Sunday, June 19, 2022

How much should I disclose to future employer?

 How fully do you need to disclose information about yourself to a prospective employer?

 

A reader we’re calling Mary posed the question to me after she interviewed for a job via Zoom and was called back for a second interview in person. She wrote that she wants the job, but she is concerned that if she fully discloses health challenges she’s had in the past, it might affect her chances of landing the new job.

 

This is the point in my response when I feel obliged to disclose I am not an employment lawyer, nor an expert in employment law. But judging from her question, Mary knows these limitations and in posing her question to me was more concerned about how forthcoming she needed to be from an ethical perspective.

 

“Would it be dishonest not to tell them that I’d gone through some serious health issues in the past?” asked Mary.

 

If the job for which Mary is applying requires some physical qualifications such as the ability to lift objects of a certain weight and Mary knows she is not capable of meeting these qualifications, she should disclose the limitations to her prospective employer regardless of past illnesses. If the advertisement for the job or job description she might have seen included specific qualifications she knew she didn’t meet, Mary should have considered not applying.

 

But unless Mary’s health issues pose a danger to her prospective colleagues, it’s not clear to me why it should come up in the process of her job interview.

 

She raised a slightly different question when Mary said: “I’m worried that if I get sick again and it comes out that I had been sick before that my bosses would be upset that I hadn’t told them that I had been sick in the past.”

 

Here Mary seems to be concerned she must anticipate and disclose any future event that may have a negative impact on her ability to do the job for which she’s applying. If the health issues she experienced were indeed in the past, it doesn’t seem necessary for Mary to supply a list of everything that may or may not happen to her should she take the job. An employer is unlikely to tell Mary that while the company is financially healthy now, its business might take a nose dive later because, after all, in the early days of the company it was touch and go about whether the company would be able to stay in business.

 

Many things may happen in the future if Mary is offered and accepts the new job. Her old car might break down on her drive to work one day and she could be late and hold up an important meeting. The company might be purchased and layoffs might ensue. We can contemplate all the possible downsides as applicants and employers. But it’s also possible Mary might thrive in the new position and the company will survive and thrive in spite of any obstacles it faces.

 

In interviewing for the job, the right thing is for Mary to be honest about her capabilities to do the job and for her interviewers to be honest about the specifics of the job for which she is interviewing.

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 to have answered? Send them to jeffreyseglin@gmail.com.

Follow him on Twitter @jseglin.

(c) 2022 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Should charities spend so much on unsolicited mailings?

Are the charitable donations you make to various organizations going toward the work that organization sets as its mission or do they go to pay for marketing efforts to elicit more donations? That’s essentially what a reader whom we’re calling Iris wants to know.

Iris is among the millions of Americans who donate to charity every year. She donates small amounts to several different charities whose work she supports. But she’s noticed lately that more and more charities are sending her solicitations that include everything from customized return address labels and notepads to pocket calculators and embossed canvas bags. “These are not thank you items,” wrote Iris. “They’re sending these before I contribute another dime.”

Iris uses some of the stuff sent to her even if she doesn’t contribute. But she’s concerned that the charities to whom she does contribute do similar mailings. “I feel like my dollars are going to mailings rather than good work,” she wrote.

“Is it wrong for charities to spend so much money on mailings to try to raise money?” Iris asked.

There is nothing wrong with charities sending out solicitations for donations. In an effort to find new donors, they employ various techniques. Iris was clear in her email to me that she hates unsolicited phone calls from charitable organizations even more than the mailings she receives. The numerous mailings Iris and others receive may annoy them, but reaching out to prospective donors using various methods is often necessary if a charity wants to stay afloat.

The cost of the marketing efforts and other overhead should not, however, be so much that they outweigh the funds spent directly on whatever work the charity is set up to do. Websites like Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org) analyze the spending of many charities so donors can get a sense of what percentage of donations gets spent on what.

Nevertheless, Iris raises a good question about whether charities should spend so much soliciting donations from people who don’t want to receive the solicitations partly because they would rather the money go to the work of the charity.

Iris may be receiving many mailings because she donates to several different charities rather than choosing fewer to which she gives larger donations. If Iris wants to make sure that the charities she donates to don’t sell her name to other charities for them to use in soliciting donations from her, she can check to make sure that her chosen charities assure donors that their names will not be shared. (Charity Navigator includes this information in its assessments.)

Iris can also choose to give anonymously or to take advantage of any charities that allow her to check a box indicating she doesn’t want her information shared.

While the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) lets people put their name or email on a no unsolicited mail list (www.dmachoice.org), it’s not a guarantee that every charitable organization will stop sending mailings.

That Iris continues to contribute to causes she deems to be worthy strikes me as a good thing. I’m hopeful she and others will continue to do so. But the right thing for Iris or others in her situation to do is to take as much control of how many unsolicited mailings they receive by letting the charities know that they would simply prefer the charity not to spend the money on solicitation mailings.

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 to have answered? Send them to jeffreyseglin@gmail.com.

Follow him on Twitter @jseglin.

(c) 2022 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.


Sunday, June 05, 2022

Should neighbor report landscaper’s suspicious activity?

When you think there might be something amiss with the construction job going on in your neighborhood but aren’t sure, what’s the right thing to do?

 

A reader from Boston we’re calling Lil emailed me recently to fill me in on all of the construction that’s been going on in her neighborhood for the past two years. Many three family houses have been sold and are being converted into luxury condominiums. Some formerly empty lots are now being populated by even more high-priced condos.

 

“All of the trucks in and out and the sound of pile driving has been constant,” wrote Lil. “Traffic is regularly blocked off in our neighborhood making it challenging getting in and out of our driveway. All of the activity has resulted in noise, and more rodent sightings than ever.” As she emailed me, Lil wrote that there are at least 11 condo projects in some stage of development within a block of her house.

 

“Now one of these projects has finally begun to do landscaping and put down sod in front of seven condos, three of which are already on the market,” Lil wrote. “But I saw from my kitchen window that the landscapers had attached a house to a nearby fire hydrant and were using water from the hydrant to water the sod they had just put down.”

 

Lil seems incensed about the landscapers tapping into the fire hydrant. “How could this possibly be OK to use water from a public fire hydrant to water the grass?” she asked. “What, if anything, should I do?”

 

It’s relatively simple for Lil or anyone else to look up the City of Boston regulations about connecting a house to a public fire hydrant for public use. When I did a quick search, I found it is against the law to make such a connection without permission from the city.

 

If the landscaper has used the hydrant without permission, it should be stopped and cited for its illegal activity. But unless Lil checks, she has no way of knowing if permission was sought and granted or not. It hardly seems prudent or right for Lil to have marched over to the landscaper and tried to disconnect the hose even if she knew they were tapping into the water illegally.

 

Like many cities, Boston has a public utilities division that can be called to seek information. Boston also has a dedicated 311 phone number, website and app for residents to call when they have questions about public services ranging from trash pickup and snow removal to illegal parking and rodent activity.

 

If Lil or other neighbors are concerned that any construction workers or landscapers in their neighborhood are violating the law or causing a public disturbance, the right thing is to report it as soon as possible and let the city agency inspect the scene. If the city receives multiple reports about the same construction project possibly violating the law or causing disturbances, the right thing for the city to do is to keep tabs on the project to make sure it doesn’t slip back into bad behavior after receiving an initial citation. Lil might not be able to have the landscaper undo what has already been done, but she could be instrumental in ensuring it doesn’t happen again.

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 to have answered? Send them to jeffreyseglin@gmail.com.

Follow him on Twitter @jseglin.

(c) 2022 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Is it wrong for a boyfriend to continue to support his ex?

 A reader we’re calling Sammie wrote in search of an answer to a question that has been plaguing her about her current relationship.

 

Apparently, Sammie’s boyfriend made a promise to his former girlfriend’s father when he was on his death bed. The boyfriend agreed he would take care of the father’s daughter and family. Since making the promise, the boyfriend has broken up with the daughter, and the father’s wife has died as well.

 

Nevertheless, Sammie wrote that her boyfriend wants to honor his promise.

 

“It is ruining our relationship,” wrote Sammie. His ex-girlfriend will not go away, and he feels a sense of obligation to keep in contact with her daily by phone and text in spite how he has told Sammie he doesn’t really like her anymore. Sometimes the “taking care of” involves the boyfriend giving his ex-girlfriend money.

 

“When can he feel like he’s done enough?” asked Sammie. “When can he move on? When can his obligation be fulfilled? There is no way this can be a lifetime promise, can it?”

 

Sammie has asked me if I might have any insight, and if I did, if I could tell her what I thought.

 

Let me make two things clear. First, I have no idea what Sammie’s boyfriend actually promised to his ex-girlfriend’s father. Second, I am not a relationship counselor. If Sammie believes her relationship with her boyfriend is in trouble because of past relationships and she is committed to making this relationship work, meeting with a relationship counselor to sort out the particulars seems wise.

 

But it seems unlikely that the boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s father expected Sammie’s boyfriend to continue to take care of his daughter in the event they ended their relationship. Again, I have no idea since I was not there. But if the father was hoping for what was best for his daughter, a compelling argument could be made that taking care of her might involve encouraging her to move on after her relationship to Sammie’s boyfriend ended. By continuing to act as if he were still involved with the ex-girlfriend when he is not could be construed as either misleading her or keeping her from finding a new healthy relationship. If this is the case, then is this really honoring the promise to “take care” of her?

 

Sammie’s boyfriend has some choices to make. Does he want to honor the spirit of his commitment to his ex’s father? Doing so might prove tough, but encouraging her to move on might be exactly the thing needed.

 

He also needs to decide how important his relationship to Sammie is. If refusing to let go of a past relationship even if his behavior is proving to impede his ex’s ability to move on and toxic to the possibility of developing a strong bond with Sammie, the boyfriend needs to ask himself what he really wants.

 

The right thing for Sammie to do is to let the boyfriend know how strongly she feels about his inability to let go of the past relationship and then to decide if she might be better off becoming another ex until he’s able to let the first ex go.

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 to have answered? Send them to jeffreyseglin@gmail.com.

Follow him on Twitter @jseglin.

(c) 2022 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.