This week’s “What would you do?” column features a TechRepublic member who is concerned with the ethics of using company resources and time to conduct a search for a new position. With the time constraints imposed on IT pros by their jobs, families, and other commitments, this is an issue that most IT pros will likely face at some point in their careers. Here is this week’s scenario:

“I’ve found that changing jobs can sometimes raise questions of ethics in a number of ways. First, when looking for a new position, I’ve found that it’s necessary for me to make limited use of company resources (e.g., e-mailing my resume out). How should I view this in terms of ethics? (Whether anyone finds out or not is irrelevant to the ethical question.)

Second, I’ve also found that it is necessary to take time off during the working day for interviews and phone calls. In order to keep the fact that I am looking for a job elsewhere confidential, how do I deal with my manager’s inquiries as to where I am going, etc.? I have a good relationship with my manager, and do not want to jeopardize it at all.

Last, during my years with the company, I have built a large resource base of documents, manuals, freeware utilities, and knowledge bases that I would like to take with me to my next position. As these have all been developed or sourced by me, is it permissible to copy them and take them when I go?”

When thinking about your answers to this TechRepublic member’s ethical job-hunting dilemmas, also consider some other factors that might impact your response. For example, what if your company has a written policy that explicitly addresses job hunting? What if you know that you are to be included in the next layoff? What other factors can you think of that might impact your response to this dilemma? Please help out this Tech Republic member by sharing you experience and opinions.

We want to hear what you have to say!

You can submit your ideas either by e-mail or by posting a discussion item at the end of this column. A week after the publication of a scenario, we’ll pull together the most interesting solutions and common themes from the discussion. We will later present them with the situation’s actual outcome in a follow-up article. 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.

How do you deal with a remote office that wants IT autonomy?
In an earlier column, we presented the case of an overworked IT department in a government agency tasked with supporting both local and remote users. One department at a remote location allowed an employee, not affiliated with the IT department, to run its local network and now the remote location wants to be released from all constraints imposed by the IT department. The IT manager is in a bind, for as much as he does not wish to relinquish control of the remote office, he also does not have the resources to offer the department adequate support.

Your suggestions for how the IT manager should proceed fell into three broad categories:

  • The “IT wannabe” should be instructed to cease and desist from all IT activities.
  • The wannabe should be trained and used to supplement the IT department.
  • The wannabe should be transferred into the IT department.

Proponents of the first approach believed that the actual and potential damage wreaked by the wannabe negated any benefits his actions bestowed upon the IT department. Member Dianakbrown elaborated on this point by asking the question: “If the remote systems crash, who will be held responsible? The local IT wannabe or you? If the answer is you, then you must take full control. It is the responsibility of your IT department for those systems and all the information and protection of both. You can already see that the remote office refuses to believe that its IT wannabe is at fault.”

Persuading or forcing the wannabe to desist from his IT activities only addresses half of the IT manager’s problem; there is also the issue of understaffing. In acknowledgement of this, proponents of the second approach suggest that the IT department should “at least train and utilize [the wannabe],” wrote Mark. “You may have a cheap resource here with a little encouragement and training.”

Several members expressed the view that while the third approach of transferring the wannabe into the IT department would be better, given the current budget constraints, spending some time educating him while allowing him to remain an employee of his own department would be a reasonable compromise.

As for the actual outcome of the situation, the IT manager submitted the following report:

“We now have added [the wannabe] to our group and have provided him with training so he can actually be beneficial and follow IT department procedures. Because of this success, our library support has followed the same path, and we are preparing to roll out remote services to other sites. As a result, our customer service to our remote locations has increased and users are much more satisfied knowing that IT support isn’t miles away, but local.”