Sunday, February 25, 2018

Should I overlook a prospective employee's alleged flaws?



As his business has continued to grow, a business owner we'll call "Shelley" has found it challenging to find qualified employees to add to her team. Because it was still a small operation, she figures that it's important for her to get every hire right to avoid wreaking havoc on the rest of her workplace.

For several years, through trade shows and networking events, Shelley has known a fellow we're calling "Blake." Blake had a great reputation for the work he'd done for a much larger company doing similar work to Shelley's company, and for years Blake has expressed an interest in joining Shelley's company should an opportunity arise.

While she had heard from others about how solid a job Blake had done at his other positions, there were also rumblings that he might not be such a great colleague with whom to work. Shelley had no evidence that anything specific ever occurred, but suggestions that Blake was a bit of a bully to those workers reporting to him and hints that he might have made some employees uncomfortable by asking them on dates gave her pause.

"I need someone strong who can do the job," Shelley says. "No one has ever indicated that Blake can't do the type of work I would need him to do." Plus, she reports that Blake has always come across respectful and professional when she has met him.

Because she has several pending jobs that will require her to staff up her company quickly, Shelley feels some urgency in hiring on new employees.

Is it wrong, Shelley asks, to use these suspicions as a reason not to hire Blake, particularly when she needs to fill open positions at her company?

For many readers, it might come as no surprise that someone who has a bit of a reputation for behaving badly with employees who report to him or work alongside him manages to treat those to whom he reports quite well. Too many of us have witnessed colleagues who are excellent at "managing up" while miserable when it comes to the way they treat those who have little to no power of them in the workplace.

That may or may not be the case with Blake. Shelley simply doesn't know enough.

Shelley should do the same thing she does with any prospective hire and that's to seek references about his experience and qualifications. Rather than rely on random chatter about his strengths or weaknesses, she should check each out. If she has any reservation whatsoever about Blake's or any other prospective employee's ability to behave appropriately in the workplace, she should pass on making the hire.

If she believes any prospective employee's bad behavior should be overlooked because he's good at his job, she risks creating a hostile environment for her existing employees and jeopardizing her company's prospects for the long-term.

When screening prospective employees, the right thing is to do as thorough a job in screening them as possible and not to overlook significant flaws simply because there's a desperate need to get someone in place to do the job. 

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, February 18, 2018

Am I wrong to aid a fare evader?



I ride the subway to work. Early each morning, I walk the two blocks to the station on the Red Line of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) subway, board a train heading toward the Alewife station, and take the T the 10 stops it takes to get to work. Each evening, I reverse the route and ride the Red Line train home, heading toward the Ashmont station.

In the winter, the train schedule tends to be a bit less predictable. Frequent delays make getting to and from work more of an adventure. On occasion, I've tweeted out plaintive haikus to the MBTA Twitter handle. Occasionally, I receive a response, sometimes even in poetic form. The MBTA and I now follow one another on Twitter, and we've occasionally exchanged direct messages to one another.

On two occasions over the past month -- once going to work and one arriving home from work -- passengers have engaged my assistance in trying to enter the subway platform without paying their train fare.

On the first occasion, at about 6 a.m., a young woman asked me if she could follow me in through the turnstiles since she had left her pre-paid T pass at home. No one was in the small glassed-in office where T personnel typically sit to assist passengers. It was cold outside. I said nothing, but didn't prevent her from following me in.

On the second occasion, I arrived home to my neighborhood T station around 7:45 p.m. Again no one was in the T office nor were any T personnel around. But an older gentleman turned toward me from the machine where you can put more money on your T card and shouted out, "Walk slowly so I can get in before the turnstile door closes. The machine's not working." Again, I said nothing, but didn't prevent him from rushing by me to catch the train.

In each instance, it was wrong for the passenger to enter the platform without paying. If caught, the first offense for fare evasion is $50. The second offense is $100, and all subsequent offenses are $300. (The fare each way is $2.25 if you put money on a CharlieCard and $2.75 if you buy a paper ticket.)

Wondering if I could be fined as well, I sent the MBTA a direct message on Twitter. There is no fine for letting another customer into the station, I was told. Fines are only applied to the evader. But I was encouraged to report the person to the MBTA Transit Police via Twitter, a phone number, or a "See Say" app.

I will be doing none of those things.

The right thing is for commuters to remember their passes or to try to purchase tickets. But the right thing is also for the MBTA to have the personnel in the office at the station to provide assistance when fare machines don't work or when a forgetful commuter wants to ask for help. (I've forgotten my pass on occasion and the MBTA attendant has let me through.)

If the MBTA wants commuters to do the right thing, then being on hand to help them do so seems fair to ask. Not just on blustery cold days, but every day. 

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.


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