Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Please Don’t Kill the Messenger

DEAR NATALIE: What do you do when you see an ethical issue at the office and aren't sure how to handle it? I want to be as vague as possible because I am dealing with a real-life situation right now, but the gist of it is that someone very high up is stealing from the organization that I work for and I'm not sure what to do about it. Do I go to a board member? A lawyer? Do I do nothing? This has been keeping me up every night since I discovered what is going on with our books and I'm completely anxiety ridden about it. There is only one board member I trust. -- ETHICAL DILEMMA

DEAR ETHICAL DILEMMA: If something is keeping you awake night after night, the only choice you have is to act to at least reduce your stress level enough to sleep. Make a list of people you trust that could help you with this. You may want to approach that one board member discreetly and talk vaguely about what you are seeing to gauge the reaction. If you have actual proof that the person is stealing, come prepared. But, after you tell someone within the organization, you have to be prepared for the fallout. Ever heard the saying, "Don't shoot the messenger?" Well, in this case, be prepared for the person you accused to come after you. You may want to contact a lawyer before you chat with anyone within the organization for some legal advice on the matter. I know we tell our children to always do the right thing, but doing the right thing is actually difficult and scary at times. This doesn't mean you shouldn't follow your instincts, but just be prepared for the worst. You may want to start job hunting in the meantime, too. Good luck. We need more people willing to stand up for what is right - even when it's scary.  

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: The holidays are a great time to reintroduce yourself to contacts whom you may have lost touch with earlier in the year. Send them a funny holiday e-card or invite them to a networking event to reconnect and possibly reignite a conversation. 

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)