Found Errors: Boss Ignoring/avoiding Me

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about finding and reporting accounting errors: Expecting to be fired, this person says, “I should have a pre-written letter of recommendation ready for him to sign and a severance dollar value ready to negotiate rather than collect unemployment.”

I’ve worked part-time with a small financial company for 6+ months now. I have a flexible schedule that I think my coworkers don’t like. I have two coworkers and a boss who is the controller. From the beginning I’ve found major errors in their accounting calculations and in other areas tracking the money. I document by sending emails re: my findings and always request if they would like me to fix problems.

Recently, I was asked to not send emails re: problems because it would tip off a major audit investigation. They are audited regularly. From day one, a coworker has strongly resisted turning work over to me and when he did, it was reluctantly and with sulking. The other coworker is a “buddy” to our boss.

My boss rarely speaks to me beyond short quips except for the initial acceptance interview and at 3 months I asked for a review and to discuss the coworker who was not turning work over or avoiding training me. My boss praised my work and was thrilled with the meeting prep I did. He also was supportive in demanding the coworker turn duties over to me fully.

The coworker turned the duties over, but later pulled them back. I left the office for a pre-approved vacation week at 4 months and thereafter, my work has been pulled back bit by bit. Now, it is stripped to nothing except a special, monotonous project. In passing in the hallway, I had a chance to ask my boss if other people doing my (few) duties is a ding against me, and he said “Oh, no, no. Everything is fine”. So, there are many serious problems existing.

However, the one that is sticking in my craw the most right now is that my boss won’t talk to me. Obviously I need a discussion regarding my job duties. When he hears me talking down the hall, he leaves his office. When I went into his office, he says not now; Monday (then personal issues kept him out for over a week; additionally causing him to miss payroll). Or I go into his office and he stands up and starts walking to his door. Or, he comes to my desk and one-half way through his sentence, starts walking away.

The man is not that busy. For three months I have asked him to correct my paycheck tax status; he has not. For two months, I have requested clarification on my summer schedule, and while he is able to speak to me briefly, I cannot get a full discussion or any guidelines. He does not respond to my emails unless they are regarding my schedule, which he always approves. He has the buddy coworker relay his messages to me verbally.

Now the buddy is even asking me how many hours I’ve worked. Taking the advice of someone I have spoken to and trust, it seems that they are lining up to fire me, probably 1)because of the inconsistencies I have questioned and they feel threatened, 2)one coworker cannot deal with giving over duties, and/or 3)coworkers don’t like the flexible schedule I negotiated from the start. I’ve been told to expect a “letting you go” meeting as per an excuse of workforce reduction.

I should have a pre-written letter of recommendation ready for him to sign and a severance dollar value ready to negotiate rather than collect unemployment; as I can imagine that they’ll ask for a non-disclosure agreement. Oh, and it’s time to contact a headhunter.—Right?? Or, do you have better advice. And, can you better decipher the lack of communication?

Signed, Won’tTalk

Dear Won’tTalk:

It’s dangerous to give or take advice from a distance without first-hand knowledge of a situation. Yet, your careful description of what has happened during your six months of part-time employment and prognosis of being fired appear on target. You see he writing on the wall telling you separation from “real work” is prelude to firing. This is to say, I can’t “better decipher the lack of communication” evident in your boss’ avoidance of talking with you. You are preparing should the ax fall. You are steeling yourself by hunting another job and possibly being offered a non-disclosure deal so that your employer wouldn’t have to pay unemployment compensation. You can wait out such a sequence and meanwhile job hunt or you can assertively confront your boss to learn upfront what to expect sooner. Between these two options, there is also an option; to confront with a proposal to be of real value. By this I mean to ask for a sit-down collaborative discussion of how you see what has occurred and what you could do to add real value to this small financial firm. This is to be frank about your analysis of why you seem to be relegated to meaningless work and your interpretation of “won’t talk” as meaning you will be let go. This said assumes that you are capable of adding value because you’ve uncovered errors that could cost this firm. It also assumes you don’t have personality distractions from being a likable coworker and subordinate. From this distance, you strike me as competent and potentially an asset to this firm. Possibly because the economy is uncertain, you hesitate to risk such a meeting and are working scared of being unemployed for even a short time. That understood, of course, must guide choice of the options before you. However, I see in you an assertive individual that is not comfortable with anguish of a “no talk” boss-bossed relationship. Talk about no talk entails problem solving;perhaps a session of spelling out communication do and don’ts of how each of your wants to be spoken to and with and about. Such a session puts the cards on the table and risks disclosure in contrast to playing them close to the vest. A talk about talk is no quick fix and is not a one-time never talk about talk again skull session. It is a way to set forth expectations and to make it OK to review and modify them. Do these thoughts make sense? Weigh them and use them to more constructive and context appropriate solutions. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my closing way of stressing that creating an effective and employer-worker-friendly place of work is something that we shape collaboratively and, when that happens, we enjoy the by-product of the common good.

William Gorden