Paymaster Magazine

Hat 10 — The payroll professional as the moral compass; the litmus test

Moral CompassHat 10 — The payroll professional as the moral compass; the litmus test

Cooking frogs and lobsters

We all know how to boil a frog: slowly. This way, frogs don’t know that they are being boiled.

We all know how to cook a lobster: not one at a time. Oh! Why may this indeed be so, you’re possibly thinking?  Simple: if you cook a lobster by itself, it may attempt to climb out of the pot. But, if you cook it together with other lobsters also inside the pot, the they are instinctively prone to pulling the lone lobster attempting an escape, back into the pot.

Decisions on legal and ethical grey areas

The very same principle applies when we’re sometimes faced with awkward decisions that are (marginally) legal but which may be well be, on principle, deemed to be unethical.

It often starts out with small decisions: we make decisions by agreeing on something that falls within an ethical or legal ‘grey area’. We opt for the decision with least resistance, but before we know it, we’ve ‘crossed the line’ and it’s too late to navigate a turnaround on our initial decision. To compound matters, be advised that if we keep quiet on some of these issues—or do not challenge management on some of these decisions—we automatically become silent accomplices to these unethical and/or unsavoury decisions.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]To NOT challenge management on some decisions, we automatically become silent accomplices to unethical decisions.[/tweetthis]

Cross the line

Once the line has been crossed

Once the line has been crossed, we cannot easily regain our former purity. And, let it be known that I’m not referring to the blatant or obvious, such as fraud or something that is definitely illegal. No. Rather, I am referring to those issues that invoke the faintest hint of unease or unhappiness within us. It’s these issues—when categorised as grey area issues, that require our ability to make an ethically-based assessment of the situation in order to know what the true ‘right decision’ ought to be.

This is what the payroll professional does: it’s our job to provide that up-front ethical leadership. Be ready to act as the moral compass that serves as the litmus test on borderline grey area issues.

Legally right and/or morally right?

Sometimes, decisions need to be made in order to make the right decision from an ethical point of view. That which is legal by definition, and that which is ‘morally right’ (read ethical) is not always the same thing.

For the payroll professional, this is sometimes the most demanding aspect of decision-making. It’s difficult to restrain oneself from succumbing by allowing it to pass unnoticed. It’s extremely difficult sometimes, to stand firm, despite knowing that what is asked of us (although legal in the strictest sense of the word) is not morally right at all. Deep down within your conscience, when you know that your possible decision may not be morally/ethically right, allow the litmus test principle to activate itself within you and help you with your decision.

[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][tweetthis remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]Allow the litmus test principle to activate itself within you, in order to help you with your decision.[/tweetthis]

Example — different salaries, same position?

An excellent example that comes to mind involves discriminatory remuneration practices. Salaries for employees occupying the same job role oftentimes varies. Yet, both employees are performing the exact-same set of tasks and job description. They produce the same (or very similar) sets of results, …yet they earn vastly different salaries!

In this case, although this may not be an illegal practice (based on the breach of some or other labour law). However, is certainly does constitute a morally reprehensible practice (based on the simple argument of moral ethics).  This, and many other examples, are the kinds of questions that all payroll administrators would do well to regularly be pondering upon and/or raising with their superiors.

The primary, overriding question

The primary, overriding question is this: what ought we, the payroll professional, to be doing about it?

Here are my suggestions:

  • Gather all relevant data, to support your argument towards making a morally astute decision.
  • Seek to engage with your line manager in a private meeting. Do not openly dispute the merits of the issue or contest the decision with a watching audience.
  • By suitably explaining the underlying rationale supporting why you think a particular issue is morally and/or ethically challenging, calmly state your case.
  • Be ready to clearly present an alternative suitable solution that you believe to be the right decision.
  • Expect, with positive intention, to receive a revised final outcome that (fairly) takes your positive contribution into account.

 

Payroll professionals the litmus test

Remember that in these types of situations, an organisation is well within its right to insist upon only that which is merely legal. The job however—of all proud payroll professionals—is to be the moral compass, pointing management in the right ethical direction too.

[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][tweetthis remove_hidden_hashtags=”true”]The payroll professional is the litmus test representing the values of an organisation[/tweetthis] Therefore, in a strong sense, the payroll professional is indeed the employee litmus test that represents the values of the organisation which he/she is a (valuable) employee of.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Adrian Baillie-Stewart

Add comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent posts

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular

Most discussed