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I worked in New York City at a mid-sized brokerage house. The place was open round the clock so if you needed, you can practically live there - included shower, changing rooms etc. The managing director was a great guy who has the one office with the boardroom taking up the remaining available space. So after about 2 years working there, I come in on a Friday or Saturday night after bar hopping alone at maybe 2-3am, and I don't see anyone else.

So while walking around, I look on the branch manager's desk and see a lighter shaped like a butane mini canister, size of a D battery next to glass pipes and vials. I recognized that it was crack, and I got out of there fast.

This is the guy who makes important decisions. I have no proof, as I didn't have a camera phone, so no evidence.

What would be the course of action to take where I don't end up unemployed and industry blacklisted?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by ReallyTiredOfThisGame, CMW, MrFox, jcmeloni, jmac Mar 3 at 2:37

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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****comments removed****: Please avoid using comments for extended discussion. Instead, please use The Workplace Chat. On Workplace SE, comments are intended to help improve a post. Please see What "comments" are not... for more details. –  jmort253 Feb 28 at 5:14
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@jmort253 I can understand removing some comments, but all of them seems a bit excessive? –  Joe Feb 28 at 15:02
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@Joe - It may seem that way, and I try to take the time to look at each comment and make a call individually, but if the entire comment thread is nothing but debate or extended discussion, then it simply doesn't belong in the main Q&A site. Comments are intended to either help improve a post or seek clarification from its author. I realize the contents of this posts is a popular, debatable topic, so join our very active discussion-based chat room and start a conversation. Good luck! –  jmort253 Feb 28 at 15:07
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@jmort253 (at risk of making this chatty)... the reason I say this, is I added a comment which wasn't chatty, and intended as advice, but not enough detail to qualify as an answer, this was removed with the rest of the comments, I don't mind too much, but it seems like this, plus any other potentially helpful comments got caught up in it. –  Joe Feb 28 at 15:12
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Hey @joe, even answers in comments is something we discourage because they can't be ranked, voted on, nor do they appear in search results. See What do we do about comments as answers, as well as What comments are not for further guidance. Hope this helps clarify. –  jmort253 Feb 28 at 17:37

9 Answers 9

up vote 32 down vote accepted

I would say that without any proof, you are on pretty shaky ground and it would come down to his word versus yours and it's likely that the more senior employee would be believed either by the MD or your co-workers.

Personally (and this is without experience of working for this type of firm/in the broker industry), if it is not noticeably affecting his ability to do his job, then it is of no business of anyones. Unless there are strict clauses in employment contracts about behaviour whilst on the company premises that he is contravening then he is not really doing anything wrong.

I'm not sure what would be gained by mentioning this to your co-workers unless you already have an issue with the branch manager for some other reason.

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While I agree that the OP has no evidence and should not bring it up, I have to disagree that this is no business of the company. He is doing something illegal on company property, that is certainly their business whether the work is being affected or not. –  HLGEM Feb 26 at 15:10
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@Mike - his employers. The people who are hiring him. The legal entity that is the company. –  Oded Feb 26 at 15:16
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@Mike - Sure. Which is the completely wrong question... –  Oded Feb 26 at 15:22
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@Superbest: Why assume that it's at the level of abuse? Or even more than once? –  AlbeyAmakiir Feb 26 at 22:34
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@Superbest: I rather assumed that by "abuse" they meant it in the same way you say "alcohol abuse", in that the substance is being used too much so that it impairs function and reduces quality of life, and so on. I've never seen it used any other way. But, either way, it still stands that this may have been a one time or very rare use, that does not impair his ability to work, and he has no evidence (at least shared with us) otherwise. –  AlbeyAmakiir Feb 27 at 5:41

Co-workers? Absolutely not. Not your job, not your role, no good results likely.

Upper management? Maybe cautiously. You may want to advise them of what you saw -- and only what you saw, without any speculation about what or who -- and leave it to them to take whatever action they consider appropriate. Check whether your company has a mechanism for raising concerns anonymously. Remember that you're betting your job even if you do file anonymously, as management may decide to shut down the entire site or otherwise take less than targeted action.

Whatever you do, don't tamper with evidence. Not your job unless you're in Security and appropriately trained, in which case you wouldn't be asking the Internet. Untrained, you're likely to make matters worse rather than better (and may just get yourself in trouble). If you feel a need to capture something, you could consider grabbing a cell-phone photo... but think about whether you want that image on your phone.

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As you point out just tell upper mangement what they saw, don't conclude anything, people are smart they can come to their own conclusion. –  Ramhound Feb 27 at 13:02
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One other thought: If you just saw the paraphernalia sitting on the desk, it could be there because the manager had just confiscated it from someone else and was waiting for someone from Legal to come by and tell him how to safely dispose of it and/or transfer it to police. Another good reason to limit yourself to observed facts rather than jumping to conclusions. –  keshlam Feb 27 at 23:50

Too many possibilities. Someone, anyone, such as a janitor, the guy who has the desk next to yours, a secretary, any other co-worker, etc., etc., was using that desk to do drugs. But perhaps not the branch manager who is actually assigned that desk/office. The drug user goes for a nature call, then you walk in.

No evidence whatsoever who is the user or who the stuff belongs to on the desk. Perhaps someone trying to frame the branch manager. The list of scenarios is endless.

Your only option was to pick up the stuff, like in the cop shows with a tissue, bag it and take it to senior management. Tell them where you found it and mention that you doubt it's the branch manager, but someone is obviously doing something. Even better is you drop that evidence off anonymously with a note; no one likes a snitch (even a worthy one), not even subconsciously. Then it's up to management and, if they like, they can have it fingerprinted by a private detective agency.

One word of note, drugs in the workplace is more about liability coverage and insurance payout as well as protecting the brokerage from customer lawsuits.

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Do not drop the evidence off anonymously, as that will leave management to wonder if YOU are planting evidence. –  zacharydl Feb 26 at 19:08
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I like the general tone but you shouldn't touch the evidence, for no reason whatsoever. If you find something suspicious, get a phone and call security. Let them handle it. If someone tries to tamper with the evidence, you should try to stop them (with words, not by hitting them over the head). –  Aaron Digulla Feb 28 at 14:50

I thought I'd just add another answer because I don't see any that offers what seems the best option to me... and that honestly baffles me.

TALK TO THE GUY!!

Pros:

  • He might be more careful.
  • He might realize it's time to use less.
  • He might appreciate your concern for him AND the company.

Cons:

  • He might not like you because of it. Big deal. Apparently you don't like him for it.
  • He might not like you because you falsely accused. At least you didn't report him for nothing then.

Nothing more to fear from that. He can't get you fired or closeted just for knowing something he doesn't want anyone else to know. The absolutely worst case and unlikely scenario would be if he's doing it, his supervisors are doing it, and there's no omerta about it and they decide you're a snotty annoyance they need to get rid off. Sounds Hollywoddian.


This might sound like I live in the magic land of licorns and hugbears, but that seems like the best first step to me, albeit maybe a possibly uncomfortable one.

Then, depending on the outcome, you can consider other options.

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(and seriously, when I read answers or comment about directly reporting the guy to law enforcement for using and not selling, I'm thinking we lack some humanity around here... Considering a code of conduct and company policy, fine, but going to law enforcement as the step 0 seems sadly aggressive to me.) –  haylem Feb 27 at 17:44
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+1, but I'd do that only if you think that (aside from the crack use) the manager is actually a decent person. If you suspect he might be a vindicative/untrusting person, steer clear of trouble –  berdario Feb 27 at 19:53
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@NastyNick: that'd be one way to do it, though I didn't really think of "blackmail" as part of the the human element in my approach. :) But for better effect, you should wait for him in his office, in his chair with your back turned to the door, so you can slowly turn back towards him as he enters. Big grin or cold stare, your pick. And with a cat. White works better, but I guess any cat would do. Props like guns and baseball bats are also a nice touch, but they're harder to get through security than the cat. –  haylem Feb 28 at 5:45
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Excuse me - you're talking about a (potential) crack user who needs to cover his ass. Quick - what's gonna happen? (Cue mood lighting and choir singing "Kum By Yah") He's going to see you trying to make a positive impact on his life? Ummm...NO! He's going to see you as a huge threat to his existence! There's NO WAY to "talk to this guy". You shut up (as in, don't tell momma, don't tell girlfriend, don't tell your priest!), you get another job, and you bail. End. Of. Story. –  Bob Jarvis Mar 1 at 14:50
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@BobJarvis: That's a safe approach for your ass and I can understand it. But there's a disconnect between the first part of your answer with the word "potential" and the rest which is totally assertive about things being necessarily the worst possible case. Plus, you know, not everybody can necessarily afford to quit their job every time they've got a moron for a boss. –  haylem Mar 3 at 4:02

You have a few options;

Get proof, then report him, if it breaks any company policy. In most typical companies this probably would break some form of Code of Conduct (if your company has one).

Think of it as if you are in court, the two lawyers could talk a great game to the jury, but it's the evidence that create a guilty verdict or reasonable doubt.

Get your ducks in order (evidence) first.

Some may think of you whistleblower and that would be the case yes. However if your company does have a CoC handbook, refer to it as most comprehensives CoC's have a whistleblowing section - how to do it properly.

Another suggestion could be talking to a HR representative for anonymous advice.

As long as you follow things by the book you 'should' be OK.

However since you said you have no evidence, then you cannot do anything about that instance. Don't turn into a Columbo and attempt to catch him in the act, concentrate on your own role, but be aware.

Thanks @Chad for your thoughts.

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I once reported to a guy who always had a suspiciously high level of energy. And that's how I described it when asked about him.

You don't know what you think you saw, you didn't record it, and you honestly don't know (although you think you do, and I did read your original expanded question). Bottom line, if you want a reputation as someone with good judgement, discretion, and loyalty, you don't say a word unless you have proof and ethics demands it. In this case, if you had proof, ethics would demand it based on most corporate policies. But you don't. So hold your tongue.

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  1. First of all, you have no proof. Even if you had taken a photo, this still wouldn't be proof. Anyone can plant evidence on someone's desk and take a photo. It proves nothing.
  2. How can you even be 100% sure of what it was? Did you pick it up and inspect it? It sounds like you just got spooked and left quickly. Are you really willing to destroy someone's career because you have a 'good hunch' that they're doing drugs? And even if it was what you think it was, that's still not proof of any wrongdoing. Sometimes people come into possession of things, who knows how or why. There may be a perfectly good explanation.
  3. It's the 21st century, lighten up. Do you have any idea how common drug-use is in brokerage houses? If the guy is doing his job well, who cares? If he's not performing his job well, then report him, but on the grounds of job performance which is really the only thing that matters.
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Hey T, just some constructive feedback: I'd suggest removing the opinionated portions (ex: "lighten up") and try to come at this from a more objective approach. Workplace SE is subjective, but we're looking for answers that can ideally be backed with facts, references, or personal experiences. See Good Subjective, Bad Subjective for details. In essence, objectivity avoids the extended debate we were seeing in this comment thread. Hope this helps. –  jmort253 Feb 28 at 5:25

Don't accuse him directly.

Instead, encourage your workplace to enforce random drug testing. Let him get caught naturally, or give them up naturally. Either way you don't get caught up in the mess.

And, you could be wrong about him using drugs, despite how sure you are. Maybe he was going to do a presentation at a youth group on the dangers of drugs.

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... why? This doesn't explain "why" at all nor does it really suggest why it is right. –  enderland Feb 27 at 17:59
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@gnat where I come from "get" can be used as a synonym of "compel" or "urge". I have edited it to. "encourage" –  Bohemian Feb 27 at 21:17

Mention only to the security people at the firm what you saw - and only what you saw, not your interpretation.

Then go about your business and forget it, until if and when it impacts you directly. You are not the police, the security team, the HR team, or the provider of company gossip.

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