As an engineer, I developed a good working relationship with subordinates (who were union members) by earning their respect and trust over time. I told them that I would always be upfront and honest with them… In one instance I was scoping out a capital project that was very attractive to management because it had a really nice ROI. While the capital costs were large, this project would save the company over $800,000 annually through staff elimination. At one point I was measuring the location layout when a few employees approached me and asked what I was doing. I explained that we were looking to replace several old manual machines with a new fully automated system. One worker asked me if this project would eliminate any positions (specifically his position). I had to lie and say that no, management was just looking to free up employees to do “more value-added tasks.” Although I was uncertain the project would be approved, it would undoubtedly eliminate 8 positions if implemented. However, there was simply no way I could release that information. This was 2008, when the economy was performing poorly, layoffs were prevalent, and unions were on edge. If I told the employees that the main goal of this project was to eliminate their jobs, not only would there have been some sort of mutiny, but I’m pretty certain management would have fired me for divulging that confidential information. Was it unethical for me to lie to protect my job and the company from a hostile situation?
Contributed by Adam
To comment on this dilemma, leave a response. For anonymity, omit your email address and website, and use a screen name.