Moral obligation or spite

Sorry this is long…I am starting this thread because a few times in my life I have had to choose whether to do an action like telling a boss about something someone else has done or keeping my mouth shut to avoid what I know people will think about what I have done. Both times this has happened to me (in such a big way), the person is a co-worker that I don’t really like or has totally opposite moral values than myself.

The first time, I was probably in my mid twenties. I was in the military and I had some pictures that I had taken at a party at my bosses house. I didn’t take the pictures to “prove” anything… you know, just to have pictures of a costume party. During the party someone grabbed my camera and took pictures of some of my younger co-workers drinking alcohol. During the party I did know it was going on but also felt that there wasn’t much I could do about it. When I developed the film, I wasn’t thrilled but I didn’t think much of it. A few months later this same boss and some of the people in the pictures came under investigation for some things. Part of what they were being investigated for was alcohol related, but part of it was about me… I had informed my boss that I walked in on the younger workers doing things that were wrong… sleeping on the job, making fake ID’s to get into bars during work hours. The boss did nothing to them, but instead started an all out attack on me. I got wrote up if all the work for the day didn’t get accomplished… even though the others were supposed to help and weren’t. Even if I asked the boss for help with the paperwork because I was busy and he said no (he was busy typing up an inventory list for his other job). Anyway, it came down to legal action. My lawyer wanted me to hand over these pictures as proof of the boss not being responsible…yada yada yada… but I refused even though I could have lost the case without them. During the entire 6 months of this ordeal, I prayed to know what was right to do. When the lawyer asked why I wouldn’t turn over evidence that would win my case I told him I couldn’t until I was sure I was doing it for the right reason and not just to win or to spite the boss.

Now, some almost 20 years later… I am having a similar problem deciding about telling the boss something about a co-worker. I work with a woman who is probably the most selfish person I have ever met. She gets jealous over everything, she lives a completely immoral life…etc… Anyway, over the past 2 1/2 years we have had some disputes. In fact, we don’t really get along at all, but we work together because we have to. After I had been here a year, she told me I wasn’t getting my raise I thought was coming. She is an hourly worker who happens to do payroll… I am salaried and I do all the computer work here. It certainly wasn’t her place to say that to me…but in the end, she was right…when I asked about the raise I was denied on the basis of someone elses performance. I could have accepted that, but she gloated… I told you so… kind of stuff. Anyway, between that and some really underhanded stuff she pulled (we both wanted to ask the boss if we could leave early on Fridays… her one week, me the next week and so on) she started scheduling dr appointments, nail appointments, hair, anything on my weeks to get off early so I never got to… but if I scheduled something on her Friday, I had better be back before her time to leave… There were many other things too… anyway, I got to the point where she did this to me one time too many when she decided to go to the boss and ask for every Friday off at half day… this meant I could never schedule anything on a Friday, even business meetings because I have to help answer phones when she isn’t here. We had a blow out fight… and she went running to the boss saying that I treat her mean because I didn’t get my raise. The boss talked to both of us… his counsel to me was to pray about it. But then he told us if we can’t get along he will fire us both because he couldn’t do business that way. I totally understood where he was coming from, so I have tried my best to get along. In the mean time we have had a few more arguments… I finally told her how selfish she is and how I don’t like her being aggressive with me any trying to bully me. She didn’t like that I sometimes cuss and how I get an attitude with her.



Anyway, Throughout this entire time I have worked here, I have noticed that she takes an awful lot of time off. I isn’t my business in the least, but the boss doesn’t notice because he is constantly traveling so he doesn’t see the day to day stuff. All this time, I have kept records of when she has appointments (because she tells me about them so I don’t schedule anything for those times) not because I am spying on her. Since she does payroll, I never know if she takes the time off her time sheet. One day, I was searching for something I needed on her desk because she wasn’t there and I came across her time sheet. She reported that she worked 36 hours that week and I knew it was wrong because she had taken a morning off (8-1) to take her dd to a dr appointment and had taken an extra 1/2 hour at lunch another day that week to get her hair cut. Since she only works 36 hours a week, the extra time off should have put her down to 31.5 hours. I wondered about it, but it isn’t my business… so a couple of months later, after some serious praying, I decided I couldn’t say anything to the boss unless I knew this was a typical occurrence. I looked at the file where she keeps her time sheets and found that yes, this is typical. If I say anything to the boss, she will say I did it out of spite so I was stuck. So for over a year now I prayed about it. I still know it is eating at me because if it was anyone else, I would have said something. But it isn’t anyone else… it is her… the one who the boss knows I don’t care for and the one who she will know said something. There will be accusations about spying on her and looking at files that aren’t my business… but it still bothers me.

So, the other day I was doing some things to archive my email and calendar and I noticed that there was a way to filter my calendar. I entered her name and filtered it. I counted 70+ 8 hour days that she has taken in the past 2 1/2 years… 52 actual days off and the equivalent of over 18 days worth of appointments. I know I don’t even have the days she called in sick or any last minute appointments since I don’t need to schedule around them so the actual days off is probably closer to 75-80 days. I now know that I have to say something to the boss… but how? I don’t want it to seem like I am being petty but he is wasting all that money paying her when she isn’t here. Any suggestions?

It sounds like you work for a very small owner run business. If not, then you should be able to go to human resources with your list of facts and turn it all over to them.

If it is a small business, it sounds like your boss is the owner. I would approach you boss with the facts, especially the calendar ones which reflect the time off and then the time cards which do not reflect the time off and the time for which the person was paid. Do this in a charitable manner - try approaching it from the standpoint… Mr. Boss, you are out of the office obtaining business for the company, however, you should be aware of what is going on in the office while you are out… You must be prepared for the consequences that could come from this.

If this does not work, you should find another job. Life is too short to put up with people make the workplace miserable. We spend more than half of our day at work and dreading it is bad for your health and attitude. I have been in a couple of jobs which put me in a position of compromise to my beliefs and morals and recognized that the best change was to find a new job. It is always stressful, but the results have always been positive.

I will pray that God blesses you with wisdom and strength to make a good decision.

Unfortunately, you need to heed your boss’s words. If you go to him with this you just may find yourself fired. So have something else set up.

Thanks for replying… This was my thought:
Since boss is a very spiritual man and has counseled me to pray about it in the past, I want to go to him and tell him:

I have prayed for a year now and as much as I know that I could face consequences from this other person, I don’t believe that you know just how much time she takes off. I didn’t realize how much time until I looked at my calendar and I don’t believe she has accurately reported her time off on her time sheets. I struggled with this decision because it really isn’t my business. This is between you and her and I won’t mention it again. I have a record of her appointments and while it is not 100% accurate, I believe if it were you would see even more time off. I will print the list of days, times and reasons off for your records and you can compare it to the payroll if you wish. I don’t want to start any animosity between her and myself so I would appreciate it if this conversation were kept confidential.

I think something short and to the point would be best… and letting him know that I know that it is his decision what he does with the information.

Yes, it is a very small company… actually companies… about 20 of them, but he is the owner and/or CEO of most of them (some owned by his wife, some partnerships) and he really enjoys that this international business is run from a small office in rural midwest with only 4-6 people in the main office. We have employees all over the world and US but we run them from here. The employee in question is the “office manager” basically she answers phones, pays bills and does payroll. I am the director of information technology and I set up all the computer networks and do all the technical work with the structural monitoring side of our company… servers, sensors, software. cameras, etc… and I make all his presentations for investors and government officials. I also do all the research for new technology to incorporate into our system. I work 8-5 at the office, but quite often I work from home after hours, I go out to sites to fix or check equipment, I set up internet for all our sites (12 sites with networks) and fix every bodies home and work computers (presumably so they can also work from home) the only person in our company that isn’t salaried or does work from home or on the road is this woman.

Your boss does not want to hear the details of your coworker’s time-sheet transgressions. Apparently, she is getting her work done well enough to satisfy him and so are you. If you bring up the problems, I am quite sure he will follow through on his promise to fire you both.

It’s a hateful situation you’re in, and I would advise polishing up your resume and contacting a headhunter or two. You are clearly a capable worker and could probably land a position where things are handled honestly and perhaps you even earn more money. And when you interview, leave the whole negative situation alone. You are seeking to better yourself and advance your career. Period.

Good luck!


Hi Betsy,
Thanks for responding. I am curious why you don’t think the boss wants to hear about someone cheating him out of money and why you think he would fire us both over this? I am really thinking he has no clue about it because she does her own paycheck and he is on the road most of the year. Maybe you can see something in this that I can’t… please let me know.



you have a moral obligation on your job to comply with the rules and to see that others under your authority comply with the rules. If these are rules that affect the safety and wellbeing of the employees and customers, the burden is even greater and it is your moral duty to report infringement of serious rules. An example would be a driver in your company driving drunk, serious rule, serious violation, lots of potential even deadly damage.

another common example that comes up with people who work with children is reporting potential abusers, because like OP’s examples, sometimes mixed with concern for the child is dislike or disdain for the abusing adult–or alternatively, when the adult is a friend with whom we are sympathetic. we have to learn clear moral thinking, and balancing personal feelings with moral duty. what is the prevailing concern in a child abuse case? welfare of the child, so our decisions are made on that foundation.

what is the prevailing concern of the employee who witnesses, and moreover has proof, of serious violations with potential for damage? It is very clear. In the I will assume hypothetical example in OP’s first story, if the alcohol use was at a time and place, by persons, directly prohibited by the rules in force at the time, the observer’s clear duty was to report at the time. the fact that the observer could be implicated in the wrongdoing (she was at the party, it was her camera, etc.) should not stand in the way when safety is at stake.

if you are going to report what you considier serious infractions, first be sure of your facts. find the published rules, make sure the situation and persons involved do fall under the rules, and report to the person in direct authority over those persons–not through the grapevine. and you better be prepared with evidence, and make sure your own behavior is above reproach

Well, I think bosses in general are more interested in the work of the company getting done without any interruptions. As I said, she must be doing her work to his satisfaction, whether it takes her the entire 35 or 40 hour workweek to do it or not. Maybe he thinks she is or should be salaried and lets her have the extra time off rather than change the pay structure.

The reason I said I thought he would fire you both if you bring it up was that you said this:

The boss talked to both of us… his counsel to me was to pray about it. But then he told us if we can’t get along he will fire us both because he couldn’t do business that way.

Rather than trying to figure out who’s at fault, he may simply take the quick route and can you both and start fresh.

Let’s go through it step by step. Either he knows or he doesn’t. If he knows, he must be OK with it, because he lets it continue.

If he doesn’t know and you tell him, either he’ll be OK with it or not. If he’s OK with it, you haven’t helped yourself. If he’s not OK with it, he may still be upset with you for pointing out the flaws of a favorite employee. Or he may be grateful to you for showing him how he’s losing money and fire the other gal and give you a bonus. You have to figure out which is the most likely to happen.

Bosses aren’t always as uninformed as we think. He may be perfectly aware of what she’s doing, but not wish to upset the apple cart right now. If you force his hand, he may be displeased enough to fire you also.

The fact that you have done searches that turned up negative information bothers me a lot. It points to the “spite” reason for doing what you are considering.

I stand by my original advice. There is a rotten situation here. Since you are not this woman’s direct supervisor, it’s very tricky for you. You can either try to pray your way through it and come to accept her cheating and your boss’s acceptance or ignorance of it, or polish up your resume. I’d go with the job search. There may be a great opportunity out there for you right now, and God is letting you know how bad things are to spur you on to find the new position. Go for it!


Perhaps you could ask your boss, “how would you react if you suddedly found out you were losing $xxxx a year?” What would you think?" Or something like that. I don’t know your boss or enough about the situation to know if this would work in your favor or not. But loss of revenue usually gets the attention of people with a vested interest the financial success of a business.

And the reason your boss might not care is because it is very hard to fire people. I’ve seen at least six coworkers and one boss fired in the last 7 or so years. In only 2 cases did they go without a fight.

BTW, I don’t think you are the one he’s worried reallly worried about even thought he warned both of you. He probably knows what your coworker is capable of.

Well… I have a month to figure this out… boss is on another trip. Keep the thoughts on this coming please!!!

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