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?

  • Option 3: call the cops anonymously (if that is possible of course in the country/area/state) with "Driver of car with plates XYZ 2000 is throwing cigarette butts out of the window" – ypercubeᵀᴹ Nov 12 '16 at 12:29
  • @ypercubeᵀᴹ Yeah definitely a better option. Although Mallory would get away with it because of lack of witnesses, this might scare him enough that he won't do it again. Or maybe you can be a witness anonymously, I really don't know the details. – user60107 Nov 12 '16 at 12:32
  • @downvoter I am guessing the reason to downvote is 'not workplace related', but it is. I am asking about the career-wise consequences of such an action. – user60107 Nov 12 '16 at 12:35
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    Voting to close. This looks very much like a duplicate of workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/79569/… – Vietnhi Phuvan Nov 12 '16 at 13:04
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    The police might care more if you live somewhere that's suffering from cigarette triggered fires. – CodesInChaos Nov 12 '16 at 14:06

Normally I would say that it's not reasonable to expect the cops to do anything at all. You would need to provide evidence that it was an actual cigarette butt by bringing the evidence. You would need other witnesses to state that it was Bob who threw the butt out of a moving car and it was definitely a cigarette butt. Pictures might help.

And then the cops would look at you sideways and possibly search you for drugs.

This would never get to court and be career suicide it would just be a waste of time for all concerned.

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  • "Normally I would say that it's not reasonable to expect the cops to do anything at all." Are you talking about a specific country or in general? – ypercubeᵀᴹ Nov 12 '16 at 12:48
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    @ypercubeᵀᴹ in general, there are exceptions, but the OP didn't mention he's in a locale which I would class as an exception. – Kilisi Nov 12 '16 at 12:50
  • I would expect that police would do something in some countries (say Germany, UK, Australia, USA). Paying a visit to the accused person and notifying them at least, not to repeat the action. – ypercubeᵀᴹ Nov 12 '16 at 12:54
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    In the USA, there is no possibility that a police officer will respond to a second hand report of littering. None whatsoever. – Kent A. Nov 12 '16 at 13:57
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    In the UK, there are places where the local council will be only too happy to follow up, and charge the person responsible some significant money. It's (a) a source of income and (b) keeps busybodies happy who love to interfere with people's life. On the other hand, dump a truckload of rubbish along a road, and they are completely stumped. – gnasher729 Nov 12 '16 at 16:58

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