My Boss May Be Doing Something Dishonest!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about boss’ honesty:

I’ve worked for this company 10 years and I know the ways and procedures we do things when it comes to receipting money. All of a sudden my boss wants to receipt all the cash and I will receipt the checks.Several times now I’ve noticed that the cash doesn’t get receipted on the day it’s received. I did ask him about this the other day and I was told, “Well, I’m not sure. We were really busy that day and in a hurry to leave.” So now, 10 days later, the schedule shows it’s been receipted.This is just one of many stories I have, and I don’t know what to think about this this, unless he’s borrowing cash then putting it back.

Signed, Dazed and Confused

Dear Dazed and Confused:

The situation, as you state it, certainly sounds suspicious! Or, it may simply be poor business practices. What you do about it largely depends upon the nature of your workplace. Is your boss the owner? If so, the money is his to receipt, borrow and put back or whatever else he wants to do about handling it. If your boss works for a company and there is someone above him, you will need to decide if you want to do nothing, if you want to talk to your boss, or if you want to let someone higher in the company know of your concerns.

1. Doing nothing would be appropriate if you think you only have very broad suspicions, but nothing that could be proven. Or, if the totality of the circumstances indicates there are poor business methods being used, but they do not point to anything illegal or against the rules.If you think there are clearly some rules violations or illegal actions, and you do nothing you might be accused of being involved in the situation in some way. Or you might be in trouble for not calling rules violations to the attention of someone higher. Further, if you believe something unethical is happening, but do nothing, you are being unethical yourself.

2. You could talk to your boss. This might be appropriate if you think the problem is a lack of knowledge and skill on his part, or just not having good habits about handling the money. You might say, “Bob,I get worried that we’ll both be in trouble if someone higher up notices problems with the way the cash is being receipted. Can I help in some way, so it gets taken care of on time?”It might also be appropriate to talk to your boss if you feel the problem is a procedural violation, but nothing illegal is happening. You might say, “Bob, this is really difficult for me. But I don’t want to see either of us get in trouble. According to the procedures we can’t handle the money like this.”If circumstances clearly indicate to you that something illegal is happening, such as borrowing money then paying it back, talking to your boss may only alert him so he conceals his actions better. If he’s doing something illegal he needs to be stopped and action needs to be taken about it.

3. You say you have many stories pointing to similar problems. Document those by writing down the dates and times, as nearly as you can remember them. Look at your list, using your knowledge of the financial aspects of the business and any written procedures, and see if it genuinely appears there is something your managers or others in the company should know about. If there are only one or two things, and those could be taken several ways, perhaps you should wait to see if anything further occurs. If there clearly are problems, you will need to take action about them.The correct person to report your concerns to is the next person in the chain of responsibility and authority in your organization–the boss of your boss. You could send an email or regular memo, or call that person and ask to talk in private about a concern about your boss and the way money is being handled or whatever the essential problem is. The reason to say it up front is to avoid that person not knowing what you’ll be discussing, and having him contact your boss to check it out!Show your list of suspicious activities and say that you hope nothing at all is wrong, but you feel you can’t ignore it. You might point out that you feel really uncomfortable doing it this way, but you were concerned that your own job might be in jeopardy if you didn’t take action.Then, leave it to that person to investigate and decide. If your boss finds out, and he almost certainly will, he may be angry or hurt, or he may say you did the right thing. He may feel you will be watching him in the future. It may hurt your relationship. That makes it a tough choice for you.However, it seems that you have tried to at least call your concerns to his attention in a mild way. If that hasn’t been enough to correct things, you are justified in following up on it. If he is doing something illegal, the fact that he is a nice boss or that he needs his job, or whatever, can’t be the deciding factor. On the other hand, if it appears something illegal is happening, and investigation shows it was all perfectly OK, you have at least shown your awareness and the fact that you are an employee who can be trusted.The way you approach it will have a lot to do with how you are viewed. Your attitude needs to be one of wanting to help the organization, but also not wanting to falsely accuse someone. You are bringing concerns to someone’s attention, without any suggestion about what should be done or any desire to create problems for anyone. Present your information, then take yourself out of it. Certainly you shouldn’t discuss it with any other employees, no matter what results. I hope these thoughts will help you develop a plan of action that is effective. This is a challenging situation, but one that needs to be resolved in some way. Either there are no problems or there are. Once you decide which is the case, you will be able to move forward one way or another. Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.