Honesty is always the best policy -- unless, it seems, you work in the upper echelons of the corporate world, in which case all too often honesty becomes optional based on cost analysis and the impact on the bottom line. They usually get away with it. But not always.
Case in point: The events of the summer of 2008 when I worked for the world headquarters of a well-known corporation. As it happened, most of the senior managers were based at the same site.
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As a standard accounting practice in this company, when new IT equipment was requested a department cost center code had to be provided, as well as a business justification for the hardware. The cost of the equipment was then charged back to the department. Since senior manager bonuses were based on how well they were able to control costs, there was strong motivation to keep expenses as low as possible.
All IT inventory was kept under lock and key in a special secure room, and only the local IT techs had access. But while equipment was being set up for deployment, during the day it was kept on the desk of the particular IT technician assigned to the task. After office hours, we had a strict clean desk policy: All items of value were to be locked up. In the couple of months I had been working there, there had never been any problems. One afternoon that all changed.
Let's make a deal
"Rick" had been recently hired on as an project manager to complete several complicated IT assignments as inexpensively as possible. Apparently, he had a history of bringing in projects under budget.
One of his first moves on the job was to hire two of his buddies as "consultants" to assist in the legwork. His consultants needed computers to work on the project, but if he submitted an official request for them, he would be charged back for the expenses. He tried another approach.
That memorable afternoon he sauntered up to my desk and in a used-car salesman voice said, "Hey, buddy -- how's it going over here? You guys staying pretty busy?"
"Yep," I said, my attention still focused on the two laptops I was imaging, as well as the remote WebEx session with a salesperson in Detroit.
"Hey, listen, I really need a favor. I was wondering -- do you have a couple of computers I could borrow for a little while?"
I turned away from my desk to talk to him. "Sorry, I don't have any extras lying around. But if you put in an equipment request, I'm sure we could get something set up for you pretty quickly."
"What about those computers?"
"These are for a couple of new salespeople starting on Monday."
You could see devious wheels spinning in his head. "I put in an equipment request, but they said that it could take up to a week to process. And until we get computers, my whole team is completely stuck. I really need something now."
There was an element of truth to what he said; it does take a week for new hire requests to process. I opened the ticketing system and did a search for his request -- which, judging by the look of surprise that crossed his face, was something he didn't know I could do.
"I see your request here for the new hires. It looks like you put this in a week ago, but you requested user accounts only. You didn't request any equipment for them."
For an instant his face had a look of indignation, embarrassment, and guilt all wrapped into one. It was obvious that his lie had failed, so he switched to intimidation.
"Look! I need two computers right now! This is completely unacceptable! I have a team of people here with no equipment who are completely unable to work. What are they supposed to do?!? Are you refusing to help me??? I want to talk to your manager."