When is snitching the right thing to do?
Snitch, tattletale, blabbermouth. No one likes them and no one wants to be accused of being one. But there are times when speaking up is the right thing to do, especially as far as the employer-employee relationship is concerned. Because not speaking up could cost you your job.
All employees are bound by the principle of a duty of good faith towards their employer. While this is not specifically legislated, it is acknowledged as a principle of common law and underpins the processes stipulated in the Labour Relations Act.
The principle is also reciprocal – the employer pays the employee a salary for work done and provides a safe working environment, and in return, employees should not act in a manner that is detrimental to the organisation and should always remain loyal and faithful while in the company’s employ.
So what does this have to do with snitching?
Simply put, if an employee knows of a transgression committed by another employee towards their employer and does not inform the employer of the transgression they could be found guilty of derivative misconduct.
Derivative misconduct is usually associated with acts of violence or vandalism during strike action, as well as theft of company equipment or goods. Let’s take a look at an example.
Company ABC decides to give their employees two free pens each. You happen to see someone been given three pens. Reporting this to your superiors would be tantamount to telling tales. However, if you see one of your colleagues stealing several boxes of pens from the company storeroom, you are obligated to disclose this information.
Failure to do so means you have betrayed your duty of good faith to your employer. This could place your job in jeopardy if it is later revealed that you knew about the theft and remained silent, especially if your employer requested anyone with information about the stolen pens to come forward. Not coming forward makes you just as guilty of the misconduct as the pen thief and should disciplinary action ensue, you could be dismissed from the company.
But perhaps you were afraid to come forward because you feared retaliation from the pen thief. This is what makes derivative misconduct so complex. There are many factors to consider and no two cases are alike. Consequently, derivative misconduct should be handled with caution. Each case should be dealt with on its own merits and employers should only institute disciplinary action after all the facts have been carefully examined.