I am a relatively fresh graduate working as an assistant for over a year now. Luckily, I have been able to adjust and make good friends with my officemates and bosses. Recently, when I was in the middle of my lunch break, my boss called me up and told me to see her asap. Akala ko may ginawa akong mali at pagagalitan ako (I thought I did something wrong and I would be reprimanded for it).
But actually, she was in panic and needed money. She needed 20,000 pesos. She says that there was a family emergency and that she did not have her wallet and checkbook with her. She promised that she would pay the following day. I usually don’t have the money to lend, but I did because we had been given our mid-year bonus. So I agreed to lend her the money.
My only condition was that she makes sure that she pays the following day.
The following morning, I approached her. She said she was too busy to talk and that she had a meeting. Since she did not leave her desk for her meeting, I again went to her at the end of the day to get my payment. But she said she was waiting for an important call. She asked if she could pay the next day. I hesitated, but said yes, because I respected her as my boss.
The following day, when I approached her again, she got irritated at me and told me that I was disturbing her. She told me to approach her for the payment later during that day. It has been over a month and she has not paid. She would always look for an excuse. I have tried texting her and sending her e-mails, but she would not reply. She has become cold and unfriendly to me, and I feel that she has been giving me more workload than usual.
I eventually went up to the Assistant Vice President of our department and complained about my boss. But he could not help. He said that the transaction was not an official office transaction but a personal one.
One week later, two of my officemates told me that they too had been approached by our boss to borrow money, 15,000 each. They have not been paid either. We’re afraid of our boss, and so two of my friends decided to give up for fear of any revenge from my boss. I want to give up to, but I can’t. I’m using the money to pay for my younger sister’s tuition fee. Help.
Stressed Out Yuppie From Mandaluyong
Dear Stressed Out Yuppie From Mandaluyong,
I see where you are coming from, and anyone in your position would definitely feel stressed or even worse. While your 20,000 is from your mid-year bonus, this is still hard earned money — from your blood, sweat, and even maybe tears, so to speak. And this age of record-high inflation rates, P20,000 is no joke.
There is no easy advice for this. For starters, you will need to consider that you did not lend money to an ordinary person, but to your boss, who can make your working life hell.
Off hand, let me say that you should NOT give up. The amount you lent is yours. The amount you lent was hard earned money, and it is only proper and moral that your boss pays up. If your boss values the work that you do for her, she will not break your trust, and she will not allow the reputation of your department or organization to be ruined because of her faults. This is, of course, easier said than done. Allow me to list offer some suggestions.
But let me say this first: I smell a modus operandi here. It is good that you discovered that you have colleagues who have been victimized by her. Estafa is a crime, especially everything was planned. It would definitely be a modus operandi if the three of you had all been approached separately on different dates, but with the same excuse. I also find it fishy that she borrowed money when your mid-year bonus came out. Investigate if she has had other victims. I cannot say this enough: estafa IS a crime.
I do not quite agree with the AVP of your department when he said that the transaction between you and your boss was purely a personal transaction. You lent her money at the office, right? Will your AVP turn a blind eye to a crime that is committed in the office, a crime that has victimized three people already? Secondly, I suspect and sense that your boss knows that some of her suborindates may not be able to assert themselves, and is using whatever authority, clout, and credibility that she has to borrow money. Your boss then, is using her position — taking advantage of her position — to borrow money and get away with it. That should not be.
Before you consider anything drastic, here are some tips:
- First and foremost, assert yourself. Maintain a professional, diplomatic tone of voice when talking to her. You have nothing to be afraid of. It is SHE who owes YOU, and not the other way around. You have nothing to be ashamed of. It is she who should be ashamed of herself. As your boss, she is paid by the company more than you are compensated, and she should be ashamed of borrowing money from her suborindates.
- If she doesn’t have the money to pay, probe. Investigate why she is not able to pay. Then see what you can do.
- Explain the importance and urgency of why she should pay up. In your case, emphasize that you are paying for tuition, and need the money urgently as well.
- When she is not able to pay up, get a commitment from her as to when she would be able to pay. Or better yet, set a date for payment and get her agreement on this. Get a specific date. “As soon as possible” and “Very soon” are not enough. Next week? When next week? It needs to be a specific date and time. And make sure that you follow up on the agreed date.
- Tell her to pay up so that you will not disturb or bother her anymore. Sell the benefit to her of paying up. What’s in it for her?
- If she has no money to pay, offer help. Ask: is there anything I could do to help you pay me? If you can still manage to wait a little longer, offer payment through installment, until she is able to pay the full amount.
- While your AVP is not courageous enough to investigate the matter or sanction your boss, see and ask if your AVP could at least help in any other way. He could talk to your boss in a personal level, and influence her to pay up. Without sounding threatening, tell your AVP that you would like to settle this matter in a professional way, rather than the extreme measure of bringing the case to the Police or to the court. Ask them to take their pick.
- Continue working professionally within the organization
- Bring your younger sister to the office and introduce her to your boss and AVP. Let your sister be your visual aid and proof of how urgent you need the payment.
- This one requires mastery over tone of voice: If she works using a desk only and is not confined to an office, you could even make your voice just a bit louder (without shouting) and ask for payment, so that one or two other people hear it. If your boss realizes that there are other people who hear your request, this may push her to pay up (not to mention, they are witnesses).
- Aside from face-to-face conversation, remind your boss through e-mail or text. Make sure that you use professional, and assertive language.
- Make a big fuss at the office about your boss. Avoid the temptation of rumor-mongering, and whining about this problem to your other colleagues. It would only aggravate the situation.
- Lose your cool or patience when talking with her. She’s still your boss and again, she could make your life hell.
- Do not threaten your boss.
Now, if all else fails — and only when everything else fails — you may consider some drastic measures. Make sure to consult a professional like a lawyer if you can do so.
- After establishing that all possible positive means has truly been exhausted, tell (not threaten!) your AVP and/or Boss face-to-face that if no payment is made, you will have no choice but to resort to higher authority. Ask for assistance from your HR department.
- If even HR fails to help you or refuses to help, then tell your boss and AVP that you are left with no choice but to go for legal measures. Establish that all means have been exhausted. Tell them that a crime has been committed here — estafa. Privately ssk your two other colleagues if they are willing to support or join you.
- Take time to diplomatically emphasize with words that you are resorting to a legal solution because you are left with no choice. Diplomatically tell your boss that you don’t wish to tarnish the reputation of the company with a legal suit against your boss.
- However, before you recourse to legal action, consider the following as well: your boss and her allies (if she has) may gang up on you. Are you a regular employee? If you aren’t, think twice and get professional opinion. After all, you wish to avoid the double disaster of getting fired.
- Consider also that legal action will require you to spend further. It will require you to attend to hearings. Would it be worth the trouble?
- If your company has a union, it could provide legal assistance, as well as other advice about your problem. Approach your friendly union officers!
- If you go for the legal way, what would be your evidence? Do you have any documents or witnesses to prove your case?
Consider that whatever action you take may affect your job. People may work to ease you out (which, by the way, could be a case of constructive dismissal). Or your boss will simply make life hell for you. Depending on the size of your company, you may wish to consider getting re-assigned to another team or department before pursuing anything drastic. Or if worse comes to worst, look for another job, and pursue payment from there. To be brutally frank with you, if I have an alternative, I wouldn’t wish to work for a company (and this includes its top management) that does not place a premium on fairness to employees.
If you are totally not convinced with going for the legal route, then what you will need is consistent, assertive communication. Simply don’t stop following up, using the tips I mentioned above.
If your boss becomes irate with you, keep your cool, acknowledge (but not apologize) that ire of your boss: “(Name of Boss), I understand that this matter is already upsetting you. But the sooner we are able to already settle this problem, then the sooner I will stop bothering you. I really don’t wish to inconvenience you with this. But I do need to send my sister to school.”
Again, there is no easy way out of your problem. But it can be solved with patience and assertiveness. I will be praying for you. Keep me posted.
Friends, as always, the floor is open for all your comments. Feel free to share your insights for our Stressed Out Yuppie. They’re all very welcome here. Thanks.