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Is it ethical for a leader to go undercover in his or her organization?

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kateanswers eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When discussing questions like this, we must bear in mind that ethics are subjective and situation-based. Even for statements or questions which seem to deal with objective morality-- like the general agreement that it is wrong to kill another person-- there are situations where objective morality does not always hold up. As it relates to your question, I think the objectively moral or ethical choice would be not to go undercover in one's own business. Doing so is deceptive, and violates the trust between employees and their superiors. If the CEO of a company were to go undercover to catch employees who are doing something wrong, this is an active demonstration of mistrust on the part of the CEO. Going undercover also implies that the employer does not feel they can have an honest discussion about possible wrongdoings with their employees. What's more, the potential threat of being caught doing something wrong by a CEO undercover should not be the motivation for acting appropriately. Fear of punishment is certainly motivating, but it is not healthy emotionally or socially, and is not an ethical motivation in the workplace.

As I mentioned, we must consider the possibility that there are some situations where it would be ethical for an employer to go undercover in their own business. 

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