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Talking Shop: Employee borrows company equipment for personal use: How should IT respond?

See how TechRepublic members would deal with a sticky situation involving the uncondoned borrowing of equipment


Welcome to the second installation of our What Would You Do? column, a forum for sharing your knowledge and experience in dealing with the softer side of computer support. Every two weeks, I will present a new scenario that requires more than a technical solution. Each situation will be an accurate description of an actual event, with the names and other identifying factors changed to protect the innocent—and sometimes not so innocent. If you're new to this column, I recommend you read our inaugural article, "Help a frustrated tech remain neutral in end-user feud."

The rest is up to you
After reading each scenario, if you have ideas about how a satisfactory resolution might be achieved, send them to us. Don’t hold back, and don't be afraid to be creative. And if you've ever encountered a similar situation, we're particularly interested in hearing the steps you took to achieve a resolution.

You can submit your ideas either by e-mail or by posting a discussion item at the end of each column. One week after the publication of a scenario, we'll pull together the most interesting solutions and common themes from the discussion. We will then present them with the situation's actual outcome in a follow-up article to be published at a later date. You may continue to add discussion items after the week has elapsed, but to be eligible for inclusion in the follow-up article, your suggestions must be received within a week of the scenario's publication. So without further ado, here is another scenario for your consideration.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be
This time, our scenario revolves around Mark, an amiable person, but one who is constantly in one support tech’s office bugging him with questions. Although irritating, the tech tolerates this behavior because his office is next door to Mark's and the tech doesn't want to seem unsociable.

Update: So what really happened?
To learn the outcome of the scenario outlined below and get a recap of the comments and suggestions given by TechRepublic members, click here.

One day, the questions revolve around Iomega Zip drives. The support tech starts to address Mark’s questions, when he remembers that Mark doesn't actually have a company-issued Zip drive. Thinking the question must be about Mark's home computer, the tech asks why he needs to know about Zip drives. Taking the tech into his confidence, Mark informs him that he's starting up his own company in a building across the street. To troubleshoot a problem he was experiencing with his own Zip drive, Mark confesses that he “borrowed” a Zip drive from the tech’s office the day before. He had taken it across the street to use at his new company, returning it a few hours later.

This information makes the tech very uncomfortable. While the company has no written policy explicitly preventing users from utilizing computer equipment for personal use, he is certain that such an action would not be condoned. What if there had been a disk containing company data in the drive? What if the drive had been lost or damaged? Is it the tech’s responsibility to let someone know that Mark is using company time for his own business? The company for which the tech works is small and friendly, creating a pleasant atmosphere, but this also makes it difficult to deal with such situations in an impersonal manner.

What would you do?
Please e-mail your solutions or post a discussion item below. Remember: You must respond with your suggestions within a week to be considered for the follow-up column.

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