As you advance your security career into senior and executive levels within the organization, occasions may arise whereby you find yourself in circumstances where your personal values and ethics may conflict with those of one or more individuals on the leadership team. In more extreme circumstances, a lack of a moral culture may permeate the organization in a way that can place you in legal jeopardy.

As often as we have seen instances of individuals who have been caught up in events, it remains surprising that knowing the coverup is often worse than the act is still disregarded or forgotten. Those who try to protect or justify behaviors that have potential life altering consequences can often make things worse.

Examples of ethical challenges that security executives may encounter are wide ranging. Consider how you would handle any of the following examples:

  • You are asked by your supervisor or another senior leader to:
    • Arrange for telephone or electronic surveillance on an employee, supplier, customer any/or reporter.
    • Violate the law to obtain confidential or legally protected information.
    • Obtain bidding information from a competitor.
    • Facilitate payments or other gratuities for government employees and/or their family outside the U.S.
    • Pay for and submit expense reports for your supervisor’s approval to hide purchases or entertainment that would not normally be authorized.
    • Keep hidden all invoices over a large amount and not submit or book in the payables system for 60 days.
  • You become aware that a large amount of product is being shipped to distributors whose markets cannot support that volume and are asked to ignore it.
  • You learn your CEO is personally benefiting from business arrangements with large suppliers.
  • You learn that compliance or inspection records are being falsified to ensure product volume is not impacted.
  • You have direct knowledge that adulterated product is put back into the supply chain and destruction records are falsified and are told to ignore it.

All the above are real-life examples that were shared with me by security professionals. Aside from the potential negative outcomes of being associated with these behaviors or incidents, as you move through your career you must also consider the impact to its trajectory and potential damage to your reputation surrounding the standards of your integrity. There is a risk of emotional impact regarding your self-respect, not to mention threats to your health and wellbeing as internal stress from situations like this do their damage.

Ultimately, you want to keep in mind how you will be remembered by your colleagues, friends and family. Also consider that supporting involvement in any of these circumstances either directly or indirectly is very high risk. It’s likely you could end up as the target of accountability when a scapegoat is needed.

Consider the possibility that situations like these will present themselves and know your course of action in advance. Decisions you make in extreme circumstances can have career- and life-long impacts.