Dear Mr. Ethics,
One of my employees just reported to me that he overheard another employee speaking angrily and disrespectfully to one of our clients. This is a violation of our ethics code. While I am upset at the person who spoke improperly to a client, I am more upset by the tattletale. I can’t stand rats and I want to punish that person more than the other. One of our other codes is not to do wrong to another employee. Can I also punish the snitch?
I Hate Stoolpigeons.
A hallmark of an effective code of ethics is the ability of those witnessing a violation of the code a safe harbor in which to communicate that violation. Why would you want to punish someone who obviously takes the code seriously? If you punish your stoolpigeon you can consider your code to be as valuable as the paper it is printed upon. Companies with hallow codes of conduct do not fare well over all. Enron had a great code of conduct that it did not support or seriously promote. We all know what happened to Enron.