A recent article in The Economist discusses how to avoid being asked to commit fraud. It can be very uncomfortable if your manager asks you to alter the books or do anything that is unethical. Often there are not only repercussions for committing the fraud (i.e., fines or jail time), but also for not committing the fraud (21% of employees who reported unethical behavior at work said they experienced some form of punishment from their employer). If you refuse to commit a fraud, your manager may choose not to promote you or may even fire you. Rather than refusing to commit a fraud, the best scenario for an employee would be to never be asked to commit a fraud. A study that was done by Dr. Sreedhari Desai (professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) found one approach that dissuades managers from asking employees to engage in unethical behavior.
The study done by Dr. Desai found that employees who either displayed a religious symbol at their desk or appended a moral quotation to their emails were less likely to be asked by managers to engage in unethical behavior. In addition, the study found that while the effect was strongest with the individual to whom the religious symbol or moral quotation belonged, managers who were exposed to either of these were less likely to ask anyone on their team to do anything unethical. Also interesting to note is that it didn’t appear to matter if the manager and the employee belonged to the same or different religions (i.e., Muslims respected the integrity of someone displaying a Christian cross more than someone who didn’t display any religious or moral symbol at all).
In summary, it appears that publicly displaying your moral character in some way will likely protect you and your entire team from being placed in the awkward situation of being asked to commit fraud. If your manager sees you as an ethical person who acts with integrity, it is more likely that they won’t ask you to do something unethical or illegal, and you’ll be spared the dilemma of determining what to do.