The other day a dear friend of mine got slapped in the face. She wasn’t doing anything that deserved a slap in the face, not that there’s really anything that would actually deserve a slap in the face. She was slapped in the face by a 3 year old of poor to moderate repute because she had the audacity to reprimand him for behaving in a manner that was generally unacceptable. The children’s caregivers had a problem with that…and I have a problem with their problem…and it all comes down to corporate responsibility.

The concept espoused by the caregivers was that since the child was not her responsibility, dealing with the child’s behavior was not her place. And I understand that, to a point. But let’s look at the playground like a workplace, because honestly, they’re surprisingly similar.

You work in an office. You work with a half dozen people in various roles; HR, admin, accounting, service. The usual. One day, you notice that Dave isn’t pulling his weight. He’s not doing anything wrong, but he’s not doing anything particularly right. And so the office is not as efficient as it could be. But you just go about your business because Dave has a manager and you have a job to do and honestly, it’s probably none of your business that Dave sort of sucks at his job. But then there’s Hank.

Hank doesn’t necessarily suck at his job. In fact, he’s likely quite capable. BUT Hank has decided to do a bad job on purpose because he’s not a good human. Hank is dishonest and refuses to do his job. While it’s not your responsibility to tell people that Dave’s not very good at his job, it absolutely is your responsibility to tell people, including Hank, that it’s not ok to be purposefully bad at your job. Telling Hank that this sort of behavior is unacceptable should be something that we’re all comfortable doing, without fear of reprieve, like getting slapped in the face.

How many of you have seen someone doing a purposeful bad job, often bordering on illegal, at the workplace and have done absolutely nothing? Let me tell you about Pete.

My first REAL job was working for a well-known national office supply chain. Let’s call them, Staplers. On my first day of work I was introduced to the guy that ran the department I worked in. His name was Peter (Pete). After a couple of days of working together, mostly involving him trying to figure out whether or not he could trust me, Pete invited me into his office.

Now you’re probably thinking, “I didn’t realize that Staplers had offices for his employees” and you’d be right…they don’t. So Pete made his own. That wall full of cases of paper? Well, Pete went ahead and changed the order quantity for one of the brands so that instead of them filling a 5 x 8 grid, 5 cases deep, it filled a 5 x 8 grid, 2 cases deep. The rest was hollow. Then, he took a couple of cases and made himself a sofa out of paper cases. He put books back there, snacks, drinks…everything you would want if you weren’t planning on doing any actual work.

Now, at the time, I thought Pete was pretty cool. To be honest, a big part of me still thinks that Pete is pretty cool. But I also realize that Pete not doing his job, sitting around while most people worked their ass off, is in fact stealing. He was being paid to do a job that he purposefully was not doing. It’s entirely possible that people lost their jobs or that others didn’t get the position or hours they may well have deserved because Pete decided he was above the law.

It’s ABSOLUTELY your job to stop people from being terrible, whether that’s a toddler who hasn’t learned respect or a grown-ass man who hasn’t learned responsibility. If things are going to get better, we have to acknowledge when they’re going very poorly and act accordingly. And if that kid’s grandparents give you hell or that kid slaps you in the face, feel free to tell them I said they can stick it.