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I caught a co-worker plagiarizing my work.
What should I expect from Management?

At my office, as part of progress towards leadership and management roles, candidates for those roles write monthly reports, which are publicly accessible.

In September I wrote such a report and posted it.
In December, one of my co-workers copied my report (100% verbatim), and posted it as his own.

I've reported it to the management-chain, with the evidence.

I am resolved that if my employer does not take appropriate action, I will "explore other options". The difficulty is that I'm not yet sure what "appropriate action" is and is not.

I'm not sure what I can expect from management.
Obviously, he could be fired. But employers are often more inclined to give someone a chance to recover from a screw-up rather than fire them.

Short of termination, what actions are appropriate?

closed as off-topic by gnat, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Chris E, Jan Doggen, Jim G. Dec 29 '14 at 23:43

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First you will never know what action management took towards this person (unless he is fired which becomes obvious) and you should not. The co-worker's personel record and any negative information in it are not your business. There are many possible actions short of firing the person. Get over the idea that you have a right to know this. Would you want others to know if you messed up and got a waring in your file or got put on an improvement plan? Of course not.

Given you are in a higly audited regulatory environment, you took the correct action and reported the problem. You do have a right to know if there are processes put in place to avoid it being possible for someone to plagerize or to automatically catch it if they do. You do not have a right to know what actions they take towards an individual. You did the correct thing, now the resoution is out of your hands and you need to stop worrying about it.

Given the highly regulated enviroment, I suspect managemnt will take some action, but what I cannot predict. It may or may not qualify as a firing offense depending on many factors including local labor laws, corporate policies, previous performance, reason for the problem, political pressures. The person may be required to be more closely supervised or seek treatment for depression or many other actions. It may be the last straw with this person or the first major problem. The problem may not be a big as you seem to think it is. Local laws are critical here too, it may or may not be possible to fire someone, there are jurisdictions where they need no reason, there are jurisdictions where you have to lots of evidence and show many steps to fix performance and still have difficulty with being fired. Further firing the person can be costly in terms of finding and training a replacement, so it is a last resort generally.

If you do not want to be assigned to work with this person in the future, then you can request that but be aware that means you are likely to end up with the worse assignment out of that not him. You are the one asking for reassignment and will get what is available if there is something. It may not be possible to get reassigned depending on the particular jobs you do. If nothing else is aviable, nothing else is available. Don't expect them to create a new postion for you because you don't like or respect someone. When you do that, then you become a mangement problem as much as the person with a performance issue. You will often have to work with people you don't want to. Such is life. Learn to cope. Protect yourself by checking behind him if needed.

If you like the company and want to continue working there, it might be best to start looking around internally for a project or job you would like to move to where this person will not be there. Requesting a transfer to different position because you want to do it is going to be taken far better than requesting a reassignment because you can't get along with somone.

You can move on to another company as well, but don't do it solely becasue you disagree with the actions management took in this one issue. That is running away because you don't want to learn to work well with people whether you like them or respect them or not. There will be some other problem(s) at another job (maybe even worse ones) and you can't keep just running away everytimne you disagree with management. All jobs after all have problems. If there is a pattern of lots of things you disagree with, then fine move on. Don't let one thing cause you to leave.

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You have reported to management. It is not up to you to determine what actions are appropriate. Management is not even obligated to tell you what actions they took if any. What "other options" would you explore? That report is company property. I get you are upset but time to move on.

  • "Other options" could include raising the issue formally with HR and auditors (we work in a field that is heavily audited, and ethics can count as failures). Or it could mean making sure I don't have to work with this jerk anymore, or could mean searching for new employment. – abelenky Dec 29 '14 at 16:03
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    I get you are upset but you have reported it to management. At this point it is in their hands. Going to HR or Audit is going around management. Refusing to work this person is going to make you a less desirable employee. If it fails an audit it is not you that caused the failure. I really doubt a duplicate of a report would cause audit failure. – paparazzo Dec 29 '14 at 16:17
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To start off, like Philip Kendall said, don't assume the worst. There are a multitude of reasons that someone may have done so, and while none justify it, they aren't all intentionally deceitful (Imitation is the greatest form of flattery).

In general, when I have an issue with someone I find it best first to bring it up with them. Give them a change to admit to what they did and allow them to take steps to rectify the situation. If that doesn't work, have someone that is mutually respected sit in and help moderate the discussion, who for you would probably be a fellow co-worker. If both of those fail, go to someone of authority, in your case HR, and explain the situation. Granted, in your case, notify HR may have been the right thing to do as they are also the wronged party and this could have a negative impact on the company.

So what actions are appropriate? Talking to your co-worker (Peacefully! Going in angry rarely ends peacefully), and notify who is in charge (HR). Other than that, it is not for you to take action. While he copied your work and submitted it as his own, you are not the authority here, HR and management are, let them do their job.

In the end, try to forgive him. Yes he wronged you, but holding this against him will only weigh on you, distract you from getting work done and keep you agitated. Focus on the job at hand and let HR deal with it. Now this doesn't mean forget, stay vigilant as this may be common behavior of the person.

TL;DR: Talk to the co-worker one on one peacefully if you must, let HR deal with taking action, and focus on your work.

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First of all: assume incompetence rather than malice. Maybe your coworker thinks your reports are an excellent example of how to write, downloaded it for safe keeping and then just uploaded the wrong file. I'm sure we've all attached the wrong file to an email at some point in our lives. As the reports are public, you'd have to be pretty stupid to copy one precisely.

After that, anything is on the table and depends incredibly on the circumstances. Maybe your coworker is having some personal issues and didn't have time to write his report this month, so he stupidly decided to upload yours. A brain dead decision to be sure, but something you could reasonably give someone a second chance for if they're prepared to admit it when confronted with the evidence. After a great big warning never to do anything so stupid again, of course.

Or in summary: you don't have all the evidence, and likely never will. All you can really do is to trust in your employer to take the correct action.

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    I assume lazy before incompetent, incompetent before malicious. I'd be willing to bet the co-worker is simply lazy and figured no one really looked at other peoples' reports. – Joel Etherton Dec 29 '14 at 16:15
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    That level of laziness comes under incompetent in my book :-) – Philip Kendall Dec 29 '14 at 16:17
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    that level of laziness almost falls under malicious in mine. I'd say that doesn't show a lack of competence so much as it lacks a show of competence or incompetence. – Joel Etherton Dec 29 '14 at 16:23
  • Without extenuating circumstances, agreed. However, we're never gin to know if they exist, and despite their beliefs, the OP almost certainly never will either. – Philip Kendall Dec 29 '14 at 16:33
  • Lazy enough to do it i.e pass someone else's work as one's own. Incompetent enough to have been caught ait it. Malicious enough to think of the idea of stealing of the people's work and passing it off as one's own without any regard to the ethics of it. If nobody says or does anything, odds are better than 99% that he'll do it to someone else. If I were management, I'd hate to send a message that it's OK to steal other people's work and pass it off as one's own while kissing up to management in order to get promotions and raises in the company. – Vietnhi Phuvan Dec 30 '14 at 12:02

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