Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sticky fingers to save time do not get grandfather off the hook



Bert enjoys taking his grandkids fishing whenever the weather is good, the grandkids are visiting, and the fish are biting. He enjoys walking with them down to a bridge by the pond not far from his house, and then teaching them to bait the hook, cast their lines into the water, and patiently wait for something to nibble on the line.

He's been following this routine with his grandkids since they were toddlers. Now that they are 11 and 13, he believes they continue to enjoy the outings.

They also catch and release, unhooking the catch and tossing it back into the water. They rarely leave until each kid has reeled in at least one fish. To remove the fish from the hook, Bert carries a few latex gloves in his tackle box so the grandkids aren't stung by a sharp fin or inadvertently stabbed by the hook.

Typically, Bert buys a small package of latex gloves at his local hardware store for a few bucks. He sticks them in a drawer in his garage and puts a few in the tackle box before heading out to fish.

The day before another fishing outing was scheduled with his grandkids, Bert had a doctor's appointment. A box of purple latex gloves in the examination room caught Bert's eye. He couldn't remember if he had stocked up on gloves for the following day's trip.

"I figured I'd take a couple of gloves when the doctor wasn't around to make sure I had them for the kids," Bert writes, calculating that doing so would save him the trip to the hardware store.

But the next morning, he realized that he may have made a mistake. The gloves he regularly used with the grandkids were white. What would he tell them if they asked why they were using purple gloves, he wondered. Even though he now had the purple gloves, he decided he would still make a trip to the store to purchase the gloves he regularly used.

Once Bert took the purple gloves, it was unlikely his doctor would let him return them to the examination room. Fearing the possibility of either having to tell his grandkids he stole the gloves or lying to them about where they came from should not have been the reason not to take the gloves. The right thing would have been to buy his own latex gloves as he always did.

Asking his doctor if he could have a couple of gloves might have been more honest, but it's hardly fair to ask the doctor to add to medical costs by letting patients take a few medical supplies, no matter how inconsequential they might seem. Offering to pay for the gloves he took on his next visit would be honest, but it's unlikely his doctor would be in a position to process the payment for items typically not sold at his practice.

Perhaps the best lesson for Bert is that when faced with such temptations in the future, he should fight the urge to save time by engaging in a little dishonesty, even if no one but him will ever know about the theft. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior 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) 2018 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Can I ask company tech guy for help on a personal issue?



At the end of every year, Annie reviews the hundreds of digital photos she's taken throughout the year, selects a handful that capture key moments in her life that year, and then uploads the photos into an online photo book program. Once she's pleased that her book's pages represent the fullness of her year, she ships the pages off and has a copy of a photo book made. She's been doing this for the past five or six years without a problem.

This year, however, she seems to have hit a snag. Several of the photos she's uploaded to the online photo book pages feature a box with a red exclamation point in them. It doesn't seem to be a resolution issue, she writes, since those problems are typically identified with a yellow exclamation point.

Try as she might, Annie writes that she hasn't been able to figure out what is causing the red exclamation points to appear. But she suspects that if she sends off the book to be printed, it's likely that it will come back with errors throughout.

"I know something is going haywire with the uploads or downloads of the pictures from my phone and camera," she writes. "But I can't for the life of me figure it out."

Annie has a good relationship with the information technology (IT) department at her workplace. The folks in IT regularly resolve issues for her when they arise on her office computer.

"Would it be wrong for me to ask one of the IT guys to take a look at my laptop to see if they can figure out what's wrong with my photo book?" she asks.

It's a fair question. Annie knows the IT guys likely have significantly more experience than she does working through tech challenges. One of them might know right off what the issue is.

But if Annie's photo book project is a personal one and has no relation to her job or the work she does there, she shouldn't expect the IT people to try to resolve non-work-related tech issues for her. It would be perfectly fine for her to ask the IT people to help her set up her phone or tablet so she can receive workplace email on it or so she can connect to the office's Wi-Fi. But asking the IT guys to work on personal projects while they are on the job crosses a line.

If her workplace has a clearly stated policy that permits employees to seek help from IT on personal issues, then her request might be fine. But asking IT to fix her personal issue would be akin to asking the company's accountant to help her with her personal tax filing.

The right thing would be for Annie to seek help from more appropriate sources such as an online help line, a savvy friend, a "genius" bar employee, or a facile grandchild. If one of the IT people at work happens to fall into any of these categories, then Annie should feel free to ask away for help, so long as that request and the help takes place during their non-work hours. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior 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) 2018 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.


Sticky fingers to save time do not get grandfather off the hook

Bert enjoys taking his grandkids fishing whenever the weather is good, the grandkids are visiting, and the fish are biting. He enjoys w...