This is an ethical question mostly.

A colleague and I have made some observations recently about some reports that are done (and then reviewed) with absolutely no added value since the (internal) client can run them himself, they are not subject to any change and they have run without problem for years. We have a collected bit of data so far and we definitely think there is a big opportunity to reduce waste here. All those reports are assigned to a third colleague and take a few days of work in his month. Also worth to mention that he has been performing poorly and that our boss is clearly not satisfied with his work.

We were not mandated in any way to produce a report on our process. We just analyzed it with the intention of having a better reporting process in the end, in good faith.

Are we left with a choice with two unethical consequences ? We either choose not to mention something we think is detrimental to the business to cover our colleague or we do disclose it and risk making him useless.

For what it's worth, it's not sure that he would be let go if those tasks were to be eliminated but let's work with this hypothesis.

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    It seems like the inverse hypothesis is equally possible. If these reports account for just a few days of the colleague's time each month, he must have other tasks he works on the rest of the time. By no longer having to run the reports himself, he'd have more time for his other tasks, which may cause his performance to improve. Especially if running the reports primarily involves tedious, repetitive, demoralizing manual drudgery. Have you considered asking the colleague if he'd be happier if he didn't have to run those reports any longer?
    – aroth
    Jul 31, 2014 at 1:13
  • Be objective a do your job your colleague might get fired and buy a lottery ticket and win millions ...thing is your are responcible for honest discharge of your duties ..
    – amar
    Jul 31, 2014 at 6:27
  • Could you edit this with some fake names, or Colleague A, B, C? I'm having some confusion with who is generating, reviewing, and who's job would be at risk.
    – David K
    Jul 31, 2014 at 12:34
  • @aroth That actually makes a great answer!
    – Kevin
    Jul 31, 2014 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


Your "ethical" dilemna is a piece of fiction that your imagination conjured up. First, you don't get to decide or even influence who gets hired or fired at your company - That prerogative is your boss's. Second, the one person who can influence your colleague's work performance is your colleague. Either way, it's out of your hands.

If your colleague is no longer generating the reports, your management will find him something else to do, assuming that they want to keep him. If they don't want to keep him, they are not going to keep him and given the context of their generalized dissatisfaction with his performance, the reason they choose to fire him is of little importance - They have a menu of reasons to choose from. If it's not one reason, it's going to be some other reason. If they are out to get your colleague, they will. His work performance just gave them too much ammunition.

  • +1 for the realization that the company administration almost certainly knows about this particular person's poor performance, and finds undemanding work for him to do.
    – O. Jones
    Jul 31, 2014 at 14:55

It sounds as if you're trying to provide value for your employer by streamlining a business process that is overly manual and repetitive. This is a Good Thing, regardless of any impact on staff. In today's business environment it's important to stay competitive, and one way to ensure competitiveness is to streamline processes and remove unnecessary work wherever possible. This frees up people to do more valuable work and can, in some cases, result in cost savings for the business. It may be accomplished by reducing staff load, but that's not your decision and you shouldn't be overly burdened by it.

Remember that you're paid by your employer, not by your co-workers. It's admirable that you're concerned about your colleague's welfare, but your ultimate responsibility is to do the right thing for the business.

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