This is a case that I was faced with years ago at a job I had. This case involved me questioning myself and management in how they ran their business. It made me question other decisions they may have made in the past that were unethical that I was not made aware of or a part of. It made me think about my personal morals and obligations to myself. This scenario also had me question whether I was going to have a job or not at many times based on the steps I took. I’ve always considered myself a person that plays by the rules, hardworking, and honest.
While sitting at my desk one day working on CAD drawings for the shop floor to work on machining I was approached by my boss for some help with our upcoming bank audit. Normally our general manager addresses the bank audits so I was never included in helping. I asked him if there was any particular reason they wanted me to help. My boss, Mr. Jones stated since we’ve switched our inventory over to the computer system from standard paper sheets it would be more efficient since you are the only one trained on the new computer system. He also mentioned that it would be a great time to show the bank our advancements in technology by the upgrade to the new system. So I responded with a yes no problem, I will show them the new setup and take care of the audit.
The reason for quarterly bank audits was to show the bank that if our computer system stated we had 2 million pounds of inventory on the floor that we actually did. Now the banks never did a complete inventory of our material but they would pick anywhere from 12 to 20 plates that they wanted us to pull and verify the weights. This would show them that if one plate weighed in the system 20,000lbs that on the floor it weighed 20,000lbs also. How we borrowed from the bank was dependent on our value and accuracy of the inventory. So this was critical for the company to be as accurate as possible and not to disrupt day to day business by not being able to pay vendors, pay employees, or purchase products needed to complete jobs.
The next day the bank came in and provided a list of plates they wanted pulled by us to compare weights. Our goal is to be within 5% of the actual weight of the plate. I then began printing out the dimensioned plates from the computer system to give to the shop employee’s to pull the plates from stacks. The audit is a 2 to 3 day process usually because the material can be time consuming to pull and the bank also looks at other critical financial data the company provides them. As the shop employees began pulling plates I would go out and compare the theoretical weight of the plate that is done by simple math compared to what the system weight showed to see if we were within the 5% allowed.
As I began checking plates I was seeing a pattern of being anywhere from 20-40% below the weights required. I asked myself how could this happen. I began making sure that the guys pulled all of the plates required because sometimes there can be remnants off plates that would contribute to the overall weight. Unfortunately the search came up with nothing. I then had no choice but to present the problem to my boss Mr. Jones. Once presented he seemed to have no concern and stated to use other plates and change the markings so they see the correct numbers until you get within the 5% range needed. I stated “wouldn’t these be cheating and continually grow to be a larger problem.” His response was “we have been doing this for years it’s a problem from the 80’s that will almost never work its way out.”
I was completely thrown off by this response and being in my early 20’s at the time was unsure of how to handle it. Faced with a dilemma I caved and began manipulating plates to get the audit over. The whole time I was doing this I was contemplating telling my boss how uncomfortable I was doing this and even telling him I wouldn’t do this. But I continued doing what I was told to do until all plates