Career Q&A: What to do when your boss is stealing

Businessman putting the envelope into his suit pocket - corruption and embezzlement concepts [Shutterstock]
Businessman putting the envelope into his suit pocket - corruption and embezzlement concepts [Shutterstock]
Published Jan. 16, 2018

Q: I strongly suspect that my boss is stealing from our employer. As the property manager for this apartment complex, she handles all payments, deposits and other financial matters.

A few weeks ago, I accidentally discovered some suspicious discrepancies in our banking transactions. Since then, I have documented my findings and made copies of the records. I feel this should be reported to someone, but I don't know where to go. What would you advise?

A: Assuming that the evidence clearly suggests wrongdoing, reporting these findings is probably a good idea. If your boss is engaged in shady activities, you don't want to risk being implicated when her shenanigans are discovered.

First, you need to determine who owns this complex. If that isn't obvious from your paycheck or other internal documents, try checking tax records, business licenses or corporate registrations. If the owner is an individual, he or she would obviously be the person to contact.

Things become a bit more complicated if the property belongs to a large corporation. Some companies provide a hotline for reporting ethical and legal issues. Lacking that option, you might find an appropriate contact in human resources, internal audit or the legal department.

Next, you must decide whether to present this information yourself or use an intermediary. If you fear reprisals or anticipate a negative reaction, consider asking an attorney to deliver the news. The reduced risk and guaranteed confidentiality might be worth the cost.

Either way, when discussing this situation, stay focused on the facts. Don't speculate about your boss's actions or accuse her of criminal activity. Simply describe your discovery and share your documentation. After that, this matter will be completely out of your hands.

Employee confused by manager's review

Q: My manager wrote the following comments on my performance appraisal: "As a supervisor, 'Joann' is knowledgeable and conscientious. However, she spends so much time reviewing her employees' work that she is falling behind on important tasks. Joann has great potential as a manager, but she needs to develop more trust in her staff."

I'm not sure what this means, but I was nervous about asking questions during my review. Should I discuss this with her now?

A: Your boss apparently feels that while you have many strengths, you also have certain traits which might impede your supervisory success. But by using fuzzy language — like "develop more trust" — she has unfortunately failed to clearly convey expectations.

To change her perceptions and improve your evaluation, you definitely need more information. Without arguing or becoming defensive, let her know that you got the message and then request some clarification.

Continue to ask clarifying questions until you have a clear plan of action. For instance, which tasks require more of your attention? How could your employees become more independent? What could you do to demonstrate trust?

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Finally, schedule some ongoing feedback sessions to get your manager's view of progress. That way, your next appraisal discussion should be free of confusing surprises.