Q. Our company recently completed a savingsbond drive. Throughout this drive, the president of the company was pushing for participation by all employees. This is what has been troubling me.
At the outset, we were strongly urged by our managers to participate because "management wanted total participation." We were shown movies and given presentations. Then lists were made of all the people who had not participated and these individuals were contacted, one at a time, by their supervisors.
At some point, an employee raised the question: Would non-participation result in being passed over for promotion? Management didn't say no. Fear-driven participation has caused a lot of hard feelings about the company from some employees.
Can we take legal action to prevent this from occurring in the future?
A. In this country, you can take legal action in any matter against anyone. The question is, if you did so, what would it accomplish?
The problem with using work-related authority to achieve a non-work-related purpose is that doing so will divide the work force -- not all employees will see any given issue the same way -- and that the perceived coercion will generate resentment.
The consequence will be a more tense workplace, uncomfortable for all, and hardly conducive to high productivity. Starting a lawsuit would do more of the same. Instead, write a letter to the president of the company discussing your observations of the effect of the drive. It may have an effect.
Q. You have dealt with the inappropriateness of pornographic software in the workplace before. You did not cover some other consequences of its presence there.
Such software should not be allowed because it would be a very likely source of computer viruses that could contaminate the company's computer network and potentially destroy valuable data.
A. Good point. Nevertheless, even if such software came shrink-wrapped and therefore was "safe," it should be kept out of the workplace simply because it has nothing to do with work and would probably be offensive to many employees.
Andrew Grove is chief executive of Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif. Send questions to him in care of the Mercury News, Business News Department, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, Calif. 95190.