Dear Lola,

I work in an office that manages large client accounts. I am not in charge of handling any client money per se, but am the person who submits costs from projects to the accountants for payout. I recently noticed a client file sitting in the break room and looked at it since it was one of the accounts I manage. Imagine my shock when I realized there were line items paid out for things I had never submitted. I want to report this issue to my manager, but I am worried that they are in on it. I cannot see any other reason for them to approve payouts when there are missing signatures on the bottom of the forms where I would usually sign. Should I risk going to my manager and possibly get in trouble and/or risk alerting them to cover their tracks? Or should I approach Human Resources?


Financial Fiasco

Dear Financial Fiasco,

The silly side of me instantly wanted to have some fun with these potential law breakers. Think of the panic that would ensue should you send an anonymous letter to the person in charge of payouts for that account. A cryptic message that would strike fear into their heart. Really go for the I Know What You Did Last Summer movie vibe. The plot involves an anonymous source cryptically accusing people of misdeeds to watch them panic… before seeking vengeance.

It’s also a favored tactic amongst the parenting crowd.

Your note would be so vague, the person would end up sweating every wrong thing they’ve done in their entire life. The time they stole money from their mother’s purse. That extramarital affair they thought they got away with. The time they ran over their neighbor’s cat and then hid the body to avoid detection. They could have secretly set up a bank account in the Cayman Islands and it has millions in it!

The term shitting bricks would play out live.

However fun that would be, I think you would find yourself in big trouble. Likely your coworker’s most pressing issue is stealing from client accounts and this would surely shoot to the top of the ‘I Know What You Did’ list. Then it would be time to take action and cover their misdeeds. Those pages with your missing signature would suddenly be filled in. Unless your workplace hires a forensic handwriting expert, there is a chance you would find yourself dealing with an investigation where you are a suspect along with the person you originally caught.

That is a level of paperwork only criminals should have to endure.

Do not go to your manager. I repeat, do not go to your manager with this problem. For that matter, do not go to Human Resources. You are indeed in quite a pickle. If you go to your manager and they are in on it, as you have reason to suspect, they may very well take drastic actions to silence you. Firing would be easy, but they could also help to point blame in your direction should you decide to not go quietly. Human Resources, while seemingly a bastion for the innocent, is actually in place to protect the company. Everything you’ve been led to believe about their department is a lie.

Human Resources exists to protect the company and only the company.

Any protection afforded to employees is only granted after the company has been shielded. I know it sounds pessimistic, and I’ve honestly instructed many people to approach their HR departments as a matter of course. However, it was always for quite tame problems that really do not effect the company as a whole. HR can do wonders to stop annoying coworkers who overstep, or bosses who seem to think bathroom breaks are a negotiable benefit. However useful in the situations, their primary goal is always going to be on the company. Anything that threatens this entity will be handled without the kid gloves. Theft definitely effects the company and Human Resources will circle the wagons to protect their primary target – the corporation.

You need to speak to a lawyer.

Find someone in your area who handles corporate theft and fraud. Take any evidence you may have and then follow their guidance until it is resolved. I hope everything works out and you find this is a lone man operation and the only thing your management is guilty of is terrible oversight. If the problem is much larger, I look forward to seeing it trend on Twitter as breaking news.

I will assume the shadowy figure of the whistleblower is you.


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