The Company Seats

Last Updated Jun 17, 2007 9:37 AM EDT

006rry-15182884.gifI head up a branch of a large company, and we have a luxury box for our Major League Baseball team. It's supposed to be used for our executives to entertain clients and as a reward for lower-level employees who do good work. I know that occasionally our execs will sell extra tickets through scalpers and pocket the money, but I've looked the other way because it didn't feel like a problem.
Recently, one of our lower-level employees who had been rewarded with the box for an evening came into my office to ask if she could sell the tickets instead. She told me she didn't care much for baseball, but could really use the money the tickets would generate. I want the luxury box to be treated as a business tool and an employee-reward, not a commodity, but I feel a bit hypocritical about telling her she can't sell the tickets. Where's the line?
The line, in this case, was crossed when you looked the other way while your execs sold the extra tickets. You established a precedent that you must now honor by allowing the woman to do the same. Then you need to change it.

Those tickets are company property. Sure, they're just tickets to watch some guys play a game, but they have a value attached to them and that value was paid for and belongs to your company. Now that we're thinking of the tickets as company property, let me ask you this: do you allow your employees to sell company property and pocket the money? Of course not. You wouldn't let someone sell an office chair just because they weren't using it. No, you would use that property for another employee, or you would sell it and put it back into the coffers.

That's how you should have been treating the tickets. But you weren't. This is not entirely ridiculous, because tickets lose their value if they're not used, so you were probably thinking, "They were going to go to waste anyway; if they can get a few bucks for them, so be it." Understandable. Still wrong.

Lets return to the chair analogy. Say it's a so-called "executive chair," a nice quality piece. For the exec, it's no big deal. But for a low-level employee who probably sits in something that was not made by Herman Miller, they would love a chance to drop their bottom into something that feels luxurious. These tickets are the same thing. For the execs who use that luxury box time and again, it's old hat. But for your lower employees, the chance to sit in a "sky box" is huge, and will do much for their happiness with the company. If they can take their kids or their buddies, all the more so.

Your solution is therefore simple: let this women sell her tickets, then put a stop to all this business. If the execs have extra tickets, they go to other company employees. Have people sign up to be notified when last-minute tickets are available, and then you can turn an extra into a 4:00 treat for someone, like those emails that say "Cake in the conference room."

Have a workplace-ethics dilemma? Ask it here or email wherestheline@gmail.com

  • William Baker

    William Baker is a freelance writer living in Cambridge, MA. His work has appeared in Popular Science, the Boston Globe Magazine, the New York Daily News, Boston Magazine, The Weekly Dig and a bunch of other places (including Field & Stream, though he doesn't hunt and can't really fish). He is a regular contributor to the Boston Globe, where he writes the weekly column, "Meeting the Minds." He holds a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is at work on his first book.