Put your stapler from work down and step back slowly...

Ethics is a hard topic to discuss, yet I am fortunate to come from a family (...well, a father at least) who was extremely ethical. He gave me perspective and proof that high ethics are attainable, but at what cost? And why is it important?

First of all, what defines ethical acts? Which of the following is okay to do:

  • Borrow your work's digital camera and return it

  • Buy a USB jump drive using company funds and "forget" to return it upon leaving the company

  • Have your personal e-mail sent to your work e-mail address

  • Check your personal e-mail at work

  • Work on personal errands and tasks when you are finished with work tasks ("at least the ones my boss assigned to me last week").

  • Take extra time off because, hey, I deserve it! I didn't get a break yesterday and I was supposed to get one!

  • Taking more than your one approved smoothie a day because I'm a manag...I mean, you are a manager.

If it's not clear now, then let me spell it out: I-T.

(*I used to do that to my babysitter as a child. If she said, "CUT IT OUT!", my brothers and I would write "it" on a sheet of paper and waltz to the nearest pair of scissors to cut the word "it" out of the paper and hand it to her. We'd also ritually place the babysitter's shoes and purse into the freezer the first chance she was not looking. I digress.)

I believe I am more ethical than most. (I'm not implying I'm better than others--just that for whatever reason, I act more ethically than most people I interact with). This stems mostly from my sense of guilt. HA! I wouldn't want it done to me, so I don't do it to others. That and what if it hurts someone's feelings, if I get caught, or if it's the right thing to do?

Case in point: #2 above regarding the USB jump drive. The day before my last day at work, I rattled off to my boss a list of things I was thinking I need to return. She had no idea I had the jump drive, nor would anyone ever think to ask about it. I was in the moment on the phone and it came time to decide whether I should say anything. After rapidfire thoughts: Doidoit? Noonewillknow. IcankeepitandIcoulduseit. Idon'tfeelrightkeepingit. It'snotlikeIcouldn'taffordanotherone. That'snotthepoint. It'snotyoursanditwasnotmeanttobesomethingyoukeep. "Beth, I also have a jump drive I bought on company funds."

I felt good about my decision. Could I have used it? Yes. Do I have another? No. Do I like walking in the light of the truth knowing I made the best decision for myself? YES.

Other Leigh facts: at my previous job as an Assistant Hall Coordinator at UT, I checked my personal e-mail on less than 10 days out of a potential 2 years I worked there (and each time for less than 3 minutes I'm sure). And I worked in a secluded office! No one watched over me! I had heard once that the director of Housing and Food felt that there was always something that could be done, so I lived by that. I always looked for something else to do because I didn't feel right doing anything else.

Am I perfect? Mostly. And EXTREMELY humble.

I have had more than one free smoothie per day (maybe five times) and have added a second boost but not paid for it, probably about twenty times (but I at least rung it up--I never tried to hide it). Today, I even talked on the phone "on the clock" for about 10 minutes with my mother. I feel bad, but I justified it in my head that the 10 minutes breaks I NEVER get was made up by using that time.

I still feel guilty.