Is workplace impropriety the elephant in the room?

First Harvey Weinstein, then Capitol Hill. Fall 2017 has had its fill of news about workplace scandals. While Hollywood and Washington D.C. may seem completely different than our less glamorous jobs, no industry is immune from the type of misconduct we have been hearing about. The stories are sickening. Yet, I also wonder about the incidents that never make headlines—the uncomfortable workplace scenarios for which there is no outright policy violation. What should someone do in these cases, especially when the instigator holds a position of power?

In my first job out of college, my manager’s boss was what I would classify as a creep. He never violated any company policies, but his “innocent” comments—paired with his obvious stares—were telling. He made me uncomfortable, but nothing he did was “reportable.” I absolutely felt my subordinate status, as well as my tender age of 22, so I ignored his behavior and tried to avoid him. My colleagues might have been dealing with the same thing, but no one talked about it. There were only rumors about his preference in hiring peppy, petite females. 

Looking back, I wish I had felt more empowered to speak up, to respectfully convey how I felt. However, I imagine he would have stressed his innocence, and I would have walked away feeling stupid and doubting myself. Who knows how speaking up would have impacted my career. Whether a blatant offense or subtle innuendo, those at the receiving end do not always have good options. A recent CNN article about Capitol Hill makes this abundantly clear. In one way or another, victims are faced with consequences, even if they ultimately triumph.

What To Do

Back to my earlier question of what to do. I strive to offer blog posts with action items, but this time I do not have clear answers. We teach children about “stranger danger” and warn teens about online predators. I’m not convinced that there is enough dialogue with young people entering the work force about the improprieties they may encounter and what their options might be. We need to better prepare them because we cannot assume that employer policies and related training, no matter how strong, will protect everyone. I realize that workers of any age can be victims. I’m specifying young people because I believe this is when the education should begin—at the ground level. However, for anyone who experiences workplace discomfort due to another employee (“reportable” or not), the best path may be to consult with HR.

Last, but not least, I have to put in a word for the truly innocent people who are falsely accused. Unfortunately, there will always be a handful of people who take advantage of the system out of spite. I don’t know what else to say. Being careful about the colleagues with whom we associate will not guarantee anything.

Final Thoughts

Commercial Card content will return for the next post. I was compelled to write about workplace misconduct this week because of my own mild experience that came flooding back to me while reading articles on the well-publicized scandals. I cannot imagine the pain that surely comes with greater ordeals.


Security Alert

On a completely different note, LinkedIn accounts are getting hacked. For more information, I published a related article today:   https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/linkedin-accounts-getting-hacked-lynn-larson/


About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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3 travel policy recommendations to boost employee peace

Two things are clear about business travel. First, based on the results of the travel policy survey by AP Now and PDG, it can be challenging for organizations to manage the related expenses and applicable policies. As the lead researcher for the survey project, I am seeing firsthand the pain that reimbursement teams often encounter. Besides regular battles over missing receipts and other infractions, there are, at times, outrageous expenses to address. More on this below. The second thing about business travel emerged during a lively weekend dinner party with friends. In short, travel is not pleasant (my friends used stronger language) and employers’ policies can make things more difficult on travelers. What can organizations do to help alleviate everyone’s sore spots? Keep reading to learn more, including some insights into the survey results.

Characteristics of a Strong Travel Policy

Consistent enforcement should be a given. Beyond that, here are three elements that appear to be lacking in some organizations, based on the survey results I’m currently analyzing.

Regular Reviews and Updates

Your policy should keep pace with the changing travel landscape. Reviewing it at least annually and making updates as necessary can prevent headaches. The survey results reveal there is room for improvement; for example:

  • Only 56% of organizations have reviewed their policy within the past 12 months
  • 72% have not updated their policy to reflect employees’ use of Uber, Lyft, and similar

Unfortunately, even the diligent organizations can overlook things. Among those who have done a review within the past 12 months, 60% said the policy does not address Uber, Lyft, and similar. 

Clarity and Specificity

It is not possible or recommended to try and address every potential situation within a travel policy. There are too many variables. However, many survey respondents—from the perspective of someone on a reimbursement team—expressed a desire for more details in their policies to minimize conflicts and debates with travelers. I completely agree.

While reviewing outrageous expenses described by respondents, I took the liberty of compiling a list of what an organization could specify in a “prohibited expenses” section of the policy.

ABC Company will not reimburse/pay for: 

  • tickets for driving violations or parking infractions
  • personal car repairs
  • gifts for family and/or friends
  • personal services (e.g., spa services)
  • personal items (e.g., clothing, medicine)
  • personal entertainment (e.g., concert tickets, gambling)
  • pet care or child care
  • expenses incurred by non-employee guests of the traveler
  • expenses occurring during non-travel days

Based on this list, you can imagine what respondents shared!

Help bring some peace to both your reimbursement team and travelers. Make your travel policy current and clear, but also flexible.

Help bring some peace to both your reimbursement team and travelers. Make your travel policy current and clear, but also flexible.

Flexibility

This third piece may sound like a contradiction to consistent enforcement. What I mean by “flexibility” is to allow reasonable exceptions when approved by an appropriate management member, especially when the traveler saves the organization money overall. For example, a traveler taking a red-eye flight when it is the cheapest option, but then purchasing a seat upgrade to be more comfortable. It also saves the cost of another night of lodging. 

I know “reasonable” can be subject to interpretation, which is why it is important to be clear about prohibited expenses (things for which exceptions are not allowed), as well as train your management-level travel approvers in order to convey your expectations. Having the flexibility within your policy to make things a little better for travelers can ease their stress and increase job satisfaction. 

Webinar Opportunity

If you are not a survey respondent, but want to hear more about the survey results, AP Now is offering the related webinar for a fee. Please visit http://www.ap-now.com/products/item126.cfm

See also travel-related resources offered by Recharged Education.  

 


About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

Subscribe to the Blog

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Getting EAP in the door.

When you think of electronic accounts payable (EAP) solutions like Virtual Cards and buyer initiated payments, what is the first end-user benefit that comes to mind? Chances are, it is the potential to earn revenue share/rebate. We have all seen or heard phrases like “turn AP into a profit center.” There is no denying the monetary appeal, but in this fraud-gone-wild era, I think the fraud protection benefit deserves more press. Whether you are an EAP provider or end-user trying to convince management to implement an EAP solution, be sure to stress the following five points in your business case.

The Protective Side of EAP Solutions

  1. Suppliers cannot overcharge you, charge too soon, or process duplicate charges that require your time and energy to resolve. Because payments to suppliers are based on the amount your organization approves, transaction disputes are rare (or dare I say non-existent?). 
  2. Checks reflect your organization’s bank account number; sensitive information is “out there.” EAP payments do not have this risk.
  3. Fraudsters cannot create a usable counterfeit card from a Virtual Card nor can they steal Virtual Card information to make fraudulent purchases.
  4. No need to pursue external controls like Positive Pay, which often come with a cost. (See definition at the end of the post.) EAP solutions are already secure.
  5. Unlike ACH payments to suppliers, EAP solutions eliminate the need for suppliers to provide their bank account information. Your organization does not have to store and secure this type of supplier data, which is a win for both of you.

Conclusion

EAP payments are not the best fit for every situation (e.g., one-time purchases/suppliers for which traditional Purchasing Cards are ideal). However, they are a good option to add to the mix. Ultimately, every organization needs to develop a payment strategy that best serves its needs; namely, one that minimizes costs and fraud risk.

Access more information about EAP solutions.

To get ePayables/EAP into your organization, ensure your business case stresses the protective benefits.

To get ePayables/EAP into your organization, ensure your business case stresses the protective benefits.


Positive Pay Defined

Positive Pay is a service offered by most banks. As part of the service, companies transmit to their banks their check issuance file each time checks are written. The file contains a list of check numbers and dollar amounts. When a check is presented for payment, it is matched against the file. If there is a match, the check is honored and the check number removed from the file. It there is no match, the check is handled according to the preset instructions from the company.

Payee Name Positive Pay is an enhanced product that includes the payee’s name along with the check number and dollar amount in the file sent to the bank.

Source: 101 Best Practices for Accounts Payable