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Revealing the Truth Behind the Deception at Work

I have been a consultant for a small nonprofit for close to five years. I have seen a lot of changes and employee turnover. I have a friendly relationship with the executive director, who is not my main contact but has the ultimate say over my duties. Unfortunately their employee turnover has meant a huge loss of institutional memory that has resulted in some massive erosion of process. Additionally, some abrupt changes in structure and nontransparent promotions have created uncomfortable shifts in hierarchy and a general feeling of instability.

I have offered my services to onboard new employees in the new project management system, which they also rashly instituted without any forethought or training. This offer was initially accepted, but I keep getting put off on getting started until things are “settled.”

This, meanwhile, has made my assignments a lot more difficult and disorganized. I’m very concerned that any growth of an organization operating this way will only compound these problems. But since I’m not an employee, would that be overstepping? It is getting to the point that I’ve considered firing them as a client, but I love their mission — and the work itself is very interesting. I am reluctant to get too involved, but their current way of operating is making my job a lot more difficult. Would love to know your take.

— Anonymous

There are many pleasures to working as a consultant. You choose what you do and with whom you work, but there are also elements you have little or no control over, including the professional environments of your clients. You have something valuable to offer the people in this organization, but they have to want your assistance and be in a position to take advantage of it.

Because you’ve already offered your services, I’m not sure what more you can do to get them to follow through on accepting your offer. Certainly, send a reminder that you are ready and willing to help them in this transition to see if that motivates the client. Offer specific information on the problems you can address and how. You can also tactfully share your concerns with your main contact, outlining how the transitional chaos is complicating your work.

That said, I would be judicious in how you communicate your concerns because you are on the outside looking in and may not have a full understanding of what’s going on. If and when you reach the limits of your tolerance, it may be time to fire the client. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

I am a scientist (male) who works in biotechnology. A part of my role is participating in monthly safety inspections of our facilities. Unfortunately, this also includes taking note of employees who are not in compliance with our personal protective equipment requirements. These rules are not arbitrary, and are regulated by the county environmental health and safety agency.

I consistently encounter one employee wearing her lab coat completely unbuttoned and wearing a cropped tube top underneath. This attire is concerning because it doesn’t match the safety dress code for scientific employees.

I feel torn. In other safety instances (like someone not wearing gloves, or safety glasses), I can usually remind the individual during the inspection. In doing so I can avoid having to go to our safety director. For this context, with the employee wearing the cropped tube top, I don’t want to appear to be “that guy” telling a woman how she should dress in the office. In bringing this up with our safety director, I don’t want to appear like I am “tattling” on another employee, but this is in violation of our safety policies that keep us in compliance to run our research center. If a county inspector walked in and saw her dressed like that, we would easily be fined.

Should I pass this case to the safety officer and have him deal with this?

— Anonymous, Boston

I understand your concern and appreciate your being mindful of not policing women’s attire. It’s important to be cognizant of such nuances. Safety policies exist for a reason, and asking someone to follow those policies is ensuring that the workplace stays safe and helps to avoid sanctions and/or fines.

You have a couple options. Part of your job is to pay attention to how your team is adhering to safety policies. You’ve noted a violation, so it is well within your purview to approach the employee and say something. You can be clear that you have no problem with her attire while reinforcing what she needs to wear to follow the safety guidelines.

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