THE FALLOUT FROM WHEN AN EMPLOYEE STEALS

 

fallout

 

Many of us have been through the discovery of an employee who steals.  Sometimes, it is really difficult because it is someone we know and work with.  If you read the latest version of  The Global Report on Fraud you will discover that few businesses have escaped this problem.  Why is employee theft so rampant?  Many studies have estimated that one in four employees steal on some level from their employers.

I’ve devoted other columns to prevention techniques, strengthening of Internal Controls and especially segregation of duties.  However, today I want to discuss the ‘aftermath’.  When confronted with the facts, what are you going to do with a key employee, for instance, your only staff payroll person?  What about the Accounts Payable person falsifying invoices and presenting them to the company for payment (to her).  And, she’s your only A/P person and has become much more knowledgeable about the system and its inner workings than you are.

So here is a little quiz for you…………………pick the right answer for your company:

  1. Move them out of their department and away from tasks that involve cash.
  2. Leave them in the department but demote them and hire someone to take their place.  They can train the new hire.
  3. Put them on probation for sixty days and monitor them very closely.
  4. Fire them immediately

Which answer did you pick?  1…..2…..3…..4….?

If you picked any number other than ‘4’……………..my question to you as a Management Consultant is:  ‘ARE YOU CRAZY?’

First, if you think that the other employees in your company are not watching every move you make, you are most likely mistaken.  News that an employee has been caught stealing can travel like wildfire even if you have tried to keep everything about it secret.

Second, anything other than firing the employee will be a signal to a lot of people that they can rationalize some very bad behavior.

Third, allowing the employee to remain in any capacity is like poisoning the well from which you drink the water.  I strongly advise against it.

Several years ago, a long time dedicated employee and single mother of three was caught taking a check, endorsing it and depositing it to her account which was discovered during a reconciliation process.  Her boss felt terribly sorry for her because he knew she was in rough financial shape.  You can agree not to prosecute.  You can agree to not challenge unemployment and you can even pay some severance (I advise against that) to help the employee while she finds another job.

However, before you write a glowing letter of recommendation or tell a caller checking her references that you regret she resigned and she was a great employee, please CONSULT YOUR ATTORNEY.

Finally, remember one thing, your leadership and management skills are on the line here.  Show decisiveness in dealing with incidences of fraud.  You will be respected for it.

 

 

 

 

FIVE REASONS WHY A MISSION STATEMENT REALLY MATTERS

 

 

Lion Picture for Website

 

 

 

Every now and then I see something that just resonates with me.  It could be a phrase or a video or a picture.  So when I saw the picture of the lions and the tag line ‘Surround Yourself With People On the Same Mission as You’,  I knew I had to write about it.

A few years ago Mission statements were very popular but I don’t see the emphasis on them that there once was.  Maybe your company has one.  If so, do you know what it is?  Do your employees know what it is?  If you were asked to write a Mission Statement for your Accounting and Finance group, what would it be and why does it matter?

I have an admission to make.  I’ve never liked the word ‘teamwork’.  If you’re the Atlanta Braves it’s fine.  But a group of professionals should be encouraged to think independently.  The ability to problem solve should be valued even more than the ablity to get along with everyone in the group.  Independent thinkers don’t always have the best social skills but that doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent people.  I will admit they can be somewhat difficult to manage but Controllers & CFO’s should interact with them on a more frequent basis to make sure they won’t self destruct inside your group.

Let’s face it, every day those of us who roam through Linked In, Facebook, e-mail, text messages, etc. are bombarded with advertisements, white papers, webinar offerings, etc.  We want to stay up-to-date but how in the world can we and still do our job.  I believe that we should first put a top priority on information that helps us align with our Mission Statement.

Here are my FIVE REASONS WHY:

  1. It focuses everyone in your group on the meaning of what  each member should be doing.
  2. When hiring it sets the stage for who it is you really need to add to your group (can they live by your creed?)
  3. It explains to others what your group does (and hopefully why)
  4. It provides a philosophy for the group to live by
  5. It becomes the driving force behind what you do

Sample:  Our Finance Group’s Mission Statement -‘ To report the historical & map the future by using the best data we can’ …. or ‘to support our corporation using the right numbers’ .  I will leave it to you to come up with the right mission statement.

Let’s face it, most people know what the mission of the Credit Department is (collect all the money) or the Mail Room (deliver all the mail) but Finance and Accounting  departments are not that transparent to most people outside the finance and accounting functions.  And maybe it isn’t even clear to some of your new hires either.

Finally, get your group together around the conference table and start brainstorming it.  And if you’d rather keep it private among your group then incorporate it into your group meetings and correspondence between each other.

I don’t know if the Lions in the picture have a written mission statement posted somewhere in their den, but you can be sure they are all on the same page in this picture (most likely food!).  How do I know that?  Because they are all headed in the same direction.

 

 

 

THE FIVE REASONS EMPLOYEES WANT A RAISE….and what to do about it.

This weekend we filled up the car, bought groceries, visited our Sam’s club, and had lunch out with our family…..and our electric bill was due. Let’s start with our 20 gallon gas tank that sat on empty.  We filled up at Sam’s for around $72.  I spent $80 at Walmart and $40 at Publix to feed my husband and I for a week.  We both are  home all day working from our prospective computer desks.  We eat lunch and dinner at home six days a week.  Additionally,  there is the astronomical costs of home heating this past winter.  Many parts of the U.S. were hit hard and long this winter. I used to think nothing of buying a couple of New York strip steaks or ribeyes.  It seems like just yesterday I paid about $8 for two steaks.  Today, they run from $16 to $20 for two steaks.  Almost everything at the supermarket is sky high.  Milk is pushing $4.00 a gallon where we live. An employee working a 40 hour work week making $12.00 an hour for the last three years because your company has forgone raises in the recent economy is now stretched to survive from week to week.  How are they able to pay for food, gasoline and other car expenses like insurance, maintenance and installment loans?  What about the cost of heating?  If they have children in school, there is no end to the costs of clothes, school supplies and the constant, almost daily requests for money to be sent to school with the child. As the job market slightly improves and now with the Affordable Healthcare Act, employees don’t feel tied to their current employer simply because of healthcare coverage. Very soon  many employers are likely to find that there is going to be a steady stream of employees through their door asking for a raise.  No matter how lofty your position in the company, you are probably facing some of the same strains on your finances as your employees. What are some ways to help employees cut the costs of working:

  1. Before you hire the next employee in a department, see if other employees would like to work overtime.  There is a point beyond where overtime does become so expensive it could be cheaper to hire a part-time employee but until that point is reached, offer the overtime.
  2. Would it be possible for your company to convert to a 4 day 10 hour work week?  If not, could some employees work that schedule to save on transportation costs.
  3. Could you allow some employees to telecommute, even for one day a week?
  4. Can your company facilitate an office car pool schedule?
  5. Is there money to buy gasoline gift cards (Walmart works great for this) and hand them out for a job well done?
  6. If you require uniforms for some employees and it is deducted from their pay, consider picking up the cost of uniforms.
  7. For companies that provide company cars to sales forces & management, could you extend the replacement term and use the savings to increase pay for lower level and staff employees?
  8. Bring lunch into the office at least one day a week.  Call it ‘Thank You Pizza Day’ or whatever you think works.
  9. As a company, do you have any discount programs you can offer employees.  In our community, the Chamber of Commerce offered discount cards to use at various restaurants and businesses in the community.  As a member of the Chamber, all employees in the county received the discount cards.
  10. Remember that pay increases may very well lead to reduced turnover.  We all know how costly and time consuming it is to hire and train new employees.

As Controller of your company, I know you may not be in charge of pay raises for all, but if you have input for your own staff, plead their case and communicate their value as often as you can.  And make a serious effort to  implement as many of the above recommendations as possible.

WHO WILL YOU HIRE NEXT?

accountingstaffpost

 

 

In the Wall Street Journal’s Saturday ‘Review’ section, the dean of the Columbia Business School examines public policy and unemployment in the U.S.  Finally I have found someone who agrees with me that people are out of work because they don’t have the right skills.  That’s really what is meant by a ‘structural labor shift’.

But as a controller, how do you justify adding another person to your team (not replacing someone).   If you’re a small shop, a department of one or two, then that decision may be much more straightforward.  But adding to an accounting/finance department of eight or ten calls for a very in depth analysis of what everyone is doing and if they are operating at 100% or more.  Could you squeeze out one more hour daily of productivity per person in a ten person department?  If so, you have figuratively added another employee to your group.  Where do you start in conducting your own investigation.  Usually requests for more personnel come from your own staff.  Here’s my list:

 

PART ONE – OBSERVE THE FOLLOWING:

  • How much texting do you see going on
  • Taking personal phone calls
  • Visiting between employees  for purposes other than ‘teamwork’ (gossiping)
  • Tardiness or leaving early
  • Salaried exempt personnel putting in less than 40 hours per week
  • Excessive absences
  • Periods of ‘downtime’ due to lack of work for the employee

PART TWO – ASK YOURSELF THE FOLLOWING:

  • Do I call too many meetings?
  • Are my meetings too long and rambling?
  • Do I call too few meetings and therefore my employees are unmotivated?
  • Do I make sure my staff is challenged?
  • Am I too accessible?
  • Am I not accessible enough?
  • Am I causing low morale?
  • Do I advocate for the best resources available for my staff?

PART THREE – EVALUATE THE FOLLOWING:

  • Is everyone on my staff competent for their given responsibilities?
  • Are any of my direct reports contributing to low morale?
  • Do all staff members have an interest in receiving training related to their skill sets?
  • How old are the p.c.’s and printers that staff are using?
  • Are the working conditions favorable to productivity?
  • Has a key staff member left the company in the recent past?

I want to strongly emphasize that just because  there’s a large acquisition ahead or more work coming your department’s way, the first response should not be to hire additional permanent full time employees.  If a company continues its growth obviously there can come a time when there is no other option but to expand the labor force.  However, it should be considered carefully in your department as Controller or CFO.

Growth is a wonderful thing.  But growth with no added incremental overhead (fixed or variable) can be an elusive goal…. one that may be achievable if there is still best practices and better personnel management yet to be achieved.

Finally, if a staff member(s) comes to you about needing more people in the department, tell them to submit a proposal to you which can be worked on jointly.  Make sure they outline the reasons WHY the current staff is unable to handle the workload and the reasons WHY another person should be hired.

 

A DAILY CONTROLLER CHALLENGE

EXIT INTERVIEWS – DON’T MISS THE OPPORTUNITY

It’s one thing if you are running a Hot Dog stand across the street from a college.  You realize that pretty much anyone working for you is not going to spend fifty years with you and retire with a gold watch.  Turnover is to be expected.  I’m going to assume as a controller you are involved in a fairly large organization.  Today, as you well know, employees (and you too) are performing a lot more tasks and expected to do much more than in past years when labor was so much cheaper.

I recently spent 13+ years as controller with a fairly large accounting staff.  One thing stood out.  There was a steep learning curve for every new employee on the staff and for me as well.  It took over three years on the job for me to start feeling comfortable with what I was doing.

When an employee decides to resign, you, as Controller, will probably not be the first one to know this (even if the employee tells you that).  Most likely the employee has become dissastified (even disgruntled) and has decided to seek another job.  Generally, by the time you find out,  it’s already well known on the grapevine at your office.   For that reason alone, you should try to keep an open door policy where your staff members feel comfortable coming to you with a problem.    Losing a  trained employee does impact you as the Controller.  Your boss (CFO, Owner, etc) is not going to be the one doing the training, coaching, mentoring  required to get the new employee up and running.  You are.

When an employee leaves, it requires a ‘root cause’ analysis.  Why after all the training, pay, benefits, bonuses, etc. is this employee unhappy enough to leave.  Do not let them get away without someone performing an EXIT Interview.  In some companies, HR may conduct that interview.  This is really unnerving to a lot of managers because they have no idea what the employee will say.  I would hope that HR would share this information with you, in total.  Let’s remember, some employees do have built in issues with authority figures.  I’ve run into a few  and eventually, they leave for supervisory positions if they can find one.

If you are allowed to conduct the EXIT interview, here are some of the questions I would ask:

  • What issues have led you to the decision to leave?
  • Were you offered this job or did you actively seek a new job?
  • Were you uncomfortable coming to me to ask for a raise?
  • How would you rate your training for the job you held?
  • How would you describe your working relationship with your co-workers?
  • Were you sufficiently challenged in your job or were you bored?
  • Were you overloaded with work or did you feel you were underutilized?
  • Did I provide you with enough feedback about how you were doing?
  • Did you have the resources you needed to do your job?

Painful as it might be, you need to gather as much information as you can to find that ‘root cause’ even if by chance, you might be part of the problem.

I wonder how many of you have been able to make a counteroffer and if you were able to, did you?  Unfortunately, countering with more money is a double-edged sword.  The employee is temporarily happy but they are going to wonder if you could pay them more, why did they have to threaten to quit to get a raise.  Has your trust diminished in that employee.  Will they threaten to leave again?  I’m not sure.  Every case is different.

WHEN LOVE GOES WRONG & other personnel issues

No, this article is not about office romance.  It’s about when managers and their direct reports come into conflict.  With respect to Full Disclosure, I follow a newspaper column ‘Your Office Coach’ that appears every Sunday in our paper’s ‘Money’ section.  The writer is Marie McIntyre.  Marie writes the business version of ‘Dear Abby’ .

In her Sunday column, a lady writes in that she and her manager had gotten along very well and that her manager ‘was the best boss I have ever had’.  But now the relationship is broken and the employee feels as if her manager hates her.

What happened?  The employee’s company had a policy that no vacation was allowed in December.  I think we can all agree that this is not an unusual or particularly abusive policy.  I’m sure the company had  very good reason for it.  However, the employee had some family visiting over the holidays and wanted to spend time with them so she asked her manager to make an exception and allow her three days of time off.  What we know is that the manager granted her request but when the employee returned her manager seemed angry with her.

Ms. McIntyre’s response is an attempt to try to figure out what happened during the time the employee was off.  Having been in this position as Controller, on more than one occasion, I can understand what happened.

There are two types of managers/controllers………….the ones who like to say ‘yes’ and the ones who like to say ‘no’.  Obviously, it’s better for everybody when they have a manager that likes to say ‘yes’.

I suppose we could describe the manager’s behavior as passive/aggressive.  She said yes but didn’t really want to, so now she is taking it out on her employee.  The employee sees herself as a victim of unfair treatment.  These types of interactions are becoming more and more common as employees demand more flexibility in their work schedules.

Obviously, the manager granted the request but did not feel it was justified.  What if an employee says they need to be off on Friday for a doctor’s appointment that was difficult to schedule.  You would obviously grant this request.  But what happens when you find out they really went to the beach?  (Really – you should know most doctors don’t work on Friday!)

In my world what would have happened is this.  I would have agreed to give her the time off because I want my employees to think I am fair and the employee rarely asked for time off (let’s assume that).  During the time she was out, I discover a project she was working on is not finished as I would have thought it would be.  I have to assign someone else to pick up the project and finish it.  That employee would have to put in some overtime thus eating in to the time she needs for Christmas shopping (it is December).  The others in that department are resentful anytime I ask them to do something that would have been done by the absent employee.  Two of my direct reports come to my office to point out that it was a mistake to let her off and the consensus that it is very unfair to everyone else, especially since they have families too and would have liked to spend more time with them.

Does this sound familiar?  No wonder her manager seemed angry and resentful.  As they say, ‘no good deed goes unpunished’!.

How would you have handled this?  My only suggestion is to rewind this tape and go back to the beginning.

Did the manager remind the employee about the December policy?  Did this employee plan for company based on the assumption she would get the time off? Are you being taken advantage of?  How will her absence affect the company and its ability to do business during such an important time?  How will it affect her co-workers?  Will they have to work more and thus spend less time with their families over the holidays?

If the employee had come to you and said she needed three days off because her husband was coming home from a war zone for a brief holiday, you would have said yes and everyone would probably pitch in to help.  It’s when people feel taken advantage of, or the recipients of unfair treatment, that’s where problems arise.

In this case, both the manager and the employee were at fault.  What do you think?

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