Sunday’s NY Times Workologist addressed this question:
My supervisor recently informed me that his request to buy some equipment through the company for his personal use had been denied because it was for nonstandard items — so he had placed the order in my name instead. He asked me to deliver it to him when it arrived.
The Workologist raises a good point:
“How will you respond when asked why you didn’t say anything?”
Although he rightly points out that you cannot assume conversations with HR will be confidential (or even productive), he suggests that it’s important to report what happened. It is important to get your concerns on the record.
But will that be enough?
What the supervisor is asking sounds illegal as well as a violation of company policy. If he’s buying personal items “for his personal use,” you need to wonder if he’s engaging in criminal theft. I’m not a lawyer but I’d be very, very nervous. Unemployment sounds way better than imprisonment.
You cannot afford to be associated with this action. I am not a lawyer, but if it were me, I’d refuse to accept the order. If you get an order confirmation from the vendor or your company’s purchasing department, reply immediately: “I did not order this item and I will not be responsible for payment.”
Ideally you need to touch base with a lawyer who’s familiar with white collar crime. Find out exactly what you need to do to distance yourself from this transaction as well as other violations of company policy.
You should also ask about a transfer to another department, immediately. Have you made contact with other departments and built a relationship with the hiring manager? If not, you need to look outside the company as well as inside.
Here’s what might go down.
HR to you: “Why do you want a transfer?”
You to HR: “I want to diversify my interests and Department X seems to be a really good fit.”
HR (reading between lines and recognizing BS): “OK, we have an opening in Department Q.”
You eagerly accept and then realize that no sane person would apply for this opening. Every company has bad jobs reserved for misfits and troublemakers.
Of course, this ending isn’t inevitable.
Your boss might be a bad apple in a thriving, beautiful, high-growth orchard.
But if he’s been around awhile, it’s hard to believe nobody’s noticed what he’s doing. He may have friends in high places. Or the whole company may be set up to support people like him.
The episode in this week’s Workologist is pretty bad but you could find worse. Remember that Enron employees didn’t get away with claiming, “I was just doing what they told me.” Even low-level functionaries went to prison.
Your legal bills will be cheaper if you solve the problem now. And why wait to find out first-hand if orange really is the new black?
I’m happy to talk with you about your career strategy and sticky situations. I’m not a lawyer but I’ve got experience and the ability to be objective. Go here to learn more and sign up.