When an auditor was inspecting our workplace I was told to go hide in another room from him. I have never, and would never do anything that would create an issue. I find being told to go hide very hard to take. Next time this happens I am going to refuse. Do you think I would be right in refusing this, or is my boss allowed to tell me to hide? When asked why the explanation was "In case they start asking questions."
closed as primarily opinion-based by Retired Codger, paparazzo, jimm101, gnat, Lilienthal♦ Apr 15 '16 at 13:58
Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.
Just an alternative viewpoint as compared to the other answers: There are very good reasons why you would keep an employee from talking to someone from the outside. Typically example: when we do have press visits you have to carefully watch what you are saying since it can show up in print the next day. Same for legal disposition (say for a patent dispute) or an tax audit.
This is not about trying to hide bad stuff: These type of interactions typically have very specific and non-intuitive sets of rules and therefor require special training and preparation. So it's pretty normal that you restrict the interaction to people who have the proper training. There is really nothing nefarious about it: you just want to avoid that someone slips in their enthusiasm of getting interviewed and all of a sudden next years product plans are in tomorrows paper.
This being said, that must be properly communicated to everyone involved and that clearly did not happen here. "Go in there and hide" is a very inappropriate instruction. I think your best course is to talk to your boss and find out why. It may have nothing to do with you personally whatsoever.
Note up front:
You are misinterpreting that it has something to do with you (I have never, and would never do anything...). As Jane commented, yes, something fishy is probably going on, but it has nothing to do with you personally.
Yes, your boss is allowed to tell you what to do (on work-related issues). He is your boss, and it's probably in your contract one way or another (usually phrases as "Employee can be expected to do X (or: other than X) in case Y").
Outright refusing it can cost you your job.
You should however, after the first time this happened, ask why you had to leave - and tell that it makes you feel uncomfortable.
There are several reasons why you should discuss this:
Integrity: You suspect something fishy is going in and you do not want to be part of any lie.
Self-interest: The reason you should discuss this is that it may impact you. It's one thing that your boss asks you to do something you do not quite understand, but it's another thing when it has consequences for you. I can imagine scenario's like "The auditor gets the impression that you were not there when you were supposed to be", or "The auditor did not get the answers he wanted and will come back asking specifically for someone knowledgable (you)". All speculation, but your boss seems to want to maintain a lie and that comes with a cost (which should not be yours). Your boss makes you an accomplice.
Misunderstanding: It could still have an innocent or justifiable reason - see Hilmar's answer for thoughts on that.
Your post is not unbiased. In most cases, workplace issues are a mix of facts that are objectively verifiable, and interpersonal issues which are often subjective and generally favor the employer. You need to separate the facts and the interpersonal issues at play, and then carefully review your practical options (if any) for taking the initiative to improve the workplace environment for yourself.
In the end, you may improve the situation by opening a constructive dialogue with your company management, but they are unlikely to simply hand you the resolution you seem to want. Furthermore, you certainly run the risk of taking a single incident and turning it into a job-ending interpersonal issue, so you should evaluate all of your options very carefully to ensure that you are approaching the matter from a professional and constructive basis.
When an auditor was inspecting our workplace I was told to go hide in another room from him. I have never, and would never do anything that would create an issue. I find being told to go hide very hard to take and it upsets me.
Even assuming that you have provided an exact quote, and that your supervisor's exact words were "go hide from the auditor", there are potentially legitimate reasons for asking unqualified employees to stay out of the cross-hairs during an audit.
Unless you are an authorized spokesperson for the company, or your role or job was itself the subject of the audit, then your unauthorized presence represents both risk and liability for the company. Your unauthorized and potentially untrained responses to a sensitive audit could have serious legal and financial repercussions for the company, so unless you are playing the role of a whistleblower or have knowledge of legal or ethical wrongdoing on the part of your employer then you really have no legitimate business quarrel here.
The heart of your concern seems to be about feelings. You found the instructions "hard to take" and had an emotional response (e.g. "it upsets me.") While this may be good grist for the mill for a conversation with your supervisor about the nature of audits and your relationship with the company, the company is not generally obliged to put your feelings or opinions ahead of its own interests except in very narrow legal areas such as discrimination or harassment, the nature of which will vary quite a lot from region to region.
Review Your Options
Unless you have a legal accusation to make, then you should:
- Accept that your feelings are not the primary concern of the business.
- Acknowledge that being a professional sometimes requires that you put the needs of the business ahead of your own feelings, unless they violate ethical or legal requirements.
- Request an explanation from your supervisor about the incident, and discuss ways to handle it in future in mutually-satisfactory ways.
- Accept that you may not have a legal leg to stand on, and that making a fuss could create an uncomfortable work environment for you.
- Decide if you feel strongly enough to risk your job, and then speak up if the answer is unequivocally "yes".
Being asked to go hide sounds suspicious but at the end of the day, it might be just a joke. My response would be that "Maybe I should go hide at home?" and see if I get a paid day off work.
Unless you're aware of something specific that is happening that an auditor would be interested in, I wouldn't worry about it. If the auditor deems it necessary to talk to you, they'll follow protocol and ask your boss.
Let me add a different viewpoint:
Imagine the auditor asks you a question about your workplace, where you know that the honest answer would have negative consequences for the audit - maybe not a total failure, but an earlier re-audit. Would you want to be put in a situation where you have to make an ethical decision about the value of honesty?