Verdict on Grey Matters ethical dilemma – Most likely to ...

Read the CISI's verdict and readers' comments on the ethical dilemma that appears in the February 2020 print edition of The Review

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Read the February 2020 dilemma

This Grey Matter, published in the February 2020 print edition of The Review, presents a dilemma that arises when inappropriate workplace banter over social media is inadvertently uncovered by a team member who is the target of some of the comments. In this situation, the appropriate action of the individual and the manager involved is of the utmost importance.

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Suggested solutions and results

  1. On reflection, it’s a bit of a laugh and saying something more will only make it worse. Also, Freddie is keen not to ruin his relationship with his line manager. (16%)
  2. Freddie resolves to encourage Samantha to tell HR about the group as it’s clearly unacceptable. (47%)
  3. Freddie should report the group to HR, using the photo he took on his own phone as evidence. (35%)
  4. Freddie could encourage Dan to report the group to HR (either with Freddie, or on his own) – using the argument that it would be better to be the person that confesses rather than the person who gets caught. (2%)

Responses received: 377

The CISI verdict

This dilemma highlights some of the potential issues with the increasing use of social media in the workplace. A key principle to remember is that office gossip and banter about other colleagues in any form is unprofessional and can cause significant damage in the workplace. In this case, Freddie has been unfairly targeted and put in a difficult situation by his manager and others’ poor behaviour. He does not want to potentially damage his relationship with his new manager, but he does want to stand up for what he thinks is the right thing to do.

This Grey Matter is also one of the scenarios discussed at the CISI’s 2020 Annual Integrity Event on 12 February (view it on CISI TV). The audience voting at the event considered option 3 to be the favourite, with 42% of the vote versus 35% for option 3 in the Review online poll. The chart below shows the audience votes before discussing the dilemma (vote 1) and after (vote 2).

Our recommended solution is option 2, as this would enable Sam, the manager, to do the right thing to rebuild Freddie’s trust and to appreciate the importance of not allowing office banter and gossip to exist in the workplace by having an appropriate discussion with HR.

What is seen as office banter by some may seem very different to others and everyone has a responsibility to behave in a professional manner and to respect all their colleagues.

This verdict is published in the May 2020 edition of The Review.

Should you wish to suggest a dilemma or topic to be featured in a future Grey Matter, please contact us at

Published: 12 May 2020
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