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The Penn State Scandal and Company Loyalty


Robby

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Penn State Football coach and legend Joe Paterno is out of a job. The reason is simple: he found out that a minor had been sexually abused at his workplace, and all he did was tell his boss.

Normally, if you encounter a problem at work telling your boss is the right thing to do. Most problems are fairly small and routine, and can be handled internally. Reaching out your boss says that you understand and appreciate the hierarchical model of supervision, and that you want the problem to be addressed inside the company.

But this is NOT what you do if someone is committing a serious crime. You don’t tell your boss and walk away. You call the police. I’m 100% confident that if Coach Paterno had reached out to the authorities, he would still have a job. The sexual abuse scandal would have been tough for Penn State, but he would still be leading the Nittany Lions to their next victory on the football field.

It’s incredibly hard for individuals to make the right choices in some working environments. This is especially the case when the job has a tremendous community following like a college football team and a tradition of loyalty and honor. It seems like a breach of trust to go outside the system, but in reality it really shows that you are more committed to the future of the institution than you are to protecting people for the short term.

In the case of Joe Paterno, had he done the right thing he would not only still have his job, but it’s likely the perpetrator would have been stopped before he harmed other children. Company loyalty led to tragedy, for a football legacy and for the lives of several people.

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About the Blogger: Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.

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Thu, November 10 2011 » Ethics and Fraud, Leadership

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