As adults and professionals, we are often faced with dilemmas in the workplace that are never discussed much. Is it OK to fudge on your expense report if everybody does it? What about writing reviews for your company under a fake name because you actually don't endorse the products? Should you sign someone else's name on documents because your boss asks you to?
These scenarios and more are discussed in the new book "The Young Professional's Survival Guide: from cab fares to moral snares" by C.K. Gunsalus, who is the director of the National Center for Professional and Research Ethics in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois.
A book like this could come across as preachy and fill you with guilt, but Gunsalus approaches these issues like role play, especially in the first chapter. She presents several scenarios that young professionals could easily find themselves in, such as using an employee discount for other people or going to work for the competition, full of the knowledge of the company where they had their first job.
What this book does well is give you some ideas for what to do if you find yourself in these situations: how to respond to your boss or colleagues without making people feel overly uncomfortable and hopefully keeping your job, too.
Gunsalus asks readers to think about their own values and ethics, while also presenting what is the ethical response to these situations.
The book is reminiscent of a book for teens about peer pressure. If you find yourself at a party where everyone is smoking pot, what can you do to stick to your morals but not appear "uncool?"
Another great part of the book that will be extremely useful for both young and seasoned professionals is Chapter 5: How to Have a Dispute Professionally. Disputes in the workplace will arise. At no time should these escalate into shouting matches, full of name-calling and four-letter words.
Gunsalus offers some tips on how to argue in the workplace, such as taking out the emotion, remembering to ask questions and not make charges and figuring out what documentation supports your position.
She also provides a section on how to handle needing to "blow the whistle" on someone in your workplace and still have a career afterward.
Her tips are sensible, and she does not make light of the fact that this will be difficult to do. She suggests five steps before you even file your concerns — these may be things people might not have thought of before, such as checking with two people you trust and finding the right place to file your complaint.
This is just one reason this book is helpful, and actually not just for people new to the workplace — for anyone who may face these types of dilemmas in their career.
Besides all of the good advice provided throughout the body of the book, Gunsalus ends with an appendix of reference materials, which include some practice on how to state your message — even ones hard to deliver — positively and clearly and personal script guidelines.
Gunsalus also graduated from the UI College of Law; according to her website, she has served on the Illinois Supreme Court's Commission on Professionalism since 2005.
She also has taken an active role in a local school district — serving 12 years on the Urbana Board of Education, eight as its president.
The back of the book states something that we all must learn as we make our way through the world. "You can't control the people around you, but you can control what you do."
That is the central message of "The Young Professional's Survival Guide," which just about anybody can benefit from reading. This book would make the perfect graduation gift for any of those December graduates.
Margo L. Dill is the author of "Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg," a middle-grade historical fiction novel. She often reviews books as a columnist for "WOW! Women On Writing" e-zine and her blog, "Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them" (http://margodill.com/blog/ ). She lives in St. Louis with her family.