I once knew a well-respected financial controller who worked for one of our small operations overseas. One day, he neglected to make a tax payment on time and our organization was fined $50 by the tax authorities. No big deal but, rather than admitting his mistake, he created a fake email to have us believe that he had made the payment on time. When we discovered the truth, we had no choice but to terminate him.
We can only assume that the trust level was extremely low in that local operation. Why else would this colleague choose to cover up such a minor mistake? An admission would have been of no consequence to him. The cover-up cost him his job.
The ethical leader prevents these situations by creating trust in her organization. A good way to create trust is to tell people that it’s OK to punch a hole in the boat as long as it’s above the waterline. We can use real stories to support this claim, stories telling others about our own mistakes and what they taught us.
It’s a sad day when a colleague loses his job because we didn’t make him feel safe.