Mister Meanor offers sound advice on what to do about a dishonest but much-liked employee and how to abandon a sinking ship with dignity.
Dear Mister Meanor
As the finance director of a company with several branches, I have put together an audit team charged with conducting random spot checks on a number of our operations. One of the premises the team has elected to visit, however, gives cause for concern. You see the manager who runs this particular branch is adored by customers and staff alike and his operation contributes handsomely to the corporate bottom line. This said, I am pretty sure he has been cooking the books for some time now. Because of all his redeeming features, I haven't looked too closely at his finances thus far but I fear the audit team will. As finance director, I clearly have the power to redirect the team's attentions. Do I protect a good but possibly dishonest man?
Yours in a Gordian knot
You should not call off the dogs. Firstly, you are, at this stage, guilty of a slight (albeit explainable) oversight. But while passive collusion is arguably a grey area, your active collusion is quite another: help hide your manager's mendacity and you become part of a conspiracy. Moreover, should your fellow board members find out, they may not view your actions as sympathetically as you view your manager's. Secondly, consider why it is that you are covering up for him. After all, he might be a good manager but, at the end of the day, he is still probably cheating both you and the company - you don't owe him anything. So let the team do their worst: you never know, he may manage to hoodwink them too. In which case he's even cleverer than you thought. Your hands will be clean - and everything can return to the status quo ante.
Yours de jure
Dear Mister Meanor
My company has recently been placed in administration and the future is, to say the least, clouded. Staff morale is understandably low but the team I manage are a group of talented, dedicated people and, as its key player, I have been doing my best to maintain the esprit de corps. Now, out of the blue, I have been offered an attractive job at another, considerably healthier company. Clearly, accepting it would secure my future and solve my problems, but would at the same time severely undermine the jobs of my erstwhile colleagues.
Should I accept?
Yours with loyalty
Your company sounds like a sinking ship and I would strongly advise you to jump. Your attachment to your staff, while laudable, is not a sound basis for judgment in today's business world. Your people will certainly not give you a standing ovation for doing what you should but they will understand, largely because, if they're honest, all of them know that they would do the same. The other argument in favour of accepting the job is that your underlings are probably not the only people to whom you have an obligation. Children, significant others, mortgages and pets are all responsibilities too. So, break the news to your team as best you can and don't look back.