Career Advice

January 29, 2014

Career advice: Co-worker runs own business on company time


Q: One of our co-workers has been running a personal business using company time and equipment. During the workday, “Susan” is often observed sending emails, scheduling appointments, and doing billing for a graphic design business that she owns. She also makes lengthy phone calls to her customers.

Because of all these extra activities, Susan has trouble keeping up with her regular duties. When she falls behind, management asks the rest of us to pitch in and help her, even though our workloads are just as heavy. This is beginning to create animosity in the group.

Susan’s business has been listed on her LinkedIn profile for two years, so it is hardly a secret. I mentioned this to our team lead, but nothing has been done. Any suggestions?

A: Your ethically challenged colleague is basically stealing from the company, so someone should put a stop to it. Team leads typically don’t have that kind of authority, so you need to get the attention of the proper person. In most organizations, that would be either the head of your department or the human resources manager.

After deciding whom to contact, you must determine the best way to deliver the message. A group complaint will have more impact, so involve some other indignant co-workers. Before meeting with management, select a representative and prepare a clear, concise description of the situation.

For example: “We thought you should know that Susan spends a lot of work time running her personal design business. In addition to doing administrative tasks, she is often on the phone with her customers. Our problem is that we’re often asked to take up the slack and do her regular work. We would appreciate your looking into this.”

After receiving this information, management will need time to investigate. But once Susan’s theft of company time is confirmed, her outside activities should come to a speedy halt.

Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at yourofficecoach.com.

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