It can be easy to fall into bad habits at work. This is especially so if your workplace offers some flexibility. Common areas of abuse include start and stop times, shopping online, padding expense accounts, and misusing leave time.
If you work in an urban area with high traffic and public transportation, start and stop work times can be variable. Perhaps company policy lists business operating hours as 9-5, but you can flex and arrive as early as 8 and leave at 4, or start at 10 and be in the office until 6. Day after day you watch others come in late and still leave early. You begin to wonder why you make such an effort to adhere to the guidelines.
Or on business travel, you know colleagues turn in expenses that aren’t accurate. For example, dinner at the meeting was provided, so your coworker turns in his bar bill as his dinner expense even though he knows paying for alcohol is against policy. Or another person pays for the cab ride to the airport. It’s easy to ask the cab driver for a blank receipt and turn in the bogus expense.
It’s common to use your business electronics for personal purpose—sending text messages, shopping online, playing games, or finishing that paper for a class you are taking. It is a good idea to check (and follow) your company’s IT policy. Keep in mind that your employer always has access rights to your online activities when you use their equipment. Bridging their rules may be easily discovered.
Leave time is another area of common abuse. You are running short on vacation days, so you call in sick on Friday to take a long weekend. Or you claim you have a doctor appointment so you can skip an afternoon meeting that you hate attending.
Your rationalization for these actions may be that you disagree with company policies or that their benefits — like leave time — are inadequate. But somewhere in the back of your mind is that little voice saying, “Everyone else does it. Why shouldn’t I?”
That reasoning didn’t sway your parents when you were growing up, and it won’t sway a boss if your abuse is discovered. So before you cross that line, ask yourself if an extra $15 on your expense account or lying about being sick or cutting out early would be worth the embarrassment or consequences. if your boss asked you about it.
Regardless of similar behaviors by coworkers, your personal integrity and the respect of your boss are hard to reestablish once they have been lost.