What do you do about a coworker who is not only a big snitch in the bunch but who is also the boss’ little pet?
Peeved at Pet
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY DR. JOHN BURTON
Dear Peeved at Pet,
What you have described in a few words raises a major issue in the workplace, that of worker loyalty. Though employers usually seek to foster loyalty to the company, the deepest ties of loyalty in many firms run from employee to employee. A co-worker who is a “snitch” and a “pet” (the two often go hand in hand) is perceived as a traitor by fellow employees, because he or she has put their loyalty with the company first. To the employer, however, this is exactly what they feel is expected of every employee.
There is no simple resolution to this dilemma. In some work environments the betrayed workers can impose sanctions on co-workers who are perceived to be too cozy with management. But that is what leads to an escalation of office politics, not to a better working environment.
I don’t know anything about your company, but if you are concerned about a “snitch” it sounds like there are things that employees are doing which they don’t want the boss to know about. If so, are you satisfied that your own behavior is ethical and above reproach? Worker loyalty can sometimes be a cover for worker behavior that management has every right to know about and discipline.
If there is a ‘we/they’ atmosphere between management and the workforce as I’ve inferred, then management has a challenge to work on that. If there is a healthy relationship in the firm then there should be no conflict between loyalty to your fellow employees and loyalty to the company.
Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.
Dr. John Burton
Dr. John Burton LL.B. M.B.A. M.Div. Ph.D. is an ethicist, mediator, lawyer and theologian. He has taught alternative dispute resolution at Queen’s Law School and Ethics at the Schulich School of Business. John is currently located in Prince Rupert, B.C., Canada, working with Canada’s aboriginal communities.
Publication note: This letter was originally published in August 2002. We are republishing the best letters from Office-Politics and integrating them with our blog format.