When I was 24, having just moved to San Francisco, I landed a job in advertising with KBRG Spanish Radio. I had very few contacts in town, but one of them was an entertainment talent agent, who also promoted some concerts.
I was fortunate to make a sale with him, almost immediately, promoting a Salsa concert. Beginning a job in a new market, that was a huge get.
The Sunday concert was well attended and I was excited to get to the office on Monday. Only to find out that due a clerical error, the client’s campaign had not been aired for several days prior to the show. A slate of radio spots worth about $500.
Quite concerned, I immediately went in to talk to the station managers, a husband and wife team. I explained the situation, and they followed up with a couple of questions.
“How did the concert go?” them… “Happily, quite well” I responded.
“Does the client know” them… “Not that I’m aware of…. why do you ask?”
“Well, if the client doesn’t know, perhaps we should just let it go… (aka Keep quiet about it)“
“You think so?” I answered. “What could it hurt?” they asked.
I just nodded and left the office to get a cup of coffee, and think about the conundrum. If the concert went well, then the client was damaged, was he? But the station took the money, and would have to refund $500. Would the managers look askance at me, for being too ‘holy’?
There were other considerations. I didn’t have a pile of savings and was looking to succeed in radio advertising. I was not really ready to look for a new job. There was definitely pressure and conflicting choices.
Gone by lunch: I finished the coffee and returned the office. I went in and resigned. Just like that.
I figured if I started cutting corners this soon, it couldn’t be a good thing. I would find another job. Staying at KBRG suddenly seemed uncomfortable.
This is a great example of Situational Ethics. There is not a simple answer to the scenario I’ve described. I might have stayed on a while, before the next job, for example. I’m sure you can think of several alternative courses of action.
These types of integrity scenarios confront us in business, almost daily. Some we analyze thoroughly and act with honor. Other times we delude ourselves and rationalize marginal actions. Many times there is no right or easy path.
The big question: What would you do?
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