When Bosses Break the Rules: Guidelines for Employees

When Bosses Break the Rules: Guidelines for Employees

Break the rules

Are you working under unethical leadership? Perhaps you witness things that, while not strictly illegal, are just plain wrong. Worse yet, is your boss asking you to do something that may be illegal? Remember that there are some differences between US state laws, so if you’re going for legal advice, go local. For example, if you’re in Washington State, HKM Seattle would be a good example of the type of lawyers you’re looking for. Now for some tips on how to deal with a situation in which you’re unethically treated or are asked to do something unethical.


Bullying in the Workplace

You thought you’d left bullying behind in the school playground, but instead of finding yourself in a professional environment, you’re witnessing or experiencing workplace bullying. Tantrums, swearing, insults or out-and-out harassment are making your workplace a nightmare. It’s just not right! Unfortunately, there are only certain circumstances in which there’s legal recourse for workplace bullying in the US. If discrimination or physical abuse enters the picture, there may be a case to make, but behaving like a jerk to all and sundy isn’t always illegal.

Unless the situation places you at risk of physical violence, your first step is to report the bully to his or her superior and the HR department. An ethical company will take some form of action. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen. It’s at this point that you must ask yourself whether you want to continue there. You may find a more professional workplace atmosphere elsewhere. You might also get legal advice – but chances are you don’t want to be in the offices of a company that isn’t supportive and that you hope to sue.


Illegal Activity

Being part of, or witnessing and keeping quiet about, illegal activity makes you co-responsible. If something that’s clearly illegal is happening in your company, it’s your duty to refuse to participate and take a stand. If you don’t, you could end up facing legal action yourself. You might even become the scapegoat for your employer’s bad decisions. If you’re not sure whether the action is illegal or not, consult an attorney. If you’re certain that it’s illegal, it’s time to go to battle! Apart from refusing to play along, here’s what to do.


1.Take it to the Next Level

Report the matter to your boss’s direct superior and HR. If there’s a compliance manager, approach them too. Keep records of these interactions, preferably written ones.


2.Expect Retaliation

Some forms of retaliation are out-and-out illegal, and you’ll have recourse if you need it. However, there are many subtle forms of retaliation that can be difficult to prove. Your boss isn’t going to be happy about your report and you can expect them to show it.


3.Don’t be Too Surprised if Nothing Gets Done

If it’s not just your boss but the entire organizational culture that’s to blame, your unethical boss may be supported by the system.


4.Your Colleagues May React

Since you’re attempting to preserve good ethics, you should keep your objections to unethical behavior confidential – but there are often “leaks.” While some of your colleagues may respect you for upholding a strong code of ethics, others may see you as a snitch.


5.Prepare to Get out of Dodge

Reporting illegal activity to the authorities is the right thing to do. But, while there are laws to protect whistleblowers in the US, your workplace situation is about to get a whole lot worse once you report an issue or start working through a lawyer. You honestly wouldn’t want to work in an organization with an unethical culture anyway, and you don’t want to be complicit in wrongdoing, so the faster you can get out, the better.


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