What would you do if you saw a colleague doing something wrong on the job?

 A job candidate was asked that question at an interview last week. “I’d report it to my supervisor,” answered the job hunter. The interviewer said she liked her answer very much.

The answer given by the job candidate mentioned above—“I’d report it to my supervisor”—would have been an especially good response if the interviewer had phased the question this way: “What would you do if you saw a fellow worker stealing?” In this case you could follow up your answer, “I’d report it to my boss,” by asking your interviewer if there was a theft problem here.

There are instances when you don’t have to report a wrongdoing

Let’s suppose a colleague in customer service made a tactical mistake in failing to give the customer a proper referral. You might be labeled a snitch if you turned in your colleague rather than suggesting how his performance can be improved. He’d appreciate your help. And so would your boss because you’ve helped to make her job easier.

Now let’s pretend you actually witnessed a fellow worker stealing. You’d have no other choice than to turn in the deadbeat.  Not only did that employee steal from the company but the crook might also steal from you and your colleagues someday.

Staying with the example of the above scam artist, it would NOT  be in your best interest to report the theft to your boss if you feared retaliation from the offender. In that case you’d have another choice. It would be  to play it safe by going home and writing an anonymous letter to higher ups at the company to explain the theft you witnessed

How to decide whether or not to report a colleague to the boss

Ask yourself if the violation you witnessed was just a simple mistake, against the law, or a willful act against company policy. You can choose to help out a fellow worker who makes a simple mistake. But if the wrongdoing was dishonest you have no other choice than to report the incident.


RANDY PLACE is the author of “Your One-Minute Job Finding Coach: how to find a job and manage your career  while coping with the hassles of it all.”

Copyright ©2016 by Ransom (Randy) Place

About the Author

RANDY PLACE IS A JOB-FINDING and executive coach, writer on career topics, broadcaster, and host of yourcareerservice.com. For twenty-three years, he helped thousands of employees who had been let go from JPMorgan Chase find jobs. And he coached executives at CBS Television, Pitney Bowes, and major outplacement firms in New York on job-finding techniques, communications skills, and selling strategies. An accomplished seminar leader and speaker, Randy has designed and presented workshops on interviewing, telephoning techniques, job-search writing, and sales training nationwide. Randy's groundbreaking nationally syndicated radio series, Your Career Service, has been heard on over two hundred radio stations across the United States. And his articles on career topics have appeared in the Wall Street Journal's National Business Employment Weekly. A former broadcast journalist in New York, he has also been a commercial spokesperson for an array of national and regional advertisers. In addition, Randy was a sales executive at NBC Radio and the New York City sales manager for syndication at Wolper Productions. He holds a Bachelor's in Sociology and Broadcasting from Syracuse University, and a Master's in Journalism from New York University.