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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Should I tell my emailing friend he's offensive?



For several years, D.R. has been on a friend's email routing list. Whenever the friend receives an email he finds amusing or provocative, he forwards it on to a dozen or so friends so they can share in the laughter. D.R., who receives the emails on his personal email account, rarely finds the emails, which are typically full of musings on aging or observations about the decay of society, funny or thought-provoking.

The friend rarely emails D.R. with anything other than a forwarded email, so D.R. has reached the point where, more often than not, he simply deletes any emails from the friend if he sees they are being forwarded to a group of recipients. Occasionally, if D.R. does read an email and it repeats a long-debunked myth about a particular celebrity or politician, he will respond to his friend with a link to the information (typically from Snopes.com or Politifact.com) correcting the myth with words like, "Not true. See here," followed by the link.

But lately the friend's emails have taken on a disturbing tone. D.R. has noticed that some of the emails being forwarded could be construed as sexist, racist, or anti-Semitic. D.R. never thought of his friend as a racist, sexist, or anti-Semitic before, but the emails he is forwarding present him in this light to D.R.

D.R. doesn't believe debunking such emails will get to the real issue of how offensive and inappropriate he finds them. He can't imagine that his friend doesn't know that these particular emails are tinged with such hateful sentiment. He could choose to stop reading group emails from the friend entirely and just delete them as they arrive.

"But is that enough?" asks D.R. "Shouldn't I tell him how offensive I find these particular emails?"

If the emails offend D.R., simply deleting them is not enough. At the very least, he should ask his friend to take him off of his email routing list for these things he forwards. (Given that he doesn't find even the inoffensive ones interesting, he would have been wise to do this long ago.)

But if D.R. truly finds some of the messages to be offensive, the right thing would be to tell his friend how offensive he finds them and why.

D.R. is unlikely to change his friend's viewpoint if these emails reflect how he thinks about such things. But if no one says anything to the friend, he will simply continue to forward on such things, giving no thought to how they are being received.

D.R. might find that the friend doesn't pay as much attention to the type of things he forwards on as D.R. thinks he does. Some people too freely forward on, repost, or retweet stuff they haven't bothered to read closely. Pointing out the offensiveness gives D.R.'s friend a chance to think more carefully about what he chooses to forward on to others. It also gives him the opportunity to let the originator of such emails know how offensive they are.

But D.R.'s friend might be fully aware of the nature of his emails. Now he will know how offensive D.R. finds them and to take D.R. off of his email routing list, since D.R. wants nothing to do with the spread of such things. 

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.



Sunday, June 19, 2016

Should I embellish my salary to try to get more from new job?


M.K. had been searching for a new job for months. Finally, after sending out countless resumes, going on several interviews, and being a finalist for more than one position only to lose out to other candidates, M.K. was told by the hiring manager of one of his prospective new employers that he would be offered a job, pending his references and credentials checking out. Given that he had long believed that he was not advancing swiftly enough in his current job, M.K. was ecstatic about the offer.

But after the hiring manager from the new company called him to give him the news, he was stumped by one of the questions she asked: "What's your current salary?"

M.K. was hopeful that the new job would pay more, ideally much more, than he was currently making. He was reluctant to give the actual salary he was making out of fear that the new company might decide to pay him less than it might be willing to if they didn't know how much he currently made. He writes that he thinks he'd prefer that the hiring manager make an offer first and then he could respond if the offer wasn't enough.

He wonders if he should "fudge a bit" and tell the manager roughly what he makes, but add in such things as retirement contributions and other benefits for which his current company currently pays. "Technically, that wouldn't be wrong, would it?"

It's always easy to advise someone what they should have done in hindsight. Here's a case where M.K. should have asked earlier on in the hiring process about the salary range for the position. If it wanted to attract an employee who might be interested in the job, the prospective employer should have given M.K. or other finalists for the position a sense of the salary range earlier in the hiring process.

But now that he is where he is in the process, M.K. is left with the choice of providing the information requested, asking the prospective employer to provide him with a salary range first, or "fudging" on whatever information he provides.

The right thing would be to be honest and to avoid fudging about anything. M.K. can tell the prospective employer his current salary as well as any other fringe benefits he currently receives. Alternatively, he could decide to ask the hiring manager to provide him with a salary range before he provides any more information. But he should not lie about what he currently makes.

Providing false information would be wrong and hardly the way to start a new employment relationship. That the prospective employer might check the veracity of the salary information M.K. provides only to find that he was loose with the truth shouldn't be the chief incentive to avoid lying to try to get an upper hand. Not lying should be the chief incentive.

M.K. can and should negotiate as hard as he can to get the best offer. But he should do so expecting it will be as honest with him as he plans to be with it. If he doubts the new company's honesty, he should rethink taking the new job. 

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.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Honestly writing off book donations


Every year, H.F. donates books to her local library for its annual library book sale run by a nonprofit group set up to provide funds for library purchases. H.F. figures it's a great way for her to clear her shelves for more books and also to donate to an organization whose efforts she supports.

When H.F. brought her boxes of books to the library in the past, there were no volunteers around, so she simply left the books near the door marked "book donations" in the library's basement.

But on her most recent book drop-off, the door to the room was open and a couple of volunteers were busily sorting books. H.F. poked her head in the door and asked if she should bring the boxes of books into the room.

"Sure," one of the volunteers told her. "You can just set them on the table for us to sort through."

As H.F. was leaving the last of her boxes on the table, the volunteer asked her if she needed a receipt for her book donation. (The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) permits donors to deduct from the taxes they owe a fair market price for each book donated to a nonprofit.) "OK," H.F. responded, and then asked the volunteer if she needed to count the number of books she donated so it could be added to the receipt. H.F. also mentioned that she had dropped off books in the past for which she never got a receipt.

Typically, organizations will guide donors on how much they can deduct for each item given. But the volunteer told H.F. not to worry about counting the books. She then took out three pre-printed donation forms, dated one with the current date, and then dated each of the others for two prior dates a few months earlier in the year.

She instructed H.F. that generally she could deduct $2 for each hardback donated and $1 for each paperback. "Just don't say it was more than $200 worth of books at any one time. The IRS might question that." She left it to H.F. to estimate how many books she had donated to the library, both this time and on previous visits that year.

"I don't have a clue how many books I've donated on past visits," H.F. writes, "let alone how many were hardbacks or paperbacks." She wants to know if it was wrong for the volunteer to advise her to estimate using the $200 cap on each form the volunteer recommended.

Yes, it was wrong. The volunteer was not only advising H.F. to be unethical by fudging the amount she donated, she was also advising her to lie to the IRS. Lying to the IRS is illegal and inadvisable.

H.F. isn't required to take any deduction for the books she donates to the library book sale. If she does, however, the right thing is to keep an accurate count of how many books she does donate and then to take only the deduction for which she is entitled. And the library support group would be wise to do the right thing and do a better job of training its volunteers on how to instructor donors to accurately account for their donations. 

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.