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T-SQL Tuesday #30 – Ethics

I decided to get my SQL self in gear and finally participate in TSQL Tuesday. Yep. It’s my first one. This time Chris Shaw (Blog | Twitter) is hosting it, and the topic is ethics. For me that means knowing what is right and wrong and conducting yourself in a manner befitting your position.

Considering ethics is quite a broad topic, I figured I’d narrow it down to my very own experiences involving ethics. Having worked in IT for around 14 years, one would think I’d have run into my fair share of ethical situations. As I thought about it for the last week, I was surprised I really couldn’t think of all that many. Or I have had much more but they don’t stick out for whatever reason. There was this one time at SQL boot camp…  The majority of what came to mind occurred before I became a DBA and transpired during my time as a developer, believe it or not. Some of my experiences involve what other people did that was most likely unethical and/or not really all that moral. Personally, I do not believe I have done anything unethical that I know of… there’s still time for my evil plan….

You Want Me To Do What?

The first situation that comes to mind occurred at a prior job before I became a DBA. I was asked to develop a simple application that would ultimately show employee rankings to be used during layoffs. Yeah. Talk about a sensitive issue. I was explicitly told to tell no one what I was working on. And I didn’t. I’ll admit there were times when it was a bit tempting since I knew quite a few people on the list. I am human but I did have a specific job to do and, besides, I wouldn’t want to be the person to have to potentially deliver the bad news to someone. Of course, I couldn’t help wondering where I was at on the list. At least I knew where I ranked. It would have been really funny and sad if it turned out my ranking put me in a position to be laid off. Can you imagine? I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s hard to imagine what one would do in specific situations until one is there and experiences it first hand. If that had happened to me, I’d probably just do my job as asked and just let whatever happens happen.

Are You Serious?

Speaking of lay offs, have you ever been told you’re getting laid off yet they let you work for the next two weeks? Yep. That happened to me at a different job. I will be the first to admit I was not happy and I did my fair share of grumbling and complaining. Considering I worked on the financial system, I could have done considerable damage had I been of lesser moral fiber. But no. I did not. I did my job as normal for the next two weeks. They took a huge risk letting us (I wasn’t the only one) work for the next two weeks. I am guessing they trusted us to not cause havoc. As far as I know, no one gave them reason to regret that decision.

Seriously? They Did What?

The next one that comes to mind again occurred at a prior job and strikes me as kind of funny, in a way. Probably because it blew my mind a bit, and I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be asked to do something like this. I don’t know where it fits in this discussion except for under the umbrella of “hush and blush”. Meaning, it’s another don’t tell anyone about this and if you’re not comfortable with it, it’s not a problem and we’ll ask someone else to do it. Oh and it involves morally objectionable content; hence, the “blush” part. I know you’re just dying to know what I’m talking about.

One day management approached me with a task to search a database for a given set of words written on a piece of paper. These words could not be spoken out loud and, to be quite honest, some made me blush. Yeah. I think you’ve got the idea. Apparently, some people had files of an extremely questionable nature on their work computers. This database contained a list of computers with file names on them that needed to be searched. After thinking about it for a minute or so, I agreed to do the search. Someone had to do it and they trusted me enough to keep it quiet. I’m glad they also asked me if I were comfortable with doing it in the first place. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. I may have even learned a new word or two that day. In the end, it was just another part of the job. I was just surprised some people apparently didn’t know better than to keep that kind of stuff on their work computers.

Your Mission…

Here’s a fun one. Well, not really. Have you ever been volunteered to participate in a super secret task with a group of co-workers in which you, once again, were sworn to secrecy for good reason? Yeah. That was me at a prior job. Anyway, our mission was to confiscate computers from people in a specific department for a very good reason that I probably shouldn’t really go into detail on.  Let’s just say it involved potential improper use of money.

Have you ever had to go up to some stranger and tell them “Hi there. I’m from IT and I’m here to take your computer. Sorry. I can’t really say why. I’ve just been told to take your computer with me.”  Granted, we said something much nicer than that but you get the idea. Surprisingly, most people I talked to that day were really nice and actually took it in stride. I’m not sure what happened afterwards but it was still uncomfortable and a bit awkward for me considering what I knew. If it were my computer being taken, I sure would like to know why. So it was difficult to not say something. However, I didn’t want to get myself in trouble since I wasn’t sure what the ramifications would be, and I didn’t really want to find out the hard way.

The Moral of the Story is…

There you have it. Some of my most memorable experiences involving ethics and possibly even morality. To me, both can have some gray areas. In general, I believe most (apparently not all) people know what is right from wrong. However, it may not hurt for companies to have an explicitly definition of what is considered acceptable and unacceptable for their employees. I don’t recall if I’ve ever had to sign an ethics agreement except in regards to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Still, it’s probably a good idea. What do you think?

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