You may encounter a situation that's more serious than fibbing on a timesheet or taking home a few pens. In these cases, it's important to follow your workplace's policy for reporting unethical behavior. Depending upon the policy, it may mean reporting your coworker to your manager, your coworker's manager or human resources.
Some acts that justify reporting a coworker include fraud, embezzlement, sabotage and sharing intellectual property. These don't just affect how you do your job -- they can hurt the entire company. It's better to report serious problems early before they can develop further. And you don't want to be associated with unethical behavior -- if your employer discovers you knew about your coworker's dishonesty and did nothing about it, you could face punishment.
When it comes to reporting a coworker, you want to do so confidentially. Request a closed-door meeting with the appropriate manager or HR representative. If your company has a hotline you should use to report ethical violations, make the call from a private location. You don't want to increase tension or anxiety in the workplace. And there's always the chance that you don't have all the information.
Make sure you have a reasonable argument for why you feel your coworker has been dishonest. It's better to provide concrete examples of poor behavior than to level a blanket accusation. Keep the matter professional. Try to avoid getting emotional during the discussion. Point out how the behavior is affecting your performance or the workplace environment. Remember that unethical behavior can contribute to low morale and decreased job satisfaction.
While you shouldn't hesitate to report truly unethical behavior, don't go overboard. It's one thing to point out a destructive coworker and another to become the office snitch. If the matter is minor or merely irritating, a gentle conversation with the coworker is all that's necessary.
Learn more about navigating the modern workplace by following the links below.
- Amble, Brian. "Honesty: more than truth or lies." Management Issues. December 2005. (Sept. 24, 2010) http://www.management-issues.com/2006/8/24/research/honesty-more-than-truth-or-lies.asp
- Cranshaw, Laura. "Taming the Abrasive Manager." Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, Calif. 2007.
- Dawson Parks, Mackenzie. "Dealing with Difficult Coworkers: From Sales and Marketing to Finance and Planning." Business Programs. 2010. http://www.business-programs.com/articles/dealing-with-difficult-coworkers.html
- DelPo, Amy and Guerin, Lisa. "Dealing with Problem Employees: A Legal Guide." NOLO. Berkeley, Calif. 2010.
- Heubeck, Elizabeth. "Dealing With the Jerk at Work." WebMD. (Sept. 24, 2010) http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/dealing-with-the-jerk-at-work
- Hollinger, Richard C. "Workplace Dishonesty." P&L Solutions. (Sept. 23, 2010) http://www.plsolutions.net/Documents/PandL%20-%20Workplace%20Dishonesty.pdf
- Varhol, Peter. "Honesty in the Workplace." Visual Studio. February 2007. (Sept. 24, 2010) http://visualstudiomagazine.com/articles/2007/02/01/honesty-in-the-workplace.aspx