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Workplace Ethics

What would you do if you find that the HR manager of your company is ripping your company off because she knows the lazy and submissive controller, my immediate boss, will approve any and every expenses she submits. For example, she would go to Costco buying the supplies for the company, she would add a few things for her personal use and submit for reimbursement (one of many things she does). I brought this up to the controller but he just ignores the issues. Also, I don't want to create an uncomfortable environment at work, both of these employees are long time employees of the company.

Answers

Topic Expert
Karoline Mello
Title: Director, FP&A
Company: Apollo Group
(Director, FP&A, Apollo Group) |

You find yourself in a difficult situation, to say the least. You don’t mention if you work for a private or public company, or who your supervisor’s manager is.

If I were in your situation, I would also be offended at someone committing acts which I consider wrong, like using the company resources for personal benefits outside the outlined acceptable benefits provided. First you would need to determine what the acceptable amount of tolerance is for this type of behavior. Perhaps the owners or executive management at your shop “look the other way” for reasons unknown to you for this particular employee. That doesn’t make it right, but it is to be considered when deciding how to effectively be a whistle blower.

Second, document multiple instances of the behavior, complete with copies of receipts and checks paid to the employee. Document everything. My company has an ethics hotline, so it would be easy for me to report this. Without a solid chain of command, find someone at the top you can submit your findings either anonymously or in person.

(I would leave out the part about your reporting it and no action taken by your supervisor. Trust that if an investigation occurs, that may or may not come to light on it’s own and should be treated separately than preventing the original person’s “theft”).

Topic Expert
Mike Caruana
Title: Director of Financial Services
Company: Diamond Resorts International
(Director of Financial Services, Diamond Resorts International) |

Karoline is right on. Assuming that either an ethics or reimbursement policy exists in your organization, you should immediately follow her suggestions and then report a complaint using the policy guidelines.

There are still steps you can take if neither of these policies exist; however, I'd need a little more info to make a sensible recommendation (e.g. Is it a small company, i.e. you're one of 5 employees? Does this type of behavior pervade the organization? Do you have access to senior leadership? etc.)

Anonymous
(controller) |

This is a 100 employees company, privately held. The big boss is the CEO who rarely comes to the office. There is no written policy of anything, no internal control or procedures.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I'm sure the "Big" Boss wouldn't appreciate being ripped off, period.

As others have suggested, document, audit and then present your findings.

Maybe you should suggest a "Whistle-Blower's" policy...

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

Just to place it in perspective. This situation is not an ethical issue. It is theft and fraud. Research shows, there is a correlation between the length a person is with a company and the amount of fraud/theft that occurs. Your longevity usually results in trust, which makes the abuse possible.

My suggestion – do a complete audit of t&e expenses. Let everyone know that you will be auditing the records today and periodically in the future. The abuse will stop.

Proving the HR Manager is committing fraud based on one or two instances will not gain you the support of others. You will need to show a pattern or practice over time.

Avoid the politics. The goal should be to stop the abuse, not go after the HR Manager.

Anonymous
(Fraud Investgator III) |

I concur with this response. As the Controller, your routine and timely audits should weed out this unethical behavior while avoiding inter office drama.

Nikhil M
Title: M
Company: MH
(M, MH) |

Wonderful so there are 2 things you can do
1) join the club but then you can be in tight spot later
2) You keep all the vouchers approved and the bills for past 18 months please note 18 months and then send to a compliance team , auditors and ofcourse the tax authorities
This will put the CFO also in a tight spot mate

But first search for a new job mate...all the best and god bless you

Sami Abulehya
Title: Chief Accountant
Company: Laf
(Chief Accountant, Laf) |

Discuss the issue with your immediate supervisor except when it appears the supervisor is involved. In that case, present the issue to next level. If there is no resolution, submit the issue to next management level.

If you immediate supervisor is the chief executive officer or equivalent and he or she involved , contact upper level such as audit committee, board of directors, owners.

Do not communicate with authorities or individuals outside of the company unless you believe there is a clear violation of the law.

Conduct a confidential discussion with an ethical counselor to earn a better understanding of the problem.

Michele Evans
Title: Controller
Company: RLTV
(Controller, RLTV) |

I have been here before though to a much graver extent. Privately owned companies are not required to set up hotlines or make is easy for you to communicate issues like this. They are all right. No matter what you decide, you MUST document your findings and keep record of any written policy and procedures to which this violates. Then go to the CFO or CEO or president with your evidence and distaste for the fraud. If you do not get an immediate good feeling about the results and your job security, then run. Look for a new job and run. When the ship sinks and it will, you will be on record for bringing it to the attention of management and leave knowing you could not save it but you were also not a party to the fraud. In this industry standing by watching it happen is just as bad as the act. This is key.

Michele Evans
Title: Controller
Company: RLTV
(Controller, RLTV) |

Workplace Ethics needs to be taught in high school and more so in college to a greater degree than it is currently.

Topic Expert
Malak Kazan
Title: VP, Special Projects
Company: ERI Economic Research Institute
(VP, Special Projects, ERI Economic Research Institute) |

I would also add the perspective when fraud occurs in this context a more fundamental issue may possibly be the HR Manager feels the employment relationship is not "fair or equitable" and they are entitled to some freebies. If this is happening in the HR function I would conjecture the problem is more pervasive.

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

This seems to be coming up all too often. Is there no integrity left in the world?

BTDT. I'd love to share the story, but it's too long for this forum. Suffice it to say, even the most ethical coworker's I knew thought it was wrong of me to have brought the VP's theft to the CFO & CEO's attention and, in order to protect their own paychecks, distanced themselves from me when my job was on the line for having reported and documented the theft. Many claimed that I should "have known" that the CEO was having an affair with the VP.

In the long run, they were all proved wrong. The "affair" was a one time dalliance with one of the previous owners that this VP had leveraged for the VP position and then began stealing from the company. The CEO was aware just didn't want to be bothered about the wrong doings of the VP because he felt powerless against the former owner, who still held shares in the corp and sat on the board.

Long after my position was "eliminated" at that $70M/yr firm owned by a fortune 200 company, a new purchaser discovered the VP's thefts and eliminated her position within days of taking over the company in a buy out telling her they had no need for a "highly compensated marketing VP like her". Even they didn't call out her theft for what it was!

You most likely will not "win". Things are swept under the carpet. Messengers get shot every day. Not because they are wrong but, because the recipient doesn't like the message. It's the three wise monkeys syndrome.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b0/Three_wise_monkeys_figure.JPG/800px-

Run with everything you've got to somewhere else.

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