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April 23, 2014 at 7:03 AM

Q&A: What should I do about cheating co-workers?

By Marie G. McIntyre / McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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Q: My co-workers have figured out how to manipulate the time clock so they don’t have to put in a full day’s work. Our boss never keeps regular hours, either, so the staff is just following his example. Because the company is headquartered in another state, upper management doesn’t pay much attention to our small office.

Although I believe it’s wrong to steal time from the company, I’m beginning to feel like a fool for working all my hours. I would like to report this problem, but I’m reluctant to rat out my co-workers. Do you have any suggestions?

A: First of all, you are not a fool. You’re an honest person who happens to work with a bunch of cheaters, so kudos to you for having a strong moral compass. Unfortunately, however, being right doesn’t always make it easy to decide what to do.

One possibility is to present this issue not as staff misconduct, but as an administrative problem. Instead of calling out your colleagues, you might simply advise the appropriate person that the attendance tracking system is not reporting hours accurately for your office. The recipient of this report can then decide what to do about it.

Attendance is typically overseen by human resources, so that may be the best place to send the information. If personal contact seems too difficult or risky, outline your concerns in an anonymous letter to the department head. Even though unsigned complaints are frequently ignored, a specific system problem is likely to be investigated.

Before taking any action, however, you should carefully weigh the pros and cons, especially since your boss might be involved in this time clock scam. Monitoring the staff is not your responsibility, so if acting as a whistleblower could put your job in jeopardy, then keeping quiet is a perfectly acceptable choice.

Q: My co-worker was allowed to take paid time off after using up all her leave days. This seems very unfair, since I try to manage my time well and only use leave when necessary. I expressed my opinion to management, but nothing happened. I would appreciate some advice on how to get over this, because I’m finding it hard to accept.

A: When inequities occur, employees have three choices: take action to fix the problem, acknowledge that life isn’t always fair, or go nuts obsessing about it. By raising the issue with management, you have exhausted option one. Now you appear to be stuck on option three, but for your own peace of mind, you really need to let this go.

To reduce your resentment, remind yourself that we often have no idea what’s happening in our coworkers’ personal lives. This woman may very well have difficult circumstances that management can’t discuss with you. If so, the apparent unfairness might actually represent a compassionate exception to the rules.

Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at yourofficecoach.com.

More in Career Advice | Topics: conflict, HR, management, office politics

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