It doesn't seem right for a company to lie to employees, or misrepresent the truth within the organization.


Promising an employee that her job is safe, telling she is highly valued by the company and has strong opportunities for progression, just in order to squeeze out the most out of her before making her redundant. In general, intentionally deceiving someone for the company's own gain.

Is there any kind of protection against this kind of situation (apart from being prepared for a new job search). What are the best reactions to such kinds of unethical behaviors? For example, would it be a good idea to expose it to the public, be a whistleblower to media/newspapers/write about it? Why or why not?

I have seen it happening a few times and think it might happen to me.

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    On the flip side, what protects the company from you searching for another job and not informing them? – enderland Oct 2 '13 at 11:18

I agree with the other posters that what you (apparently) experienced is just normal business practice. Unfortunately, business relationships change the dynamics of "do unto others," and you need to just accept that. Just as you wouldn't go to your boss and say "I have an interview with this great other company, so plan that I may leave," so the company is not going to tell you they are planning to end their relationship with you.

That said, there are some things you can look out for that signal a genuine lack of ethics that could lead to more serious breaches of trust, like whether they would refuse to pay you for work already done.

I have found that when I am not comfortable with the business model of the company, usually there are deep ethical problems. For example, I once contracted for a company that, among other things, made corn dogs for schoolchildren to eat in cafeterias. That might not sound evil, and I ignored the feeling that there's something wrong about making money from putting something so unhealthy in front of children in an "official" setting.

Later, they had me working on a program that taught cafeterias to be more profitable by ensuring workers never got to full-time status and using plastic plates and utensils rather than washing more durable dishes. Again, not the soul of perfidy, but just a little ethically "icky." In the end, when they set an unrealistic deadline and I said it couldn't realistically be met, they refused to pay me for the previous month's work. The lesson here is to listen to your gut. If something doesn't feel right, look for another place to work ASAP.

The other part is how to spot if a layoff is coming and how to know if you are likely to be targeted.

If the business isn't doing well or is being acquired or merged with another company, layoffs are likely. If you, in particular, have a lot of idle time, you are likely to be laid off even if the business is otherwise normal.

If a general layoff is happening, you are likely to be targeted if you are not seen to "fit" well. Managers will "save" people that they perceive as more like them, so if you have a history of conflict, keep your head down and don't socialize, or are of a different ethnic group (or gender) than most managers, expect that you likely will be axed. The possible exception to this is if you bring in so much more money than you cost that they couldn't afford to lose you--and the decision-makers are aware of this.

The best protection is to never stop looking for a job. The problem is, this makes you exactly like the companies whose ethics you're not happy with. The next-best protection is to work hard to build your network and reputation, so that when you lose your job you are never far from the next one.


There is not as much to expose as you think there is. You are too close to the situation to see it in a detached way. "Whistleblowing" is all about companies doing illegal and/or dangerous things; this is about the simple art of deception, which many people feel is part of being a manager.

The press is not going to be interested. Even your co-workers in other departments aren't going to pay attention to it. They will all assume that it's just "sour grapes" for you, and part of being in the business world.

The reality, anyway, is that it's all about who you're listening to, who is making the statements you suggest were made. That's not the "company", it's individual managers who clearly can't be trusted. But you don't even know what pressures those manager were under to cut the people they cut; all you do know, at this point, is that they said they were sure that certain people would be retained who were not, in fact, retained. You don't even know for sure whether they believed themselves what they said at that point.

For your own sake, just let it go and start looking for another job. No job is safe at that company, from what you describe; even your boss's boss may end up being replaced in such times. Get your mind off it and get your life away from there, because clearly anyone could be let go, and if the company is possibly on the verge of shutdown, it's going to be one of those that doesn't say so, that you'll find out on the day you come to work and all the doors are locked.


Companies have confidential information that only people in certain positions are supposed to know which includes layoff information. It is not unethical for them not to tell you in advance of the official announcement, it is unethical (and, as it can affect stock prices, it might be illegal in certain circumstances) for them to tell you before the official announcement.

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    It actually is unethical to deliberately mislead someone to think that their position is safe when, in fact, there are plans to fire them. There's an important nuance of difference between saying "everything's OK" and saying "we can't make any promises about the future of this position". The first answer is a spineless lie, the second answer has integrity. – Angelo Oct 13 '13 at 13:32
  • There are times when you cannot even imply a layoff may be coming. Then you MUST answer that there is no problem with the job and that it is safe. This is the way the world workds and it is naive in the extreme to even comnsider asking a manager if your job is safe. They cannot tell you, they cannot imply there is a possible layoff, they must act as if there is nothing going on. – HLGEM Oct 14 '13 at 12:32
  • in the situation the OP is describing there is no mention of asking if the job is safe. Instead the employer has been described as "promising safety" and "opportunities for career progression". Although I agree that a manager can be between a rock and a hard place when asked about layoffs, there is still room for a relatively honest response with integrity while still protecting the interests of the company. Going beyond that into the territory of making promises about career progression in an attempt to get them to work harder before dumping them, is clearly unethical behavior. – Angelo Oct 29 '13 at 12:32

This is so variable depending on where you live and work. For instance there is a reason that Apple and many other large manufacturing companies send their work overseas to China India and other Southeastern countries. Even in the States it greatly varies from state to state. If the state you live in is a right to work state you can be fired at any time for nearly any reason. The whistle-blower law which I believe was written with great intentions has since been gutted by the courts and thus is a very hollow law that offers very little protection as seen in any employee going up against its powerful employer.

There is protection in worker-safety such as OSHA and steps must be taken by the employer if your hurt while performing your job. There is a chance you may need to get an attorney or at the very least know your state's laws well Nolo.com is a great resource for free advice in all areas of law it used to be almost all free advice, forums, etc. and surprised to see it so commercialized now.I hyperlinked specifically to the employment section but it offers all areas and aspects of legal self-help and information with do it yourself options as well as attorney's if it comes to needing one.

  • I will never stop being amazed at a negative vote without any comment or reasoning. It's like telling someone "you suck" rather than commenting on why they feel their answer is weak and offering their insight as to how they would make it better. SE just doesn't seem like the place to anonymously put someone down. I see SE as a caring community here to offer help in all areas. Thanks 10 points and an anon -1. This will NEVER make sense to me, I just don't see the benefit to anyone. – Charlie Brown Oct 11 '13 at 21:03

Companies lie to protect their stockholders. If PC Maker A has a product line at a particular price point, and PC Maker B comes out with a new series of machines that represents an improved value proposition, PC Maker A gets busy revising their price model to respond. What they tell the public, however, is that no price changes are foreseen, so that anyone waiting for new prices before they commit will go ahead and buy at the existing price. A day or two later new prices or new products are announced by PC Maker A. The issue boils down to 'fiduciary duty' - corporate executives are expected to conserve the assets of their stockholders. Therefore such short-term 'fibs' are part of their job. This goes on in other dimensions, some of which in grayer areas ethically.

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    Well, the dimension I was talking about is the workforce, the employees, those who produce the goods. If they are deceived, and this is exposed, what sort of consequences could there be, both on the employee and on the employer? I am not asking for legal advice but just want to lay out a few scenarios. – UKbavarian Oct 1 '13 at 21:17
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    If not legal, then what other sorts of "consequences" are you asking about? Be specific, and edit your question and title to remove the focus on legal issues. – Adam V Oct 1 '13 at 21:50

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