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March 31, 2009

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Don't abuse perks, even if your company is abusing you. Today, companies need to project a squeaky-clean image. Your company will not hesitate to fire you if you threaten that image. As a result, it's always better to take the moral high ground. If you are ever terminated for ethical reasons, the incident will dog you for the rest of your professional life with every reference check for every new job. Nothing will sink your career faster than allegations of moral turpitude. It is not worth the "supplemental compensation."

A consulting analyst who produced top quality work was fired for his greed. He was intent on "sticking it to the company" and getting as much value as possible from the office to compensate for the late hours he consistently worked. When he was working late, he would expense two dinners and save one to eat on the weekend. He expensed a portable CD player, justifying it in his own mind as a travel accessory. His four years of great work were overshadowed by his poor judgment, and he left on bad terms with the partners.The slippery slope of office abuses to avoid:

  • Don't abuse your expense account. You will probably be given travel and entertainment guidelines. Observe them. If you don't, you may be stuck paying the difference later, or face a reprimand. If everyone is abusing the system, don't volunteer your credit card to foot the bill. Every once in a while, the person who submits an egregious bill is stuck paying it.
  • Don't fake anything. Don't fake an illness to get a day off. Don't fake your manager's signature. Don't pretend that a client is at your dinner so you can write it off as a business expense. You can easily be caught. At worst, you might be fired.
  • Don't take or make personal calls at work until you are established in your job. Always keep personal calls to a minimum. People can overhear what you are saying. If you must make a personal call, try to make it from your cell phone or use an empty office or conference room.
  • Don't steal anything from the workplace. An occasional Kleenex box or post-it note is understandable, but not office artwork, telephones or computers. That's larceny. Many companies have hidden video cameras in the office supply room.
  • Don't use your work e-mail for personal business. Your company's Information Technology (IT) department (or worse yet, your boss) can view your work e-mail account. And don't think you can maintain your privacy just by deleting personal messages -- everything is recoverable from the company server and backup tapes. Remember that you have no recourse or protection of privacy when you are using your employer's equipment. In addition, if you segregate your work and personal e-mail accounts, you will work more efficiently and be less distracted. Use an online e-mail service like Yahoo! or Hotmail.
  • Don't pad your hours. If you are in a client services company, make sure you understand your company's policy on billing. For example, find out at what increments your company bills out your time (e.g., in blocks of six minutes, ten minutes, one hour, etc.) and how you should bill if you go over that increment. Accurate billing helps generate better estimates for future projects for clients, so don't cut your hours either. Also, find out the company policy on vacations. Some places don't count days out of the office as vacation days when you check your voice mail regularly and are available by phone. Others do.

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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