A reader writes:
This past week, my boss’s boss paid a visit to our branch. He was telling me that he wants to see beverages, candy and snack-type foods available for when clients visit. He reminded me that corporate does not provide petty cash, and so I would be expected to pay out of pocket for these items, which I can then submit to payroll for reimbursement.
Is it normal for a company to expect employees to do this? I am already living paycheck to paycheck (and searching for a new job with a different employer). I don’t want to “loan” this multi-million dollar company any of my money. Am I being unreasonable?
You aren’t being unreasonable at all. These are office supplies. They should provide petty cash — or, better, they should just order this stuff using a company credit card, like they would with any other supplies. Are they also going to tell you that you need to purchase toilet paper and hand soap for the office and then submit for reimbursement?
Talk to your boss and tell her that it would be a hardship for you to make these purchases out of your own money and suggest alternatives, like ordering them online and charging them to the company. If you want to, say that you keep yourself on a strict budget. (You don’t owe an explanation, but offering one often softens these kinds of conversations.) And if your boss won’t implement any of your suggestions, explain that financially you simply can’t do this and someone else (like your boss) will need to.
One note: Even though you’re feeling irate, don’t take that into the conversation. Be polite and friendly; don’t make it adversarial. You’re much more likely to get a good outcome that way.
And a good boss would find a solution to this, because a good boss wouldn’t want you to feel personally burdened by the company’s expenses, and also wouldn’t want you to have to take on the awkwardness of having to push it.