Santa Clara University


Cases in Business Ethics

Back to Blog

Odd One Out: Confronting Corruption in the Workplace

Jenny recently completed her master’s degree and was extremely excited to be hired for her dream job working for the local county government. During her first year, she began to notice that funds from grants were being mismanaged and misallocated. Some of her coworkers were also using county-owned materials, including cars, for personal business.

However, Jenny was most shocked by the hiring practices she witnessed at the office. Prospective applicants were supposed to take exams that were proctored by government employees. The results of these exams determined whether or not the applicants were hired and what they were hired for. Jenny began to notice that the proctors were allowing applicants to cheat on the tests because the applicants had already been chosen for the job. Many of these pre-chosen applicants were friends of current employees.

Jenny reported what she witnessed to Matt, the department’s business manager, who was second-in-command to the department head. Matt told her, “You heard nothing, you saw nothing, you say nothing.” Jenny was absolutely shocked; not only by the corruption, but that it was deliberately being swept under the rug.

Jenny felt trapped. She really needed the job to pay off loans from graduate school, and she loved the actual content of the work she was doing. She was also concerned that it would look bad to leave her first job out of school in less than a year, as well as tarnish future chances to work in government. On the other hand, she felt extremely uncomfortable in her work environment due to the culture of corruption.

What should Jenny do?

Comments Comments

achandrakar said on Sep 12, 2014
I would say Jenny has all the reasons to continue this conversation with different stakeholders in the department/organization. She is a beginner who can always leverage being plain, direct, curious, naive and insistent if needed. She must express her discomfort with a personal sense of conviction to the director of the department and also touch base with HR to see if they are aware of this "unsaid system". I believe that going a few miles on this matter and sending a few test balloons to see what others in the peripheral circles think about it, would yield a better sense of direction than keeping quiet and feeling trapped.
Patrick said on Sep 15, 2014
Thanks for the comment! Sounds like you think that Jenny has an ethical obligation to move forward with this. Is that the case? Especially given her financial situation and dependence on the job as a source of income?
Priyesh Shah said on Feb 19, 2015
Here, jenny should try to expose the corruption but in a stealthy manner, because if she gets some corrupt people at higher order as well than she would face problems which is not good for her own career. So better try to expose it anonymously.
David said on Sep 16, 2015
I believe she should slowly start to emerge and make this problem apparent to other government officials with higher power. This type of corruption will spread if something is not done. Jenny is in a very hard situation because if she does uncover their corruption she will go down as a whistle blower. My suggestion would be to look for another job and expose them, nobody should work under such corruption, she could be the next victim for all we know of injustice in the workplace.
Post a Comment

Tags: Fraud and Corruption, Just out of SCU, Non-Profit/Government