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Smart Advice – December 18, 2009

Should You Blow the Whistle If You Suspect a Crime?

What’s Your Beef? | Photo: istock

Retired Island executive offers advice on office life

I work at an import-export company. I’m just a clerk, but I suspect the owners (a family) are illegally bringing things in without paying the proper duty. Am I obligated to report my suspicions? I don’t know if they are doing something illegal, but I strongly suspect it.

Have you signed the paperwork for any of the stuff you’re suspicious about? If so, you may unwittingly be involved, and that can complicate things. Clearly, you need to find another job, though that’s not so easy these days. Once you’re away from them, you’ll have to decide what to do. You’re not obligated to report your suspicions, and before you do you’ll have to decide if retribution would come your way if you did. As the saying goes, you’re between a rock and a hard place.

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I am about to graduate with a business degree. I have already been hired by a local company with more than 400 employees and will start after Christmas. Who should I get to know first and how do I go about it?

Start with your immediate supervisor and her assistant, who in the long run may be more important to you than your boss. Nothing will serve you quite as well as being in good stead with the people who really know what’s going on. Then make friends with the guy whose job you want next. Learn all you can about what he does right, and what he does wrong. How do you go about it? Just be your friendly, good-natured self. If that’s not you, you could be in trouble.

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I feel I might have stalled in my job. After years of getting raises, I no longer do (although the company is in financial difficulty and I doubt anyone is getting much). I am not always invited to meetings I used to attend regularly. Is it time for me to move on? How can you tell when it is time to start looking for another job?

Sounds like alarm bells are ringing somewhere in the distance. If you’ve reached your financial ceiling, you’ll have to decide whether you can live with that. Being excluded, though, makes me wonder if you have fallen from grace. As for when it’s time to start looking for another job, you should always be alert for opportunity.

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The guy in the next cubicle must eat a lot of sauerkraut and beans. To put it delicately, he has a fragrance issue. Should I talk to him about it?

Is he belligerent and bigger than you? If so, you’ll just have to keep some air freshener handy or risk a poke in the nose. If he’s a nice guy, tell him he might think about a change in diet as a favor to those around him. Or you could open a jar of Tiger Balm.

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Have a question? E-mail it to getbeef@hawaiibusiness.com or mail it to: What’s Your Beef, c/o Hawaii Business, 1000 Bishop St., Suite 405, Honolulu, HI 96813. Your anonymity will be protected!

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