In this situation, there are several ethical and professional dynamics at play:
Ethical Dilemma for the Chief of Audit:
The chief of audit is facing a significant ethical dilemma. On one hand, he recognizes that making top-entry adjustments to manipulate sales figures is unethical and could potentially lead to misleading financial statements. On the other hand, he is apprehensive about the potential consequences of refusing the CFO’s directive.
The power dynamics within the organization are clear. The CFO holds a position of authority over the chief of audit, and the chief of audit is concerned about the potential repercussions of challenging the CFO’s directive. This power imbalance creates a challenging ethical environment.
Fear of Retaliation:
The chief of audit fears retaliation if he refuses to comply with the CFO’s request. He believes that the CFO has a track record of firing people who raise questions or oppose his decisions, which creates a hostile work environment and undermines open communication.
Professional Integrity vs. Job Security:
The chief of audit’s commitment to professional integrity and ethical standards is in conflict with his desire to protect his job security. He understands the ethical importance of not manipulating financial data but feels trapped due to the fear of losing his job.
Reputation and Recognition:
The CFO’s reputation as “CFO of the year” and his track record contributes to the chief of audit’s hesitation. The chief of audit might be reluctant to challenge someone who is highly regarded and may believe that his own reputation could be at risk if he opposes the CFO.
The CFO, despite his past accomplishments, is failing in his role as an ethical leader. Encouraging unethical practices like manipulating financial figures undermines the organization’s ethical culture and can have legal and reputational consequences.
To address this situation ethically, the chief of audit can consider the following steps:
Seek Guidance: Consult with legal counsel or an ethics hotline to understand his legal protections and responsibilities in this situation.
Document Concerns: Maintain a record of the request and any communication related to it, documenting the ethical concerns he has raised.
Discuss Privately: Arrange a private meeting with the CFO to express his concerns about the unethical nature of the directive.
Report to Higher Authorities: If the CFO’s response is unsatisfactory, consider reporting the issue to higher authorities within the organization, such as the CEO or the board of directors.
Seek External Guidance: If internal channels do not lead to a resolution and the chief of audit believes that the unethical behavior continues, he may need to seek external guidance, including legal counsel or regulatory authorities.
Ultimately, the audit chief must prioritize ethical principles, transparency, and honesty in financial reporting, even if it means facing difficult decisions and potential consequences. Ethical leadership requires a commitment to doing what is right, even when it is challenging or uncomfortable.