The High-Tech Career Handbook
|A weekly ComputorEdge Column and Podcast by Douglas E. Welch|
Playing it safe
March 10, 2000
** Listen to this column on your computer, iPod or other audio player **
Regardless of your computer career you will all go through
some traumatic situations. Sometimes you suffer through a lengthy interview
process and still don't get the job. You might feel trapped in a job you
hate. Even resigning from a job can be traumatic. Regardless of how upsetting
these situations might be, I can imagine that having the police show up
at your door might be the most traumatic of all. The story that follows
shows that even in the world of computer careers ethical lapses can have
an effect far beyond the perpetrators.
A computer programmer found himself facing police officers with a search warrant and an arrest warrant one evening. It seems that during a major layoff at his old company, employees started taking everything that wasn't nailed down. Despite his attempts to document his return of all company property he was lumped in with the others and accused of grand theft. The charges were subsequently dropped due to lack of evidence, but in the meantime this programmer spent several hours in custody, had to produce bail and, perhaps worst of all, lost his current job due to the arrest; a nightmare scenario for anyone.
Don't do it
While the situation above is extreme, too often workers assume that they are entitled to company property when they leave. This is both unethical and illegal. I don't care how badly you were treated or how underpaid you were, taking company property is a sure way to end up without a career, if not in jail. Even if the company doesn't press charges, there are certain to be rumors that will dog you wherever you go.
Get it in writing
My best advice in these situations is to forgo any offers of property, no matter how benign they may seem. The chance of later issues over such offers taints them. If you really want to take something, make sure you get written and signed approval from the person making the offer. In fact, throughout your career, you want to get everything in writing. Memories can fade, but paper can be filed and used in your defense, should you ever need it.