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There’s an age old problem that plagues us incessantly at the workplace: do I do the right thing, or the popular thing?

Say the popular co-worker who’s always coming in twenty minutes late, and you’re covering for him, or his co-workers are covering for him.

He’s a decent guy, a family man, and you don’t want to hurt him or his career. But it’s starting to affect the team and the office morale.

Do you report him or do you keep him safe from scrutiny?

Speaking to him may not work. He might say, “Yeah, sure, I’ll come in on time,” without it ever coming to fruition. And if you ask again, you’ll become that annoying co-worker who’s always nitpicking.

The question to any problem you have in the work place is, is it more practical to say something, or put your head down?

It’s painful to be the hall monitor blowing her whistle. You’re not getting promoted for it, and if you are, you’re going to be the supervisor or boss nobody respects.

Auntie Evan and Uncle David have two divergent opinions:

Uncle David: In this economy, you have to put your head down when you see your company is heading in a bad direction or someone is causing a problem. Don’t be the moral police, or you won’t get anywhere.

Auntie Evan: UD, if that’s how you feel, if you can’t step up, then you’re not really there for your company. Then you’re the small individual who only looks after himself and his paycheck.

When it comes down to brass tacks, do you need to be popular or liked to get ahead, or do the right thing and open your mouth?

AE: When things are not going well, you can’t just put your head down and hope nobody notices. It doesn’t matter what company you’re at, when you’re hurting the product because you’re keeping your mouth shut, it never works out for anybody in the end.

UD: But remember when you worked at that organization, and the new, younger program lead got hired and made a bunch of mistakes, and you called her out and were shunned for it? Only when you left the job and they saw all the mistakes go down did they call you up again.

So how do keep the company your number one priority when calling someone out, and at the same time avoiding looking like the hall monitor everyone wants to jam into a locker? Here are Auntie Evan’s foolproof steps to doing the right thing while still saving face:

1) Carefully document when the co-worker(s) makes a glaring mistake that affects the team and the company as a whole. Write down the date and time, and what was done. As objectively as possible (not, “At 4pm on Tuesday the bitch didn’t wash her coffee mug.”).

2) More importantly, take to heart that you’re doing this because you want the company to be great, because you want the country to be great. If you play the “what’s in it for me” game, you’re going to crash.

3) Don’t make it look like you’re trying to cover your own ass. If you get somewhere early, and all you can do is gloat how you’re the only one on time, you’re doing it wrong. It’s about thinking, “how can I get everybody in on time.” Put the organization, the community, before anything.


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