This question came to my mind when I was reading this question. The scenario in that question is: Bob and Mallory are coworkers. Bob confronts Mallory for throwing cigarettes out of a car. Mallory responds harshly and escalates the situation to HR, saying that Bob harasses him.
Initially, there were two ways to handle the situation (I am talking about the situation before Bob has confronted Mallory):
1. Mind your own business
Which is clearly the way to go in nearly all situations of these kind. Definitely so if the actions of Mallory isn't against the law, or is against the law but if the law is not enforced, in your jurisdiction (that is, if there is no legal power against the actions of Mallory).
2. Do something about it
Two courses of action here are:
1. Warn the coworker
Which obviously won't lead to a good outcome. Because if someone is throwing cigarettes out of a car, what are the chances that he will say: "Oh, I didn't know that I was an a-hole. Sorry for that and it won't happen again.", when you warn him? Surely things will get bitter. Which brings us to the other option:
2. Call the cops on him (?)
This one is my question. Had Bob simply called the cops on Mallory for breaking a law, instead of making any interaction whatsoever with Mallory, what would have followed next?
I guess that a trial against Mallory would (might?) have followed, where Bob is a witness. The word of this would definitely be out in the workplace. Bob would be "the guy who called the cops on another guy for something as petty as throwing cigarettes out of a car".
I guess this tag would follow Bob in every workplace he goes to as well. And it would be a career suicide for Bob, right?
Looking at it, it sounds very stupid to go such lengths on such a petty issue. On the other hand, had the issue way that petty, then why would a law against it exist? (Besides, someone littering around is annoying as hell).
So should you just mind your own business in such situations because "trying to do the right thing" would ruin your career and harm you?