I'm curious-how would you handle it

rob333November 14, 2012

So there is a little sitting area within my enclosed office. It has a table that gets used as a lunch table and that's fine with me. Generally, those who use it are quiet enough it's ok, or not, but it's not bothersome. I have been here and will continue to be here, while those uisng the table are visiting folks. There is one person with whom I take exception. The other day, they told someone who is here from another country (they are US and they other is from Europe) to do something illegal. It's not highly illegal, but it's illegal in a way that doing what they suggested, would have the opposite effect; the law was designed to protect the person. They told the other person to do it anyway. I want to tell the visiting person the correct thing to do.

Further, they're in my office and speaking in a tone that is loud enough to hear. That is, I'm not trying to listen, and I don't hear everything (or want to. The first person says denigrating things about my hometown, so I usually tune them out) but there it is. Others at the table were arguing with person number 1, so that it got loud enough to hear. I'm not worried about eaves dropping is my point. It's MY office (even though I am sharing it and happy to do so).

How would you let the second person know the right thing?

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I would look for the opportunity -- or create one -- to find yourself in the same space as the 2nd person: passing him/her in the hallway, at the vending machine, walking out of a meeting. And casually say, "Hi, I'm Rob -- you sometimes eat lunch in the area I work in. Can I have a minute of your time? I want to pass some information on to you." And then go down the hall or wherever, to avoid passersby and say "I couldn't help but overhear your conversation with XXX, and I would feel really bad if I didn't tell you this:"

You don't want to do this in an e-mail, for obvious legal reasons, and you don't want the others who were at the table to be part of this conversation (whether the 2nd person shares it is out of your hands).

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 1:50PM
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It might depend on what country the others were from and their culture. To some it may not be illegal but a poor decision. Maybe if possible, could the table be moved out of your office and that way would releave the responsibility for you? Maybe you could talk to the person from the US and ask him/her to clarify the discussion and/or talk to your boss unless you are the boss. Hard decision--wish you the best, and you might write some ideas down first to put the problem in perspective.
Good luck

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 1:51PM
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It's fully illegal here. Person 1 knew and others at the table knew. They just said, "Do it anyway because this place is horrible" (bascially). Just to clear that up. Maybe that's what is really bothering me. Why would they tell Person 2 that? Maybe they were trying make trouble? Wouldn't that be awful? Ick! It could be my pure distaste of person 1. If they hate it so much they should leave?! There, now I feel better.

Glad y'all are listening! heh

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 2:14PM
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I guess it would depend on what the issue involved...but...that being said...if there is printed material and/or a printed law that supports the correct position/advice, I'd present it to the person involved [the European?]. Nothing speaks louder...or with more authority...than printed material that supports your position. It relieves you from any criticism and gives the person involved all the info that he/she needs. If he/she ignores the printed material, then you've done all you can do. I would preface the presentation by explaining that you couldn't help but overhear the conversation and that you feel the printed information will be helpful in aiding the person in making their decision.

Beyond that...if it were me, personally, and I knew the person who was giving the errant advice well enough...I'd speak to them directly in a private atmosphere asking why they'd given poor and/or illegal advice. You may not win any "battle" but you'll have a chance to better understand the individual involved.



    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 2:14PM
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Why the secrecy of what the alleged illegal activity is all about? I guess part of how I respond would depend on the situation and with the few facts it's hard to say definitively. If you're talking something where someone else would be impacted (murder, assault, rape, arson, etc) would have a different impact than something like keeping the extra nickel from the candy machine or having a joint to relieve pain, especially if it's legal where they're from.

Obviously it offends your morals a lot and the person who's saying it bothers you so with the caveat that I don't know a lot of facts here, I'd say talk with the non-resident and as suggested, a copy of the law would be appropriate. I also wouldn't be too worried about saying something in front of the person you don't like. Nothing wrong with letting them know you disagree with them. If they object, suggest they not coerce others into breaking the law in front of witnesses!

Looks to me this table in your office bothers you a lot more than you're letting on. Why not try to get it moved even if you have to trade off space? You can take some file cabinets or boxes from a storeroom to open up space there. Then they won't have you overhearing their conversations and everyone will probably be a lot happier.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 2:43PM
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Why the secrecy? Because it's not imporant what it is. Why it is happens to be what I am addressing. I think people have too many personal experiences and answer with answers that fit their situation, not thinking beyond. "They" and "activity" are blank on purpose.

The table has never bothered me. I don't mince words. Ever. I probably should. I bet you and I would get along (or butt heads), but you're off this time. I want them to meet in there. More goes on than eating when they eat come together in there. Maybe that's the issue, the real issue, it was too contentious for relaxing for everyone involved. Really, it goes against the unstated ideal of the room--bonding. It's certainly ok to be different in there (every nation you can imagine!) and what usually goes on is a greater appreciation for the nationality that might never have gotten across any other way. This ONE person is violating the sanctity of the haven that's been created. How I address that is a whole nuther issue. This issue crossed the line. I do want to take care of it expediently. Maybe the rest will take care of itself someday.

The flavor of the room changes loads, there's no denying that! My favorite event was an American Southerner (ME!) translating what a Japanese man said in English to a Chinese man in English. HA! How I spoke it any differently is news to me, but he got it!

Hey at least you fit your name cynic!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 2:56PM
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Is this a school? and are the participants minors? If not, regardless of where they are from, they're responsible for their own actions. And frankly, it's up to them to find out the law in the place they reside (ignorance of the law and all that).

The only other reason I could see for you involving yourself would be (and really it is very difficult to answer your question when we don't have much in the way of info on this) if the proposed illegal action has something to do with your work, and might get you or the entity you work for in trouble. Ex--if this is a hospital and the illegal advice was for a nurse to change a med without a dr's authorization.

Know you said it's not the issue, but really, it seems to me, that the way to prevent this sort of situation from occuring is to close the office door, do my own work, and let the others congregate elsewhere for lunch. I wouldn't want a gaggle of lunchers in my office when I was trying to get any real work done--would keep me from conducting phone business, would take my mind off my own chores (as it obviously has for you). Just saying how I'd feel in your shoes.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 4:25PM
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I'm not clear on why you wouldn't simply turn around and say "DO NOT discuss or advise someone to commit clearly illegal activities while sitting in my office! I do not wish to be a party to this, and yet, you have made me one."

Done in one.

There is no delicate way around this. Take a stand. And just maybe they'll take their lunch elsewhere in the future.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 4:40PM
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mary, point well taken. It hasn't happened before in a decade of years, but I'll do that next time.

azzalea, you have your opinion, but that's the kind of thing that ruins it for everyone. I'm not sure this one incident with this person who will leave is worth shutting down the whole operation. Yes, they're adults, but they're young adults and if person 2 isn't from here he might get the idea this thing is subjective. It's also why I don't worry about the room, it changes all the time. Different people rotating in/out. I can overlook the rest of the stuff ONE person does since they're leaving. It's why I can. They'll be gone and I'll be here.

I do believe I've decided to get P2 alone and let them know it's illegal when P1 isn't around. I'm fairly sure they were "getting" that no one else liked the idea, but I'll let them know why.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 4:54PM
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rob -- I've read all your posts in this thread twice, and I still can't figure out this situation. I understand that you want to be vague, but ???

You have an office that also functions as a...'break room'...conference room? It's a space for visitors to...a hospital...a drug rehab...a halfway house...a juvenile detention facility...a job-training center?

I'm having a hard time imagining why people would be eating lunch IN 'your office'. Are you meant to be supervising them?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 5:49PM
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