Dear Aunty B,
I’m the CFO of a smash repair firm in Brisbane.
About five months ago I was asked do to a review of expenses, in particular company mobile phone expenses and fuel card spends, to see spending patterns so we could negotiate better terms with the suppliers.
During this process I discovered another interesting pattern based on phone numbers called and location of fuel stops. I soon formed a theory that one of the directors of my company is having an affair with one of the receptionists. I have kept silent about this, because aside from phone records that shows loads of text messages to the receptionist after hours (especially around 2 AM) I had no solid proof.
But then the other receptionist that we have came to me distressed recently and during a private meeting confirmed what I already suspected. My reaction was to advise her to do nothing and say nothing, as being the whistle-blower in this instance would not be constructive and you never know if the wife might actually be fine with it – these days there seems to be a huge variety of relationships people have with each other.
Now I have a real dilemma – one of the receptionists is going to be let go before Christmas as we no longer need two receptionists.
Which one has not been decided yet but I feel a potential HR issue is about to be unleashed if the one having the affair with the director is retained while the other is let go. I’m very worried this could escalate into a legal issue if the non-affair receptionist decides to pursue the matter.
I need advice here on what to do. My gut feeling is to let it unravel itself and do nothing but then I do not want to be seen as opening up the company to potential legal action if it is found I knew about it.
Plus the directors are personal friends of mine – and so is the director’s wife.
Dear Troubled Morally,
Wow, what an incredible situation. I completely understand why you would want to just shut your eyes and let the cards fall where they may, but I think at the bottom of your heart you don’t want to do that – which to me shows great loyalty to your business.
You’re right to be worried about a potential legal claim – if the non-affair receptionist is sacked she would have grounds to explore an adverse action claim.
I think you need to sit down with both the director and receptionist and tell them that the non-affair receptionist has come to you with this claim. Tell them that you’ve got no idea if the affair claim is correct or not and it’s really none of your business, but given the looming redundancies and some concerns about a possible legal claim, you feel you need to bring it to their attention.
I wouldn’t mention your personal suspicions and your phone record detective work – deal only in facts.
Keep it friendly but professional. You want to let the directors know that they have a real issue here and one they will need to address.
Then get up and get out of there – you do not want to get drawn into the personal politics of this.
I think this approach lets you do your duty if you like, and satisfy yourself that you haven’t been responsible for leaving the business open to a legal claim.
Yes, you will be handing the directors a live grenade – but frankly, they have allowed this situation to develop and they need to fix it.
How they are going do that is a whole other matter…
Your Aunty B
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