Business

What you can do when boss cheats

Q: It seems cheating is common in the workplace. I ultimately chose to leave a company where a father lets his son punch his daughter-in-law's time sheet when she isn't at work.

After talking to the assistant manager twice about it and being told that the company was going to wait for the father to retire before confronting the son, I left the firm for another job.

Now, a close friend at the same company tells me that a recently hired manager just hired a friend to fill a position. A fellow employee has seen this manager punch the new employee's time card when the employee has yet to come in to work. My friend and his colleague are both frustrated that this new person is getting paid for doing nothing simply because he's a friend of the boss. What should they do? Will the company keep on losing hard workers while the cheaters continue to cheat? -- J.M., Boston

A: The practices you describe are unethical and potentially illegal. When unethical behavior is allowed to occur, it causes stress for the other workers, as you've noted. The offending bosses you mention are being extremely shortsighted in thinking that nothing's wrong with what they're doing. Unfortunately for everyone involved, their subterfuge is affecting productivity, profits, retention and recruitment.

Possible actions employees can take include:

Doing nothing. This doesn't help the business and may be bad for all employees in the long run. Allowing the status quo to persist is likely to cause productivity and profits to fall, which could mean reduced raises or even layoffs and reductions in pay. Reputation also matters, and word on the street will spread that this isn't a place where you want to work. The downward spiral is tough to stop once it starts.

Leaving for a company that more closely reflects your values, as you did. The difficulty with this option is that it puts the onus on you to find a new position.

Trying to address the situation. The best approach is to join forces with your fellow workers. There's strength in numbers. If change is possible, it will only happen if the employees raise the issue with management as a group.

If change within isn't possible, my advice is to seek employment elsewhere. Many companies do operate professionally, honorably and fairly, and won't tolerate the behavior you describe.

E-mail your questions about business etiquette to bizmanners@globe.com, or mail to Etiquette at Work, The Boston Globe, P.O. Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819. Peter Post is a director of the Emily Post Institute and the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business," published by HarperCollins. He is one of Emily Post's four great-grandchildren.

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