Is it RIGHT to do THAT? Ethics Clarified by Six Questions

Published on September 20th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

“If you don’t want anyone to know what you are doing, just don’t do it.”

– Yiddish Proverb

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Amy, a friend of many years, called my office one day, asking if she might speak with me confidentially. And she didn’t want to speak on the telephone. So we agreed to meet in a coffee shop the next day.

What she shared with me was quite unusual, and disturbing: she was a Senior Project Manager with a large real estate and construction firm. For almost a year she had been working on the construction of one of New York City’s most famous “new landmarks” and had encountered a problem. She was asked to do something that made her nervous. She didn’t know what to do.

Recent tests on the building’s concrete foundation showed mixed results. Since the tragedy of 9/11, foundation strength standards had been raised, and only about 2/3 of the building’s tests showed sufficient strength. Although not really a part of her job, she was brought in to the central office and was asked to “cherry pick” the positive reports, and discard the reports showing deficiencies, before submission to the City’s Department of Buildings. To say the least, she was frightened.

At least those were the facts as Amy knew them. Since she was not an engineer, and was not specifically trained in reading the reports, she was relying on the discussions among the engineers on site. She understood that there was a problem from conversations with engineers she believed to be knowledgeable in these matters. And she was suspicious from the very moment she was asked to present these reports to City officials and insurance representatives, as her usual duties had nothing to do with foundation tests. Was she, she wondered, being set up as a scapegoat?

Was there a “right” or “ethical” thing to do? Whatever was the ethical thing to do, could it hurt her job and career? These were very weighty concerns.

LESSON TO LEARN: Issues like the ones Amy faced are not that unusual. These days, it seems nearly every company is under pressure from investors and others to (a) cut corners, (b) bend the rules, and (c) twist the truth, usually in the name of cost savings or deadline pressures. It seems more often than in previous times that commercial considerations are coming into direct conflict with ethical concerns.

The issue might be one of public safety, or it might be a matter of tax evasion. Or pressures to cheat customers. One day it might be one issue; the next day it might be a different one. Whatever the issue, the dilemmas abound. It’s often hard to know what to do, when competing pressures are upon you. And those pressures can take their toll.

For those in this circumstance, we offer a rather simplified analytical tool that we sometimes call “The Six Questions to Ethical Clarity.” It is a set of basic, simple questions to ask yourself to figure out what is right to do when you’re simply not sure.

One thing about what is “right” to do: it can depend on one’s experience, one’s perspective and one’s judgment. That is, we all sometimes have “blind spots” in different situations. For that reason the question “Is it right to do?” often suggests getting the views of others with experience, perspective and judgment you trust. Just think about it: even the greatest ethicists of all time can and do disagree at times about “Is it RIGHT to do THAT?

WHAT YOU CAN DO: We do not claim any exclusive right to these six questions, because the ideas underlying them are commonly found in published articles, like this one, about ethical dilemmas in different situations. However, we present them to you in the context of issues that arise during employment, along with certain insights gleaned from the our client experiences over three decades.
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Sklover’s Thought for the Work Week

Published on September 19th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

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“He who truly knows has no occasion to shout.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

Get to know your stuff really well and – hey – you become just too hard to argue with. Understanding the in’s and the out’s, the why’s and the how’s, and pretty much every perspective in your field, and there’s little else you need to do or say. True expertise speaks so eloquently by itself that those who possess it often need to say little else.

© 2016 Alan L. Sklover. All Rights Reserved

[If you would like to contribute a favorite quote, saying or proverb, please submit it to us at].

Workplace Negotiating Insight: Always Bear in Mind Who Called Who?

Published on September 15th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover


Always Bear in Mind:
Who Called Who?

Imagine that someone called you, and offered to buy your house, and you said, “Well, then, make me an offer.” Imagine, then, that she offered you $100,000, and you said “Don’t be silly; this house is worth at least $400,000.”

If she started to argue with you, tell you that you are being unreasonable, and said you were not negotiating in good faith, you would be wise to remind the caller: “Who Called Who?

Said differently, “You are the one who initiated the conversation, the one who seems to care more, and the one who seems to need this transaction . . . If you don’t want to talk about what I want, you and I don’t need to talk any more.”

In workplace matters . . . if, as examples, you are recruited to interview, if you are offered a retention agreement, if you are given a promotion “with strings,” if you are asked to relocate or become an expatriate, or if you are offered a buy-out of your job, in any of these situations, and others, too, you would be wise to bear in mind that “They called you.”

Sure, there are many things to consider if an opportunity comes your way, but in the negotiating – the give-and-take about terms and conditions – always bear in mind the leverage of “Who Called Who?”

You probably don’t need to remind whoever called you of this leverage, but if he or she is a good negotiator, you may well need to continually remind yourself.

When you are the one receiving the call, request, invitation or proposal, you have and should use – and not give away – significant leverage.

Remember: “Who Called Who?

© 2016, Alan L. Sklover All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Prohibited.

We’re pleased to offer another new “Model Letter”:

Published on September 13th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

“Pregnancy – Giving Notice to Your Boss”

Pregnancy is a time of many changes: to your body, in family dynamics, and all other aspects of your life. The coming arrival of a “little one” requires a good amount of planning and preparation.

Pregnancy is also a time of change, planning and preparation at work, little of which can begin until you have given notice of your pregnancy to your boss.

When should you give notice of pregnancy? How should you do so? What should you say? There are no hard-and-fast rules, but experience and common sense can guide you.

This Model Letter provides 18 points you may wish to raise in your Notice of Pregnancy, ranging from accommodations you may need, to temporary assignments that may be required, to expressing your intention to return – and 15 others. In its comprehensiveness, it serves, too, as something of a “To-Do Checklist,” as well.

During pregnancy, you have enough new things to think about, take care of, and prepare for. This Model Letter lends you a helping hand.

To obtain your copy of our “Model Memo Giving Notice of Pregnancy to Your Boss,” just [click here.]

“You are not alone, at work, any more.”™

© 2016 Alan L. Sklover All Rights Reserved.

Sklover’s Thought for the Work Week

Published on September 12th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

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“Always and never are two words you should
always remember never to use.”

– Wendell Johnson

Always is a long, long, long time. And Never has simply never happened. So, too, are they in life. Always and Never are such absolutes – and such useless absolutes – that they should be avoided by those with open minds, open hearts and open vistas.

© 2016 Alan L. Sklover. All Rights Reserved

[This quote was sent in by Blog Member Eileen B. of San Angelo, Texas. If you would like to contribute a favorite quote, saying or proverb, please submit it to us at].

For consultations with Al Sklover on matters of employment-related matters, available seven days a week, simply email Vanessa at

Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 30 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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