How To Cheat On Your Boss

Ethics 101

Still seeking guidance about the ethical implications of cheating on your boss? Even for the experts, nothing's black and white.

Joe Badaracco, a professor of business ethics at Harvard Business School, says there are no concrete rules when it comes to the ethical implications of cheating. "It depends on the implicit contract [you have with your boss]," he says. "I think the main question is, Are you doing your job? Are you doing it in a way the company expects you to do it? You're probably at risk if you deviate too far from that.

"I'm not sure whether stealing time is any different than stealing something from the warehouse," Badaracco continues. "On the other hand, my impression and my hope is that most people are paid for getting the job done, not for sitting on their butts." In other words, although some may see the theft of time and resources as equivalent to pillaging your employer's bank account, Badaracco believes as long as you're getting your work done, it's forgivable and even forgettable.

But will the boss see it the same way? Sometimes, Badaracco warns, it's better not to unburden your cheatin' heart to a superior. "Bosses like to think they've got their employees' hearts and souls," he says. "That's an illusion, but depending on who your boss is, sometimes it's a necessary illusion, and it's probably best not to disappoint [him or her]."

The final word? As comfort to office cheaters everywhere, Badaracco says ethics depend on the specifics of a situation. "My general view is, if you can say in good conscience that you're doing your job, the rest of your life is yours."

Contact Sources

Adam J. Conti, (404) 531-0701

De Tai Technologies, nfeaster@detai.com, http://www.detai.com

New Image Enterprises Inc., nie@mailcity.com

Peak Consulting and Development, (302) 983-5422, russ@delaware.net

Progressive Solutions, (212) 386-2449, ckjones@progsolinc.com

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This article was originally published in the March 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: How To Cheat On Your Boss.

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