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Sunday, January 15, 2017

When travel plans are about to sink


When S.W. booked a trip for her first ocean liner cruise, she was excited. Now retired, S.W. had been looking forward to traveling and a trip on a large ship that was on her travel wish list. She'd even convinced a friend to book the same cruise so they could share a stateroom. 

The cruise is scheduled to depart five months from now. S.W. and her friend left a small deposit two months ago, which they knew they'd lose if they'd canceled the trip.

In the two months since she left the deposit, S.W. has been having second thoughts about the trip. The recent death of a close family member as well as some health issues of her own had caused S.W. to think that she might want to use her travel budget to go see family rather than be on a ship for a couple of weeks. 

S.W. thinks she might be able to tell the cruise line that she's canceling her trip because of a death in the family, although providing a death certificate as proof would likely be a challenge since the family member's death would have been more than a half-year before her cruise is set to embark. If she cancels, she figures she'll lose about $100. But she'd also be leaving her friend and ship roommate in the lurch, forcing her to decide to either find a new roommate to book the cruise or to cancel the trip herself. 

S.W. asks if it would be wrong to cancel her trip and leave her friend without a roommate, and also whether it would be wrong to tell the cruise line that her family member's death is the reason she plans to cancel. 

If S.W. no longer wants to go on the cruise, she shouldn't feel obligated to take the cruise. No one should feel obligated to travel when they don't want to, particularly on a large vessel in the middle of an ocean. She should feel no guilt whatsoever about changing her mind. 

If she does decide to cancel, however, particularly because she convinced her friend to go on the trip with her, she should let her friend know that she's no longer planning to go on the journey. She should do this soon so that her friend has as much time as possible to decide whether she still wants to go without S.W. 

If the reason for her decision to cancel was to attend a family funeral, then it would be fine for S.W. to let the cruise line know that that was her reason. But since there is no memorial service planned for when the cruise would take place, the death in S.W.'s family doesn't present an obstacle for her to go if she wants to. Misrepresenting the facts to the cruise line as a reason for the cancellation would be wrong, even if it mean S.W. might also get her $100 back after canceling. 

The right thing is for S.W. to decide whether she wants to go on this cruise or not, and then to be honest with her friend and the cruise line about her decision to cancel. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@comcast.net. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

(c) 2015 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

BuzzFeed & Trump, and Obama's Farewell Speech

After BuzzFeed released the unsubstantiated dossier on President-Elect Trump, many media outlets asked about the ethics involved in BuzzFeed's decision.

I spoke with Wisconsin Public Radio's Central Time on the issue. You can read the archived interview here (8 minutes). 

I also spoke with Voice of America on the topic here, and Vanity Fair here

Some thoughts on President Obama's farewell speech and his focus on values, cynicism, and engagement appear here.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

When to use little white lies on resumes? Never



While the job market for recent college graduates is a bit stronger than it might have been eight years ago, finding a job that's a good fit can still be a challenge. Even though they can be useful, networking websites can only go so far in identifying potential job offers. It still can be an anxiety-filled process to search for a job, particularly when your professional experience might not yet be all that substantial.

Recently, a reader told me of an experience she had when trying to fill a position at her business. She received dozens of applications for an open position, many from seemingly qualified applicants. One applicant worked for a business that the reader knew well. She grew surprised when the applicant described her duties on her resume that closely resembled those of someone else the reader knew worked there. She thought that the applicant might have replaced this other person, but there was no way to tell from the resume. Since the skills and experience the applicant described mirrored those the reader was looking for, she called her in for an interview.

At the interview, the reader discovered that the applicant reported to the person the reader knew at the other business. In the interview, it became clear that the applicant had neglected to indicate that she assisted with many of the tasks she had listed on her resume, but didn't really have the direct experience running and managing operations that she'd suggested she'd had.

The applicant was quite forthcoming in the interview about what responsibilities she actually had at her current job, and that the roles she mentioned on her resume consisted of assisting someone else.

"So you don't actually have a management role where you currently work?" the reader asked the applicant.

"No," she responded. The interview ended and the applicant never got the job.

Now, the reader wonders whether she had an ethical responsibility to raise the issue with this applicant of providing misleading information on the resume she'd submitted.

The reader's experience raises how tempting it might be for job seekers to pad their resumes by embellishing their actual experience. Sometimes, such padding might consist of outright fabrications where expertise or experience is listed that an applicant clearly doesn't have. Other times, applicants such as the one with whom the reader met try to make their current job responsibilities appear to be more than they actually are. Each type of embellishment is wrong and easily found out with some quick due diligence by an interviewer. Then there is the padding that is hard to verify, such as claiming skills or hobbies that might be relevant to a prospective employer but for which there is no actual record. Such embellishments are also wrong.

The reader did the right thing by asking the applicant pointed questions to get at whether the experience she listed actually reflected the experience she had. Her responsibility is to her employer to do the most thorough due diligence possible on each applicant to make sure that the person they hire has the experience needed and claimed.

The right thing for the applicant or any applicant is to make themselves as attractive to a prospective employer as possible, but never to use big or small lies to try to get a foot into the door. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@comcast.net.

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

(c) 2015 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.