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How to deal with unethical coworkers?

  1. Oct 12, 2015 #1
    So this is about my job right out of college. It pays me the average salary for entry level engineers with my degree for the state I live in, but offers no educational benefits or tuition assistance like the major companies do my state. I have had my string of tough coworkers or managers in the past, but this job is taking it to new extremes and I'm having difficulty with it. I have had a previous supervisor tell me before "I'm going to give you a big screw you" which was just more of a polite way of saying F you to me. I have had a coworker in a previous job send emails essentially everyday to me with my supervisor, and my manager CC on it about how good they were and how pointing out something that I might be doing wrong. I have worked customer service jobs in the past, and you know how fun that is dealing with rude customers. Overall I would like to think I can get along with anybody and when you are forced to work with someone you don't like you just have to treat them like anybody else.

    I understand that what my coworkers do is none of my business, however I feel as if once it starts effecting me it is my business. Well long story short. I work for a start up company. For the first 2.5 weeks (except for the first day) of our employment my coworkers would come in an hour late, the supervisor wasn't there and only work for seven hours. In addition during one of these days they came in extremely late and left extremely early working only about 5 hours that day. Still they were paid for a full 80 hours a week. I look at this as stealing money, what else are you supposed to call it? You are getting paid for hours you didn't work. It's falsification of time cards. I mean falsification of time cards is a very basic concept that you learn is not ok once you have your first job because it will result in you getting fired immediately. They essentially stole over $600 from the company during these 2.5 weeks.

    I have a very strong since of ethics, as far as, it doesn't matter were I'm at or what I'm doing, it doesn't matter who someone is or there relation to me, I'm not at all comfortable doing something I feel is unethical. In turn I want nothing to do with people that steal. It doesn't matter that they are my coworkers. If it was my sister who stole $600, my family would disown her and I would never talk to her again. I probably wouldn't even be able to because she would end up in jail.

    On top of them stealing over $600 through falsification of
    time cards, it is clear to me that they are racist. They said the "N-word" while working before. Not in a racist matter, but you know how some people use it today. Mind you they aren't black, and neither am I. However I know my history, and am not at all comfortable working with people who say this word, regardless if they are black or not.

    The supervisor eventually caught on but they still work for the company! The supervisor had asked me and told the truth about them not actually working a full 8 hours a day. As a result I since my coworkers feel a bit of resentment towards me. I understand why to. If my coworker did something that could have gotten me fired I would as well. This is a bit extreme. It's not like they leave five minutes early, or take home office supplies. They have stolen over $600 from the company. A couple of times a day I get remarks from them about how good their work is, and they try to point wrong things that I'm doing.

    I want nothing to do with these coworkers. It's hard for me to make friends with people that steal or who are racist. I don't trust them. I don't want to talk to them, I don't want to see their face. I don't know how else to explain it. It's very uncomfortable for me to be around people who think this type of behavior is ok. As a result of me feeling uncomfortable around them, in my evaluation I got a low score for teamwork and they said I need to talk to my coworkers more =(, however it's very hard for me to do anything with somebody that engages in such immoral behavior. I mean I talk to them and ask them questions. But they since that I don't like them and they try to talk to me sometimes, but I can't help but to keep the conversation as short as possible because I don't want to talk to them much. Even to this day they leave about half an hour to 45 minutes early or so. It's not as bad as their whole hour plus when we first started but it's still frustrating.

    I feel as if my manger also didn't do a good job here in this situation. I have worked as a manager in a retail store before and would have immediately fired any employee who falsified their time card. The fact that they are still working for the company is unbelievable!

    On top of all of this, the training that I got with this job was not that great. On the very first day they gave us 80 pages in pdf format and told us to read them. It detailed various aspects about the activity we would be completing for the job. The next day they gave us work to do! It was terrible. I had the opportunity to work in my undergraduate as a manager and was told, and believe, that the correct way to train an employee was to first show them how to do the job by performing the task yourself and verbally telling and showing the employee what to do. The second step is to let the employee perform the task themselves with you standing there and only verbally telling the employee what to do, and provide suggestions etc.. Step three you walk away and let the employee complete the task all by themselves, check up on them ask if they have question, and be available for help. I feel as if they just completely skipped the first two steps and left us to complete the work on our own. Given we could ask questions to the supervisor, but the supervisor had their own work to complete, and would visually get frustrated if we asked to many questions. As a result of such a poor training and getting feedback on what we are doing wrong, I feel as if I know what to do, but don't know why. I feel as if without the missing foundation the house will just crumble. It's just frustrating to get negative feedback on what I'm doing wrong, when I was never told to do X in this situation because Y. Not to mention there's a bit of a language barrier because the company is internationally owned.

    Well I tried to keep this as short as possible. Sorry if I ranted a bit. What do you think I should do? I'm having a hard time getting along with my coworkers, and am having a hard time because of the not so good training I received.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 12, 2015 #2


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    You seriously need a new job. I wouldn't engage them or try to "report" anything because you'll need them as references potentially. But get out of there... it sounds like a hell hole. I've had three jobs and not one of them was anything close to that.
  4. Oct 12, 2015 #3


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    Yeah, and remember this. Full time employment in the US is traditionally 40 hours a week, although the Department of Labor classifies anyone who works more than 30 hours a week as a "full-time equivalent" employee for compliance with the ACA.

    80 hours a week is something akin to working in a sweatshop. IDK how you can work 8 hours a day and get paid for 80 hours a week, unless this is some kind of metric week I'm not familiar with.

    The horror! Expecting a new employee to be ready to go to work immediately. Since you have a degree already, you must have some skills or you wouldn't have been hired to fill your current position. You better get used to this situation, or the rest of your employment experiences will be just as disappointing and frightening as this one apparently is to you.

    The best employees hit the ground running and don't passively wait for someone to hold their hand. You're not working on an assembly line. You're an engineer in a professional position. You'll have to take on jobs and complete tasks sometimes without having all the information you would like to have or think you need. You'll also have to meet deadlines to get projects completed, even though you might have to work extra hours, even 24 hours or more straight thru. If you're paid on salary instead of by the hour, you'll find yourself working a lot of overtime for no extra compensation.

    If you're working for some startup company, the fringe benefits like tuition assistance may be non-existent. A small company does not have the financial resources available like a Fortune 500 company.

    When you go to work for a company, big or small, you don't get to pick and choose your co-workers. They're already there: the bigots, the slackers, the racists, the lunkheads, the drunks, what have you. You might even find yourself taking orders from the boss's kid or brother in law. If the company is still employing these people who don't meet your standards of conduct, then that's a tough hurdle to overcome.
  5. Oct 12, 2015 #4


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    Only reading some of your second paragraph, you made the wrong kind of choice to work for that kind of company with your fresh degree. Maybe I misjudge what an engineering degree can do for a fresh graduate, but the kind of choice you should make is, work for a normal established company. Either way, you will find at least someone with poor ethics almost everywhere you go.
  6. Oct 12, 2015 #5


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    I assume the 80 hours thing was a typo...

    Honestly, I don't think there's much to all this: if you don't like your job, get a new one. If you feel like you need to stay, keep your head down and do your job and don't waste your time/effort/stress on things beyond your control that have little real effect on you. Either way, you're going to have to work with people you don't like occasionally: suck it up and deal.
  7. Oct 12, 2015 #6


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    My first thought is that there might be some issues here with expectations.

    It sounds to me like you're used to "hourly" employment situations. Most of the first jobs people get are of this type. You have very specific tasks. You're paid by the hour. You clock in and clock out.

    Often professionals have a different standard. They're salaried. And although the salary is based on a 40 hour work week, the individuals will have a flexible work schedule. Some weeks they're required to put in 60 hours. Sometimes they get to come in late and leave early. The fact of the matter is that in positions like this, the employer doesn't care about the specific hours the employee puts in. They care about results - about whether projects meet deadlines, about winning contracts with customers, about producing a satisfactory product.

    Perhaps you (or all the others you work with) need some clarification on the expected hours with your employer.

    With respect to the use of inappropriate language, technically what you're describing constitutes harassment. You don't have to be a member of a specific minority group to find language directed at that group offensive. If you're offended by something, say something about it or report it.

    With respect to the training, remember that a "start up" is unlikely to have the training infrastructure of a large corporation. It's possible that the guys in charge barely know what they're doing. Again this comes back to being a professional. If you don't think you have adequate training then you have to figure out what you need to do to get yourself trained up. They likely hired you in the first place because they thought you were capable of learning what you needed to know. Keep in mind that this puts you in a good position to negotiate the means to get this training. You could make an effective argument for getting your employer to foot the bill for conferences, courses, books, etc. if this is the case.

    All that said, I also agree with Russ above. If you don't like the situation and/or find it difficult to get along with co-workers then look for something else.
  8. Oct 13, 2015 #7
    Sorry I meant 40 that was a typo.
  9. Oct 13, 2015 #8
    Get Out. Now. Say nothing. Smile while you think about the delight of working anywhere else. Maybe they'll give you a good reference, maybe not. But if you leave on a bad note, they could sabotage your future prospects. That kind of vindictiveness isn't common, but neither is the hostile environment you describe.

    Don't try to fix them. They're broken and they're doomed. They just haven't figured that out yet. Nothing you do will change that. Just smile, and leave quietly.
  10. Oct 13, 2015 #9
    Yeah the company I work for is sort of hourly. It's paid per hour. In the since that they expect us to work 8 hours a day. They have said that we aren't allowed to work more than 40 hours a week because than they will pay OT. We aren't even allowed to work 7 hours one day, and then 9 the next to make up for it. It's strange because I also thought most companies you just work what is needed to complete the job. But that doesn't seem to be the case for my company. We don't punch in and out of course like a part time hourly job, it's based off of the honor system. They expect us to work 8 hours a day five days a week.
  11. Nov 11, 2015 #10
    Sorry for the double post, so I'm going to start looking for other work. I would like to have a job lined up before I quit my job. My question for advice from you guys is suppose I get interviews for other companies... how does that all work? As far as what happens if they contact my current employer asking for a recommendation? Then my current employer will know that I'm looking for other work, they might give me a bad review or something since they don't know that I'm looking for other work. I would I answer the interview question when they ask me why are you looking for other work or why do you want to leave your current job? What am I supposed to say to that? Or would it be better to just quit without having another job lined up? I'd rather not be jobless and would like to have a job lined up before I quit but am unsure how that whole thing works, looking for a job when you already have a job and they ask your current employer for a reference? Any advice on the matter would be greatly appreciated.
  12. Nov 11, 2015 #11


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    Searching for a new job while remaining employed elsewhere can be a tricky balancing act. There are no universal answers in such situations.

    In general, my experience is not to quite your job if you can help it. When you don't have any job, it puts you in a position where you may have to take the first opportunity that comes along and that could be something worse than your current situation. Your goal is to get yourself into a better situation.

    The first thing I would do is start investigating potential jobs seriously. Figure out who is hiring and what each potential job might entail. Research the company. Learn who the people are who will be making the hiring decisions and see if you can speak with them informally before formally applying.

    With your current employer it's best to avoid burning your bridges if at all possible. Avoid job search activity during work hours. You don't have to broadcast that you're looking for something different. But at some point you'll have to tell the people that you report to directly, or at least those that are likely to be contacted. A good turn of phrase to use is that you've found another opportunity that you're really excited about (and therefore avoid the focus on the faults of your current employment atmosphere). You can use that same spin when interviewing for any new job too. Focus on what the new direction means for you, not that you're running from something else that's not working.
  13. Nov 11, 2015 #12


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    These days there are cellular phones and both voicemail and text messages. This means certain convenience about communication. It does not yet mean more convenience in scheduling, like for taking time off. In the old days, an interview meeting could often be done on an off-day or after-hours - sometimes, at least.
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