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Sunday, August 13, 2017

When should I let supervisor know when assistants act out?



The schedule for the day-long event was packed, and L.S. knew it. She had been asked to give a 45-minute talk to a group of about 200 corporate employees, building in enough time for questions as part of her presentation. The event organizer had been explicit that the schedule for the day was tight and that they needed L.S. to finish right on time so the group could have a 15-minute break before it went to its next session.

L.S. figured that fitting what she had to say into the time allotted and keeping the conference goers on schedule was not a problem. She had lectured at many such events before. As was her wont, L.S. spent time preparing for her talk, keeping in mind the time restrictions.

The day of the event came and L.S. arrived in plenty of time. The event organizer met her, explaining that after she introduced L.S., she would have to leave the room to take care of other conference matters. The organizer would also tell the attendees that at the conclusion of L.S.'s talk, they would have 15 minutes before they needed to be seated and ready for their next event.

All went according to plan. After being introduced, the organizer discretely scooted out of the room and L.S. began. The audience seemed engaged and L.S. managed to keep her presentation on time as well as to take any questions the attendees had. With a minute left to spare, L.S. wrapped up, thanked the audience, and then acknowledged their applause.

As the attendees got up to leave, however, an assistant to the event organizer rose and shouted to the audience, "Hold on. Don't leave yet."'

The assistant proceeded to take the microphone from L.S., and began talking to the crowd, essentially recapping what L.S. had just spent 45 minutes saying. Only the crowd was now growing restless. After 10 minutes had passed, the assistant finally dismissed the attendees, leaving them with no break and little time to get to the next event.

"I'm not sure what that was about," L.S. writes. "But the assistant just left the room with the crowd, never apologizing for going over on time or explaining why he felt the need to insert himself into the proceedings."

L.S. writes that she's concerned the organizer will think L.S. went over on time. But even if the organizer doesn't think this, she wonders if she should say something to the organizer about behavior that she found to be a bit unprofessional. "Should I say something, or let it lie?"

If the behavior concerns L.S., the right thing would be to say something. While the assistant may indeed have been unprofessional and discourteous to the attendees -- L.S. can simply explain what happened and let the organizer make of it what she will. She'd likely be doing the organizer a favor by letting her know how her employees behave when she is not in the room.

There's no ethical obligation for L.S. to say anything, however, if she doesn't want to. If she accomplished her goal of getting her desired message across to the attendees, she can rest easy. The attendees can assess for themselves the behavior of the assistant without transferring the inappropriateness of his behavior onto L.S. 

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) 2017 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.



Sunday, August 06, 2017

Should picnic host anticipate all guests' dietary restrictions?



A reader, F.G., had been planning a summer family event for months. She'd sent out invitations, solicited family members for activity ideas, rented an inflatable bouncy tent for the children attending, and loaded up on groceries, drinks and other provisions for the daylong event.

"I wanted to have enough variety of food so everyone could find something they liked," F.G. writes. "But I tried not to make the menu overly complicated since we expected four to five dozen relatives to show up in our backyard."

The event was scheduled to start at 2 p.m. and go until 8 p.m., so F.G. had loaded up on enough food to serve a hearty meal -- burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, coleslaw, potato salad, three-bean salad and other items, as well as plenty of melon and cake for dessert.

Weather cooperated brilliantly on the day of the event, F.G. reports. Sunshine, but not too muggy. Perfect weather for gathering, sharing a meal with family and reminiscing. Kids enjoyed bouncing in the inflatable house. Adults played horseshoes, croquet and beanbag toss. And the drinks and food began to flow.

Late in the day, an adult nephew who hadn't RSVP'd showed up with his wife and kids as well as four or five adult friends who had been visiting him nearby. F.G. was glad to see him and to welcome the unexpected guests, RSVP or not. A few more burgers, hot dogs, and corn on the cob were tossed on the grill and F.G.'s nephew and his group mingled with the family.

F.G. yelled out to her nephew that there was food ready on the grill for them and they proceeded to come over, load up their plates and return to mingling.

About half-an-hour later, the nephew walked up to F.G. and asked if she had prepared a vegetarian option for the non-meat-eaters in the crowd, indicating that two of the friends he had brought along didn't eat meat.

At first a bit flustered, F.G. writes that she ultimately responded by recommending the corn on the cob, salads or any of the non-meat side dishes she had prepared.

After the event ended (and her nephew and group were among the last to leave), F.G. hoped everyone had had a good time. But she worried that it might have been wrong not to have a vegetarian entree as an option. Or whether she should have indicated something on the invite that hamburgers and hot dogs would be served.

F.G.'s question falls more into a question of etiquette than ethics, but she does still raise the question of whether she did the right thing. F.G. did exactly the right thing by offering her nephew non-meat suggestions when he asked. If the nephew or his friends had special dietary restrictions, the right thing would have been to let F.G. know or to ask her about the menu. Or, if he was truly concerned about his friends getting something in particular that they wanted to eat, he should have brought it with him and asked to toss it on the grill.

Better yet, the nephew should have had the courtesy to RSVP to the invite to let F.G. know he'd be attending with friends in tow. 

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) 2017 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.