my new coworker is pushing a pyramid scheme on us

A reader writes:

A relatively new coworker of mine has been secretly approaching people in the office one by one trying to sell them memberships into what can only be described as a pyramid scheme. (Pay a sign-up fee, then $X per month and gain money for each new person you recruit, and they recruit, etc., with the promise of money in your pocket and the opportunity for discount luxury vacations.)

Up until recently, I had only heard other people’s accounts of this person’s behavior. Usually it involved inviting someone out to a casual lunch that turned into an hour long sales pitch, or inviting them to an evening to learn about a business venture they started with some friends. The people already pitched to kept telling me “you’re next,” and they were right. I was invited to an evening to learn about a business venture, and the description of the event given to me was incredibly vague. I was busy at the time they asked, so just said I’d get back to them. I have no intentions of going, but from what other colleagues have said and continue to experience, this person is very pushy and relentless with the sales pitches.

There are at least 5 people who have been approached by this person thus far. I’m ok to keep shaking these sales pitches off for now, but others have said they’re getting uncomfortable from the pressure to join. Should HR be made aware of what is going on? This person is otherwise very good and capable at the job they’re hired to do, and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize their position in the office, but it’s becoming pretty disruptive for some.

HR probably wants to know and almost certainly would want the opportunity to tell your coworker to cut this out. And I’d bet her manager feels the same way.

That said, you could also say something directly to the coworker if you’re inclined. For instance: “I’m not comfortable being solicited for this at work. Please don’t ask me again.” And you could also add, if you’re up for it, “I don’t think you should be approaching coworkers about outside business schemes, particularly one that appears to operate like a pyramid scheme.”

Can we have a rule that bans any pressure tactics designed to get people to open their wallets at work? It’s particularly distasteful in a work context because coworkers/employees are a captive audience and also are generally trying to preserve harmonious working relationships (and thus don’t always feel as free to tell an aggressive money-seeker to buzz off).

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