Would You Tell On Your Boss?

Classic HR Line by –  HR Pro:

“You know who tells on their boss?”

Employee:

“Who?”

HR Pro:

“Soon to be fired employees.”

If you don’t think this to be true, you either haven’t been in HR long enough or you haven’t been in a position to have to nark on your boss!   Why does this happen?  I’ll let this recent article from Business Week about the Tiffany’s VP caught stealing over $1M in jewelry explain:

“Chris E. McGoey, a Los Angeles-based security advisor, believes that other employees at Tiffany’s may have had suspicions long before the investigation, but were afraid to speak up. “I guarantee you that a company like Tiffany’s has checks and balances,” he says. “But it didn’t apply to [Lederhaas-Okun.] People reported to her, and they had to relinquish their inventory to her, based on her say-so.” Even if they had concerns about why the jewelry she was checking out wasn’t being returned, he says, they might’ve been reluctant to raise any red flags. “Nobody wants to rat out their boss,” he says.”

But why doesn’t anyone want to ‘rat’ out their boss!?

It’s simple – ratting out your boss puts you in a lose-lose situation.  While the ‘corporation’ will be thankful you did this, the leadership team will be wary of you from now on out.  Not that they are doing something wrong, but you get labeled as the type of person who would be willing to tell if something did happen.  People automatically go to unethical/unsavory types of behaviors – which is the wrong thing to do.  When someone is willing to tell on someone else – leadership will then believe they are the type of personality that can’t stop from telling even simple misgivings.  Senior VP forgets to approve an Ad plan, misses deadline – causes everyone to scramble around and costs the company a few thousand dollars to get it right.  This Sr. VP would not want this to go public, it’s embarrassing, but forgivable corporate mistake.  This Sr. VP would look at our ‘rat’ as someone who would probably ‘tell’ on her, thus she would probably not want this person on her team.

Sorry folks, that’s reality in corporate America!  This is common amongst whistle-blower employees – company commends them publicly, and privately tries to find ways to get rid of them.  I’ll admit this happens more at a professional white-collar level than blue-collar.  “Professional’ employees might feel more to lose, thus less willing to come forward if something is going on.  Also, if it’s found out that something wasn’t going on – kiss your career goodbye!  Lose-lose.

So, how do you get your employees to rat on a their boss?  Don’t make them rat.  Several times in my career I’ve had employees come to me, reluctantly, when something was going on.  I gave them options on how to share the information, and still save their reputation as a ‘corporate’ person.  I usually ended up finding a way that made it plausible that either myself or another executive found the same information, thus taking this person out of the cross-hairs.  Not perfect, but it allows your employees to not have to carry the burden of being a whistle-blower.

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