The new employee is sketchy, and only I know it.
February 1, 2013 4:14 PM   Subscribe

I just started a new job as a researcher. They hired a few people around the same time as me and we all have start dates around now-ish. I've been there a week. There is a new guy starting in my department in a more senior position than me, but not supervising me, on Monday. I just got his name today and looked him up, and... there are some things about him that a little bit of digging uncovered that are sketchy. (It's definitely him, please give me the benefit of the doubt here.) His job is not likely to be impacted by these revelations about his recent past, but if it were to get out that his history includes these things, it could endanger my company's reputation if a competitor or journalist found out. Nothing he did is illegal.

What is my ethical duty here? I'm brand new to the company. It could be that someone knows these things about him and doesn't care. But unless he divulged these things about his past, it's unlikely that anyone currently at my workplace has the skill to find the information where it is "hidden."
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What is my ethical duty here?

To do absolutely nothing and forget about what you just found.

Mind your own business and leave hiring decisions to your employer.
posted by saeculorum at 4:16 PM on February 1, 2013 [33 favorites]

Not your problem. If you found it, then whomever was responsible for vetting and background checking this guy did too. Or if they didn't do even a google search, they deserve everything they get.

Nothing good will come of you bringing this to someone's attention, and it could be VERY BAD for you quite easily.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:18 PM on February 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

I would file this under "none of my business".

Did you go looking for personal info on this guy on your work computer btw? Because that has the potential to come back and haunt you depending on where you work. I'm expressly forbidden for searching for various kinds of info on hires, for example. It would not be cool to find said searches in my groups internet history.
posted by fshgrl at 4:19 PM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

So, he's done things that are legal, and unrelated to his job, and hard for people to discover, but maybe some unspecified third party would be upset about them if they found out? Like, you recognize your new manager at Chik-Fil-A from when he was a regular at a gay nightclub? Yeah, I'd file this under "none of your business".
posted by hattifattener at 4:23 PM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

So...he didn't do anything illegal and I'm assuming his presence on the team isn't putting anyone in danger?

To be honest, if you came to me with this information I'd be more likely to fire you because I'd be uncomfortable with having a snoop with an inability to be discreet on my team. I'd also be slightly annoyed that you didn't have confidence in the hiring process.

I'd advise that you stay out of this.
posted by lalex at 4:29 PM on February 1, 2013 [14 favorites]

If you knew my real name and googled it, you'd learn that a conspiracy blogger thinks I worked for the CIA. Luckily, none of my clients seem to mind--including Michael Moore. So, you work as a researcher, you found that a new person in your department is guilty of something unseemly, according to the internets. Ignore all of this, don't bring it up to anyone, and don't do this sort of stuff in your office.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:56 PM on February 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

Your ethical duty is to not use your research skills to "do a little digging" on your coworkers unless that is specifically designated part of your job.

Forget what you've discovered about this person and resist the impulse to do that again.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 5:13 PM on February 1, 2013

I agree that if nothing he did was illegal, it's really not your place or concern to report the guy, especially if it's merely a difference of ethics/morals. Was he a Chippendale dancer? Did he formerly represent a pot shop? Does he have sketchy friends, or involved in unpopular business transactions? If yes to any of the above, really none of your business.

I'm doubling down on this if the information was easy to find via Google, because most HR people I know Google potential hirees anyway. Reporting it will make you look bad, nosey, and potentially vindictive or jealous, and taint how people see you interact with this guy.

I've previously written quite a bit about shady scumbags and con-artists who repeatedly get hired using fake names and credentials, so if it's along these lines, indeed, mention it to HR... with an anonymous note if necessary.
posted by Unsomnambulist at 5:58 PM on February 1, 2013

It sounds like this is extremely none of your business, unless

A) you are an assistant to the person who is directly responsible for hiring him, and that person, your boss, needs to know for Reasons,


B) you work in HR and reporting on this stuff is part of your job.
posted by Sara C. at 6:03 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Only you know it? Keep it that way. Maybe what you consider "sketchy" is not what HR would consider "sketchy." Mind your business.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 6:58 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you care a lot about your company's reputation, then perhaps send it to an HR person anonymously. If nothing happens, then move on.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:30 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you care a lot about your company's reputation, then perhaps send it to an HR person anonymously. If nothing happens, then move on.

posted by gjc at 8:54 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

The very fact that you used the word "sketchy" to describe his past makes me inclined to say: No. Keep this to yourself.

You didn't say he did something unethical, or violent, or duplicitous. He did something "sketchy." That word is vague enough that it is almost meaningless. It suggests that there is nothing, really, to get all riled up about.
posted by vivid postcard at 9:25 PM on February 1, 2013

To give you an idea of how some companies view these things, I saw an HR group look at a candidate background check that included a prison sentence for murder 8 years in the past get a thumbs up, because the standard was to go back 7 years.

I could be wrong, but I'm guessing what you found was less serious than murder.
posted by grudgebgon at 9:33 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

anonymous posted">> His job is not likely to be impacted by these revelations about his recent past, but if it were to get out that his history includes these things, it could endanger my company's reputation if a competitor or journalist found out. Nothing he did is illegal.

I don't think there's anything wrong with you doing a little curious you long as you recognize that the digging you did was for personal reasons, not professional reasons. Likewise, the information you uncovered is personal, not professional. It's not relevant in the workplace and you shouldn't bring it up.

Think of another coworker that you respect and really like. Imagine that they were fired for such an "issue" -- that had never surfaced as an issue at work -- just because someone unearthed some tidbit, spun to sound like a potential source of embarrassment for the company. I don't know about you, but I'd be all WTF about that.
posted by desuetude at 10:16 PM on February 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

I do not understand the logic of posting an anonymous question and then trying to "double-anonymize" it by leaving out all pertinent detail. The point of posting anonymously is that you can include details without implicating your username. Those details are what allow you to get tailored answers rather than hopelessly vague advice.

There's a guy at your work who did some sketchy things? Okay. Generally speaking, I agree with the general sentiment of "mind your business." But I don't know what type of company you work for; I have no context for the phrase, "if a competitor or journalist found out"; and maybe most importantly, I don't know how your job/life might be affected by having your company's reputation endangered in whatever way.

Sometimes you do have an ethical duty to look out for the company (which is your "team"). There really isn't enough meat on your question to speculate whether this is one of those times. I would suggest that you dig into Google and look for articles, blog posts, op-ed columns, etc., addressing this kind of ethical quandary in philosophical terms. Since you do know the details of your circumstance, maybe exposing yourself to some different perspectives on the broad will help you "simmer" the situation to a place where you feel confident about a decision.
posted by cribcage at 8:04 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you credit people with too much prior knowledge. What you did is a natural impulse for a researcher. I'm nosy as hell and it means, professionally, I've got to the bottom of stuff where others have hit dead ends.

You can't use this information. There is no way to bring this into a conversation and even if there were, little people could do about it. The best you can do is keep it to yourself and know you are privy to information others do not have.

If you detect a pattern of sketchy behaviour at work because you are more vigilant, that may be different and actionable. Although, as with the mob, people tend not to like or trust a snitch. Bringing negative information about a colleague to attention needs to be done sensitively, legally, without motive, and with a clear view of what the business reason is.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:34 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

You're nervous about your new colleague. This is understandable: we all get nervous about new faces at work, just as we get nervous about having new neighbours. It's this human aspect of geography that make shared spaces bearable, or unbearable.

You, it would seem, are worried about whether the "sketchiness" you have detected in your soon-to-be colleague is going to carry over into their work persona. You are projecting that anxiety onto your employer, pretending to worry about the effect this person will have on their reputation when what you're really worried about is the effect this person will have on you, personally, at work. And I think you're right to be worried: in my experience, antisocial behaviours tend to cluster, and someone who engages in "sketchy" behaviour outside of work will also exhibit problem behaviours at work.

But be honest with yourself about your anxiety. You're not looking out for your company; you're looking out for you, and you are right to do so. Be wary, and when problem behaviours turn up (as they probably will), keep yourself out of harm's way and deal with them through the appropriate channels. When and if this person starts screwing up, you can share your concerns with HR or your future colleague's line manager.
posted by Sonny Jim at 5:32 AM on February 3, 2013

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