Cheating: The Great Equalizer in a Bad Economy. Even in HR?

I read an article that highlighted the correlation between unemployment and cheating men.  As unemployment numbers rise, so does the percentage of men who cheat on their significant other.

I know you are shocked.

To be fair, stats on women are the same.  If you don’t believe me, check out exhibits A and B.

CheatingSo this got me wondering about the entire concept of cheating during this economic slump, especially in the workplace.  Then I have to ask, is it bad or even wrong?  OK–Cheating on your Wife/Husband…whole ‘nuther league. I’m not a fan of it and don’t endorse it (it makes me quite sad actually).  But before you say, “I have never nor will I ever cheat my company”, as an HR pro ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I helped a coworker with a resume?
  • Have I ever not told supervisors when their employees came to me asking to review their non-compete?
  • Have I encouraged coworkers to join professional networking organizations?
  • Have I advised employees who have topped out in their current careers that it may be in their best interest to look elsewhere?
  • Have I advised mediocre employees to stick it out here in their current job until the unemployment rates get better?

If you have answered YES to any of these questions, then you may be considered a cheater.  Some of the bullet points reflect cheating on your company, other bullet points may be considered cheating employees out of what was rightfully earned by them.  And I bet this type of workplace “cheating” is on the rise within the context of a bad economy.

So is HR cheating it right?  Is it ethical?

That depends on one thing—motive, and if your motive is sound, then so should your conscience.  Regardless of global economic conditions, HR pros live in the “gray” area more often than not. Why? Because when you deal with human beings, you simply can’t plug it in.  And if you are fighting for an authentic work culture, then it is your job as an HR pro to make authentic decisions; not cookie cutter decisions, not pre-fab decisions, but heart felt authentic choices based on varying factors and situations.  Authentic decisions build trust in employees and builds trust with the employers.  Do for one as you would do for the other.

If that doesn’t do it for you, it is also your job to prove business cases to your C-Suite and Employees on why these “cheating behaviors” could be considered good business. Most of the time, doing the right thing for the employee correlates directly with doing what is best for the company.

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Dawn Burke
Dawn Burke (PHR) is VP of People at DAXKO. That's right - the very DAXKO that our very own KD is an alum of because there are only so many people (okay, just one) in the big B'ham who are worthy of that VP of People title. Dawn would be it. Former actor/singer/retail guru, her HR career has spanned the last decade. A true Generalist she’s done a little bit of everything, but recruiting and training is where she gets her mojo. She's based in the good 'ole blogging capitol of the south, Birmingham, Alabama, where you can frequently find her listening to the Beatles and REM, watching tons of Sex in the City reruns, drinking copious amounts of coffee and wine, and wondering how in the world this theatre grad ever got into football or HR…. Talk to Dawn via emailLinkedIn, or Twitter...


  1. Darcy says:

    I have done bullet point #4, and I don’t consider it cheating. (Have I advised employees who have topped out in their current careers that it may be in their best interest to look elsewhere?)
    An employee was very unhappy with her pay and complained to me about it continuously. But she was paid appropriately for her position and the company didn’t and wasn’t going to have any openings for higher-level positions. So I did reach a point when I told her that perhaps she had outgrown the company and needed to start looking elsewhere. I didn’t and don’t think I was “cheating” as I think it was the best thing for both her and the company.
    I guess that’s where the motive piece comes in, and my conscience is clean on this one.

  2. Chuck says:

    Not being a fan of cheating and not endorsing it does NOT make you “sad”. I think such a stance is heroic!!

  3. fran melmed says:

    dawn, i agree with your final assessment that when you do what’s best for both the individual and the company and you are open about it with all parties, you’re not cheating.

  4. Noelle says:

    Thanks for the review. It’s very informative.

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