inconvenient, changing her tire would have soiled my khakis and I would’ve been a few minutes late for work.  But pants can be washed and my boss dialed. 

I was guilty of a misdeed by omission.  In plain daylight.  When everybody was watching.

In the business world, changing the flat tire may translate into speaking up and asking that sticky question in a meeting.  Or making a difficult decision based on the right thing to do, not what’s most popular.

Now excuse me, I need to hop on my unicycle and deliver a boiling pot of spicy cheese dip.

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