no, you’re not getting anyone fired

“You can’t tell her boss that — you’ll get her fired.”

“Don’t tell the reference-checker the truth about Jane — it could cost her the job.”

I’ve noticed a trend in response to some letters here lately where people assert that sharing information with someone’s manager or with a hiring manager “will get the person fired” or “cost them the job.”

For example, when I recommended that this letter-writer share with her managers her concerns about a job applicant who she’d worked with previously and knew to be difficult, several readers said it was wrong to torpedo the person’s chances for the job. Or in response to this letter-writer wondering whether to alert her company that their HR manager was recently fired from a federal housing apartment complex for instructing tenants to write rent checks in her name (!), some commenters expressed concern that doing so would “get her fired.”

But when you share truthful information, you’re not single-handedly killing someone’s chances at a job or getting them fired. You’re passing information along to a decision-maker so that that person can weigh the information and come to their own conclusions.

I also hear a lot of “X isn’t a big deal, so they shouldn’t have to lose a job over it” — in other words, the idea that saying something to a manager will automatically destroy the person’s chances (and probably unfairly). But if X isn’t a big deal, it’s not reasonable to think that the person would lose their job over it; not every bit of critical information results in rejections or firings, and managers assess and weigh multiple factors in making decisions. And if the person does lose their job over it, then clearly the manager did think it was a big deal and wanted to have the information, and that’s their prerogative. So either it’s a serious issue to the manager and they’d want to know, or it’s not a serious issue and the manager is capable of figuring that out.

(And particularly with hiring, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of managers want to hear from people who know their candidates, and would be dismayed to find out that a staff member had a negative assessment of a candidate and didn’t bother to speak up about it. I don’t know a single good hiring manager who doesn’t strongly, strongly want input from employees who know candidates.)

And last, if someone gets fired because you share that they did X, you’re not “getting them fired.” They’re getting themselves fired. In the example above of the HR manager who committed a major integrity violation at her last job, that’s what would be getting her fired — not the coworker who reported it.

{ 261 comments… read them below }

  1. KT*

    This was a much needed fireball of truth.

    “If you you tell Mr. Manager she lied on her resume, you’ll get her fired” is false. She got herself fired. If she hadn’t lied, she wouldn’t have gotten fired. Period.

    1. Nanc*

      Fireball of Truth–the big show stopper dance number in Ask a Manager: The Musical. (I would totally see that musical!)

      1. Wendy*

        Oh cool. Some other songs: “Is That Legal?” “But Not in California” “Join the Duck Club” “I’m a Chocolate Teapot”

        1. zora*

          dude, you are really good at this! Here’s my deposit for my tickets in the front row.

            1. Jessa*

              I just snorked Pepsi up my nose. I should know better than to drink whilst reading AAM.

        2. Rita*

          Trying so hard not to laugh out loud at my desk right now.

          Also, “Hanukkah Balls”.

        3. Isben Takes Tea*

          “Your Boss Is a Jerk, and She’s Not Going to Change”

          I can’t wait for the second-act monologue “To Be Exempt or Non-Exempt”

        4. Vicki*

          Starring: Jane, Fergus, Cressida, and Wakeen!

          Is anyone here really creative? Because we Need this!

        5. So Very Anonymous*

          “The Gimmick Song,” with each verse about an increasingly awful way of getting a hiring manager’s attention. Acted out by the chorus. Though I’m not sure how the billboard one would look.

        6. Sarah*

          I’m now imagining a version of “He had it coming” with various work anecdotes….

  2. College Career Counselor*

    I think the “don’t tell or she’ll get fired” mentality comes from a global application of what many of us learned as children: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Totally different circumstances here, because as Alison says, you’re telling the truth and not spreading rumor, hearsay or malicious gossip.

    1. Three Thousand*

      “Don’t be a snitch” is a pretty serious ethical principle we pick up in early childhood.

      1. Kyrielle*

        But even “don’t be a snitch” doesn’t apply to kids who suspect something serious is going on.

        And honestly? I’d rather have my kids “snitch” and have my give them coaching tips to deal with a not-serious infraction, than have them NOT “snitch” and I don’t find out about something dangerous.

        And they have the judgement and brain maturity of kids, where I expect additional mistakes in judging which category is which.

        If my oldest tells me my youngest did something, and my youngest gets in any significant trouble, that is because _I considered the offense significant enough_.

      2. neverjaunty*

        An ethical principle we see repeatedly when something horrible comes to light and it’s discovered that lots of people knew about it and never said anything. Because it’s better to let cheating or embezzlement or child abuse or hazing go on than be a “snitch”.


        1. Three Thousand*

          Maybe “serious” was the wrong word. I didn’t mean to imply that I think it’s a good thing.

          1. Jazzy Red*

            It was something we took seriously as children, though. “Telling” could get you beat up.

            To paraphrase St. Paul, when we were kids, we behaved like kids. We’re grown ups now and we should know better.

    2. Allison*

      Yup. My parents often told me that unless my sister was doing something dangerous or destructive, there was no need to tell on her.

      1. Observer*

        Well, there you are. Your parents didn’t want you being the police man, but there ARE limits and your parents seem to have spelled it out pretty clearly.

    3. MaryMary*

      We have a junior account executive who complains that her coworkers are tattling on her when they go to their managers about problems working with her (she doesn’t communicate, doesn’t perform her tasks so the rest of the team can’t perform theirs, etc). No, it’s not tattling to bring potential performance issues to your manager…especially when it interferes with your ability to do your own job.

    4. Isben Takes Tea*

      It was explained to me as a child that the difference between tattling and being a responsible informant is whether or not the person’s actions will endanger themselves and others or not (telling on a sibling for stealing cookies is tattling, but telling on them for playing with fire is not).

      The point is, are you trying to get them in trouble/punished, or are you honestly trying to prevent a harmful or constructive situation? Is it a matter of “it’s not fair!” or is it a matter of reducing a business team’s ability to function?

      If your motivation is clearly that you don’t “want to get anyone fired” but you still think something’s wrong, speak up!

      1. Isben Takes Tea*

        *deconstructive situation

        That wasn’t very eloquent. But yes, I agree with everyone here!

      2. azvlr*

        I used to ask students who came to tattle to me, “Are you trying to solve a problem or get someone in trouble.” Most of the time they would say, “Oh.” and slink away.

        I dealt swiftly and decisively with bullies, but to two students complaining about each other:
        Me: Ok Ludwig, slow down and tell me again. What did Brumhilda do?”
        Ludwig: She _____!!!!!
        Me: Brumhilda, Is this true?
        Brumhilda: Yes. But he was _____!!!!!
        Me: Is this true, Ludwig?
        Ludwig looks down at his feet: uh yeah
        Me: Ok so if I understand you correctly, you both did something you shouldn’t have done. I’m going to give you a choice – I can write two detention referrals or none.”
        Ludwig and Brumhilda look at each other and both mumble: None
        Me: Good, now back to work.

        1. Girasol*

          The Stop Workplace Drama blog had a model like this for adults. The manager fielding a complaint asks the complainer to set up a meeting of complainer, manager, and complainee. In the meeting the manager insists that they speak to each other and come to an agreement, rather than cold shouldering each other and demanding justice of the manager. The manager is facilitator rather than judge.

      3. Ad Astra*

        The point is, are you trying to get them in trouble/punished, or are you honestly trying to prevent a harmful or constructive situation? Is it a matter of “it’s not fair!” or is it a matter of reducing a business team’s ability to function?

        This, to me, is the heart of the issue. The difference between policing people’s work and sharing relevant information is often a matter of intent.

        1. zora*

          See, I don’t think the result of that sentence is that it means it’s about intent. I think it’s about end result of the ‘telling.’
          Will it fix a problem, or help the business work better? Not tattling.
          Will it get your coworker ‘in trouble’, but not appreciably change anything about your work or the department’s work? = Tattling.

      4. Kathlynn*

        I disagree that it’s bad to want to get someone into trouble. I’ve worked with a lot of people over the last 6 years. We have a high turn over. I’ve noticed two things in that time. People like to be bossy, and ignore me when I correct them. Both of these things make me want to talk to my manager, to get them into trouble. (because that seems to be the only way some people will learn/change their behaviors) Especially if it’s something I’ve gotten into trouble over, or makes my job harder.

        Basically, it’s not a bad thing to complain, alert your manager/boss to a negative behavior even if your main motivation is to get them into trouble. Mostly because if it’s something that’s upsetting you, it’s often due to an actual work related issue.

        1. Bottle*

          You also need to get that person “in trouble” for the right reasons. The fact that they are affecting your productivity and completing your work is a good reason. But what about if that person wants to get you in trouble with your manager just because they hate you on a personal level or are jealous of you?

          1. Kathlynn*

            Am I doing something wrong? Then, well they should tell. It’s up to the manager to decide if and/or how the issue gets dealt with. Not me or whom ever brings the issue up. The manager should also never assume that the person bringing the issue up is telling the truth/full story, and investigate it.
            This is actually something I struggle with. I’m always worried when there is a personality conflict and I want to tell my boss something, that it will be dismissed because of the personality conflict.

          2. Jazzy Red*

            Your manager should know you well enough to tell the difference. If she or he doesn’t, you might think about trying to develop a stronger relationship with your manager (on a professional basis, of course).

      5. Annonymouse*

        I take issue with not telling about cookie stealing – that is a trust issue that could get you in trouble if your sibling is a convincing liar.

        I think for kids it needs to be
        “Tell me if it is dangerous, destructive or dishonest. Otherwise I expect you to help them/sort it out yourselves.”

  3. caligirl*

    It would have been soooo nice if the coworker who knew that new person in customer service was fired from their previous job for sexual harassment would have told HR about it BEFORE I was terrifyingly stalked into fleeing in the middle of the night for my life to another state and enduring years of PTSD and therapy!

    1. fposte*

      And that’s the kind of thing the “don’t tell or you’ll get her fired” people forget to take into account. People really can suffer if information about miscreants is hidden.

    2. Indeterminate*

      I’m sorry that you went through that.

      As someone who grew up in an abusive home where people knew it was going on and just ignored it/did nothing, I go bonkers when people know things of that kind of nature and don’t at least say something about it, under the rhetoric of “it’s none of my business” or “tattling.” I’m not suggesting they can actually solve the problem, but don’t just sweep it under the rug or pretend it’s not happening.

    3. Ad Astra*

      I would hope we can all agree that information like this shouldn’t be kept secret for fear of getting someone fired. I’m so sorry this happened to you!

    4. Jazzy Red*

      I am so sorry that this happened to you. You have every right to be angry as hell with that person. I hope things are better for you now.

    5. Sarahnova*

      Yeah, it would be sort of nice if my boss had TOLD ME my mentor had a reputation for getting seriously inappropriate with junior female staff before he fixed us up together. FML.

  4. CaliCali*

    I wonder how much of this mentality is influenced by entertainment, in a sense. In TV/movies/plays/whatever, someone receives some crucial piece of information that changes the entire story, drives the action, and contributes to the drama that keeps us watching. Real life, with all of its nuances and more complex decision-making, is way more boring — but also makes things not so black-and-white in terms of the effects of someone’s actions. It’s one piece of information you’re passing on, not the hook that leads us into the second act.

    1. Indeterminate*

      Interesting point. I wonder if social media could also play into it, in terms of how important someone thinks they are. Think of all the mundane/irrelevant/boring information many people (myself included) post on FB and other media sources. We want to think it/we are important, and that everyone actually cares. Maybe we’re attributing too much influence to our role in the conversation, because we want to feel important? Just a thought, though not a fully-processed one.

  5. Katie the Fed*

    If someone DOES lose their job over a complaint you bring, then there’s almost certainly a pattern of behavior there.

    This is why it frustrates me when I find out employees didn’t report serious things like sexual harassment – sometimes there’s a previous warning on record and we really need to know these things.

    1. Jeanne*

      I think part of the problem is so many of us have reported things and not been taken seriously. The next time we think why bother.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        Yes. Sometimes the response can be ‘Oh, you’re reading too much into this” or “You need to be more resilient”.

        Once, at school a bully pushed me down some stairs. It was the one and only time I reported anything: I got kept in detention for telling tales.

        1. Merry and Bright*

          To clarify, I don’t have a policy of not speaking up. But it is not always easy.

  6. random comment*

    This reminds me of the phrase “Guns don’t kill people, People kill people.” Random.

    1. Partly Cloudy*

      “Coworkers don’t get people fired, people get people [themselves] fired.”

  7. Another HRPro*

    The continued thinking that you can not share important information with management or HR reinforces an “us” vs. “them” mentality. Managers are not the enemy that will willy-nilly fire employees without cause. Generally speaking, everyone hates firing employees. When it has to be done, it is because of something the employee did, not because someone “ratted them out”. In a post earlier today, people were saying that folks at work needed to act like adults. Well, adults address issues and rely on managers to use good judgment in making employment decisions.

    1. MashaKasha*

      In a perfect world, yes. How many of us live in a perfect world though? I’ve seen people fired for the weirdest, most inconsequential reasons. I’ve seen managers fired by VPs because they stood up for their team, or for the quality of their product, and questioned the harmful orders they’d been given, that would’ve hurt the company’s morale and bottom line if they had been followed. I’ve seen people who were incompetent themselves and should’ve been fired themselves, fire a subordinate to, um, cover their assets. Office politics is alive and real.

      One thing I would agree with is that, even in a toxic, political environment, even if someone ends up getting fired for political reasons, it won’t be over a random comment from one of us worker bees. I’d be giving myself way too much credit if I thought I could get an undeserving person unjustly fired just by saying something.

      1. Dana*

        I’ve been in situations where I wish I could have gotten a deserving person justly fired by saying something!

        1. Jeanne*

          I’m with you. Even when expressing true concerns, I’ve been in an us vs them scenario. It was us against management and HR always sided with management. When I finally proved my boss was lying about me, she got to move into another dept with a promotion and I got a bad reputation. I wish saying something would help.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Yeah, I think often people don’t trust managers to be sensible. So they say “You’ll get her fired!” over something minor, AND over something truly serious.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Probably because a lot of people have had managers who WEREN’T sensible themselves – see an awful lot of letters to AAM!

          I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten over the few horrible bosses I’ve had. I’m always wary of managers until I know they’re not awful. Most of my bosses have been fine – but the few really bad ones made an impression that’s hard to erase.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. Advice here almost always hinges on having basically competent managers, and my guess is that most people actually do have competent managers (even if they are sometimes unreasonable or make choices you don’t like/understand).

      I understand not wanting to share potentially harmful information with a manager because they’ve consistently overreacted or inappropriately penalized someone. And I also understand the impulse to avert your eyes when there are probably things all of us hope we can “get away with” a little bit. But in my experience, for the most part, it’s reasonable to assume that you and your management are on basically the same team.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes — and while there are certainly situations where that’s not the case, they’re the exception, not the rule that everyone should base their actions on.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes. There’s a difference between “don’t tell AbusiveManager about X, which is not serious, because he’ll react disproportionately” and “don’t tell Manager about X because then the person who did X may get in trouble.”

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        And if you have capricious, unreasonable, or incompetent management, it’s like being in an abusive relationship: the ultimate solution is not to try to permanently contort your life to minimize damage, it’s to remove yourself from the situation as soon as you safely can. But whether they can get out right away or not, the crucial point to remember is that it’s not the victim’s fault.

  8. Anyonymous*

    I did something bad at my first post-college job 20 years ago. At the time, I didn’t realize it was THAT bad or that big of a deal, but looking back now I can say, “Oh, yeah, that was really awful and showed a significant lack in judgment on my part.” I personally would rather if someone knew that information that they would keep it to themselves and not tell a potential future employer about it. It’s bad enough that I worry a potential employer might not consider me for a role because I did it. I’ve never repeated it and definitely learned a lesson, but to someone just hearing it without an explanation, it might be enough for them to not want to bother with me.

    1. Big Tom*

      But especially if it happened 20 years ago, any decent manager or prospective employer should have the sense to ask you about it and find out what you learned from it. I would never assume that someone learned from their mistakes without asking, because that’s extending a line of credit to people in general that I have no evidence they can make payments on, but if I had no direct evidence that there was a pattern of events like the one you’re describing, I would hardly be likely to disregard someone for a single mistake.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Agree with Allison’s post below – I can’t see something you did 20 years ago being relevant unless it was a *serious* crime. Petty theft or went to your McJob stoned? So what. Raped a co-worker? Ummm, NO.

    2. Dan*

      Yeah… A lot of AAM’s advice elsewhere centers on “do I tell” or “don’t I tell.” Most of the time, she says its not your battle to fight, so keep your mouth shut.

      By fostering an atmosphere of “telling”, we make it harder for people to move on and learn from their mistakes.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think I probably come down closer to 50/50 on tell/don’t tell (if not even more weighted toward tell!).

        If something impacts the organization, it’s usually “tell” (unless there are extenuating circumstances, like the letter the other day from the OP whose good friend had a terrible attitude); it’s when something doesn’t actually impact anything important that I go with “none of your business.”

      2. fposte*

        I don’t think that framing works for me, though, and I don’t get to the same conclusion you do. You communicate with your managers and co-workers about important things, because that’s part of doing your job. You also deal with stuff that doesn’t hurt your work by yourself, because that’s part of being an adult. And, as people said upthread about the differentiations when they were a kid, you have to figure out which situation you’re in; there’s no answer to this that doesn’t require judgment.

        I resist being outright against “telling” because that ends up encouraging people to withhold important information from those whose job it is to assess that information. If you withhold out of the hope that people have changed, you end up with the situation caligirl talks about upthread, where a repeat sexual harasser damages a good employee. The decision you make when hiring and firing affects everybody in your workplace, not just the individual who blew it somewhere along the line, and all of those interests have to be considered.

      3. MK*

        We also make it harder for people to ignore their mistakes and repeat them to a new workplace. Which is quite probable, if they get away with bad behavior with zero consequences.

        I am not saying people shouldn’t use discretion. I wouldn’t tell about a 20-year-old mistake, unless it was extremely serious or there were indications that it was continuing (and realistically, after 20 years, you should have other points in your favor). I wouldn’t tell a manager that I knew to be prejudiced or crazy. I wouldn’t tell just because the boss would want to know, if I believed it’s none of their business.

        But one should always keep in mind that by keeping quiet you are not staying put of it; you are influencing the situation. And it won’t be you who will likely face the consequences, if it turns out the person didn’t learn from their mistake after all. You are taking a risk that affects other people.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s hard for me to think of something that happened 20 years ago that I’d not hire someone over now, unless it was like mass murder or something.

      Anyonymous, you should tell us what it was (you’re anonymous!) and we can tell you if your worry is warranted or not, and maybe give you some peace of mind.

        1. Jeanne*

          I would also hope that 20 years of job record could outweigh a mistake. Can you never ever rehabilitate yourself? If I embezzled once in 1993 could you not hire me? (Just an ex.) Even murderers need jobs. Maybe embezzlers should never be a CFO but there are lots of job types. I’m just concerned that mistakes mean never being employed.

          1. Jessa*

            Not for a banking or money handling role, no. Anything with a security clearance, if I found it and you didn’t tell me, no (the point there is if there’s something blackmailable in your past, and you don’t disclose without being pushed, you are an absolute problem.) I wouldn’t likely hire someone who embezzled for any position of authority that could get them in trouble (I wouldn’t make them a keyholder in a business with easily moveable inventory for instance.)

            Would I hire for other stuff sure.

        2. MK*

          I wouldn’t hire a former embezzler to manage money. But I wouldn’t rule them out for all jobs, especially after 20 years of presumably honest life.

        3. LQ*

          I’m with you on this, maybe because I’ve lost a job because of it (someone else embezzled and destroyed the company). I’m not saying that guy or people like him should never get a job, but they should never be allowed to manage large amounts of money again. And yeah, I’d say ever for this kind of thing. Especially because it’s so directly related to the work.

      1. Anyonymous*

        I falsified time cards. I job shadowed with this company in high school and interned with them in college. When I got the actual job, I assumed I could keep up the “come whenever, leave whenever” schedule I had in high school and college. I figured if they were willing to pay me X amount to get my work done in 40 hours, then it wasn’t a big deal if I only worked 36 hours a week if I still got all the work done. So I wrote in 40 hours a week on my time cards but wasnt actually there for the full 40 hours. And this went on for months. When they found out, they nearly sued me for the wages I’d made but hadn’t earned. I think they ultimately didn’t because there were times they couldn’t actually prove I wasn’t there even though I wasn’t.

        1. AnotherFed*

          Yeah, that was a bad move on your part, but that no one explained the timecard process and that it went on for months before anyone noticed doesn’t reflect so well on the people managing you, either. Even if I found out that you had done this at your first post-college job 20 years ago, as long as the rest of your work history was good and your more recent reference checks came up well, I’d still hire you. This is a single red flag – on its own, it doesn’t mean much, because almost everyone has done something stupid or unprofessional at some point.

    4. Observer*

      At the time, I didn’t realize it was THAT bad or that big of a deal, but looking back now I can say,

      Looking at now, though, do you think that 20 years ago, it was not relevant? Not only did you do that bad thing, but you didn’t even realize it was a Really Bad Thing. So, although I’m sure that at that point you would also have preferred that people who knew about it would not tell, you have to admit that then it would have been the right thing.

      Now? That’s different. I would hope that if someone did tell a (prospective) boss, they would look at the fact that it’s 20 years. And, on the other hand, I would ask anyone who is reporting this why they think the boss needs to know.

    5. BananaPants*

      Yeah, especially when the error or mistake occurred a long time ago or several jobs prior and there’s been evidence that the person has learned from their mistake and is trying to move on, I think it would be cruel for a former coworker or mutual acquaintance to bring it up to a hiring manager (especially without being asked directly for input). There’s a difference between speaking up because you want to avoid trouble for the company, and a difference in speaking up because you want to suck up to your boss and/or screw someone over.

      Of course, if the bad thing was actually illegal, hurt someone, or was just the latest in a series of repeated major mistakes, it should be brought up. But if it’s “Jane got fired from her job at a call center 10 years ago because of low scores on customer satisfaction surveys” then I don’t see why it should come back like a zombie and hinder her ability to land a job offer now. If it’s relevant to the job Jane’s trying to get, let the hiring manager ask about the details but otherwise give her the benefit of the doubt now.

      1. Zillah*

        I agree. To me, actually, the biggest defining factor, especially when the incident happened a long time ago, was whether or not it directly hurt someone. Assault, sexual harassment, or stalking? I don’t think that enough time could pass for me to not bring it up, because the stakes are just so high and lack subsequent documentation is not necessarily indicative of reform. But other stuff? When it’s been so long… it would really depend on what we were talking about, and even if I did say something, I’d almost certainly temper it with, “But this happened a long time ago, and I’ve heard nothing similar since then.”

    6. Amy*

      If you did something stupid in an entry level job 20 years ago, would it impact your hiring for a higher level job in the present? No. Everybody grows up and learns. At the most if someone passed along a juicy tidbit about you from 20 years ago to me, I might ask in an interview “Tell me about a decision you made in a work-related capacity that you have learned from and how you would handle it differently today.”

      Also, I would be very unlikely to call a reference from 20 years ago. I would wonder why you don’t have any more recent references and your application would slide to the bottom of the pile

  9. African Sun*

    I noticed this in the recent post about the Twitter users alerting an employer about a staff member’s racist tweets.

    The whole getting someone fired absolves the person of their responsibility to keep their job. No one can get anyone fired if they genuinely deserve to get fired and there is no way out.

    1. Green*

      ^ YES. And half the time, those people have their jobs listed on Facebook or Twitter where they’re posting the comments. Look, almost no employers want their employees dropping the N-bomb. If that’s your thing, then common sense would dictate you do some or all of the following to increase the chances of you getting to keep your job: (1) not put it in writing, (2) put your account on lock, (3) not have a picture of yourself and your actual name, and (4) at the very least not have your job/employer showing up next to your comment. I have definitely e-mailed companies about egregiously racist or extremely homophobic comments from businesses I interact with or public employees. (I’m not talking “I disagree with affirmative action/gay marriage” here, I’m talking slurs and full-on craziness.)

    2. Ad Astra*

      You’re right, and Allison’s right, buuuuttt…

      I do think most people who brought these comments to the company’s attention were doing it with the hope that Regal would fire her. I’m actually fine with the result, but the intent doesn’t sit quite right with me. I guess it’s possible these people alerted Regal to the situation because they were looking out for the company, but I kind of doubt it. These were random people from the Internet, not Regal customers, or the girl’s coworkers, or anyone else who might be affected by her truly terrible judgment.

      Should people who publicly post racist (and deeply ignorant, omg) messages be fired? Yes. But should you call the employers of every person who says vile things online with the hope that they get fired? Maybe not. (It would be very time consuming.)

      1. Green*

        I think a lot of the people were Regal customers or Regal’s potential customers. They have like 600 locations.

      2. You didn’t commit to the sacred pact you’d formed*

        I do think most people who brought these comments to the company’s attention were doing it with the hope that Regal would fire her.

        Seriously? You don’t think the people who reported her were thinking “Golly! For the sake of the stockholders of the Regal Cinema Corporation, I need to inform the company about the behavior of one of their employees!”?

        I’m joking, of course. Not to rehash the debate, but the people who reported her did so because they wanted to see her punished.

        Should people who publicly post racist … messages be fired? Yes.

        And don’t forget the people who oppose gay marriage!

        1. Zillah*

          There’s a difference between opposing marriage equality and using slurs, as was pointed out above. I believe that both are wrong and rooted in either homophobia or a deeply self-absorbed view of one’s religion as it relates to the country’s legal system (or both), but there’s a difference between someone who simply says, “I’m unhappy with the Supreme Court decision and oppose same sex marriage because my religion prohibits it” and dropping a lot of slurs and vitriol about it.

          I likely wouldn’t socialize with the former, mind you, but I wouldn’t think of reporting them to anyone, either. There are far more productive ways to use my time than on someone who’s behaving in a calm and peaceful manner, even if it’s intolerant.

          1. Jessa*

            Yes and there’s also the separate issue, if it’s private, it’s still not great, but if it’s very easy to find out where you work, that’s an issue that reflects on them. I would not want someone throwing racial or ableist slurs around in my company. How would my customers, or disabled or employees of whatever race/religion/whatever that is being slurred, feel to have that person in the room with them. This steps all over protected characteristics (unless it’s in the states that do not protect LGBQTIA+ persons.) If I’d been notified and did nothing, that’s an issue.

      1. Raine*

        It’s interesting — and it’s really off-putting, because right from the get-go the author takes glee in being one of the online bullies. He’s bullied so many people online he says he’s lost count and can’t even remember all the people whose lives he helped make more miserable. So. It’s interesting but certainly not from the perspective I was expecting (or from what the title suggested).

    3. Raine*

      Yeah but let me tell you something — the viciousness with which many of the online mob go after people they don’t know and contact employers out of state, for example, in itself is going to start getting participants fired. Because it’s over the top, it’s public and sometimes even front-page news that they did this and took glee in it, and the participants are basically saying it’s fair game to go to their companies and expose what you personally believe is bad behavior to get someone fired.

      1. Green*

        I just sent screen caps of 2 years of quotes of someone saying outrageous things about black people to an employer. Employer can do whatever they like with that information, including hit the “Delete” button. THE PERSON I SENT IT IN ABOUT is an online bully who has spent years gleefully making other people feel small, not me. If his employer cares, it teaches him that actions have consequences. If they don’t, then it wasted a few minutes of my time. I’m not talking about some impolitic views here; this person has a multi-year track record of using terrible slurs and publicly commenting on news stories involving the deaths of black people with various forms of good riddance. His comments have absolutely impacted how I view his employer.

  10. Grumpy*

    Allison’s rants are amazing. Any way this could become a regular feature?
    I’ve actually printed off some of the posts where Allison explains what’s what and given them to newer (or mushball) managers to model scripts on.

  11. Oryx*

    YES. Thank you.

    A person’s actions get them fired — not somebody else being notified of said actions.

    1. Dan*

      Well no… to be literal, someone gets fired because their manager fires them, not because of what they did.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I get where you’re going with that literal streak, because I have that too.

        But the math being argued against is “Telling work about Bob’s crime = getting Bob fired.” The counterargument is that it’s actually “Bob’s crime = getting Bob fired.” So it’s not literally true, but it corrects the incorrect math.

      2. MK*

        Being literal is missing the point here. The cause that someone was fired was their actions, not the fact that someone will provided information about these actions.

      3. dawbs*

        Can we be literal enough that someone being fired involves them being a projectile?
        Because that would just make my day.

  12. Expensive Teapot Joyride*

    I was somewhat senior to another person on my team, but not her boss. She was quite older than I was though (20 years). My boss often traveled, and when he did she would often come in late, leave early.
    There were times I had to delegate things to her and she’d laugh and say “um…. okay” sarcastically and not do it. Once, she took a really expensive tea pot out for a joy ride at luncha nd let her boyfriend drive it! I told her not to and she said “it’ll be ok.”
    That kind of peaked it for me, and I went to my boss and asked him if I was senior to her, and if he wanted me to have authority when he wasn’t there. I felt uncomfortable ‘tattling’ about her being late and all of that, since I’m not her boss, and her comings and goings aren’t my problem – how am I to know she didn’t clear it with the boss? So, he asked for a few examples and the most fresh was the expensive tea pot thing.
    He flipped his ever-loving shiznits! Literally, she was gone, fired, bye bye, that afternoon. I felt HORRIBLE about it because had I known it was THAT big of a deal, I would have absolutely refused to let her go. My boss could tell I felt uncomfortable after the fact and sat me down. He told me she’d been on thin ice for a while (but that was between them, so I was unaware) and this was the icing on the cake. He said that I would never be fired at a moment’s notice like that because she’d had several warnings and had an attitude problem. He literally said if I’d taken the expensive teapot out he would have just given me a stern talking to, because it would have been the first time I’d screwed up.

    Anyway… I felt guilt about ‘getting her fired’ for a while but I finally came to terms with the fact that she got herself fired.

    1. Expensive Teapot Joyride*

      For clarification, I knew I could and should delegate to her because I WAS senior enough to her (I’d be told, ask so-and-so to help out with x while you do y, or just if I was told to do y on a timeline and I could divide it up between two people to meet the timeline, I’d loop her in).

      She just hadn’t been told that she had to listen when I did.

    2. Elsajeni*

      I’m really enjoying the image of her joyriding around town in that expensive teapot. Like the teacups ride at Disney, but fancier.

        1. Expensive Teapot Joyride*

          Haha yes.

          Polka dots. 4 wheels, V8 Teapot Engine, 560 “Teapot”power, 500 Lbs of Teapot Torque…. you get the drift. ;)

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      That’s a perfect example, because it wasn’t even just her action that you told about that got her fired (which she should have been fired for anyway), but your boss TOLD you that if the situation was reversed and she told on you for doing the exact same thing, you would NOT have been fired. Telling as a form of retribution only works if 1) the employee is already a problem, or 2) the employer is ridiculously capricious and/or gullible, in which case as I said above anyone could get fired at any time for any imagined fault. I realize this wasn’t out of retribution, as the other employee obviously was doing a lot of things wrong, but many people seem to think that informing your manager about a problem with a coworker is always vindictive, and so even if it was, it doesn’t work if you have a good employee and a decent manager.

  13. Retail Lifer*

    Most of us here have reported a ton of stuff that should have been a fireable offense, like fraud, putting people in danger, and sexual harassment. I don’t worry about getting anyone fired when I report stuff because I know here no one ever will be. I can’t have it on my conscience that it’s happening, though. If someone’s doing something that weighs on your conscience, it’s OK to say something.

  14. Student*

    I think the lousy job market plays into this mentality. When there’s high unemployment and many qualified applicants for a job, it becomes realistic (in some situations) to fear a disproportionate responses to minor or modest complaints. Some managers foster this atmosphere on purpose with threats of firing. Others inadvertently foster this image by firing people who deserve it but not being transparent with their employees about what constitutes a fire-able offense – admittedly, this is a difficult line to walk so that you respect a fired individual’s privacy but also communicate effectively with your team.

    1. Jeanne*

      Kind of what I was thinking. Would you feel worse reporting a fireable offense knowing how hard it is to get a job these days? What if there were lots of jobs available? I think the economy could be an influence.

      1. zora*

        But what about the unemployed person out there who *wouldn’t* do the fireable offense, who is currently job hunting and could get that job if the misbehaving person was fired? By not telling, you are letting someone keep a job who doesn’t deserve it, which is preventing someone who does deserve it from being employed.

        1. Mints*

          Yeah, that’s my take too. When the job market is bad, I’m more likely to be okay with somebody getting fired, because there are mountains of well qualified people who wouldn’t do the bad thing waiting to get that job.

    2. Amy*

      My take is the opposite. In a tight job market, a person should be grateful for their job, toe the line, and be productive. No matter how great you are there are probably a dozen people who could step in and do as good or better of a job. There’s no excuse for slacking off or putting the organization in danger of a lawsuit when jobs are so hard to come by.

      1. Atwill*

        “The company is mother, the company is father.”

        Fuck that. The company should be grateful YOU work there. Perpetuating the “be glad you have a job, now eat that shit sandwich” mentality drags everyone that does actual work down, while inflating the egos of management. Unemployment is in the low 5s. It’s easier to get a job than it was 5 years ago. Workers need to grow their spines back.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Who has suggested eating a shit sandwich? Amy’s point was that she’s not inclined to protect people who are slacking off or putting the organization in danger of a lawsuit; that’s a pretty reasonable stance.

        2. Amy*

          If you are an entry level employee, you can be replaced in a heartbeat. Even if you think you’re indispensible, that doesn’t give you license to be dishonest, hide troubling information from your boss, or to do something illegal.

  15. Hazel*

    I once complained to a company and, as a result of what they learned about their employee’s actions, they assured me that the person had been fired. I initially felt guilty, but realised that it was the employee’s actions that lead to them being fired; it wasn’t my fault.

    (For the curious: I was given a computer for university due to specific disabilities, through a government scheme which is now probably defunct. The company refurbished older computers and set them up according to users’ needs. I got mine with some, er, explicit images left on it.)

    1. Ad Astra*

      Oh, wow, I hope that was someone’s egregious oversight and not something this employee did for the thrill of it. Obviously, you were right to complain and it was reasonable for the company to fire that person.

      But do you ever worry about complaining at, say, a restaurant and “getting someone fired” because their manager is unreasonable? I hear so many stories about service-industry people getting fired for stupid/unfair reasons, often stemming from an untrue or ridiculously minor customer complaint, and it makes me paranoid. (Of course, I wouldn’t hesitate to complain if the issue was a fire-able offense imo, but it rarely is.)

      1. Zillah*

        For me, it’s only worth complaining about someone in the service industry if they genuinely did something to hurt me or threaten me. Someone being a little short-tempered at a restaurant or not very helpful at a store is very unlikely to provoke a complaint, because that’s a thing that happens sometimes and they have the poor luck to be in an industry where it’s harder to hide a bad day.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Yeah, I’m unlikely to ever report something like that. If it’s a one time thing if it’s a one time thing. If it becomes a pattern, I’ll probably stop going to that place and spend my money elsewhere. I wouldn’t report an employee in retail or food service unless they cursed at me (not in front of me, but at me), spit in my food, or similar.

        2. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Yeah, same for me. I wouldn’t report someone in a service job to a manager for anything short of serious insults, highly offensive comments, threats, or doing something dangerous. (I’d give the stink-eye to someone being rude, but not inform a manager.)

  16. Beancounter in Texas*

    I worked at RadioShack’s corporate headquarters in Fort Worth when the Star-Telegram newspaper investigated David Edmondson, then CEO of RadioShack. The catalyst was a public record in which Mr. Edmondson had been charged with driving while intoxicated. From there, the Star-Telegram uncovered that Mr. Edmondson had lied on his resume. The Star-Telegram certainly didn’t have the power to fire Mr. Edmondson; the board of directors did. And for a while, it seemed as though Mr. Edmondson was going to retain his position, but the board of directors decided to accept his resignation.

    1. MK*

      Eh, I don’t think it’s relevant when it comes to journalism. A newspaper’s function is to inform the public; they certainly should be responsible about what and how they report (and they rarely are), but you cannot expect them to bury a legitimate story because it will affect the people involved.

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        I think Mr. Edmondson’s case is a good example of “he got himself fired.” Once the DWI was checked into, his whole history was opened for examination by the newspaper, and what better document to lead the way into someone’s history than a Internet published resume?

  17. Isben Takes Tea*

    Well said, Alison!

    It also bugs me when TV/movie villains say “Do this, or they DIE, and YOU will be responsible for their deaths!”

    And I’m like, no, no Mr. Villain, *you* are responsible.

    1. Amber Rose*

      I loathe that bit. I’m always like “this is the villain. The bad guy. He/she is going to eventually kill those people anyway, and more than that if you don’t stop this.”

      Ugh. Friggin’ heroes.

  18. Amber Rose*

    Wish I had this a few weeks ago. The lady training me had a bit of a break down over “getting a coworker fired” when she went to our boss about some shit he’d been talking on Facebook.

    Yeah, he was a nice guy, but he was so high strung. And my boss argued that if he hated everyone here so much, he shouldn’t work here. Which I feel is valid.

    1. Another HRPro*

      We all are capable of making mistakes. But if there are no consequences of doing so, people won’t learn. Years after I had to fire for a serious policy violation (that they didn’t think was serious)I ran into the person. It was awkward at first, but after we got to talking, the guy told me that while the experience of being fired was embarrassing and he was very upset at the time, he learned a valuable lesson and was now doing great. You are not destroying people’s lives by addressing issues. By letting them know what is and is not acceptable you are actually helping them in the long term, if they are able to learn from it.

      1. CompGirl*

        THIS. I lost my first job out of college, and was devastated. Now, 10 years later, I am thankful for the entire experience. There were things not done well on both sides, mine and the employer’s, but I have grown personally AND the experience has helped me be more realistic with myself about the kind of place (characteristics, not necessarily industry) I want to work.

        1. SevenSixOne*

          I got fired for a major mistake a few years ago and thought that my CAREER was OVER and I’d NEVER RECOVER PROFESSIONALLY OMGGGG. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t, and I did. I’m definitely a better person/employee for it, no matter how hard it sucked at the time.

          Looking back, I realize it was a horrible fit. If I hadn’t gotten fired for THAT mistake, I would have for something else. I didn’t know enough about myself or work in general to know that I’m just not suited for that kind of job/culture, or to realize that there were enough red flags for a communist parade during the application and interview that I didn’t even notice.

  19. Observer*

    Allison, I mostly agree with you. But, the reality is that sometimes things are “a big deal” when they should not be. Like companies that have policies that they won’t hire anyone with ANY criminal conviction ever for any job. (For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Google “ban the box”.) Or companies that won’t hire anyone who has EVER had a DUI.

    Using a bit of judgement in these cases is sensible. But, you need to really be honest – is this REALLY something that’s just your boss’ hang up? The example from that other thread is most definitely NOT in that category. That was a MAJOR breach that was totally relevant to the job, and which put everyone (not just the company / management) at risk.

    1. EmilyG*

      DUIs *should* be a big deal. You make a choice to endanger others through your selfish decision to drink and drive. You can kill people that way. There are too few penalties for this in our society, not too few. I think people who have paid their debt to society should have a chance to work, but I hate this idea that DUIs are just an accident or a mistake that “anyone” could have done.

      1. AnotherFed*

        I agree that driving while intoxicated is completely unacceptable, but it’s something that tends to be a hallmark of immaturity. Some people never get over being immature idiots who think it’s fine to put other people at risk (and in plenty more ways than just DUI), but many more do learn to plan better and recognize bad ideas as bad, and look back later and recognize how risky and dumb something was. I don’t think we should punish people forever by immediately throwing them out as a potential candidate for something like a single DUI or drug possession arrest from 10 years ago.

        1. Circumpolar*

          Many crimes fall into the category of *young and dumb* and DUIs are one of those. Ditto pot crimes, small scale dealing, and the like. After 30, though, young and dumb doesn’t really apply. Entitled and selfish is more precise.
          Hire the former–not the latter.

      2. Observer*

        Sure, they should be a big deal. The issue is how far should we take that? Sure, if the DUI is recent, or the person doesn’t seem to get it, that’s one thing. But, if a 30 yo had a DUI at 19 or 20, say, then it’s just ridiculous to assume that this person is selfish and / or has lousy judgement.

    2. Jeanne*

      I hear you. Should you never be able to be hired because you have a conviction? A lot of the time, saying yes eliminates you even though there are so many different crimes.

      1. Jessa*

        I believe it should be like the ADA, you have to show that being convicted of x is relevant to the job or the company. DUI and it’s a bus co, no go. Theft and it’s a jewelry store? etc. Obviously there are some crimes that are bigger issues than others. DUI and an office job with no driving/access to heavy equipment? Why the heck not?

    3. sigh*

      A DUI can indeed be a big deal if the job can involve driving.

      When someone claims that the boss just has a hangup or makes too much of little things, I have to wonder…. what kind of a worker are you? Would I want to hire you?

      1. Observer*

        Yes, if a job requires driving then a DUI is highly relevant. But, even there, it’s reasonable to wonder if it’s still relevant 15 years on. But, OK, I can see how even a single DUI would end your chances of a career in driving. On the other hand, does it really make sense to prohibit someone from doing office work because of a none year old DUI?

        As for you second comment, I would flip it back. Would I really want to work for a boss who thinks it’s never possible that the boss might be wrong or unreasonable?

        The fact is that just like there are lots of employes that pass off significant issues as “little things” that the boss is “blowing out of proportion”, there are lots of bosses that actually DO blow things out of proportion.

  20. CompGirl*

    THANK YOU. People are responsible for their own actions and behavior. This needed to be said!

  21. Bend & Snap*

    I got a colleague and friend fired once. We ran events and my boss was asking me questions about her work while she was at a show, and I said I was surprised she’d taken her baby to the show with her.

    They packed her desk immediately and shipped her stuff to her, and called her and told her to never come back.

    It was totally inadvertent on my part and I don’t know if she ever knew my role in her firing. I still feel bad about it. Especially now that I’m a mother–she had a nursing baby–what was she supposed to do? She brought a nanny with her and the baby stayed in her hotel room the whole time.

    1. CompGirl*

      This reads as a major overreaction on the employer’s case. Yes, you could have not let that slip, but did they question her at all? The detail about the nanny and the baby not literally being AT the show seems pretty important. There could have been more going on behind the scenes that you did not know about, after making your comment, OR the employer is a super-jerk making snap judgments over situations they are not willing to investigate further. This is STILL on her and the employer’s shoulders, not yours.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        They did ask her questions, but I think they were looking for a reason to fire her. She had already had a couple of warnings.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Yes. I bet what you told them was no more than 1% of the reason they fired her. While I ask “how’s it going?” questions all the time just to keep my finger on the pulse of things, I have occasionally asked this question to seek a bit of input before letting someone go, just to double-check that I hadn’t misunderstood the situation. I wouldn’t tell the person why I was asking, in most cases, and one response would never make my final decision.

    2. neverjaunty*

      WOW. They would eventually have found some other baby-related reason to fire her, though, you can be sure. How were you supposed to know this was something that would make them go nuclear?

    3. BananaPants*

      I can see how you’d feel awful about it, but they probably would have found some other reason to fire her. They don’t sound entirely reasonable to begin with, to can someone without even asking about the circumstances (like you said, she brought a nanny and nanny and baby stayed in the hotel room).

    4. Panda Bandit*

      That company was run by either assholes or crazy people, because I don’t see why your friend having a baby is a reason to be fired.

  22. Brett*

    Just be aware that sometimes you are going to run into hard legal requirement that are going to create unintended outcomes. Some real examples: co-worker applied for a new position in another department. During the background check for the transfer, someone not on her reference list revealed she received a possession ticket in college 15 years ago.
    Since the policies on misdemeanors are absolute, she lost the promotion and her current job. The secondary reference probably had no idea this would happen.
    Another person applied for the same job and the check revealed she did cocaine 20 years ago; she lost the offer and her current federal job.
    These are just two of several dozen examples like this involving drugs, child support, or no contact orders where laws have dictated firing or rejecting people in situations that otherwise would not seem serious enough to take such actions.

  23. Macedon*

    I think the issue is that AAM primarily boasts three kinds of readers: site veterans, those who want tips on how to secure a good position, and those who’re stuck in a dysfunctional work environment. The latter group is unlikely to expect rationality from management or to encourage transparency with it, because they’ve gotten burned before – they’re likelier to recommend not ‘snitching’, because you never know when the boss’ll go berserk. Bad manager experiences tend to be pretty traumatic: once you’ve had a dreadful, unethical or incompetent supervisor, you retain a sense of ‘us VS them’ for some time after.

    Not saying this in any way takes from your point, just that you might have difficulty in converting the graduates of an abusive workplace to your point of view.

    1. sigh*

      ….and once you’ve had an dreadful, unethical or incompetent supervisee, you also develop that sense, which is why it’s always good to “rat out” a bad employee. Do you want to work for a manager who’s been burned?

        1. sigh*

          Yes. A good manager will weed out the problem employees, which would include both the person doing something unethical or illegal and the person who covered it up. If you punish your current boss because your previous boss was a jerk, isn’t that kind of twisted?

          1. Macedon*

            Unfortunately, fear takes time to be curbed by reason. You make absolute sense that a (hopefully) minority of incidents should not lead to generalisations – on a rational level. Usually what I’ve found ends up happening is that people who’ve been under abusive management take a bit of time under a fair or competent supervisor to redevelop an appetite for trust.

            It’s part of why growing your employees or team members is such an immense responsibility: you’re not just shaping them for your needs, you are effectively determining their work habits for many years to come.

  24. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    This is such A Thing of Mine and it pisses me off. I don’t get angry at people at work often, but when I find out that folks I work with, people I trust have withheld information that I or someone else on the management team should have known….. it makes no sense to me.

    Way more than one time we’ve fired someone, only to have the stories about XYZ come pouring out directly after the firing. Coupled with how glad they are to no longer work with the person.

    Lookit, I get it if the person is highly likable (making you want to extend the benefit of the doubt far) or going through a troubled personal time (making you want to give them a chance to right their ship before you say something), but in general your loyalty belongs to the employer and the greater good of the function/environment for everybody, including our customers.

    Just last week, someone brought a mistake pattern to our attention but refused to tell us who it was because ” I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus”.

    There’s no torture chamber in the cellar! We don’t even have a cellar! It’s really OKAY TO SAY if you notice a mistake pattern that needs to be addressed so operations run more smoothly.

    IDK, we have a culture of hiring nice people, it’s literally on our list of things we look for when we hire but I think it backfires on us this way.

    1. Manders*

      I think that for a lot of people, it comes out of inexperience or previous bad experiences. Very few people luck out and get a fantastic manager for their first job, and it can take years after that to get rid of the fear that your manager is going to under- or overreact if you bring up an issue.

      People who are early in their careers also don’t always understand how to report a problem or who to bring it up with. At my first job out of college, my manager was failing spectacularly: she didn’t seem to be able to read or write competently despite having an email-based job, she blamed problems on her underlings, and her team had sky high turnover. There was a rumor going around that her manager had a tendency to shoot the messenger. I ended up quitting without speaking to anyone about it; it didn’t even occur to me that I could have gone to HR, since no one had mentioned it as an option.

      I think all you can do as a manager is make the process for reporting mistakes clear, develop a reputation for being fair and approachable, and try to pick up on the signs that an employee might have come from a toxic environment.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Thanks, I agree.

        I don’t expect new or newer or even newish employees to speak up. I DO expect management level employees to speak up and have chewed management level people out a few times for not doing so. They got the message that it’s Part of the Job when you reach management level. Use your discretion, but you’re not allowed to hold back information that you know we want to know because “I don’t want to get anybody fired.” This was rare and only ever happened one time per management level employee.

        It’s the senior-but-not-management people who have disappointed. All I can do is encourage them to participate in making this a great place to work by sharing information that we need to know. I don’t want a formal reporting mechanism, I just want them to use better judgement.

        Which, we’ve encouraged and which, is definitely better than it was before.

    2. AnotherFed*

      I hate seeing this effect in action, too. All I can think is that the good people are just focused on getting done what needs to be done. If Person X is a bit of a roadblock, they just automatically start to accommodate or adopt mitigation strategies that let them keep trucking along. It doesn’t occur to them that Person X is actually a problem management should know about, it’s just something that got lost in the stack of ‘problem – solved’ and they’re already on to the next thing.

      Once Person X is gone and it gets out that they were fired, then the “I knew he wasn’t so good at task Q, but I didn’t know it was that bad!’ laundry airing starts happening, and they all figure out that Person X was refusing to do work for either Person A or Person B and blaming it on fictitious work from Person C.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Helpful observation!

        I think this is right on, in many cases. Our business is fast moving and good people have to keep the teapot orders flowing despite naturally occurring roadblocks (uncooperative customers, out of stocks, disappointing vendors, etc. ). They are used to compensating and it does make sense that a less than adequate coworker would be compensated for.

        I don’t need or want people to report “Gerta is on her cell phone all. the. time.” We run enough stats and observe enough that if someone is goofing off, we’ll catch that in overall performance and it’ll be addressed at some point. (We won’t so much catch her goofing off as we’ll catch that the goofing off has impacted performance severely, which, is how we like it. We don’t want to be the Goof Off Police.)

        What makes me insane is when I hear, after the fact, that Gerta’s lack of doing her job has been hobbling my good people and they never said. And when I ask why, I hear “I didn’t want to get her fired”.

        So, everything Alison said.

        And P.S., the first action isn’t to fire someone. There are 50 other things we can do first. You could argue that not saying something is “getting her fired” because the longer it takes to address issues, the closer somebody is getting fired when the crap does hit the fan. Maybe she was poorly placed in that position and, with the right information, we could have rotated her to another one she’d do better at before her entire performance was in the toilet and unrecoverable.

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          I really needed to hear this today. I have some reporting to do, and I really don’t want to do it. It’s a personnel issue that has a direct effect on operations in several areas and I know I’m handing management a huge headache, but it has to be addressed. All I can do is make sure they have all the information and evidence I can provide as to the impact on our performance. I run the stats, it’s my job to report this. But I hate it.

      2. Windchime*

        Well, we have a Person X on our current team. He is a really, really nice and likable man. He’s just a poor fit for our team. We have to redo everything he does and even the simplest of tasks usually has some kind of a flaw that will mean trouble down the road (hard-coding is a big thing he likes to do, for example). We have given management dozens of examples; they say they are “working on it” but it’s been many months and nothing has changed. In fact, we are now going to be hiring for another position instead of replacing him.

        So yeah. People stop complaining eventually and just learn to work around Person X, because the alternative (at least on my team) is that the rest of the team becomes the problem by continually complaining about Person X. It’s clear that he’s here to stay, so let’s just find ways to work around it.

    3. sigh*

      “your loyalty belongs to the employer and the greater good of the function/environment for everybody, including our customers.”


      1. Atwill*

        Your loyalty belongs to yourself. If you think your employer is going to be loyal to you in return, you’re going to have a bad time. Loyalty to one’s employer made sense in the days when there was such a thing as job security and when employers invested in their employees. No longer. Your loyalty should be to yourself and your paycheck. They want loyalty? They can pay for it. Don’t give it away.

  25. Chuchundra*

    This is a morally weak and borderline sociopathic argument. In fact, it’s so wrong that, were I to provide some examples of things outside the workplace setting I think that people would be properly horrified at the implications of their position.

    Actions have consequences. You can’t absolve yourself of those consequences because there was some original, precipitating action by the person who is most likely to suffer those consequences.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Inaction also has consequences. You can’t absolve yourself of those consequences either.

      Choosing to do the right thing is the key.

      1. Chuchundra*

        This is absolutely correct.

        Actions have consequences, as does inaction. You can’t absolve yourself of responsibility because the primary actions are going to be taken by someone else.

        Some people down thread seem to think that my position is that you shouldn’t report bad behavior or do anything that might get a co-worker fired. That’s not at all what I’m saying. Some people need to be reported. Some people need to be fired.

        It’s just that if you do something that might result in bad outcomes for someone else, you can’t brush of responsibility for it because the proximate cause of that bad outcome is that person’s own behavior.

      1. You didn’t commit to the sacred pact you’d formed*

        This is just me, but – I’d own that. Seriously – not everyone can claim that as a label. I once had someone call me a megalomaniac. Long story, but: not a joke – they were dead serious. Instead of being insulted, I felt kinda special – not a lot of people can truthfully claim they’ve been called out as a megalomaniac. Or “morally weak and borderline sociopathic”, either.

      2. AnotherFed*

        Sociopathic seems perfect for a holiday where we celebrate by playing with pyrotechnics! Embrace the sociopath!

      3. Helen*

        At least you can take heart that your argument was called morally weak and borderline sociopathic, not you?

        Have a good weekend!

      4. Chuchundra*

        I attacked your argument, not you personally. I believe that both you and the AAM commenteriat are sophisticated enough to understand the difference.

    2. zora*


      This must be an attempt to troll us into indignant reactions, because I just can’t even understand how you could possibly draw this conclusion.

      How bout this outside the workplace example?:
      You see a person stumbling, drunk, leaving a bar and getting behind the wheel of their vehicle. You call the police. Did you “get the driver arrested” or did the driver get himself arrested? If you choose to do nothing, are you not more at risk of innocent victims being killed by this driver, than of ‘ruining the driver’s life’ because you did the right thing?

      1. Isben Takes Tea*

        Right. The process is weighing “What are the possible outcomes of my saying something?” and “What are three possible outcomes of my NOT saying something?”

      2. Chuchundra*

        I’d say that I did get that driver arrested and good on me for being a good citizen and doing so.

        I’ll give you a counter example. I discover that my next door neighbors are in this country illegally. I call up DHS and report them. They are arrested, place in detention and eventually deported.

        Am I morally in the clear because all I did was report them to the relevant authorities? I’d say not and I think a lot of people here would agree with me.

        1. zora*

          good job on coming up with a completely unrelated example.

          and on using inflammatory language in your comment to get everyone riled up, while avoiding any specific explanation of circumstances or where you are coming from.

          I think everyone has been pretty clear in this post and in the comments that we are talking about situations where someone does something objectively (or close to) inappropriate in the workplace, the results of which are negatively affecting other employees and customers, and the business as a whole. And that if the coworker in question is doing something that is technically wrong, but that action is not negatively affecting coworkers, customers, or the business, that you should MYOB and let it go. That is basically the argument that Alison makes across the board on this site. So, good on you for creating a strawman argument that is literally the opposite of the balanced, reasonable conversation everyone else is having here. Well done.

          1. Mildly Riled*

            “So, good on you for creating a strawman argument that is literally the opposite of the balanced, reasonable conversation everyone else is having here. Well done.”

            I think reading this did a better job of riling me up than anything anyone else has said here. If Chuchundra’s statement was so completely out there, then why bother responding?

            If I was to take the spirit of this blog at face value, then short of personal attacks on others (which I didn’t read Chuchudra’s comment that way), I thought Alison welcomed differing points of view. Even if this were the kind of blog where dissent wasn’t tolerated, then I can think of many comments much worse than that, and many people that would have been banned, myself included.

            Anyway, it’s the weekend so I am out.

        2. De (Germany)*

          So, basically, you think that it depends on the situation whether doing it is “morally weak and borderline sociopathic” and you just tried to phrase that in the most inflammatory way possible?

        3. Observer*

          Not only irrelevant, but totally outside of the kind of thing that Allison talks about. In your case, there is an argument to be made that what the neighbors are doing is really none of your concern, or of anyone but the relevant authorities. So, sure myob.

          When you are talking about things that have the potential to harm others, it’s a different issue. And, if we are going to label arguments as morally weak or worse, I would say the reverse. Any argument that lays the responsibility for negative consequences to a wrong-doer at the feet of the person who acted to protect others from harm is worse than morally weak. It’s the kind of argument that allows people to justify allowing lives to be ruined because “it’s my fault” if the wrong doer gets punished in the process.

    3. sigh*


      Are you one of those people who expects to be protected by enablers at your job? Nobody owes anybody a living, and if someone isn’t pulling their weight or will be a destructive influence in another job, witholding that information is immoral.

    4. Zillah*

      I think that this is an excellent way to address someone who puts a significant amount of time and energy into helping people – including all of the commenters! – with employment-related issues and who invariably offers a well thought out analysis of situations put to her as well as valuable advice on dealing with them. I’m also glad to see that someone sees that the art of respectful disagreement is dead, and that accusing people of sociopathy and moral weakness is a far better way to register your distaste for their perspective.

    5. Liz in a Library*

      What? No.

      Actions do have consequences, but the action that resulted in the consequence of firing was that of the fired employee. Not of the person who elected to make the ethical decision to disclose important information.

    6. Helen*

      It would be great if you could elaborate on those implications, because I’m not seeing the “borderline sociopathic” part. I agree with what I think is the gist of your second paragraph, though – that if you take the action to share truthful information, you still own that action and are tied to whatever comes out of it. I think what this argument is speaking against is simply the idea that you are solely responsible for someone else’s firing if you share truthful information about that person. But I do see how it can be read to imply that you never have some responsibility in these cases.

      1. QualityControlFreak*

        I think it’s reasonable to own your actions and what comes out of them, and also to own it when you choose not to take action and what comes out of that. We all make choices and we all have some ownership in the results of our choices. But we are not solely responsible for those results; other people’s choices play a role too.

  26. Locasta Tattypoo*

    Interesting discussion. I’ve had this situation where someone was hired and I later found out one of my people withheld crucial info because she didn’t want to “tattle.” Mostly she wanted to be nice. As if this were kindergarten.

    All she demonstrated was disloyalty to her employer, and terrible judgment. Ended up firing them both.

    It’s a tough call on borderline situations, like nitpicking over 8am vs 8:30. Not a close call when it affects the very integrity of teapots.

  27. Kat M*

    I have a question about this! Maybe some of you in managerial positions could chime in.

    My employer has recently had several incidences of the same variety of Bad Mistake (let’s say putting the wrong chocolate in the teapot). You’re supposed to verify three times: when you take the chocolate out of the fridge, after melting the chocolate, and then verbally and visually check with someone else in the room before making the teapot: “This is the dark chocolate. This is the dark chocolate teapot mold.” After double checking, the second person in the room then confirms out loud, “The dark chocolate teapot is being made.”

    This is apparently not always happening.

    Moving forward, using the wrong chocolate or even failing to triple-check the correct chocolate will result in automatic firing, with lesser consequences for the other person in the room for failing to confirm. And all Teapot Makers are being expected to turn in any coworker they see failing to follow the procedure.

    Does this seem to anybody else like a great way to encourage people to keep their mouths shut? Before, folks have admitted the mistake, gone right to the Director of Teapots, and followed the procedures for documenting the incident. But now, it seems like people will just try to cover it up if it happens. The first teapot-maker keeps their job, the second doesn’t get in trouble, and nobody is any the wiser … unless of course there are horrible, terrible results from somebody getting sick from the wrong teapot, and now nobody knows why. Most of the teapot makers are only earning around $10 an hour and not exactly swimming in savings, and there is a common feeling that anyone who “gets someone fired” would have to be a horrible person, and shouldn’t be trusted. It would be nearly impossible to function in this environment, and the informant would probably have to find work elsewhere.

    My question is, is there a way the Director of Teapots could handle this situation to encourage both honesty *and* accountability?

    1. misspiggy*

      I agree with you – but either your bosses are idiots, or there is an objective way of checking chocolate content which has shown the bosses that the previous quality control method wasn’t delivering good enough results. If that’s the case, a detailed investigation into why people aren’t using the right chocolate should be done, with an amnesty period.

      1. SevenSixOne*

        ” If that’s the case, a detailed investigation into why people aren’t using the right chocolate should be done, with an amnesty period.”

        Right. It’s definitely possible these teapot makers are just lazy… but if, say, following the quality check to the letter takes at least two minutes and teapot makers must spend no more than five minutes filling each mold, then it’s not hard to see why they might skip that step when the production line is busy. If the Director of Teapots keeps asking “why?” and employees keep saying “I can’t do the checks AND get my work done on time”, maybe the work flow, staffing, or expectations need to change.

    2. AnotherFed*

      Yeah, this is a terrible way to handle the situation. Zero tolerance policies often end up this way because people are willing to own mistakes or report mistakes, but not if they think it’ll cost themselves or their coworkers their livelihood.

      Better ways to handle this are rewards for positive behaviors – maybe spot checks that procedures are being followed, or a minor reward for catching an error before the teapot got made (not too big or people will take advantage). You can also go from verbal checks to a written checklist (and include the verbal script, too, if it helps) that has to be filled out as the script is followed – this is relatively easy if you also have QA steps going on where the chocolate temperature is measured, the relative humidity of the factory at the time of molding is written down, lot/batch numbers have to be noted, etc. that this could get added to.

      You can also offer a suggestion box for how to improve processes/reduce errors and see what your workers think up – they know the process best, so they can call attention to problems management might not realize are contributing to errors. Suggestion boxes tend to do better when you offer a small reward (gift card, 1 small PTO award, lunch) for the best suggestion of the week/month/quarter and can dedicate a small pot of money to implementing suggestion box changes.

    3. Isben Takes Tea*

      I agree that zero tolerance policies shoot yourself in the foot.

      Carl Honore has a great chapter about this in “The Slow Fix” where he points out studies on how bad this is and what should be happening: management should 1) actively encourage self-reporting of errors *AS SOON AS THEY OCCUR*, 2) in the reporting, identify everything that happened before and after the error (because it’s rarely just a *single* error), and 3) follow through up and down the supply chain/process line.

      I also have to mention I adore how you “teapotified” your procedure. I would want to work there.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I have some sympathy for your bosses because I’ll assume the situation is pretty serious for them to have come up with such a draconian policy. I’ve been in that spot, desperately trying to do error cause removal, banging my head against a wall on HOW do we get people to follow these carefully laid out procedures so these errors stop happening. I’ve yelled (to the air, by myself, not at people), “it’s not rocket science!! if they will just DO THIS, all of our problems will go away”.

      As tempting as an iron fist is though, it doesn’t work.

      Maybe we’re too soft (we really might be), but in this spot I’d look at a few different things.

      1) What can we do to create a culture of people caring about quality. I preach culture a lot because we’ve worked hard on it. Get people to care about quality, have quality as the norm, and then use procedures like your bosses have to give the people the tools to make it happen.

      2) look at hiring and pay level. If you have a bunch of people blowing off quality, they need to go, but who takes their place. Hire for people who care about quality and, you probably have to pay more in order to attract the best, so see where the money for that can be found.

      3) Make sure work is signed off so problems can be tracked back to who is responsible. That means that sometimes people will get away with blowing off quality check, but when it does hit the fan, the error can be tracked back to who.

      4) Another layer of spot checks after the teapots are signed off on and before shipped. If you can’t check them all, check enough of them so bad pots aren’t shipped and the people making bad pots can be either retrained or moved out.

      5) Quality incentives and bonuses.

      So sympathy for your bosses aside, I think their job is to fix the culture. It’s possible to have a building full of people who take pride in making great teapots. Nothing they are doing is will make that happen.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I forgot to say that even asking people to report on a co-worker in this situation is probably a bad idea, even if it wasn’t No Tolerance.

        You need a culture of cooperation to make a great teapot.

        The second, confirming person, should have some mechanism to bring concerns to management about what she is confirming, because in my set up, she’s signing off on that work too. If she’s pressured to confirm things she never saw, or confirm things that are bad, she needs a way to speak up about the pressure.

        Beyond that, though, I’d nix the thought that the people doing teapottery should be responsible to report routinely.

    5. Observer*

      Well, the first question is WHY is this still happening? Are timelines unreasonable? Are these genuine mistakes because of poor training? Or mistakes because of other conditions? eg if the confirming person needs to be able to see the difference between dark chocolate and light, but the lighting stinks, the problem is going to keep on happening no matter how many people get fired.

      All the procedures in the world are not going to help if you don’t have the right conditions or they don’t address the root cause of the problem.

      And depending of people to report each other is not going to work. Especially in a situation like this, where this seems to be a pattern. I’m betting people are thinking “I could just as easily make this mistake. I’m not getting someone fired over something that ANYONE could do.”

  28. Kadee*

    I know there have been times I’ve fallen into the “don’t tell” camp, although it’s very dependent on the situation and circumstances. When I’ve had those inclinations, there are two lines of thoughts that I tend to have. One is thinking about very public incidents that made the news where someone got fired because of public pressure. If the transgression is bad (e.g., using racist language) I can support that, but sometimes the issue is less black and white. For those, it can seem like the company is making a knee-jerk reaction to a minor mistake out of fear of public backlash and those are the things that sometimes cause me to pause when I consider whether or not to tell. Sometimes it seems that we’ve become so conflict averse and so fearful of lawsuits/negative publicity that overreactions happen. I don’t want to contribute to that and would rather just mind my own business and keep my mouth shut.

    The other one has to do with hiring. I have provided feedback on possible candidates to hiring managers. I’ll pass along negative feedback on candidates when appropriate, but I often also tell them to keep in mind that the person may have changed, or that it was my experience and perhaps they’d view the same behavior differently, or perhaps the job itself was a wrong fit and that it would be different with the right job. I understand how important this feedback can be and I know it’s just one piece of the puzzle so I probably shouldn’t feel so reticent when reading letters but sometimes I do. For candidates who have big, obvious red flags it’s easy to understand why there is a need to pass that info along. However, minor feedback on someone’s negative qualities may tip the scales in favor of another candidate. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe that’s how it should be. However, if you don’t have candid/inside info on other candidates, the only negative feedback may be about someone who might be the better candidate and maybe that will skew the process. It sometimes causes me to go into “don’t tell” mode.

    Finally, I sometimes don’t fully embrace the notion that as an employee my job is to look out for the company over preserving relationships with individuals. I won’t protect them if they’re doing something horrible, illegal, or immoral but most people don’t live at those edges. I’d probably be less inclined to provide candid feedback on a friend if I thought it would torpedo their chances at getting a job.

    This is not intended to suggest that these things are “right”, only to explain what pushes me in that direction at times. I can understand that not everyone would feel this way.

    1. AE*

      Would you really want a friend to get a job where she or he would be out of their element because of your dishonesty?

  29. You didn’t commit to the sacred pact you’d formed*

    I’m all for a good rant. But – all kidding aside – the entire question of “tell or don’t tell” is one of life’s larger issues. It actually makes gun control seem small by comparison.

    I mean: it’s been a “thing” since Moses came down from the mountainside with the 10 Commandments. Regardless of whether it was God’s Word or Moses’s word, it seems rather likely that “Thou shalt not bear false witness” was a topical issue in the 12 tribes 3000+ years ago. Or you can go back to Genesis, when Adam tried to dodge responsibility for eating that fruit. Laws and judicial systems around the world are based on things like “testimony” and “what serves the greater good”. And it can vary according to time and place: sometimes recent immigrants to the US refuse to report crimes to the police – because where they’re from, calling the police is simply something you don’t do. And, of course, let’s not forget that not so long ago people would sometimes report homosexuals to their boss (or commanding officer) because they felt that homosexuality was “wrong”. “Did I get that homosexual person fired? Or did they get themselves fired by being homosexual?” Worse yet: 1933.

    *shrug* There’s no easy right or wrong here. Whether or not to drop a dime is probably never going to be an easy decision (especially in the World of Work, where there’s no real oversight, few laws, no standards of evidence, and bosses and HR departments can more or less do whatever the hell they want to do)(ref the ever-popular AAM question “Is this legal?”), and will always be a matter one’s opinion, and one’s heart.

    My opinion – not that it really matters – is that Authority has abused information with such frequency and to such magnitude that anyone considering “telling” on a co-worker (or neighbor, etc) should put some really serious thought into what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. And what the potential consequences might be.

    1. AE*

      Your local office manager is not Hitler!

      If you have such a mistrust of authority isn’t this blog kind of moot for you?

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        And if he -is- Hitler, you’re not getting him fired by telling the senior management. He’s getting himself fired, by being Hitler.

    2. Observer*

      As a daughter of immigrants, in a community of immigrants, where “Don’t tell” was the norm, I find your comparison incredibly in-apt, to put it mildly.

      I honestly have the question the mindset that equates acting in a way that gets someone fired for stealing from clients or doing other things that actually harm the employer, co-workers or clients on the one hand and acting in a way that gets people imprisoned for decades or even killed for expressing the wrong opinion or even just existing.

        1. Observer*

          No, it’s not. The difference between a process that ends in people being killed for existing is so different than the process that leads to someone being fired for cause that the comparison is odious.

  30. Amy*

    The managerial perspective is that it’s important to know what’s going on. I have noticed that some of the commenters here seem to come to the site with a lower-level perspective. The workaday worker bee identifies with the other worker bees, and would be concerned about someone keeping their job. A manager is concerned with things getting done and getting them done right. Having a staff member who will drag down the team and the team’s output is every manager’s worst nightmare. (Been there!)

    I would not cover up or lie for someone who is a weak employee, and I would be outraged if I got stuck with a loser because a reference or a colleague lied for them. I’ve inherited a few losers who require an inordinate amount of supervisory time and attention even in jobs with a lot of responsibility. Someone with integrity would be more concerned about other people with integrity

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Well, most people “come to the site with a lower-level perspective” because most people are “worker bees,” not managers, so that’s not surprising. And most people, regardless of their position, would like their coworkers to be easy to work with and do good work, but balanced with that is a basic empathy that means most people don’t want to see people they know fired in most circumstances.

      1. Amy*

        I have worked with people at my level that I wish wish wish would have been fired. If someone is making life difficult for the team they need to go! The insubordinate snake-in-the grass who torpedoed my old boss was no friend of mine, but he had a lot of friends. They would have gotten over it if my boss had fired him and when we started acting like a team instead of a group of picky cliques, they would have seen in hindsight that we were better off.

        Unfortunately, they were the ones who got fired because he talked them out of cooperating with management, and he came out smelling like a rose.

  31. Isben Takes Tea*

    What bugs me the most is when people feel they should tell someone, but they tell the wrong person. I’m the kind of person people “tell stuff to,” and when I say, “I don’t want to know,” or “Don’t tell me, tell the manager,” then people say, “I don’t want to make it a big deal.”

    But I can’t tell anyone, because then it’s just hearsay. If it’s something serious that I feel morally obligated to pass on, I have to really think about it, because it could mean someone losing all “confidence” in me.

    It sucks.

    1. Amy*

      If you don’t want people to tell you things you don’t want to know, the best way to make that happen is to spill the beans!

    2. SevenSixOne*

      ugh, and it’s the WORST when those employees are so vague that you aren’t even sure what the problem is.

      If you tell me, “Robin always leaves at the stroke of 3:00 no matter what, and Dana is often late, so sometimes I’m the only one here for 30+ minutes at shift change”, I can look into it myself and decide whether I need to do anything about it. But if you just give me a vague “what’s the policy for schedule adherence? I don’t want to get anyone in trouble but it really seems like SOME PEOPLE don’t care about respecting other people’s time.” that’s not enough for me to go on, and I don’t have time to comb through everyone’s time cards to find a problem that might not even exist!

  32. Julia*

    If someone commits a crime, and you report them to the police – did you get them arrested or was it their actions that got them arrested?

  33. Fight! Win!*

    Thank you SO MUCH for this post Alison! People absolutely need to speak up when poor performers perform poorly. It’s the manager’s problem to fix, and good managers WANT TO KNOW AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Typically poor performers do not improve without direct feedback from the manager. Good performers self initiate professional development, seek and willingly accept feedback. They are proactive and anticipate the manager’s priorities. Poor performers do not.
    The effect of poor performers cannot be underestimated. The stress their coworkers endure, just in determining what to share with the boss (or not)! A poor performer creates more work for everyone around them. When they make their really huge mistakes, who cleans up the mess? The good performers, and the managers. Good employees are essentially punished for the mistakes of bad employees.
    I may feel a bit strongly on this issue, because as a good performer I have often been handed a mess created by a poor performer. Which then affects my own ability to highly perform. It means more time working for me, more documenting, soothing ruffled feathers, etc. Not fun. Meanwhile, the poor performer escapes this situation, because they are no longer trusted to handle it. I’m very fortunate in my job now; poor performers become good performers, or they are gone. We provide tremendous amounts of positive support, clear oral and written feedback, and are available to address questions or concerns at any time. But due to our industry, we allow a very brief time window for improvement. Bring your A game or goodbye. It’s fantastic, because we have an excellent team and company reputation.
    My final rant – some people truly do not get it until they are fired. Perhaps they’ve been allowed to coast for years by people who didn’t want to deal with them, or felt too bad to take away their job. If they had been fired from an earlier job, perhaps they would make more of an effort now. It is harsh feedback on someone’s professional performance, but it is information that can truly benefit some individuals in the long run.

  34. Grey*

    Sure, but where do you draw the line? For example, if I know my neighbor smokes pot at home, and I know his employer has a drug-free policy, should I report him?

    1. kt (lowercase)*

      Can’t say exactly where you should draw the line, but it should be way before “tattling about behavior that harms nobody”.

  35. Atwill*

    Bull. Why should we help HR do their jobs? If they can’t uncover the issues with a potential hire themselves, that’s their problem, not yours. If asked, yes, you should tell them if you know something that would make them a bad hire. But don’t volunteer the information. Covering for incompetent HR (redundant) just lets them get away with their own incompetence for that much longer.

    No, if they hire an embezzler to be CFO, then not only should the CFO be fired, but so should everyone involved in vetting them before hiring.

    HR works for the company, not you. Unless you put yourself or someone else in imminent physical danger by not speaking up, keep your mouth shut.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hiring isn’t a perfect science. Good managers rely on input from people who know candidates to help them make good decisions, and even then it’s not perfect — otherwise good managers would never need to let anyone go, which isn’t the case.

      It’s certainly your prerogative to have this us vs. them attitude, but I’ve never known a high performer to have it, and it’s likely to hold you back.

      1. Atwill*

        Do you know what the difference is between “high performance” and warming a chair is where I work? A 3% raise instead of a 2.5% raise. What’s my incentive to do anything other than the least I can do without getting fired? They pay me as little as they can, so why should I work any harder than I have to?

        Plus, when people leave jobs, or don’t get hired, they leave people behind that will hold grudges. Once it comes out that you torpedoed their friend’s/frat brother’s/golf buddy’s chances (and it WILL come out), how well do you think it’s going to go for you?

        No, if it’s such a bad hire, then get another job before you sink with the ship.

        (Sorry for the double-post, I didn’t reply correctly.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If you want to build a strong professional reputation for yourself that will help you have additional options in the future, that’s one incentive. If you don’t care about that, that’s of course your call.

          But I’ve never seen anyone who finds real success and fulfillment in their career have this kind of attitude. So I’d say just be absolutely sure that you’re okay with that trade-off.

    2. Observer*

      No, if they hire an embezzler to be CFO, then not only should the CFO be fired, but so should everyone involved in vetting them before hiring.

      Sure. But that’s not mutually exclusive to letting someone know if you have clear information about a significant issue.

      Also, it could be that at YOUR PARTICULAR workplace it makes no sense to do anything at all that you are not asked to, even to help build a reputation that lets you find another job or to prevent serious harm. But, you certainly can’t generalize that.

Comments are closed.