Sunday, February 05, 2017

If I suspect my co-worker is cheating, should I report it?

For several years, a reader has struggled with how or if to address what she sees as unethical behavior in her workplace. At the large organization where she works, all hourly employees are "required" to record their work hours on a telephone "punch in and out" system. One of her co-workers for years has not used the telephone system and instead has submitted a handwritten time card, which the boss then inputs into the system.

"Those of us who work with that person know that lunches taken are not one hour, but closer to two hours most days," the reader writes. "Every day."

She also reports that his start times are actually later than what she and some of her coworkers believe is being reported. Plus, he's leaving before he puts in a full eight-hour day.

"The boss has always come in late, so may not know this," the reader writes. She and her co-workers believe, however, that the boss does know that the information he's inputting into the system is not accurate. He certainly knows that the co-worker is not meeting the "requirement" of using the telephone system to accurately record his hours.

After the boss retired about a year ago, a new administrator "has allowed the same fraud" to continue.

While she and her co-workers don't want to "tattle or be responsible for someone losing their job," they want to know how to get this to stop.

"Our company is always talking about doing the right thing and principles of responsibility and we are tired of this fraud being perpetrated by the employee and administration," she writes. The company has a compliance hotline, but she isn't sure that it is anonymous.

"Should we write a letter to the administrator?" she asks. "Or should we continue to ignore it?"

If the reader has evidence that the coworker is behaving unethically and defrauding her company by getting paid for hours he doesn't work, then she should report it. The challenge, however, is that without seeing the co-worker's paycheck or the handwritten information he submits, it's hard to know how much time he's actually reporting or how much time the boss has been recording for him. She and others may have witnessed the coworker violating the company rules by not punching in to the required system, however, so that violation seems backed by evidence.

If the suspicion exists that the coworker and the boss are behaving unethically and this is causing the reader and others concern, the right thing would be to first use the compliance hotline that the company has in place. Since the behavior is clearly resulting in the reader and her coworkers' questioning how seriously the company is about employees doing the right thing, her next step might be for them to ask for a meeting with the administrator to discuss their concerns.

Sixty percent of workers who responded to a KPMG survey on integrity in the workplace indicated that unethical behavior is likely to result if employees believe a company's "code of conduct is not taken seriously."

The right thing for the reader's company to do is to take her and her colleagues' concerns seriously and make sure that management is holding everyone to the same ethical behavior on the job. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a 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:

Anonymous said...

In today's work world, it is best to pull in your horns and stay out of departmental politics, even if you suspect or even know a co-worker is cheating. Management is in charge of this aspect, so play it safe and do your job.

Charlie Seng