How to cope with a disgruntled leaver intent on airing his views of the top brass and employees who may be fiddling their car mileage claims
Dear Mister Meanor
I am the most senior member of staff attending the leaving do for a rather disgruntled member of my team, Bill. I am obliged to attend the event and the malcontent has no axe to grind with me. However, he is deeply unhappy with some of the company's top brass and I have a nasty feeling that - especially if he's had a bit too much to drink - he may well use his farewell bash as a platform to air his views. I cannot exactly approach him beforehand as that would imply I don't trust him and would sour the atmosphere. But, should he decide to vent his spleen, what should I do?
Apprehensive of Apperley
Should your curmudgeonly ex-colleague decide to begin his verbal demolition job, things will inevitably become a little embarrassing and you might as well just accept the fact. If he throws enough mud, some of it will stick. But, on a practical front, it is often well nigh impossible to shut a drunken orator up. If Bill starts laying into the top brass, your best move is to make light of it; judicious use of humour may be enough to diffuse the situation. But, if he's already hit his stride and refuses to pipe down, let him say his piece: there is no point getting into a slanging match, especially with a drunk. Then you can take the floor and offer a succinct (but polite) alternative perspective. Above all, if he is drunk, you have to be sober. With debate, as with driving, you may feel perfectly capable after three or four, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
Dear Mister Meanor
I am the finance director of a business with a significant number of company cars. As you know, employees are taxed on company cars at a maximum annual rate of 35% of new value. This falls by one-third if they do over 2,500 miles and two-thirds if they do over 18,000 miles. I have noticed that a suspiciously large number of mileage claims come in at around the 19,000 mile mark. I am concerned both that my employees are on the fiddle and that if I submit incorrect information to the Revenue, I can be fined up to £3,000. Should I go over their mileage reports with a fine tooth comb?
In a Spin of King's Lynn
Dear In a Spin
There are two schools of thought on this topic. One is that, even though 'everyone does it', there is no excuse. The other is that no one likes a taxman's pet. In this instance, I fall firmly into the second camp.
Certainly, fiddling the mileage is dishonest, but so is lying to avoid unpleasant social engagements. Likewise, when at school, you did not rat on a classmate who carved graffiti on the desk tops: this is the grown-up equivalent.
The only real difference is that, if you are caught, you will face a fine higher than the cost of a new desk. But the apportionment of blame in this area is still far from clear-cut and, if the Revenue believes your oversight to be genuine or there are other mitigating circumstances, the penalty is likely to be less clear-cut. So if someone is fiddling his or her mileage outrageously, pull them up. But, where there is genuine ambiguity, cut your employees some slack.