Thursday, June 21, 2007

What do you do when your boss asks for a favor?

Like pick up his dry cleaning?

Babysit his kids?

Set up a trampoline at his house? Or move a set of weights?

And what if your boss happened to be the City Attorney for Los Angeles?

You might feel obliged to say yes.

When people have positions of power at work, unless they have done a hell of a lot of self-reflection (and even then), they tend not to understand the effect their position of power has on others. So when the City Attorney says that all of these chores were done on employees' "personal time" I have to snort out loud. As if they "chose" to run his errands on their personal time.

The Los Angeles Times interviewed employees at the City Attorney's office and seven (yes, seven) former or current employees said that the city attorney uses the staff for personal errands, including all the examples I listed above. And all feared being named. Yes, the Los Angeles City Attorney, Delgadillo, uses his staff for babysitting and errands. That's an abuse of power and authority.

Let me be really clear: when you are in a position of power and make requests of others, they may feel obligated to comply. Their compliance does not make your requests all right. It may mean your requests were coercive and your staff may fear retaliation (You don't pick up dry cleaning for me, well, then you're not a team player and you may not get a raise). Fortunately, the Los Angeles Ethics Commissioner agrees.