Integrity Matters
August 2, 2006

Housekeeper needs to do right thing

Question: (E-249)

Dear Jim:

Our housekeeper, whom we employ through an agency, phoned us to ask that her workday be postponed. She said the next day she would call in "sick" to the agency and then come and work for us. She can help us to sidestep the agency's overhead fees, pocketing more for herself and even reducing what we need to pay for her time. What do you think? I have already said it was OK.


How sad and how short-sighted! Dishonesty comes in many forms. Stealing and being an accessory to thievery are not integrity-centered activities. Many relationships have been tainted by this event, as you have described it, and more will be. Obviously, you did not consider the ramifications of saying yes.

This worker is willing to cheat her current employer. What are the chances she will cheat you?

Your decision to "go along" with this fraud communicates that you are willing to violate a contract between you and a supplier. What does this tell the employee about your loyalty and integrity?

Your friends and neighbors, as well as members of your family, will learn, sooner or later, that you took advantage of a supplier. In this instance it is an agency that earns its fees by providing background information on employees and insurance as well as replacements when a worker cannot or does not show up at the appointed time.

You have made a mistake. When this situation arose, there was an integrity-centered response, and you might have said: "We work with your agency. If you leave the agency, then we can discuss how we might work together, directly. However, we honor relationships, personal and professional, and you have now communicated that you do not. You must address this with the agency or you risk our continuing to work with you."

What choice do you have now? Should you report the employee to the agency? Certainly you have now complicated your life with your decision to participate in the dishonest manipulation, having her work for you while cutting out the agency. Who can possibly come out of this without smelling badly?

When you chose to "go along to get along," you started a snowball down a steep hill. Ignoring courtesy, professionalism, integrity and simple rules of good business, you, the agency and an employee have now begun a slide down a value-violated ravine.

Cut your losses and stay with the agency, if it will still work with you.

Nothing much good emerges from relationships built on lying, cheating and stealing - whether for a little or a lot.

Integrity matters.

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