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My boss asked me to write bad checks – and promptly left the country

HI, I live in Anchorage and am a management consultant and writer. I'm founder of www.bullywhisperer.com™, www.workplacecoachblog.com and www.thegrowthcompany.com. I'm author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. I author...

How to handle a boss who puts you in unethical situations

Today I'm answering a question about managing money for a boss who has a lackadaisical attitude about finances.

More: What to do when your boss creates a problem — and leaves you to deal with it

Question:

I'm one of 12 employees working for a small, closely held corporation run by my boss, his soon-to-be ex-wife and his brother. I live paycheck to paycheck and am the only support for my son and mother.

Soon after I was hired, my boss told me how much he trusted me and asked me to become the corporate secretary. I was totally jazzed; it felt like this was a major career breakthrough for me. The other officer positions — vice chair and treasurer — are held by family members.

My boss tells me our company is going places and we'll soon be rolling in money. He has promised me a raise in six months, and I don't want to let him down.

I've learned, by sitting in on and taking minutes for the corporate meetings, that our corporation is close to bankruptcy.

My boss left two days ago for a trip to Jamaica with his lady friend and told me not to bother him "with small stuff — and it is all small stuff." Before he left, he also gave me signing power on all checks. He told me to pay all our vendors because otherwise they won't give us the materials we need to complete our orders. Since I'm the secretary and my boss has given me signing power, it's legal.

I was OK with this and felt honored to be treated as more than an administrative assistant.

Today, however, I'm scared. If I pay all the vendors' bills that came in this morning, we'll bounce. If I had the money to deposit in our account to balance these bills, it would be OK, but some of our clients are late paying us. What do I do?

More: 5 Strategies to stop procrastinating at work

Answer:

Don't write rubber checks.

If you do, and they bounce, you've signed them as a corporate secretary. As a corporate officer, once you sign a check returned for insufficient funds, you can be held personally liable for three times the amount of the check, plus the legal fees incurred by the payee to collect payment.

Occasionally, a boss throws more responsibility on an employee than is fair. For the employee, this can feel like an honor, and it is. This problem, however, isn't one of your making. Don't take an unacceptable risk.

You need to call your boss. It's his problem.

You may also want to dust off your resume. "Rolling in the money" and "close to bankruptcy" do not mesh. Be careful.

More: 3 tricks for dealing with a physically intimidating boss

Have a question for Lynne? Email her at lynne@thegrowthcompany.com with subject "SheKnows" and she may answer your question (confidentially) in an upcoming piece on SheKnows.

© 2016, Lynne Curry.Lynne authored Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. You can also follow Lynne@lynnecurry10 on Twitter or access her other posts on SheKnows, www.workplacecoachblog.com or www.bullywhisperer.com.

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