The Problem of Time Abuse

Misuse of working hours and workers is a commonplace and costly problem posing serious ethical issues. It may constitute the rather simple appropriation of public property for personal gain or unauthorized use, which can be seen variously as intangible theft or conflict of interest. When the misuse stems from an unscrupulous supervisor’s directive, the problem is abuse of office. Then too, the problem may be linked to carelessness or incompetence on the part of the employee or supervisor. All told, these behaviors are contrary to ethical standards in public service.

Time abuse is different from lost time, which refers to all time paid but not worked, whatever the reason, including legitimate reasons. In this regard, how many employees understand that vacation time may be devoted to personal purposes but that the employee is still on the payroll and still a public servant? It is up to the manager to ex- plain that the ethical obligations binding on public employees still operate and that this is not the time for conflicting or unauthorized moonlighting. Authorized outside employment usually presents no problem, as long as it does not interfere with job performance, generate conflicts of interest, or appear improper.

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