A Director Who Gives Personal Advice

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a Director providing all kinds of advice:

There is a director in my company–Director of Finance–who is very free to give advice about anything, including but not limited to where to invest money, how to file for bankruptcy, how to budget, how to budget your wedding, how to buy and finance a home, and even advised a person going through a divorce that she should quit her part time job with us and get a real job with benefits, etc., etc.–ALL ON COMPANY TIME! Beyond the potential liability to her and to our organization, this is not her job. While intuitive to me (HR Director), the COO wants me to find materials that state she should not be doing this. I appreciate your help.

Signed, Say She Can’t

Dear┬áSay She Can’t:

Your COO wants support, more than that, he want a law or regulation that says your Director of Finance should tend to her job-defined work and she should not to provide personal advice to coworkers. Wouldn’t be nice if you could pull from your HR hat an authoritative opinion that does exactly what he wants. I would like to oblige but I think that undoubtedly, if your company is large enough to have a Director of Finance, a COO, and a HR Director, you already have all the authority needed. Surely your policy book states that employees should not to engage in personal business on company time, especially with action that could hold your company liable.

You already know giving advice on bankruptcy, personal finance, etc. could place you company at risk. Your company’s legal consul could provide that kind of advice that should carry the weight the COO wants. It seems from here that your COO hesitates to tangle with the Director of Finance. Isn’t it his/her job to stop behavior that might harm your company and that takes from the time and energy for which the Director of Finance is employed? Our site provides advice about all manner of organizational communication questions, not on Human Resource or legal matters.

You probably could phone several individuals in positions like yours in other companies to solicit their opinions or you could on your own authority or that of your COO get an attorney’s opinion. Frankly, I don’t think that is necessary, but it might provide the backing desired by your COO. Could it be that there is a strained relationship between those of you who must confront your Director of Finance? You, of course, know much about the politics within your company, and should have a sense of how to clarify what is and isn’t acceptable.

Since your COO and you as Director of HR are of one mind on this, that should make addressing this reasonably easy. Assuming that you two value the work of your Director of Finance, I’m sure you can schedule a face-to-face session with her and to kindly but firmly spell out what you do and don’t want done on company time, and that done elsewhere that could be interpreted or considered performed with company authorization. You also probably have established policy about how such a meeting should be on or off record.

A written record of how this is handled should provide evidence that those in authority did what seemed reasonable to prevent harm should that be due to what has already been done or might in the future be done. I trust that some of these thoughts will assist your thinking through how best to handle what probably will be uncomfortable for you who confront your Director of Finance and also will be unpleasant for her. Saving face is important is such a confrontation. You won’t want to reproach her. Rather you will be soliciting her to carry out what is good for your business and is the same kind of limits all employees must have. My signature advice is encapsulated in the word WEGO–to understand that working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden