10

I'm in such a dilemma now. A little background of this department. There are 2 teams in this department. I'm a team leader for team A, and there's another team leader for team B.

Both of teams are reporting to the same manager, and this manager reports to a senior manager.

What has happened is that 1 staff member in team A, and 1 staff member in team B were nominated to go off for a training away from base. And they both basically hitched a ride with someone else, i.e. them not driving.

They both came back, and have filed for mileage claims. Team B employee's claims have been approved by their team leader, and I have told my subordinate that I will reject her claims on the basis that she didn't drive and did not incur any additional cost. Subordinate queried on the unfairness. Why team B employee claims got approved while hers didn't.

Escalated this case to the manager, manager contemplated rejecting my subordinate's claims as well, but she has also escalated this to our senior manager (SM).

Surprisingly, the SM is with the idea that it's the employee's entitlement to claim. Even though we all know that my subordinate didn't drive at all. The direct quote is:

Ethically it is wrong to approve but its the staff's entitlement to claim.

I have checked the same with HR (without naming names of course) and they are in agreement that an approver shouldn't approve the claims if they are carpooling and didn't drive.

Told my manager that I will not approve, and she said to approve. Told her I don't wanna get in trouble with HR, so I suggested that I delegate the approval flow to her. She doesn't want it, basically told me off by saying:

If HR query, I am the one who gets the hit.

A bit puzzled with her. Wants to reject but subordinate queried why the team B's staff claims got approved.

I'm in an ethical dilemma. What should I do?

  • 4
    Did the senior manager direct you to approve the request? – Jay Jul 19 at 2:04
  • She told my manager that "there isnt any issue of approving" – Yaya Jul 19 at 2:22
  • 4
    I don't really see your problem. If they don't own cars and they asked a friend to take them, what did the friend use to drive? Spit? Get real... Perhaps the friend that drove them asked for gas money, for which in turn the employee asked the company. – Xander Jul 19 at 12:36
  • 2
    @xander that driver has also filed in the claim. Hence "spit" has also been reimbursed fyi. – Yaya Jul 19 at 23:12
  • 3
    A country tag would be helpful. Paying unfounded travel reimbursement could get you into trouble with the tax authority in some locations. – Chris Jul 20 at 18:19
36

You kicked a decision up the chain of command and got a ruling. Abide by it.

You don't work for HR. HR is outside your chain of command. Your manager has already told you how to deal with any difficulty from HR. If you don't trust your manager to take that hit then get the ruling in writing. Then abide by it.

  • 6
    +1 Just make sure you get the command from the manager in writing! – David K Jul 19 at 22:20
  • The manager doesnt want to get the hit. She doesnt want to approve either. If HR finds out, I will accountable instead of the manager. – Yaya Jul 19 at 23:14
  • @Yaya, If she doesn't want to get the hit, play dumb, kick it down to HR/Accounting. Mention the date. Carbon copy the worker. It will be HR's decision. If the worker wants to tattle on his coworker to HR, he can do so himself. – Stephan Branczyk Jul 19 at 23:59
  • 3
    Even if your senior manager doesn’t want to go on the record, you can effectively make a record yourself. Email your manager saying “OK, I wasn’t going to approve this but SM said I should, so putting it in as approved, do you agree?” Even if they don’t respond you have something in your back pocket for if HR decides to come sniffing around, if they do respond even better. – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Jul 20 at 15:31
6

Your subordinate travelled. If they had driven their own car, the company would have paid. Not the proven cost, but a fixed rate per mile of distance from their home to the destination. Now you start enquiring how they got there. If you did that to me, I would be absolutely pissed off. What you do is absolutely inappropriate, it pisses off the employee, so the next time you want them to travel don't expect any willingness.

You are not only acting different from the other guy's manager, it seems you also want to act against the wishes of your own manager - there seem to be two people who have more wisdom than you have. There is a budget to pay for this travelling, you would have had to pay if the employee had driven his own car, so it doesn't matter if the employee found a cheaper way.

  • 2
    Didnt question the subordinate, she changed her schedule so that she could attend the same training as the driver. Everyone knows that the subordinate didnt drive. The manager doesnt want to approve it either when I told her I want to delegate the approval flow to her. – Yaya Jul 19 at 23:18
  • 2
    The thing is that you raised a stink about practically nothing. Between the demotivation to the employee and the hours wasted by you, your manager, and possibly HR, what you have been doing is an absolute waste of time and money. Best case is that in the future many cars will be driving to the same meeting to make sure everyone gets paid, wasting effort and damaging the environment. – gnasher729 Jul 21 at 11:20
  • Agreeing with Gnasher here, this is very much like the company paying the owners of efficient cars less travel comp "because they used less gasoline", this version is a bit more agreeable but still has the same vibe of penny-pinching. – Borgh Jul 22 at 12:33
3

The question is "what should I do?" You have your answer from your manager:

Told my manager that i will not approve, and she said to approve. Told her i dont wanna get in trouble with HR, so i suggested that i delegate the approval flow to her. She doesnt want it, basically told me off by saying "if HR query, i am the one who gets the hit".

Just do what you've been told, maybe use it as a precedent to clarify the policy. You, as a manager, should use this situation as a learning opportunity.

On separate note, next time I would remind subordinates that it doesn't matter if somebody else "broke the rules":

Subordinate queried on the unfairness. Why team B staff claims got approved while hers didn't.

  • Thanks, I will get this in writing from the manager then. – Yaya Jul 19 at 23:25
3

It's the company's money. If they want to approve a claim for something that didn't actually happen then that's their business, just if they wanted to give someone an extra amount of money just because they did some travelling, or for no reason at all, that's fine too. There might be some complaints later if the policy isn't followed fairly, but that lies in the future.

You've been told what the company wants to do, so I would do it. And don't forget to file your own claim the next time you ride share with someone.

  • Thanks. A bit worried since HR is currently investigating the division for any claims submitted. If deemed to be bogus, the approver will face disciplinary action instead of the subordinate who submitted the claims... – Yaya Jul 19 at 23:23
  • Then make sure you either get your boss to do the approval or get him to instruct you in writing to do it. – DJClayworth Jul 20 at 2:40
  • @Yaya Be careful, if they are investigating because you raised this issue, you will likely have more interpersonal problems later on for being a trouble maker. – Johns-305 Jul 20 at 19:39
  • It's fine and only the company's business as long as the right tax is paid. If tax law says the payment is extra income then there are complications attached. – Alex Hayward Jul 21 at 12:51
2

An issue not raised so far is tax. We probably live in different countries, but at least where I live the milage allowances are set based on what the company is allowed (by the tax authorities) to pay to drivers without it being taxed as additional income. Would those tax authorities be happy to pay a mileage allowance to someone who didn't drive? I don't know (my guess is 'no, but a train, bus or taxi fare would be OK'). If you really wanted additional ammunition to refuse it then you could ask your finance people. However, you risk making a bad situation worse. Individually I'd go with the suggestion of making sure it's well documented that you're following an instruction. Since these things can only be sorted out at a level wider than just you and your team it's probably the right thing for responsibility to be pushed upwards anyway.

If your ethical concern is spending the company's money on it then just don't worry about it. Now that the other claim has been approved - mistake or not - it's not so straightforward. People hate unfairness. It can harm motivation - if you can't get the same out as other people by putting the same in, people may put in less to redress the balance. Not to mention that if one of these two people is a protected minority or a woman then there could be further problems. Also, it means people may see no reason to share cars if they can get their allowance by driving, leaving the company paying anyway plus additional social costs (congestion, accident risk, pollution).

1

They both came back, and have filed for mileage claims. Team B employee's claims have been approved by their team leader, and I have told my subordinate that I will reject her claims on the basis that she didn't drive and did not incur any additional cost. Subordinate queried on the unfairness. Why team B employee claims got approved while hers didn't.

To get it right: your subordinate did not state that she drove.

  • Let your subordinate know the answer from HR.

  • Tell her clearly that the travel bill of team B is none of her business.

  • ask her if she and the other person actually both split the costs, and agreed to both claim the money (twice) - since they obviously aligned on the topic, this would be my explanation for her insisting to get money which she obviously is not owed.

  • explain her in that context that if hey decided together to defraud (because that is what we are talking about) the company, it's now the right time to come forward and that coming forward will sit better than not.

  • if they actually agreed to double bill, and she admits it, then forward the information to the team manager of team B

-4

By all means, agree that it is "unfair", but stick to your guns and do not approve the claim.

I think that you have to state that you will not be a knowing party to fraud - even if team B's leader will. Because if it comes out (*), think what your position would be.

(*) how it might come out

  • it may be discovered (unlikely, but possible)
  • inter-personal politics; someone may get upset at someone else and report it
  • once your team knows that you will approve bogus claims, such claims will escalate .. where might that lead?

And, as to

Told my manager that I will not approve, and she said to approve

As for that in writing and see your manager's attitude change.

  • 1
    Thanks, this is the ethical dilemma that I am facing now. If I approve, I will be commiting fraud in a way. The manager doesnt want me to delegate the approval flow to her either. The manager was being sarcastic when the manager said he/she will take the hit. – Yaya Jul 19 at 23:20
  • I am glad that you see it that way - even it the downvoters don't ;-) – Mawg says reinstate Monica Jul 21 at 19:17
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    Thanks, Mawg, you have been a great help :) – Yaya Jul 25 at 6:25
  • That's what we are here for :-) What did you do in the end? – Mawg says reinstate Monica Jul 25 at 6:43
  • 1
    I went to the subordinate and told her I am not approving, coincidentally HR and Business Integrity were investigating our Dept. Phewww – Yaya Aug 5 at 3:10

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