The candidate didn’t even blink. The answer came out immediately, reflexively: “There’s never a right time”. Bingo! Correct answer for the interview setting, but not quite correct in a real world setting.
The right answer would have been “almost never”.
I’ve personally had do to some “gray” things in the course of my career. Nothing illegal, of course, but the of the kind that make you squirm a little and want to take a good shower when you get home.
Case in point: I’m a procurement manager in my day job. Back charges to suppliers for errors or warranties or slipped are rare, but they do occur.
In large part, the supplier is at fault, or late, or in breach of contract. In a small percentage though, the supplier has practically done nothing wrong, but technically is still in breach. For example, submitting a change order long after the job is shipped and complete. Were the change order to be approved and charge the project, it would hit the ledger as an non-accrued and unplanned expense. This is a bad thing.
So the change order must perforce be rejected. This is also bad, but a smaller bad. The work has been performed, and the right thing to do is to pay it. Right with respect to the supplier, but wrong with respect to the contract (and your company). Contract clearly states — in multiple places — that the change order must be submitted prior to execution, and approved within seven days. Forget to invoice, and forget about getting paid.
Wrong for the supplier, right for your company.
Except that the supplier is a small business. The company employs only a few blue-collar people, and that change order is their Christmas bonus. You know them, you’ve broken bread with them, and you’re withholding a living from them. What an asshole.
It’s harsh, but that’s just the way it is, contractually speaking. Your first responsibility is to your company (or family, or friends).
This falls into the gray, almost-never category. I decided long ago that I can live with these little wrongs, if we can make amends later on. As we tell the supplier (a little tongue-in-cheek), just wait, we’ll get righteous on this. You’ll get an exclusive chance, a first-look opportunity… to lose more money later on. And thus all are relatively less unhappy.
I’ve focused on the procurement side of business, but really, this applies to home contractors and anyone we do business with.
There may be little gray areas crop up from time to time. But there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing.
What do you think, readers. Have you ever had to make a difficult choice? Have you made efforts to make amends later on?