Author Topic: An Ethics Question  (Read 430 times)

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Offline Bereft_of_Faith

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An Ethics Question
« on: January 02, 2012, 01:44:42 AM »
I'm stuck.  I can't seem to work out an ethical solution to a particular problem

My lead Tech made a mistake which caused a major outage across our property. 
I spent 6 hours on the phone in the middle of the night to our VP trying to get it sorted out. 
The root cause (mistake) was not brought up or discussed during that time.
I confronted my Tech about the mistake, but he was unaware he had done it 
The engineer responsible for the system called me this morning, saying that I would have to explain what happened to our director
I will do so as soon as he gets in

If I tell my director what actually happened, I feel I would be sandbagging my lead Tech
If I take full responsibility, it will appear to my director and VP that I had hidden my mistake from them previously.  (Whenever I make a mistake, or cause a mistake to happen, I immediately admit to it.)

I could say that I take responsibility as the person in charge of the shift, but that seems to be a bit of a cop out.  I'm sure they want to know who actually pressed the wrong button.

If only I could pray for some guidance  :)  In lieu of that, does anyone here have a clear ethical view on this?

Note: Not looking for an easy way out; just the correct way to deal with this

Thanks to all who respond.  -BoF

Offline wright

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Re: An Ethics Question
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2012, 02:05:24 AM »
My 2 cents...

If your lead Tech made the mistake out of carelessness, if he should have known better, then I don't see how it's your responsibility. If he was uninformed in some way, and informing him was your responsibility, then the buck stops at your desk.

It sounds like you've told him he screwed up, so I don't understand how having him called on the carpet is "sandbagging" him.
Live a good life... If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.
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Offline Samothec

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Re: An Ethics Question
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2012, 02:17:40 AM »
Wright makes good points.

I'm also not sure I see how telling the director what happened would be sandbagging the Tech. (But I might not be understanding something.)

I tend to go for too much of the truth too often. That said, I would let the Tech know that answers are required of me and that I will be stating things truthfully - that is, let him know that his mistake will be reported as a mistake. Then I would tell the director what happened.

Unless your director/company tends to be draconian, there shouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately people can surprise you. But to not provide an accurate account will make things questionable: are you protecting this person for some reason? (Which leads to specualtion of what that reason could be.) Or are you saying that you'll "take responsibility" to imply someone else did it but then refuse to name someone because you know anyone you name is innocent?

Not going with the truth just leads to too many problems far too fast as far as I can see so I do my best to tell the truth. Plus, unless you know you are good at lying, can you be convincing? Probably not with an outright lie.
Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding. - Martin Luther

Offline grant

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Re: An Ethics Question
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2012, 02:58:36 AM »
You don't put any "value" on this outage. Was it expensive or just inconvenient? If it was expensive, can the losses be clawed back or are they irrecoverable? (For example a furniture factory or a newspaper plant?)

You also don't state your position - you're in charge of technicians, but not an engineer: are you a Supervisor or head of a department? Can you state that "the problem was created by your department and you are working with those responsible to ensure it won't / can't happen again", and leave it at that?

It sounds like poor engineering if pressing a "wrong button" can bring the plant to a closure. Can you turn this into a positive by suggesting more robust processes?

Was it a mistake or negligence? How could the tech NOT know he created the problem? Is he unaware of the ramifications of his actions all the time? Are the techs well paid and the best in their field or does the company pay less than competitors so end up with second rate techs? Should you be suggesting further training for staff?

Personally I'd try to keep it at a departmental level (if this is the case) and not name names at all - but make it clear that you weren't personally responsible. If they trust and respect you it should be enough.

What if the hokey pokey is what its all about?

Offline Bereft_of_Faith

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Re: An Ethics Question
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2012, 05:50:50 AM »
Thanks to all for your replies.

I don't personally place a lot of importance on the outage, but our CEO is wont to do so, and so the ramifications will probably go beyond either my VP or my director's inclinations.

I am a shift supervisor, which in this case means I am a lead technician with HR responsibilities, and management reporting, including hiring and firing.  Our techs are paid well within our (casino) industry but not as well as the IT industry as a whole.  We lose good techs to companies outside of our specific industry.  This makes it harder to find good people, to keep them, and then to replace them, which speaks to my reluctance to have the tech take a fall for this.  I had to fire a tech this year and it took a month and a half to replace him.  The tech in question has been with me for a few years.

I did discuss with the engineer, the issue of a single pushed button being able to bring down an entire system (5 NIONs hooked up in series, digitizing music to be distributed to amps via our network).  She is going to see if the option to erase a role on the machines, can be disabled so this doesn't happen again.  The seriousness of this is that it happened on NYE, btw.

Having considered all that's been said by those above, I will meet with my director when he comes in and explain that my tech did do the actual button pushing, albeit in an effort to troubleshoot an already failed system, but will accept responsibility for trouble shooting a system we have rarely touched, beyond the point where it was safe to do so.  That rests with me.

Thanks to all for your input.  It helped make sense of it for me.