Thinking About Tattling On a Co-worker? Ask Madeleine

Business colleagues whispering to each other in the office Dear Madeleine,

I lead a great team at a large construction engineering firm. I feel that my boss is being taken advantage of by a couple of my peers who report to him. My boss travels a lot, so he is never here to see what really goes on, but I see people coming in late, leaving early, and claiming that their plate is full and they can’t take on more work when I know they are on their computers trolling shopping sites for deals. Meanwhile, I keep taking on more and more.

My team is, and I am, really at capacity in terms of workload and I am getting resentful.  Should I rat people out? I really don’t want to, but this situation is getting out of hand. 

– Don’t Want to be a Rat


Dear Don’t Want to be a Rat,

I totally understand your frustration – I do – it stinks to be working like a dog while others are goofing around.  But the answer is not to rat out your slacking peers.  I can pretty much guarantee that it will not get you the result you want.  One question I would ask is this: what metrics does your boss use to measure performance? Is your team crushing the numbers vis a vis the other teams? For a lot of managers these days, hours and work styles are less important than actual performance. Teams are measured by the outcomes they reach more than by lesser variables such as time spent, attendance and the degree to which they shop online at work. In fact, studies have shown that when employees are allowed shop online, they tend to work harder—often coming in earlier and staying later because they don’t have to use off-work time to shop.

Ratting is really only to be used as a last resort in the case of ethical violations or serious matters that could risk people’s safety or cause great harm to the firm.  Why?  Because you might be seen as petty minded, judgmental, or interfering by your boss, who—to make things worse—might not like being told how to do his job. You might even end up ratting on someone who could get promoted and be your boss in the future. Ratting could earn you a reputation that follows you for your entire career.  The ultimate truth is that nobody likes a rat, and the cost of ratting is often high. So if you are going to risk it, only do it in dire circumstances.

But.  You have to do something because, as it is said, holding on to resentment is like taking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.  So. Here is what you can do: take care of yourself, your people, and your corner of the yard.  Set proper boundaries and don’t take on more work than is fair. Put your attention on your people and support them to do impeccable work so your team rises above the average performance of others.

Channel your anger into doing an amazing job and do anything you can to let go of your anger—because ultimately, it hurts only you.  Good luck.

Love Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard

Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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