Ethical Behaviour at Work (or, is my friend a jerk?)

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I'm friends with this guy I'll call Dave, who works in the games industry for Company A.

Co. A just sent him to Europe for two weeks to some seminar/conference to learn stuff that will further the goals of Co. A and make Dave a better and more informed employee.

Dave had already accepted a job at Company B before he left for the trip. And, he gave his notice to Co. A. while he was in Europe.

My first reaction was, "Wow. That was a jackass thing to do."

If I were Co. A, I'd be pretty ticked off that I spent time and money to send an employee to Europe to learn things and then they quit.

I don't know if this makes it worse or better but, Dave told his lead just before the trip, "Um, I accepted a job at another company - can I can still go to Europe?" and the lead said, "Not really my call, but sure, have fun."

Dave is now irritated I didn't high five him and say, "Way to stick it to the man, dude!" and I'm wondering if I'm overreacting because I think he was dishonest.

Is this a normal and accepted thing to do? Is it OK to take expensive seminars/courses/trips at the expense of the company knowing you're leaving?

Dirt wrote:

I wouldn't go around telling this story to Company B if I were Dave.

This.

Honestly, I would feel the same way as you Mimble. I try to play the honesty card in all facets of my life, even to my own detriment.

It's not unethical...but it does sound morally objectionable.

...unless, of course, Co A has a specific ethic policy regarding trips and accepting other positions.

I wouldn't go around telling this story to Company B if I were Dave.

I think you're right; it's a jackass thing to do, especially the giving-notice-while-in-Europe part. That's downright insulting.

On the other hand, it could be considered unethical for your friend not to go, assuming the education will benefit company B. Company A already spent a lot of money making him a good candidate, and if they wanted to keep him, they should make a counter offer.

Or maybe I'm in the minority concerning putting one's own interests before those of the corporation.

I think it's Dave's lead that's on the ethically shaky ground -- he let a subordinate go on a trip to Europe when he knew Dave was a short-timer.

...but Dave? He was up-front about it at least.

That is quite a d1ckish thing to do. Very much so.

Im not even really in the business yet but one of the biggest things I keep learning is that this business is small. Make a negative name for yourself and you wont be in the business for very long.

PAR

Well, he did tell the Co A that he was leaving and offered not to go on the trip. They told him to go ahead and go.

He didn't make it official until during the trip but he did let them know beforehand. Co. A should of sent somebody else instead but since they didn't I would of taken the development opportunity also.

Yes, it was bad timing but what else could of he done? I wouldn't brag about it but sometimes things just happen in those time frames.

But Dave *did* raise the issue to his lead. His lead told him to go anyway.

Should Dave have elevated the issue to a more senior person? Probably. Ultimately, Company A is investing in Dave, an investment that Dave knows is a waste of Company A's money. Dave make a token effort to prevent that waste, but then took advantage of it anyway.

edosan wrote:

I think it's Dave's lead that's on the ethically shaky ground -- he let a subordinate go on a trip to Europe when he knew Dave was a short-timer.

...but Dave? He was up-front about it at least.

Hmmm. Mostly. If he was _really_ up-front he would have officially given his notice before the trip. Sounds like telling his lead was not official notice, but I could be splitting hairs.

There are of course several unknowns, including:

- his lead said "Not really my call." Does that mean the lead is technically just a peer not a superior? In that case he might as well have asked his bartender.
- did the job offer come in so close to the trip date that it was not feasible to give notice? Sounds like this wasn't the case.
- would Co. A have looked bad if their representative was a no-show in Europe (probably had to register for things before-hand). Maybe they would have wanted Dave to go for corporate face-saving.

To answer your direct question:

Mimble wrote:

Is it OK to take expensive seminars/courses/trips at the expense of the company knowing you're leaving

It mainly comes down to honesty and integrity. Personally, I'd say if you hide the fact you are leaving just so you can have the trip that is not OK. If everyone knows you are leaving and those in charge still say go for it then it is OK.

Giving notice _while_ on the company-expensed European trip? Well, that's pretty drink-thrown-in-the-face. If I were in charge of Co.A I would be tempted to cancel all of his reservations including return flight. I would still pay his due salary, benefits etc. for the duration of his notice but if you're going to jerk me around like that I don't owe you much more.

I should have mentioned as well that Co. A was a full-time position and Co. B is a 6-month contract he's hoping goes full-time.

I kind of want to slap him.

If the world of gaming jobs is a small as par says - well...he's really screwed if this gets out. If I were Co. B and found out about it, I'd be tempted to cancel the contract altogether.

edosan wrote:

I think it's Dave's lead that's on the ethically shaky ground -- he let a subordinate go on a trip to Europe when he knew Dave was a short-timer.

...but Dave? He was up-front about it at least.

I kind of wondered about this part - his lead did nothing (and probably should have) but Dave didn't take it any further than that himself either. I would have at least re-read my contract to see if I'd be on the hook financially for the trip.

I know of one company here that says, "If you leave within 6 months after we've paid for something over $500, you have to reimburse us." I bet the trip to Europe was more than $500, and I know he doesn't have the money to pay anything like that back.

Maybe it's his smugness about the whole thing as much as his dishonesty that's getting to me. Sigh.

Question: were the people at Co. A jerks?

It all comes down to whether the trip to Europe was a reward for a job well done or an investment in the future. I'm pretty sure Dave and his bosses would see it differently, but there is no sin in sticking around to harvest the rewards of hard work before moving on to the next thing. Of course, if he is going to need a reference from this employer further down the line, the best policy is to make sure his and their point of views are somewhat aligned. On the other hand, if he feels that he's been taken advantage of by the employer, this sounds like a way to claim the rewards of his labor.

Rat Boy wrote:

Question: were the people at Co. A jerks?

He says they were, but he's said that about everyone at every company he's ever worked with. They don't give him enough responsibility, they checked his work, he got in trouble for too much socializing, the hours are ridiculous during the release phase... etc. etc.

I'm not inclined to trust him when he says co-workers are jerks since he tends to think anyone who doesn't share his laissez-faire work ethic is a hard-ass.

Secret Asian Man wrote:

Well, he did tell the Co A that he was leaving and offered not to go on the trip. They told him to go ahead and go.

He didn't make it official until during the trip but he did let them know beforehand. Co. A should of sent somebody else instead but since they didn't I would of taken the development opportunity also.

Yes, it was bad timing but what else could of he done? I wouldn't brag about it but sometimes things just happen in those time frames.

I'm not sure he offered not to go so much as he hoped quitting wouldn't mean he couldn't go. Maybe I'm splitting hairs on that, but at no point did he offer to not go even though he knew giving his two weeks would fall during the trip.

Oso wrote:

It all comes down to whether the trip to Europe was a reward for a job well done or an investment in the future. I'm pretty sure Dave and his bosses would see it differently, but there is no sin in sticking around to harvest the rewards of hard work before moving on to the next thing. Of course, if he is going to need a reference from this employer further down the line, the best policy is to make sure his and their point of views are somewhat aligned. On the other hand, if he feels that he's been taken advantage of by the employer, this sounds like a way to claim the rewards of his labor.

It was a "Conference is here, go learn something useful and then apply it to your work here." - the whirlwind weekend tour of the major European city he was near was a small reward for sitting through seminars while jetlagged. It was definitely an investment in the future trip.

Mimble wrote:
Rat Boy wrote:

Question: were the people at Co. A jerks?

He says they were, but he's said that about everyone at every company he's ever worked with. They don't give him enough responsibility, they checked his work, he got in trouble for too much socializing, the hours are ridiculous during the release phase... etc. etc.

*drum roll please*

He's a jerk.

It was a jackass thing to do. Now as for how much of that is Dave's fault? He thought it might be questionable so he asked his direct supervisor. His supervisor said go for it. If Dave wasn't prepared to trust his supervisor's judgment he wouldn't have asked him, yet if Dave is supposed to just keep asking people till someone tells him no, then he might as well skip the legwork and refuse to go.

It's also not the case that he made his decision while in Europe. Was he supposed to hold off on quitting just for the sake of the company? If the shoe were on the other foot, would the company hold off on firing him till it was a better time for him?

I don't think this was a good thing to do but it sounds like what Dave did was reasonable. At least, reasonable enough that you shouldn't let this damage your friendship. Give the man his high five, even if your heart isn't in it.

Your friend is a jerk, and his lead at Company A is an even bigger jerk. The lead better hope his boss doesn't find out, or his head could be on the line.

Since he got a superior to approve it, I'd say he's professionally OK but yeah, he's a jerk. I've worked for plenty of companies that have treated me like crap over the years but I don't believe that gives one the right to take a trip on their dime and especially to pull a massive dick move like quitting on said trip. The games industry is small and I bet that will bite him in the ass later. If I were Company B and heard about that, at the very least I wouldn't keep him after his contract and more likely, I'd tell him not to bother starting. Many companies treat workers like crap but when we also do the same to them, we're no better.

LobsterMobster wrote:

It was a jackass thing to do. Now as for how much of that is Dave's fault? He thought it might be questionable so he asked his direct supervisor. His supervisor said go for it. If Dave wasn't prepared to trust his supervisor's judgment he wouldn't have asked him, yet if Dave is supposed to just keep asking people till someone tells him no, then he might as well skip the legwork and refuse to go.

It's also not the case that he made his decision while in Europe. Was he supposed to hold off on quitting just for the sake of the company? If the shoe were on the other foot, would the company hold off on firing him till it was a better time for him?

I don't think this was a good thing to do but it sounds like what Dave did was reasonable. At least, reasonable enough that you shouldn't let this damage your friendship. Give the man his high five, even if your heart isn't in it.

I agree that he shouldn't have held off on quitting - two weeks notice is the minimum standard - but he knew he was leaving, he knew that he'd be giving his official notice during the trip and he knew the trip was an investment in him as a full-time employee. I think he should have not gone on the trip at all so they could send someone who was staying. I think his lead should have taken his confession of, "I'm quitting really soon because I got a new job." to someone above him since the lead wasn't the one signing off on the expense forms for the trip.

You're right too that the company wouldn't hold off firing him if he needed firing, but putting his own behaviour on par with their possible bad-timing firing of him doesn't make it OK.

I don't entirely disagree with you, but I still can't bring myself to high-five the guy.

Dave did make an effort to bring it up to his lead before the trip so I can see why he would feel absolved of any guilt. I am not saying the situation is not sleazy and that his smugness is justified, only that I can see why he would feel that way.

The important thing for Dave, as Oso stated, is to make sure everyone is on the same page at Company A regarding the trip if he ever wants to put that reference on his resume.

Other then that, if it is really getting to you explain to Dave your stance then let it go. If he can't accept it and gets angry, find a new Dave. :p

Mimble wrote:

It was a "Conference is here, go learn something useful and then apply it to your work here." - the whirlwind weekend tour of the major European city he was near was a small reward for sitting through seminars while jetlagged. It was definitely an investment in the future trip.

Next question: is Dave an at-will employee?

Because if the company has intentionally preserved the right to let him go at any moment, they lose the right to whine if he chooses to exercise that option. Dave doesn't sound like he puts the company first, but if the incentives that the company offers don't encourage that behavior, some of the responsibility falls on them. For example, if they really want employees to care about the bottom line, they could offer better stock options. If they don't care enough about Dave to offer that, they can't reasonably expect Dave to sacrifice for them.

Dave's behavior does seem rather self-interested, but that is the way companies have designed the system. If they really wanted employees to care about the bottom line, we'd have contracts rather than at-will employees and better stock options. Sure excellent employees sacrifice for the greater good, but if the company's incentives don't reward that, then the company loses the right to complain when employees look out for themselves first.

Bottom line: employees do not owe the company any greater loyalty than the company shows to the employees. My $.02 say Dave is a bit selfish and shouldn't ask for a letter from this company, but also I'd guess Dave is an at-will employee, which means that the company reserves the right to let him go without reason and without notice. If that is the case, they have only themselves to blame if Dave chooses the moment that is most advantageous to him to quit, rather than the moment that is most advantageous for the company. If you want loyalty from workers, you have to show loyalty for workers.

Oso wrote:
Mimble wrote:

It was a "Conference is here, go learn something useful and then apply it to your work here." - the whirlwind weekend tour of the major European city he was near was a small reward for sitting through seminars while jetlagged. It was definitely an investment in the future trip.

Next question: is Dave an at-will employee?

Because if the company has intentionally preserved the right to let him go at any moment, they lose the right to whine if he chooses to exercise that option. Dave doesn't sound like he puts the company first, but if the incentives that the company offers don't encourage that behavior, some of the responsibility falls on them. For example, if they really want employees to care about the bottom line, they could offer better stock options. If they don't care enough about Dave to offer that, they can't reasonably expect Dave to sacrifice for them.

Dave's behavior does seem rather self-interested, but that is the way companies have designed the system. If they really wanted employees to care about the bottom line, we'd have contracts rather than at-will employees and better stock options. Sure excellent employees sacrifice for the greater good, but if the company's incentives don't reward that, then the company loses the right to complain when employees look out for themselves first.

Bottom line: employees do not owe the company any greater loyalty than the company shows to the employees. My $.02 say Dave is a bit selfish and shouldn't ask for a letter from this company, but also I'd guess Dave is an at-will employee, which means that the company reserves the right to let him go without reason and without notice. If that is the case, they have only themselves to blame if Dave chooses the moment that is most advantageous to him to quit, rather than the moment that is most advantageous for the company. If you want loyalty from workers, you have to show loyalty for workers.

I'm not sure what an "at-will" employee is, but he's full-time with benefits and perks, and all that good stuff and they aren't cheap about raises. I'm not sure about stock options, I think employees can get them after a certain period of time. The job he's going to is contract only (to start anyway - so no benefits or perks, but the pay is a little higher).

I agree that loyalty is a two-way street, and so far as I know they've never asked anything really unreasonable. He's had to stay late around release dates to makes sure builds were green and that any demos being presented would work, but I hear that's pretty normal for the gaming industry. Otherwise they seem to ask that you get your work done, do it well, take responsibility for your tasks and join the company WoW guild so they have more people for lunch time raids.

And maybe my own work ethic is getting in the way of being more understanding: I tend to give all I've got until I actually have to leave because I'm burning out working for a company that doesn't care if I burn out.

BrassMonkey wrote:

Dave did make an effort to bring it up to his lead before the trip so I can see why he would feel absolved of any guilt. I am not saying the situation is not sleazy and that his smugness is justified, only that I can see why he would feel that way.

The important thing for Dave, as Oso stated, is to make sure everyone is on the same page at Company A regarding the trip if he ever wants to put that reference on his resume.

Other then that, if it is really getting to you explain to Dave your stance then let it go. If he can't accept it and gets angry, find a new Dave. :p

I imagine his lead will give a decent reference, but then I have no idea if Co. A knows now that Dave and the lead both knew he was leaving the company before the trip. Maybe they'll be less inclined to say anything nice about him now.

I guess I'll find out as time goes on and he starts the contract with Co. B. If I want to find a new Dave, I'll have to hold off so I can see how it ends.

If I were Dave, I wouldn't worry too much about a reference, either. Unless the games industry is vastly different than mine, it's typically policy just to verify employment, because negative/positive references are open to interpretation....and therefore litigation.

Yeah I think Dave's got all his bases covered here. He's earning some education he could potentially use for his new employer that falls within the time span of the mutually agreed upon tenure of his previous position. That the work happens to be something Dave wants to do shouldn't matter, imo.

Jerk.

You shouldn't have to justify his behavior for him, though it sounds like he'd like you to.

Given he brought it to the attention of his lead I don't think he did anything wrong as such, although the fact he acted smug about it doesn't feel right to me and makes me even doubt he mentioned it to anyone. If your immediate supervisor doesn't do anything about it I don't think it's on you to raise this to someone higher up, though I'd like confirmation from my supervisor in writing so they don't just turn around and deny knowing about it.

Most companies have some kind of policy in place for this sort of thing so that if you go on any training courses and then leave within a certain period of time you pay back at least a percentage of the cost. Where I work has a 2 year timescale on this with the amount you have to pay back reducing every month, they rarely enforce it though with the only time I've know it happen is when people have left immediately after taking a course. If the company doesn't have anything like this in place it's kind of their own fault.

My Ethics professor would say that is unethical. It was a business Ethics class too.

misterglass wrote:

My Ethics professor would say that is unethical. It was a business Ethics class too.

On what grounds? The rationale in these scenarios is more important than the conclusion. (Not that I'm disputing what you say, I'd just like to know why your prof would take that stand.)

Another vote for Jerk.

Not a jerk...

...more of a douche

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