ETHICS I N THE MAILROOM
To make some extra money during college, I got a part-time job in a mailroom at a rather large business. This business would send out hundreds of pieces of mail each day, all going through the mailroom. Our job as the staff of the mailroom was to package this mail to be shipped, put the proper amount of postage on it, and then take it to the post office. To put the postage on the items, we used a postage meter that was in the mailroom. The postage meter would weigh the mail and then stamp it with the correct amount of postage; my employers would pay the postage costs in lump sums periodically throughout the year. Occasionally, my boss would run some of his personal mail along with the business mail. When I asked him if sending personal mail through the meter was basically stealing money from the company, he justified it by saying that he only used the meter to mail his bills, and he would never use it for anything that cost more than 60 cents. He also said that he had been working there for 13 years, and he compensated for his low pay by being able to send out the occasional bill or letter. I figured that a few cents here and there would not hurt the company and looked the other way.
1. Define “what is” and “what ought to be” in this case.
2. Was my boss’s practice ethical? Does working for a company for 13 years justify sending out personal mail that the company pays for?
3. Does my boss’s low pay justify his using company resources to send out personal mail to compensate for the low pay? After all, isn’t it just “balancing things out”?
4. Is there any reasonable way to get from “what is” to “what ought to be” without getting fired?
5. Did I do the right thing by looking the other way, or should I have turned my boss in for stealing company money, even though it was just a few cents here and there? What should I have done?