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From Where We Sit

Moral compass

Anton Ng

What’s the use of skill and competence if you don’t have moral compass–someone who thinks that everything has a grey area, someone who believes the end justifies the means, or someone who commits immoral and unethical acts?

Whether their people are in a leadership position or rank and file, organizations should know how lacking a moral compass can negatively impact a company.

Susan Fowler’s February 19, 2017 blog post started a storm that rocked Uber, the disruptive software company (or a cab company, if you ask the European Court of Justice). In her blog, Fowler described how Uber’s systems protected high performers when accused of bad behavior, such as sexual harassment and discrimination.

Her 3,000-word blog entry eventually led to the ouster of Uber’s co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick, as well as the termination of about 20 employees who were accused of wrongdoings. From February (when Fowler blogged about Uber) to June of the same year, Uber’s market share dropped by three percentage points.

But what’s keeping organizations from taking steps in ensuring they are protected from employees dragging the company into potential scandals? Is it the fear of losing high performers, hence, we just look the other way?

Sometimes, however, their contribution to the organization may not be enough for the damage they may cause, because of their inappropriate actions.

Is it because we view ourselves as a team player, thereby “protecting” the good of the many? Sometimes, we misplace our being a team player by protecting each other, even if a wrong has been committed. Support your team by giving them the correct feedback; don’t support their mistakes and hide behind the veils of camaraderie and a conflict-free environment.

Losing the trust of your customers and employees—not to mention the costs it entails—can be very detrimental to an organization.

Fox News paid out approximately $50 million from 2016 to 2017 for sexual harassment and discrimination allegations happening within the news organization.

Imagine working for a company that doesn’t pay correct taxes. Apart from putting the entity in a great risk, what will employees think about their company? Given the opportunity, they would also cheat their company to get a “share” of the cost savings for not paying correct taxes.

Maybe they could also take some of those “savings” by falsifying their reimbursement documents. The lack of integrity at the top sends the wrong signal to its employees: if my manager is getting away with sexually harassing my female colleague, maybe I can get away with it as well.

As we rely more on technology, it’s just as important to remember to be more vigilant in upholding our moral compass, our sense of what is right and wrong.

Take the case of Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Richard Roeper. He was one of those identified by a New York Times article to have purchased Twitter followers. Whatever his reason was, it was perceived by his employer as something improper.

For me, it was an act that misled his employer and the general public by showing a greater number of Twitter followers than what should have been. We don’t even know if the purchased Twitter followers are legitimate; worse, some of them may even had been compromised identities, a product of identity theft. Would you be believe Mr. Roeper’s articles if you knew that he has the tendency to deceive people?

What about an app called Woebot that tracks your mood, gives you insight, and helps you feel better? It could supposedly act as a companion to those who need to talk to somebody. The objective seems noble, but I am just concerned about what advice the users of Woebot are getting. What if those configuring the algorithm or writing the codes for this app have no moral compass? Can you just imagine what type of advice it can provide to someone who might already be depressed? If you’re the founder of this software company, wouldn’t you be very mindful of the moral compass of the people you hire?

History tells us unethical behaviors could severely tarnish an entity’s reputation, lead to monetary losses, or even result in the death of an organization. Just ask Enron and Arthur Andersen.

Up to what extent do we prioritize performance over immoral or unethical behavior? Until when are we willing to look the other way, simply because somebody is contributing to the bottom line? At some point, however, we have to examine our own moral compass, because we might have also lost it along the way.

Anton Ng is a Partner of the Audit & Assurance of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading Audit, Tax, Advisory, and Outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 21 Partners and over 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to or For more information, visit our Website:



As published by The Manila Times dated 8 August 2018