Do Small Errors Need to be Reported?
Amanda Nelson, Hackworth Business Ethics Fellow 2013
Ben is a recent Santa Clara University graduate who has just started his first job in the finance department of a publicly traded Silicon Valley company. One of his main responsibilities is to create and distribute extensive Microsoft Excel reports that analyze costs and revenues for different divisions. Ben sends completed reports to his direct supervisor and the CFO. The CFO then uses the information to create the company's financial reports, in addition to the strategy and forecasting formulation.
While Ben considers himself to be detailed-oriented, the complicated nature of and the sheer volume of data sometimes overwhelm him, which is exacerbated by their strict deadlines. While Ben works hard to prepare the reports as accurately as possible, he often finds errors after he has submitted his final report. When the errors are critical, he revises the reports and resends them. However, some of the errors are minor, in Ben's estimation, and he doubts that the CFO will use or look at these figures. Ben is ambitious and wants to be promoted, but worries that if he frequently sends out revised reports he will appear unreliable and unqualified. At the same time, the potential consequences from inaccurate financial reports put the company, the CFO and CEO, and Ben himself at risk.
What actions should Ben take when he catches a mistake? Is he obligated to report every error, particularly since he works for a publicly traded company? Is there such a thing as a small error in this context?