Sunday, April 15, 2018

Should one person's behavior result in another's meddling?

Last fall, a reader, let's call him Wade, had a run-in with a woman we'll call Helen, during a meeting of a local nonprofit that supplied services to the area. Wade sat on the board and Helen was a resident of one of the communities seeking services. As Wade recalls it, when it came time for Helen to address the board, the tone turned accusatory, suggesting that her requests had been overlooked.

"Did you make a written request?" Wade recalls asking, to which he recalls Helen suggesting that she shouldn't have to because she had been quite vocal about her requests in the past and the board knew what they were, adding that the whole community was behind her.

After explaining that the process required written requests, Helen expressed her displeasure, but insisted she would have a written request submitted to the board by its next meeting. Several board meetings have taken place since. No written request was ever submitted by Helen.

Now, Helen is running for an elected office in her community. Wade does not reside in that community so he gets no vote. But he does have friends and colleagues who live there. Wade still rankles from Helen's behavior at the fall nonprofit board meeting. He is tempted to urge his friends and colleagues who live in Helen's town to vote for her opponent.

But Wade has discovered that where Helen's stance on many of the issues mirror those he would care about in his own town, her opponent's views are the type he'd typically vehemently oppose. He's never met the opponent and has no idea if he too has irked someone at a meeting.

"Should I still urge people not to vote for her?" asks Wade, "even though I don't live in their community and, on the issues, she and I agree?"

Wow. Wade sure holds a grudge.

If Wade believes it's important for those he knows who have a vote to know of an incident where Helen might not have followed up as rapidly as he would have liked, he has every right to let them know. But if he's going to delve into business which is really not his own, then he might also add that he has no beef with Helen when it comes to the platform on which she is running for office. Her opponent's views on the other hand? As long as he's weighing in, Wade's associates might find it useful to know that he finds his views on the issues abhorrent.

Urging them not to vote at all rather than to vote for Helen would be unacceptable.

Instead, if he feels strongly enough about it, Wade can tell his friends about his run-in with Helen, perhaps add that he'd be hard-pressed to vote for her ever for anything, but that his views are based more on personality than on the issues facing the town. That might make Wade feel better, but it would be of little use to those who actually have the right to vote in the election.

The right thing for his friends to do is learn as much about the candidates and issues as they can, and then to vote for the person they believe can do the best 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, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 


1 comment:

Azalea Lover said...

I would let friends in the neighboring community know what I observed about Helen's behavior. Why? Because her behavior shows poor judgment. Helen appears to believe that rules are for other people, as evidenced by the fact that she knew requests had to be made in writing but chose not to follow the rules.

Helen's behavior and judgment call into question her ability to serve the common good, her willingness to follow rules including financial rules and ethical rules.

Candidates who choose to ignore rules do not make good rulers......and that's what we elect: rulers with boundaries. Helen does not respect boundaries.