To tattle or not to tattle? What to do when your coworker breaks the rules
Since childhood, most of us have done everything possible to avoid being labeled a “tattle tale.” We generally carry this desire to avoid snitching on siblings or on the playground with us into adulthood, and it makes us as reluctant to report our co-worker’s workplace infractions as we were to run to our teacher when Bobby rubbed sand in our face. Unfortunately, this reticence to talk to your bosses can eventually harm your employer’s reputation, damage the bottom line, and even endanger your job. So the next time you’re agonizing over whether to “tattle” or keep quiet about a fellow worker, consider the following factors.
What did your co-worker do?
If your issue is with something petty (such as her tone of voice the last time she spoke to you) or possibly interpersonal in nature, don’t immediately run to your boss. If you’re concerned, however, about a co-worker’s discrimination against a customer, sexual harassment of another employee, or patterns of physical or verbal assault or bullying, you should definitely speak up.
You should also notify your boss of poor judgement calls (such as the sharing of sensitive information), ethical issues (such as outrageous discounts for acquaintances), or actions that prevent the hotel or restaurant from running smoothly (such as missing shifts, drinking or doing drugs on the job). When you inform management about issues like these, you’re protecting the company, your customers and yourself.
Have you spoken with your co-worker?
If your issue is an interpersonal one or not immediately damaging, such as a co-worker you feel isn’t carrying his full workload, has otherwise been slacking off, or possibly needs further training, it may be beneficial to have a conversation about your concerns first with him directly. This will give him the opportunity to open up about personal issues at home that may be having an effect on his work, or questions he has about procedures that he has been afraid to ask. It could even encourage him to seek further guidance or training from management, which would take you out of the equation while still moving the situation towards a solution for everyone. Lending a friendly ear and offering your assistance will ultimately be better for your own reputation as a team player and potential leader than calling him out for otherwise "fixable" issues.
Do you have proof of the infraction?
Whether you’re dealing with dangerous issue like the ones mentioned earlier or the continuing inconvenience of a co-worker’s weeks or months of late arrivals, personal phone calls or avoidable mistakes, providing your boss with proof will help you appear like more of a concerned employee than a workplace tattle tale. If you begin to notice a pattern of minor misbehaviors, keep a written log of the dates and details. If you’re present when a more serious issue occurs, collect corroborating statements from customers and other staff.
How do you approach management with the problem?
Once you’ve decided to tell your boss about something your co-worker has done, do so in a private setting and preferably in person so you can both share any proof you’ve gathered and avoid any misinterpretation of tone or intent that may happen if you address the issue in an email. Start your conversation with a brief explanation of why you are involving your boss and an outline of anything you’ve already done to try to address the issue with your co-worker.
For best results, focus on how his or her behavior is affecting the rest of the team and the impact it could have (or already has had) on the hotel or restaurant’s reputation. Avoid portraying the matter as personal as well as making derogatory comments and harsh accusations. Stick with facts and circumstances, seek collaborative solutions, and you’ll sidestep the possibility of being labeled a tattle-tale for voicing your concerns.