Doing the ‘Right’ Thing

October 8, 2018

rightDoing the ‘Right’ Thing

In the last post, you have a new job as a tester for children’s on-line games. Larry, the senior designer and a fun guy, has asked you to work on a serious game without your boss’ knowledge. What is the right thing to do?

What should you do?

Obviously, if this were above board, you’d jump at the chance to work on a real game. But it clearly isn’t.

You know what you should do. A good employee would not only say `no` but even tell your boss Malcolm. After all, they`re using work time. In the next post, I`ll deal with saying no but keeping quiet. This one is about saying `no` but deciding to tell Malcolm.

Should you tell the boss?

I bet you recoil at the idea of telling Malcolm, don’t you? Understandable. But in fact, Larry and his gang are stealing something very valuable. The company trades money (your salary) for your expertise. When employees engage in non-work activities during work, it violates that implicit agreement. So, if you’re against stealing, you actually should tell Malcolm.

This still makes you kind of queasy? Let’s play out what might happen if you did.

The consequences for Larry and his gang

You tell Malcolm about Larry and the others. One of two things can happen.

Best outcome:  

  • Larry and gang are reprimanded.
  • They are forbidden to work on the project during work hours.

Worst outcome:

  • Lawyers get involved because employment contracts don’t allow employees to create competing products.
  • The company takes ownership of the product.
  • Larry and co. are fired.

The consequences for you of doing the right thing

So the consequences could be dire for Larry and the others, but they won’t be all good for you either. Even under the best outcome,

  • Larry has a hate on for you.
  • He tells everyone what you’ve done.
  • The group shuns you:
    • you eat lunch alone;
    • left out of TGIFs;
    • conversations are strictly work, no chitchat at all.
  • Not the end of the world, but it’s bleak. If it continued, you might look for another job.

And one more consequence:

Malcolm won’t trust you either

You should be the golden boy because of your loyalty to the company. But more likely,

  • Malcolm will wonder whether this company loyalty means you’d tell on him if you didn’t like what he was doing.
  • He must take action. Even in the best scenario, he has to reprimand his most valuable employees. He might be worried that would incline them to slack off or even sabotage. You’ve made it awkward for him.

But, you might protest, you did the right thing. Yes, you did and, as you know, no good deed goes unpunished. So, if you’re gonna catch it by telling, your best bet is to keep quiet, right?

Hmmm—perhaps. Let’s go to the next post to see what happens if you do.

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