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Working on a new management software for a company (<200 people).

During the brief with the sales dep, all the sellers voted compact for a statistic form where they would be able to see and filter their contracts and commissions and other KPI.
So I started to collect ideas and the formulas necessary to calculate the detail. The CEO was propositive and he seemed to approve the idea, and he also was included by the employees in the explanations in a way that, to me, looked like they want to be sure that I learn a company-validated set of rules to calculate those commissions.

Today (2 days later) I received a phone call from the CEO, in which he pretty much disclosed that the sellers do not receive what they are supposed to.
I'm sure of what I'm saying and, even if he didn't use a direct way to say it, there are no mistakes here.
Also, he demonstrated a clear bad faith in the call using a tone of derision over the proposed feature.

He suggested me to say that the feature is not feasible for technical reasons.

I'm angry and I want to do something, but I don't know if is wise and, in case, I don't know what I can do.

No NDA signed.

Advices?

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    Is this CEO asking you to design a feature in the software which will not show the true commissions? i.e. are you asked to fudge any numbers or calculations? What does he want from you?
    – PagMax
    Oct 17, 2020 at 7:58
  • @PagMax good point, I have edited the question
    – DT1
    Oct 17, 2020 at 8:01
  • Where is this? Whistleblower protection laws vary from place to place.
    – nick012000
    Oct 18, 2020 at 1:57
  • @JoeStrazzere contracted for the software..
    – DT1
    Oct 18, 2020 at 10:04

3 Answers 3

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So the CEO is paying his employees less commission than he should. First thing is for you to keep that in mind: If he is willing to cheat on his employees, then he will be willing to cheat on you, if that is to his advantage. So you will have to be more careful than you normally would.

Most important for you is that you do not do anything illegal. If your software intentionally displays that the employee earned less commission than they did earn, that is quite likely illegal, and you could get into trouble if you knew. Not displaying the commission is most likely legally fine.

If you are asked why the feature isn't there it is your choice to say "because it is not technically possible" or "because the CEO told me it is not technically possible". And whether you want to work for that company or not is your decision; I assume it puts food on the table and having the software is better for employees than not having it. And I assume that it makes you feel sick working for a cheating CEO. So that's your personal decision, and your decision might be different from mine in the same situation. That's fine.

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  • instead of saying it is not possible, which is an easily spotted lie, say it's technial effort is to high given the benefit. Or it's more complicated than initially thought. Or maybe say other stuff has higher priority, and let it live an eternal live as prio 2... Though I agree: You should think about working for a CEO like this, and how to cover yourself.
    – Benjamin
    Oct 17, 2020 at 23:45
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This is absolutely frustrating...though, I would certainly make a paper trail about this subject as of now before doing anything at all, regardless of what happens, it's clear like other have mentioned, the company, or atleast the CEO is willing to steal from their own employees, and is probably willing to screw you over too, if it best befits them.

No-more talking about this on the phone or anything else for that matter with the CEO on the phone, only emails. You should only answer in direct, clear questions and answers, so nothing can be ambiguously understood, you should probably attempt to figure out, if the CEO is actually stealing from their employees, or if this is just a weird thing from how their payments work, or etc before getting to angry about it however. But from what you describe, it sounds far more like theft.

If that can't be done, because the CEO knows they're doing something what seems to be illegal at worst, or shitty and shady at best, and want to avoid a paper trail and you're forced to talk on the phone, I would write down the times and dates of any calls with the CEO from now on in a notebook you keep with you and bulleted notes of the subject of each call, length, etc. Though, ideally again, you'd simply say, "I'm sorry, I can't talk about this subject over the phone, please write an email...or something around those lines"

Though, they may get clever and come in personally. At this point, it's the same as the phone call...cover yourself with documentation before doing anything else...you should also understand your contract very explicitly, to ensure that something can't backfire and be blamed on you, or some NDA things (though you said no NDA, just make sure your contract doesn't have fishy things in it anyways)

Afterwards, were it me...I'd mention it to someone who has power or influence within the company about the numbers not matching up in some prototype you started to make...it seems strange that only the commissions are short for all of the sellers...maybe they could look into something for you?

This will either start an internal firestorm when people start to notice missing money...or it'll start to show there is more internal corruption and other people know about it too.

Again, you're going to want your papertrail for the inevitability that the CEO, or someone will start stressing you about this whole subject, which might end up getting you fired. At this point, you have your paper trail to show the proper person(s) to deal with that. (suing the company for wrongful termination, going to authorities, showing the sellers, etc)

Alternatively, you could also consider whistle blowing anonymously to the local papers this may be the safest bet...though, if you're the only person who knows about this subject, beyond the CEO, well...they will know you did it...But, I guess you might not care about that anyways... :)

Again were it me, I'd do whatever I could do ruin the CEO and anyone involved once it was clear they were doing something illegal, how far you should or would go, only you can decide...a company stealing from their employees cannot be tolerated.

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From what I understand, he does not want you to add a feature which will be too transparent.

For this part, you should do what he is asking you to do and add features only which he wants to add. If he does not want to be transparent, he can do it in many other ways whether you add that feature or not. It is just not your battle to fight. You may be sure what he meant during the phone call but may be has other plans to reward his employees which he did not discuss with you. You just cannot interfere in that.

If you are answerable only to CEO and if sales rep ask you about the feature you can simply say their CEO does not want it and hence you cannot add it. Let them work it out with their boss directly.

He suggested me to say that the feature is not feasible for technical reasons.

This is a bigger problem because this may be equivalent of asking you to lie and you should definitely not do that. It is unethical and also if you have the technical skills to add a feature why blame it on "technical problem". It is like you are accepting to incompetency which you do not have.

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    The OP is now seemingly aware that their CEO/company is deliberately falsifying employment payments and wants them to not design a software/system that would explicitly show that theft...Suggesting the OP simply ignore it and go about business as normal is seemingly unethical. Oct 17, 2020 at 23:05
  • @morbo OP is basing this one a phone call. As sure as he is about it what it means, I think there could be always more to it more importantly we do not know to what extent it is illegal. So OP cannot even report it anywhere else. Even if they design the feature, CEO might just decide not to use it or block it some way. Under these circumstances, I think it is best to ignore but not lie about it or eve help by designing a bug in the software.
    – PagMax
    Oct 18, 2020 at 1:47

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