Case Study: Is Withholding Information From Other Leaders Unethical?

Is it unethical to withhold information?  Let’s use a case study to explore the question.

“Company in the Process of Releasing a New Product”

We are in the process of fine-tuning the product and getting ready to train employees on how it  works and what it can do for our customers. Connecting key information about the product and incorporating it into the final design and training will be critical to our success.

Will the Product Manager willingly give the training manager a draft of all of the information that front-line employees will need to explain the product to customers?

Will the Training Manager readily share a draft of the training for the product manager’s review?

Will the IT Manager share the specs needed to build a demo version of the product setup screen to use in training?

Seeing the organization as a system:  If the Product Manager, IT Manager and Training Manager have a systems view, then they can see that their success is interdependent. The know that they are working toward the same organizational goals, and that there are benefits to working together to get the bugs out of the product, the technology  and the training before they are rolled out to employees and customers.

Seeing the organization as a collection of disconnected parts: If those same leaders do not have a systems view, and are protecting the performance of their turf zones and operating as if they are separate unconnected entities, they may withhold information from one another (generally making each other look bad). They may do this without considering how that behavior could harm the company, its employees and customers. Because they are not seeing the organization as a system, they may more easily justify any turf-defending behaviors as being part of protecting their own “successful performance.”

In this case, is withholding information needed for the success of a project unethical?  Yes, it is. This behavior is not just annoying and counter-productive, it’s also unethical. By withholding information needed for the success of a project, a leader is working against the goals of the organization, against the goals of the project, against the success of employees, against the success of colleagues and against a successful customer experience.

“behaviours that are not necessarily unlawful but which are generally considered to be unethical to Western society would now typically include: dishonesty, withholding information, distortion of facts….”

Examples of Unethical Behaviors, Activities, Policies, etc. businessballs.com

Paula D. Gordon, Ph.D. in her article “The Ethics Map: A Map of the Range of Concerns Encompassed by “Ethics and the Public Service” remarks that leaders using values-based ethics will be “maintaining honesty and openness in the communication of information and withholding information only when legally or ethically necessary. “

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For more, see Linda Fisher Thornton’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
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© 2010 Leading in Context LLC 

About Linda Fisher Thornton
Leading a movement to help leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™, Linda is CEO of Leading in Context, a 2014 Top 100 Thought Leader in Trustworthy Business Behavior and author of 7 Lenses (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey).

One Response to Case Study: Is Withholding Information From Other Leaders Unethical?

  1. stelle says:

    super thanks for this! :)

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