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Honor, loyalty, and ethics: Where do you stand?

What role do honor and integrity play in today's IT arena? Find out what TechRepublic members have to say about a contractor who promised to finish the job but bolted instead.


In his column "Career advice for contract IT pros," Jeff Davis told the story of an IT contractor who broke his word. While working on a project for Jeff’s organization, this individual took a full-time position with another company. Although he agreed to stay on the job for two weeks to finish Jeff’s project, the contractor left the next day, leaving Jeff’s organization in the lurch.

Jeff asked TechRepublic members to share their opinions about this contractor’s behavior. From the flood of e-mail and discussion postings, many TechRepublic members think the contractor should have stayed the promised two weeks, not out of loyalty but as a matter of ethics. I agree. Although the contractor owes no loyalty to Jeff’s organization, he did promise to stay the two weeks required to complete the project, and he showed little honor in breaking his word.

Here are selected posts from this discussion thread. Read the article and then join the debate. Let us know how you feel about this contractor’s actions.
In Response offers a weekly roundup of feedback from TechRepublic members to help inform you and your peers about critical issues in the world of IT. This week, TechRepublic members share their opinions on honor, loyalty, and ethics.
A question of honor
Skarasik wrote: “This is NOT a question of loyalty. No one, today, owes any loyalty to a company. No company shows any loyalty to its employees. But this is a question of honor. Every person, including IT pros, owes it to himself to keep his word. He said he would stick it out, and he didn't. Even if loyalty is a disappearing value today, honor, commitment and honesty are not.” TechRepublic member Podein agrees: “My feelings exactly. The man shouldn't have given his word, or he should have kept it.”

It’s a small, small world
Kathy S. agrees with Jeff’s assessment that the contractor’s actions were stupid and unprofessional. She also agrees that the IT community is very small. “Even if you end up moving to another state,” Kathy wrote, “there is a very good chance you could run into someone you worked with who also moved to the area. The IT community is really too small to take a chance on jeopardizing a potential contact by burning bridges.”

Don’t judge a book by its cover
TechRepublic member Rob K. reminds us that we shouldn’t judge this contractor without having all the facts. Rob was once hired as an intern to do inventory for a company and was told the position would probably lead to full-time employment.

Unfortunately, the job was not all Rob thought it would be and he accepted a full-time position with another organization, giving two weeks notice. Rob intended to work through the two-week notice period but unfortunately developed bronchitis and was not able finish the job. “It all depends on the situation,” Rob wrote. “What were his reasons behind leaving like he did?”

Keep your promises and an open mind
“This boils down to a matter of honoring a commitment,” wrote Mark T. He believes this contractor gave his word and should have kept his promise.

Mark also doesn’t feel we should dilute or excuse his actions with corporate horror stories about loyalty issues. “That's just a cheap attempt to shift blame or rationalize behavior,” Mark wrote.

However, Mark stressed that we should not be so quick to condemn the contractor’s actions without knowing his reasoning. “What if he had catastrophic health issues concerning a family member,” Mark wrote, “and the contracting outfit he worked for had no health plan? Would that excuse his actions?”

Learn from your mistakes
Gary B. believes it’s bad form for contractors to leave assignments unfinished. He did it once, and hated himself for it. Gary resolved the dilemma by telecommuting from home to help finish the work. It was difficult, but the work got done.

Gary left that job because of pressure from his recruiters to take another job. After leaving, he vowed to finish all his future contracts. “This new move,” Gary wrote, “has allowed me to increase my reputation as a finisher.” Gary hopes our contractor learns from his mistake and applies it to his next permanent position.
Do the contractors you work with honor their commitments? What steps do you take if they don’t? Post a comment and join the debate.

About Bill Detwiler

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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