A $6,000 Mistake

Carl says his company told him he owes $12,600. He knew there was a $6,000 mistake and placed it aside. Dave tells Carl this is a mistake the company should be eating because this is an accounting mistake.

QUESTION: Carl in Tulsa says his company contacted him yesterday and told him he owes $12,600. He’s been informed that he has to pay it all back. He knew there was a $6,000 mistake and banked it and placed it aside. They’re saying he owes more than that though. Dave tells Carl this is a mistake the company should be eating because this is an accounting mistake.

ANSWER: I’m not an attorney. I guess you’d have to talk to one. Apparently, we’re all in agreement you owe them at least $6,000. My guess is that since you don’t have a contract with them, them overpaying you is money they have lost. The dilemma is this: If you were to pay the $6,000 and quit, I don’t think they can hold you to it. That’s one possibility. You’d better check an attorney. Don’t take a talk radio host’s advice on that. But it doesn’t sound to me like they could.

The second option is that you continue to argue with them and get enough leadership in management on the phone and work with them until someone solves this, which is probably actually your best option.

Your third option is if you want to keep this job, you’re going to repay it. I assume they would spread it out over some time. You make $118,000. You can do $500 a month. You can if you want to keep this job. If I’m you, I start to question if I want to work for people like this. I think you need to get your leadership team on the phone and have a discussion with them because basically payroll is being bureaucratic about this, and your leadership team needs to care enough about their team members—people they pay six figures to—to not lose them over some stupid bureaucratic stuff. It sounds to me like you’re dealing with somebody fairly low on the ladder who’s not got the power to do anything except say no. It takes more power to say yes than to say no. I think I’m going to continue to negotiate it and work it and figure out a way to stay there.

If they dig their heels in all areas of the company and basically are going to screw you for $6,000, you’ve got to decide if you want to work for them or not on a matter of integrity. I don’t know that I’d walk out the door today, but I think I’d be looking. And I think I’d put it on as slow a payback as I could possibly negotiate, including keeping the $6,000 in your pocket, to where if you got hired somewhere else tomorrow, you walk if your attorney tells you that you can do that.

I can tell you this. I’ve got people who work for me who make over $100,000 a year. If we screwed them up on that, we would sit them down and show them how we screwed them up, and we would eat 100% of it. I’ve done it before. I don’t take our accounting stupidity and cram it down our team’s throat. That’s our fault. That’s a leadership breakdown. Somebody’s going to get their butt chewed $12,000 worth through this place—I can tell you that. If you work for me and you screw up one of my six-figure people by $12,000, I’m going to be all up in somebody’s stuff. That’s a leadership breakdown. That’s not your fault. Plus, on top of this, you begged them to figure out that they were making an error. It sounds like a large company to me. I hope they have sense enough to value their human resources in leadership more than your payroll department does. I’m going to push it through. I’m going to negotiate it, and then you’ve got to make decisions whether you’re willing to leave over this, whether this is something you’re willing to fall on your sword for or not, and then on that basis, they may not get any of this money. You may pocket the $6,000. However, I don’t think I would do that because I think you think you owe the $6,000. I’m not going to steal from them. I’m probably going to pay it and walk, and they’re going to eat the $6,000 I don’t think I owe. It may be you decide for $6,000 you’re willing to stay. If you paid the taxes in and they matched it, not only do you not have the money now, but you’re not ever going to get the money again. You really are dealing with the bottom of the barrel here in intelligence. This is a breakdown here. You’ve got to make the decision on that basis.