Betrayed By A Trusted Employee

Brenda owns a small business. Brenda's accountant told the other employees how much Brenda and her husband make. They're going to fire her, but how do they talk to their employees about it?

QUESTION: Brenda in Wichita has a small business with 47 employees. Seven are in the office, and two are family members. They have an accountant who told everyone how much Brenda and her husband make and shared how much of a draw they take on the business. They’re going to fire her, but how do they talk to their employees about it?

ANSWER: The accountant has to be fired. I would have an extra meeting with your team and lay the cards face up and tell them the accountant is gone because she violated her ethics. Let them know you love them and will continue to do good things for them, but what you and your husband make is none of their business. If what you make bothers them, then let them know they can resign as well and go with the accountant. I would be tough on this. That’s exactly what I would tell my team had this happened.

I’m good to my people. We give out millions and millions and millions of dollars in benefits and bonuses and all kinds of things here. This happens sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you don’t take care of the next employee. You’ve got to say that everyone is not a slob, everybody’s not a turkey, and what did you do that you can correct in the next hiring process and in the communication process of how important this information is? You correct what you can correct so you don’t let another one of those in the building.

Every time we have something like this happen, we do an autopsy on it and ask ourselves how we screwed up so that we never let one of those types in the building again. That’s why I’ve got a 14-step hiring procedure. We’ve added all those steps down to the spousal interview—which is brilliant—trying to figure out ways to not allow morons on the team. You’re never going to bat 100%, because some of them can just snow you. But it’s hard to get a job here now because you have to go through all this anti-moron stuff.

As far as your existing team goes, if they can’t be okay with you being the owner and making whatever you make, then they don’t need to be there. Be real blunt and not apologetic. I’m not a little bit apologetic about what I make. I’ve earned every dime of it. I’ve never stolen from anybody. I’ve never lied to anybody. I’ve been out here helping millions of people, and every dime I earned. If somebody doesn’t like it, they can kiss my ankle. I’m not going to be angry about it, but I’m passionate about the fact that I’ve paid a price to be where we are. If somebody wants to come in here and join us, great. But don’t you dare step up and cop an attitude about it. You get to love the idea that you’re here, or you get to love the idea about being somewhere else.

This was a total violation of ethics, and it sets up a morale problem that you’re probably going to struggle with for six months to a year depending on how many you fire as a result of this. The accountant who released the information—she’s gone by the close of business the day I find out. She doesn’t get to stay a minute longer.