my manager spent the money from an office collection on herself

A reader writes:

I work for an outpatient medical office. My mother died one month ago. The office manager approached my coworkers the day after she died to contribute cash in order to buy a Visa gift card for me. I was off a week, and when I returned a coworker asked me if I received the gift card. I told her I didn’t know anything about it. She said everyone had given money towards a gift and had signed a card. She said she would ask the manager where the card was.

A few days go by, and the manager tells me she was delayed in sending the card/gift because she was waiting for the VP of operations (two levels above her) to stop by the office and contribute. She said she had sent it the day before (August 27) and I should get it soon.

After several more days of the manager’s excuses, a personal check (not a Visa gift card as promised) arrived at my house. It arrived September 6, and the date on the check says it was written August 28. It was from a starter pack and her address was handwritten in the upper left corner.

I received a notice from my bank on September 17 that the check was returned for non-sufficient funds. My bank charged me a $15 fee.

My manager sent me a text message after she went home on September 23 asking me to call her when I got home. She informed me that the check bounced because they charged her an inactivity fee. She said she never uses the account and just found that checkbook sitting around and figured it was easier to just write it off of that. She said yesterday that she would go to that bank and close the account and give me the cash, plus any fee my bank charged me.

The branch is four miles from our office. She fooled around all day, taking a 45 minute-lunch at the Mexican restaurant next door, and then at five minutes to 5:00 left to get the money.

On her way out the door, she holds up her debit card and says, “Keep your fingers crossed — I am not sure what the PIN number is.” She walks a half block down the street to an ATM (not her bank’s) and comes back saying she doesn’t know the PIN and I will have to wait until Friday (the next day I work) for the money.

Should I report this incident her boss who also contributed? The check was for $150.

The people who should be most concerned by this are actually your coworkers, since they contributed their money in the expectation that it would go to you, not to your boss. So can you tell your coworkers what’s going on and get them to look into this? They’re the ones who are really out the money, in a way — they intended it for you and your manager appropriated it for herself.

But if you prefer, it would be completely reasonable to go to your manger’s boss and say something like: “I feel very awkward bringing this up, but I’ve been told by multiple coworkers, as well as by Jane, that they all contributed a total of $150 for a gift card for me after my mother died. Jane has kept promising to get the money to me, but I’m getting the sense that she doesn’t have it or doesn’t want to give it to me — to the point that she wrote me a check that was returned for non-sufficient funds, then promised to give me cash the next day, and still hasn’t done it. I want to be clear that I don’t feel entitled to anyone’s money, but since people donated money thinking it was for a bereavement gift, I’m concerned that she seems to be keeping it for herself and I’m at a loss for how to handle it.”

That said, you’re going to need to think about how this might affect your relationship with your boss going forward. And that’s actually something you might raise too when you talk to her manager. You could say something like: “I’m concerned about causing tension in my relationship with Jane, so I’d appreciate it if there’s a way to address the situation without it causing issues between us.”

The other option, of course, is to just let your coworkers know that their money never made it to you but you appreciate their generous intentions, and then drop it entirely. I have to think that either way, there are going to be repercussions for your highway bandit of a boss.

{ 245 comments… read them below }

  1. John B Public*

    …wow. Just… Wow.

    Yeah, AAM’s advice seems the way to go. Your coworkers are the ones that are going to have the best standing on this, and if possible I’d point the person who started the pool towards this website.

    I hope your next manager has better ethics.

    1. Helen S.*

      Really? I don’t think I could follow the advice, even if it is good advice. On principle, I would not be able to let that $15 bank fee go. And as one of the coworkers who donated the original money, I would have to insist that the money be returned. I guess I am tightfisted…

      This letter reaffirmed my serious dislike of any office situation where people are expected to spend their own money. I actually donated money in a similar situation to this, and now I am wondering if the money ever made it to the intended recipient.

      1. Chinook*

        “I actually donated money in a similar situation to this, and now I am wondering if the money ever made it to the intended recipient.”

        As someone who has beena sked to collect money for something like this (one of the “joys” of being an AA), if you are ever concerned that the money didn’t make it to the intended recipient, the collector should be able to show you a receipt for what was paid for. The more organized ones may even have a breakdown of who paid what (which I would keep in case anyone asked, not because I was hounding those who didn’t pay or paid less than others).

        1. some1*

          Every place I have worked, whoever collected would send out an email letting people know. “We had funeral wreath of carnations sent to the funeral home that is having Wakeen’s mom’s service.” or “We sent a pink bouquet with a rattle to St. Mary’s Hospital for Wakeen and his wife Jane’s new baby girl, Grace Marie”

      2. FiveNine*

        My sister’s office workers gave her a Visa with supposedly $100 on it for a baby shower — only, no money was loaded on it. She tried several different places, etc. She let it drop, because she couldn’t bring herself to mention it to anyone who had contributed, but I think she should have let them know (and also, it was just a really crappy thing for someone to do, she had been thrilled with the surprise gift but somehow it became almost a depressing thing in the end).

          1. Jamie*

            Yes – I would have assumed it was an error in activating it. I’d feel terrible if I donated thinking someone would get something nice with that and she didn’t get anything and the money went into the ether.

          2. Bea W*

            This has happened to me. My mom’s SO gave me $100 gift card for Christmas, but when I tried to use it, there was no money on it. I knew he was a totally honest and trustworthy person (and generous to a fault), so I assumed there was just something wrong with the card, let him know right away, and gave him the bad gift card. Luckily he still had the receipt, and went back to the store himself to set it straight. The card had never been activated and loaded with the money he had given the cashier to put on it.

            If I found out this happened to someone I gave a gift card to, I’d be appalled. $100 is not chump change. It might be a good idea to include the receipt with the gift card, in case something like this happens.

        1. Helen S.*

          That is terrible. Even assuming it was an honest mistake, this is a reminder that if you’re trying to make a nice gesture, make sure you do something doesn’t end up to be a burden for the recipient.

          At least the giftcard was intended to be celebrating a happy occasion. I think the idea of giving someone a giftcard after losing a loved one is really misguided. Sorry for your loss – here’s a small sum of money in a form that is inconvenient to use. That should not be a thing.

            1. Anony1234*

              Funerals are very expensive. Sometimes the bereaving person/family would actually prefer the cash, no matter how little, to offset the costs.

              1. reeseLA*

                When my brother died suddenly last year my office gave me a gift card to Trader Joe’s. It was actually really helpful, because even though I wasn’t out anything for the funeral I could go and buy a bunch of more expensive pre-made stuff (since I couldn’t really motivate myself to cook) without feeling bad or guilty about it. It was a nice, unexpected gesture.

                Plus the funeral was in another state and I had flown home, so figuring out where and when to send flowers would have been more of a hassle for me.

              2. Gjest*

                Also, when my father passed away, I had to buy a ridiculously expensive last minute plane ticket, car rental, food while travelling- and take leave without pay because I only had one week of leave left, and was gone for 2 weeks.

                One of my friends gave me a card with 100 bucks in it when she took me to the airport. I appreciated it so much.

                So sometimes money for a death may seem weird, but it was extremely helpful to me at that time.

                1. Jamie*

                  Emergency travel can be a huge hit.

                  When I got a call that my father was in critical condition 19 years ago we had to jump on a plane immediately. Tickets from DC to Chicago were $1200 each for coach. Then the rental car. It’s brutal – and it takes a while for insurance and for inheritance to be distributed, etc. My heart breaks for people who have to scramble for the cash on top of the stress of the situation itself.

                2. Bea W*

                  When I got the insurance money from my mother’s death, that felt really really weird. I was out to the tune of about $10K in funeral expenses on my personal credit card, and this money was a god-send, but I struggled with it. The whole concept of being given money for the loss of a life, which never seemed weird before, felt totally bizarre.

          1. Anony1234*

            A Visa gift card is a gift card usually accepted anywhere Visa is accepted. That I can see. It shouldn’t be all that inconvenient, not the same inconvenience a store-specific gift card would be.

            1. tcookson*

              It’s not hard to use once it’s activated, it’s just that there is potential for snafus to happen somewhere along the line in the activation process . . . and then for the recipient to feel awkward about approaching anyone about it lest they seem ungrateful for what was given . . .

              When my daughter was in the hospital last fall, and I was off work for six weeks caring for her, my co-workers took up a $600 collection and the person who organized the drive brought it to me in cash. It was such a lovely gesture and my husband and I appreciated it so much . . . and I’m so glad I didn’t have to endure any sort of gift/credit card glitch.

              1. Jamie*

                That goes to show for every bad apple that steals contributed money there are a loads more decent people who want to help their fellow workers out when life happens.

                1. Another Emily*

                  I think it makes sense to include the original receipt along with the gift. Since the gift card is for a specific amount, it’s not like you have to disguise the cost.

              2. Another Emily*

                For the honest snafus, I think it makes sense to include the original receipt along with the gift. Since the gift card is for a specific amount, it’s not like you have to disguise the cost.

          2. Melissa*

            Visa giftcards are actually very convenient to use – they can be used anywhere that accepts Visa cards. The only become a problem in the uncommon case that they’re not activated properly, or if someone is dishonest and doesn’t load the money on the card.

  2. Interviewer*

    Your boss should most definitely know that the office manager is behaving so unethically – what if she acts just as carelessly with the company’s money as well? As a boss, I would really want to know about this incident. In my company, soliciting money from co-workers for any kind of charitable purpose has to follow specific protocol and go through the right channels, and unfortunately, it’s because of scenarios exactly like this.

    My sympathies to you and your family, and I am sorry you are dealing with this freakshow on top of it all.

    1. Anonymous*

      Agreed. This incident says a LOT about your manager’s ethics, or lack thereof. That’s useful information for her boss. The whole situation makes me think that this is not the first time she’s had her hand in the cookie jar, so to speak.

      I’m very sorry for your loss, OP, and wish you the best.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I would definitely be concerned that she has her hand in the cookie jar. Her manager needs to know about this if for no other reason than he should be carefully looking at any company accounts she has access to. If she’s willing to steal $150 (a relatively small amount in the grand scheme of things), it makes you wonder if she’s willing to relieve the company of small amounts over a long period of time…

          1. Ruffingit*

            No doubt. I made that same point below, seems many of us feel this way. Theft is bad in general, but it’s especially bad when you’re taking from the bereaved. It’s like stealing Christmas gifts from an orphanage.

            1. Jamie*

              That’s exactly it! You steal a teddy bear from Toys R Us and you’re a thief.

              You steal a teddy bear from a Toys for Tots collection bin and you’re a soulless monster.

              1. Chinook*

                I keep thinking of the idiots every year who steal from the Poppy Campaigns that the Legion put out in November. They would never get more than $100 and that cannot be worth the public humilitation from having the tapes from the security cameras and the verbal whipping they get from whatever judge they end up in front of plus the average joe on the street.

      2. Sadsack*

        It says a lot about the manager’s ethics and cavalier attitude toward OP. This isn’t a birthday gift gone wrong, it is a bereavement gift. The manager calling out from the doorway for OP to keep her fingers crossed is just crass. To me, the manager sounds not only unethical, but also just like she is some kind of moron with no sense of empathy or proper manners.

  3. Rich*


    This story is bonkers. AAM’s advice is definitely the way to go. I have a feeling this won’t end well for the manager in question. She didn’t steal from the company per say, but the “loss of confidence” factor — even for $150 — is large here. How does someone recover/retain trust after something like that? (I suppose she’s going through extreme financial distress, which could get some sympathy, but still. Whew!)

    1. Jamie*

      I don’t think any level of financial distress will win her sympathy on this – from anyone. You don’t steal a charitable gift.

      1. edj3*

        Actually I think you could have just written “you don’t steal.” Full stop, no other qualifications needed. Theft is theft.

        1. FD*

          I do think that’s a little harsh. Mind you, I’m not defending this manager, but I think most people would agree that stealing food from a grocery store out of desperation because you have hungry kids at home and don’t see any other options is pretty different from shoplifting to impress your friends with how much you’re able to get away with.

          1. Ruffingit*

            I would agree that need is different from desire in these cases. If you steal because you have a genuine need that must be met immediately (hunger comes to mind), then you won’t find me casting aspersions. Stealing because you got yourself into a financial mess? Where’s the book, I need to throw it at you.

    2. Ruffingit*

      Yeah, the trust factor here is huge. The boss stole the money from co-workers and actually from the OP too in that the OP’s bank charged her $15 for the check return. I might have sympathy for extreme financial distress, but apparently the manager is able to go to the Mexican restaurant for lunch. This is just a really sad situation all-around. I hope this OP checks back in and lets us know what happened.

      1. Ruffingit*

        And I should add that while I have sympathy for anyone’s financial distress, I do not have sympathy for stealing to alleviate that stress. Totally not OK no matter how you slice it and it’s especially egregious when you’re the manager, you presumably make more money than your subordinates and you’re stealing from them? NO WAY.

    3. Liz in a library*

      I also it does cast some suspicion on whether she is completely honest with any money she has access to in the business. If you are willing to steal money from coworkers, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be willing to steal from your job.

      1. BausLady*

        Yeah, what concerns me is that from the way the letter is written it looks like this person is the office manager. If that’s true, I would assume they would have access to all kinds of funds within the business.

    4. Lisa*

      If people still ask, then be honest and say that you never got the gift card but appreciate the thought. Let the coworkers go digging and risk their jobs, not yours. Otherwise drop it, the manager is wrong here, but what are you willing to risk by outing her?

      1. WorkingMom*

        That would be my initial instinct… just keep saying, “Oh I didn’t know, I haven’t received anything.” However… part of me feels this manager has gotten away with things like this before because other people are too polite to say anything.

        From her game playing with all the ways she’s “tried” get OP the money, sounds like she’s hoping the OP will feel awkward and drop it – then she gets away with it. Which, she has probably done before successfully!

      2. A Teacher*

        But the OP had to eat the cost of the bounced check too–so on top of a manager that steals from the bereavement fund, you have someone that’s willing to make your parent’s death cost you–I don’t care if its less than $15, that’s just wrong.

        Go to your manager–she’s beneath my level of contempt for bad behavior.

        1. Lisa*

          But, will anyone do anything? A stern talking to? Official reprimand? People never seem to get fired for these things if they are valuable in other ways. If you need to say something, be fully aware that you may just be hurting yourself in the long-run.

          Does this person have a say in managing OP’s work? If not, and she can’t give others advice or feedback for her reviews / raises., then go ahead and say something. But if you being 5 min late when you have been 5 min late every day for 10 years suddenly becomes an issue and deserves a PIP, then you know why. Retaliation comes in a lot of forms, and I can’t see how you won’t be retaliated by this person for bringing it to the attention of her boss. I am not trying to scare you, but if you say something make sure you say you worry about retaliation of some form and no longer want this person to be doing your reviews or being the only person you report to.

          1. A Teacher*

            I guess I’m just of the mindset that even if manager isn’t “punished,” at least other people know not to trust her. I’m also of the mindset, and its just my own personal opinion, that sometimes you have to stand on principle. This is one of the times where I would speak up and go to the boss because it is highly unethical. I’m one of those people that doesn’t go to the teacher’s lounge, doesn’t hang out in the office, and unless student safety is jeopardized I usually don’t speak up to my administrators. In a case like this I would say something–I’ve seen other teachers speak up about something similar and while the offending staff member didn’t get fired we knew not to trust her.

          2. Jennifer*

            I’m with you on this. Much as this is awful and should be reported….we don’t know the odds or the office culture to know if the manager’s boss is going to be on her side or not, and this can mess up the OP’s career something awful. Heck, it might already be messed up by the fact that the OP has figured out what the manager did.

            1. fposte*

              But that’s true of pretty much everything AAM gets asked about–if your workplace is crazy dysfunctional, any action or inaction may result in your firing. I actually see it as less likely here than in
              most because the crime is so egregious and provable. If your workplace isn’t otherwise crazy, you can’t go through your life protecting yourself from the possibility it may suddenly become so.

          3. Pandora Amora*

            I read this as the office manager having done the stealing to the OP’s manager. I don’t see a PIP and managerial retaliation being an issue here, but maybe I’ve misread something.

  4. Jamie*

    Every so often something comes along to remind me I can still be shocked.

    I am so sorry for the loss of your mom.

    I would totally just let the co-workers know what was up and let them deal with it. She stole from them…not many people will be okay with that.

    1. Julie*

      I’m sorry for your loss, too.

      What was this manager thinking would happen?

      Also, why is she having so much trouble getting money out of her own bank account?

      1. Jamie*

        She either doesn’t have it or doesn’t want to give it up.

        I would argue that a grown person with checks and an ATM card who can’t find access to their own money would also be incapable of successfully getting themselves to work each day.

  5. SB*

    If I were the boss’ manager, I would be very concerned that someone who had no problem stealing money from co-workers (including myself) meant for a bereaved employee, that she would have no problem stealing from the company.
    Whether you approach the boss’ manager yourself or let your coworkers do it, either way I think the boss’ manager needs to know.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      It takes a certain kind of person to steal money that was meant as a bereavement gift. Stealing is wrong either way, but to steal when the money is for a charitable cause is the lowest of the low. As a manager myself, I would definitely want to know about this. There’s no way I would want someone like this on my staff. Who know what else she’s doing??

      1. Jamie*

        Yep. There are people who would steal from petty cash and still not take bereavement donations (sliding scale of ethics.) But anyone who would take this would absolutely take business money if possible – no doubt in my mind.

        If you can take this, you can take anything.

        That manager needs to be audited immediately. Can I do it?

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Actually, I’d consider this incident a fireable offense. I don’t want someone like that in my office. But auditing someone like this would be very entertaining.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I agree. I’d fire for this on its own. You don’t get to keep your job if you steal from coworkers, and you definitely don’t steal from people you manage.

            1. Jamie*

              I totally agree, immediately fireable. But I’d still go over her books with a fine tooth comb. And I’d start it before she left so she knew it was happening.

              She shouldn’t be able to sleep nights.

              1. Malissa*

                No bad idea. You never do that with the suspect in the office. People can be completely whack-a-doodle. You fire or put her on admin leave, and tell her that you are going to audit everything she had access to. Then you ask her if she has anything to tell you. Have someone else boxing up her stuff as this meeting is happening.
                If there is anything else you don’t want to risk her destroying evidence.

                1. Jamie*

                  Well, I was picturing a scenario where as she’s being walked out she sees the audit team at her computer…no time to sabotage.

                  And I officially spend too much imaginary time on fictional workplace situations about people I don’t know. :)

              2. Nikki T*

                I know what you meant, slightly off-topic, last night’s Modern Family, Claire warned the IT guy he was going to be fired….
                sabotage ensued..he was nowhere to be found..

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I agree; theft is definitely a termination offense. And by the way, besides being unethical, fake charity collection is AGAINST THE LAW. Not long ago, someone around here got busted for putting phony “Please help” cans in stores around the area. That person went to jail. Where they belong.

              I say go to the manager.

            3. Jessa*

              And you don’t compound the theft by handing over a fraudulent cheque either. Some banks charge as much as 30 bucks for those things. She not only stole the money but lied and wrote off a bad cheque also? Writing bad cheques is a crime on its own.

              I would fire anyone for BOTH things, but moreso for the bad cheque even than the money thing. I’d probably have given her the OMG I was bad and spent that meaning to make it up on Friday garbage. I mean it’s BAD but not nearly as bad as actually having the gall to then compound it with a bad cheque.

  6. AJ-in-Memphis*

    I would want my $15 back, though. Forreals! Loser-boss-lady needs to be excluded from any further office “donation parties”. She clearly can’t handle the responsibility.

    1. Ruffingit*

      +1. Perhaps future donations should just be made via Paypal directly from the co-workers to the recipient. So sad when you can’t trust your manager not to steal the collection.

    2. AdminAnon*

      If I read the OP’s letter correctly, the Office Manager is the person who started the collection. To me, that makes the whole thing even worse (if that’s possible).

      OP, I am so so sorry for your loss and for this horrific situation.

  7. Eric*

    I think that letting the contributing employees know is the way to go. They will most likely raise the issue with the appropriate person.

    1. John*

      Agreed. I would personally shy away from being the one to tell on her. Surely, the contributors will be beyond furious and will shake things up.

    2. EJ*

      +1. The office manager stole from them, not from you. They are the ones who should want to follow up.

      I like the idea of mentioning that you heard there was a collection for you and you appreciate their generosity, even though the money hasn’t made it to you “yet”.

      1. Ruffingit*

        The manager has now stolen (in a way) from the OP too though with that $15 returned check fee. The least the woman could do is give her the returned check fee money.

  8. Ruffingit*

    I would be tempted to do a few things, although none would probably be effective, just saying I’d be tempted:

    1. Tell the manager you will go with her to the bank during the bank’s open hours so she can get the cash for you.

    2. Tell the manager you know she is not going to give you the money collected for you, but could she at least give you the $15 for the bounced check?

    In the end though, you can’t make her do the right thing. You can only inform her boss (as you should) and your co-workers, thank them for their generous intentions and go forward. Your boss has really, really shot herself in the foot here and there’s no way she can recover from this. The trust is gone. I guess it’s some consolation that everyone will know what she did here.

  9. Ruffingit*

    How sh!tty do you have to be to take the collection money for someone whose mother just died? Theft is bad, but I do think some types of theft stick out more than others. Stealing from someone who is already grieving and not only that, but causing them to have a bounced check fee that they then have to deal with? That is a sucky person right there.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Could be, which would make this even more egregious than previously thought. Thing is though, how did she think she’d get away with the scam? Did she think the co-workers wouldn’t ask the intended recipient about the gift card? If so, the manager was naive. Most people who give a gift like to know it was received.

        1. thenoiseinspace*

          That was actually my first thought – it was a scam all along.

          And really, the way to get away with it is to keep a portion of the donations. If you’re collecting individually, nobody would know how much the total would be. So you could collect $150 and give $100 or maybe even $75 and keep the rest – it’s highly unlikely that people would ask around and count up the donations behind you. Even if they did, they’d just assume someone lied and actually donated less than they had said, plus you could say that actually getting the card and setting it up cost some money. Taking all of it is just stupid – of COURSE you’re going to get caught.

          (I feel I should point out that I’m not thinking this way because I’m a criminal – I’m a writer, and I write mysteries for fun.)

            1. Ruffingit*

              Whatever Elizabeth, I know you’re practicing your serial killer throat slashes in the back yard. ;)

              I laugh at this thread because I have a huge interest in true crime as does a friend of mine. We’ve promised to be each other’s alibi in case anyone close to us dies. With our collections of true crime books and all the serial killer documentaries we’ve watched online, we’d be sure to be the first suspects.

          1. Noelle*

            I wouldn’t be surprised if she DID do that. The OP said the check she received was for $150, but we have no idea how much was actually collected from the coworkers. It could have been much more.

            Also, I can imagine the manager just assumed no one would tell the OP about the collection. I’ve given money to funds for gifts at work and I’ve never asked the recipient if they received it. Maybe I should have…

          2. Chinook*

            “Taking all of it is just stupid – of COURSE you’re going to get caught. ”

            I agree – not only is the manager wrong for taking it, but she is stupid for doing it in such a way that she will get caught. (Not that I think that smart criminals should not be punished but stupid ones should also be ridiculed for being, well, stupid about it.).

      2. Colette*

        That’s possible, but I’d be inclined to think she meant to give the money to the OP. I’ve seen this before – you have money earmarked for someone else, then you “borrow” a couple of bucks for coffee, and a little for lunch, and before you know it there’s nothing left.

        1. fposte*

          It’s true I’m particularly grumpy today and may be extra harsh as a result. But the fact that she initiated the collection does make it highly suspect to me. If she’s ever done any other collections before I’d really wonder if all of the money got through before and if she didn’t just step up her game this time.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, it’s entirely possible that she never intended to buy the gift and thought she’d never get thought, but I tend to agree with the saying “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” Most people make bad, small decisions that end with them in a larger problem.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, it’s probably my feeling unwell governing my response there. But it’s also an illustration of why that’s a particularly bad time to do it–this is doubtless what some people she works with will think as well, and once you’ve stolen people’s money they’re not really inclined to hear that you’d be too honest to plan to do it.

        2. Ruffingit*

          This is what I think happened as well Colette. I think she used the money for herself, thinking she could just replace it before the OP would need to receive it. Otherwise, why deposit it in her own bank account? That is suspect for me also. I guess co-workers could have written her checks for their part, but in that case, I would not have deposited those in my bank. I would have cashed them and then taken the cash to buy the gift card. I wouldn’t have wanted any hint of impropriety on my part so I would not have put the money in my own bank.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I don’t think she deposited it either. My point is that she tried to make the OP believe that given that she wrote her a check off her personal account for the money so the assumption is the money was deposited in some bank account of the manager’s. And that’s just a really weird way for the manager to have handled the money, which leads me to believe that isn’t what she did, she just spent it.

              1. Julie*

                The bounced check fee is why a gift card (which is what the co-workers intended) is so much better. They don’t bounce.

                1. Ruffingit*

                  Exactly. I suspect the co-workers gave her cash thinking she’d buy the gift card, but what happened was she spent the money on herself. There is absolutely no reason for her to deposit the money in her own bank account and yet, she’s trying to make the OP believe that’s what she did by writing her a personal check. She didn’t do that, she spent the money, it’s quite obvious. Such a shame.

              2. TL*

                If she deposited into the account, she shouldn’t have gotten charged for inactivity, right? There was activity.

                And if she deposited it with an ATM/debit card attached to the account, well, normally they ask you to swipe that so you can deposit, either at a bank or ATM deposit. So if she didn’t remember the ATM number, you’d think that she would have taken care of that at the bank, where she would have run through a whole bunch of different steps to confirm identity.

                Her story does not add up.

          1. Ellie H.*

            I’m not sure I would have thought of doing that (cashing so as to avoid hint of impropriety). If I were collecting for something like that I don’t think I would think anything of depositing other people’s checks into my own account and then turning it into one check written out of my account. Not that I can imagine writing someone a personal check, from me, for something like this. I would track the submissions via Excel or even just a written list, though.

            1. Ruffingit*

              Yeah, it might be OK if you deposit all the money and then write a check the same day. I can see doing that. I’m just kind of at the point where I try to avoid all appearances of impropriety with things like this. The other way to do it too though is something that is being done for a friend of mine (let’s call her Stacy) – her sister is taking up a collection among the friends to help fund a great graduation gift for Stacy. Stacy is in her late 30s and just earned her bachelor’s degrees after working and raising her kids as a single mom. We’re all so proud of her and wanted to do something. So, Stacy’s sister is taking up a collection to help fund some time Stacy will spend in Mexico in January. Everyone is sending a few dollars here and there to help offset the cost of the trip, but Stacy’s sister asked that checks be sent to her, but written directly to Stacy. It’s a surprise for Stacy so she doesn’t yet know about it, but that was a good way to handle it I thought – make the checks out to the recipient directly.

        3. Nikki T*

          But if I had done that, I’d blubber some excuse and at least get some of the money to her. The office manager stole the money, either fully intending the entire time, or just decided to keep it thinking no one would know….

        4. Jessa*

          Which you apologise and own up to, you don’t compound it by writing a fraudulent cheque and then not immediately giving the OP a minimum of $15 for the fee. The manager is lucky the OP didn’t turn the cheque over for fraud. I know in Florida where I used to live, the state’s attorney would send a letter, you’d have to pay it, the fees involved and a fine (which was a small amount that covered the cost of the Sheriff serving the notice on you.)

          You had like 3 weeks or you’d go to court over it and could get days in jail or a bigger fine. I had to do this with someone who paid me for something. It was really easy to file too. All I had to do was give over the cheque and proof from the bank of the bouncing and the fees.

  10. Kerry*

    Back in my HR days, I worked at a place where they had a football pool. The guy who ran the pool was a little shady, and we ended up having to fire him for shenanigans (not related to the pool, but related to company stuff).

    Not long after he was fired, employees started coming into my office, asking what was to become of the football pool (which was worth, like $1500 or something–it was high stakes). I didn’t know this dude even ran the pool, so there wasn’t much I could do.

    The employees ended up rioting, saying the company should reimburse them for their contributions to the pool, because we were the ones who fired the guy who held the money. One of them ended up sending an anonymous note to the chief of police. telling them that the company had sanctioned illegal gambling and has stolen the money of all of these hard-working employees. It was delightful.

    I hate anything that involves collecting money at work. All kinds of stuff can go wrong.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Oh geeze, how insane. The company “sanctioned” illegal gambling that the employees then participated in, but the company is in the wrong? Crazy. What ended up happening there?

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ha! Did you find out about the anonymous note to the chief of police because the police actually contacted you about it? If so, I must know part 2 of this story!

      1. Kerry*

        The chief of police showed up at our office. He was a HUGE man, and the office was that kind that has all-glass walls, so you could have heard a pin drop when he arrived and slowly made his way to the office of the president/owner. No one knew why he was there (except, presumably, the letter-writer). This company had a lot of…issues, so I was expecting something really serious (drug bust, murder investigation, etc.).

        He was in there with the owner for about 10 minutes. The police chief had his back to the glass wall, so you couldn’t see his face. The owner just did a lot of nodding (which was pretty much all he ever did, but that’s another story).

        Then the giant police chief slowly walked back through the office and out the door.

        The COO then came into my office and told me why he’d been there. I was blown away that it was over the football pool drama (because seriously, this company had WAY bigger stuff going on). The police had no intention of doing anything; they came to give the president a heads-up that some idiot had sent the note. They actually brought the note, and the COO gave it to me. It was a one-paragraph screed with a lot of your/you’re and their/there/they’re issues.

        I was told to write a memo telling people that we didn’t have a pool, we never ran a pool, and that if they’d participated in a pool that had gone wrong, they needed to take it up with the pool-owner privately.

        Incidentally, 90% of my old Tales of the Cluefree stories came from this same job. That place was full of the crazy.

        1. Arbynka*

          I still say that we have here on this blog so much good material that if we decided to put together a TV show, The Office would have to turn green with envy. Even the British version.

          1. Seattle Writer Girl*

            LOL. I have actually taken down notes from previous job incidents to remember them when the time came for me to jump ship and head to Hollywood.

      1. Arbynka*

        I agree as well. This doesn’t sound like a “heat of a moment” thing, sounds more like she actually planned it.

  11. ExceptionToTheRule*

    OP, I am very sorry for the loss of your mom.

    Having BS co-worker crap like that dumped on top of you while you’re dealing with your parent’s passing is type type of icing on the cake that would send me into full-fledged meltdown. I agree with everyone who is suggesting that you let co-workers know that you never received anything. Let them solve this one. It’s one less thing you have to deal with and if 30 days have passed since your mom’s death, you have plenty on your plate.

  12. JuliB*

    “The other option, of course, is to just let your coworkers know that their money never made it to you but you appreciate their generous intentions, and then drop it entirely. I have to think that either way, there are going to be repercussions for your highway bandit of a boss.”

    I like this. You keep your hands clean. I wouldn’t go to her boss – let your aggrieved coworkers do it.

  13. rlm*

    Woah. I had this exact thing happen to me a long time ago…my coworkers gathered up some money and the other manager (my peer) was supposed to give the collection to me as a new baby gift. One of my coworkers finally asked me about it, I could tell she was a little hurt that I never even bothered to say thank you. I had no idea! She confronted the manager, who ended up giving me the money but I could tell she just thought I’d never find out about it and had planned on keeping it. Looking back, I should have informed our boss about it as others have pointed out (like, you should should keep a close eye on how she handles the petty cash). But I think I was just in too much shock to think about it that way. And to be clear, this person was not hurting for money. Just greedy I guess.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Note to scammers*: never, ever, ever try to run a scam where the contributors would reasonably expect thank you notes. You will be found out.

      *not that I think anyone here would run such a scam.

      1. rlm*

        lol…seriously. It is a good lesson for the non-scammers on here as well: beware and always check in if you don’t get a thank you.

    2. Ruffingit*

      How did the manager handle this with you? Did she make up some asinine excuse or what? This is just so crappy, sorry it happened to you.

      1. rlm*

        Thanks Ruffingit :) I actually hadn’t thought about it in a long time (until I saw this post), but I was so confused and hurt at the time.

        She didn’t even make up any excuse. Just ice cold about the whole thing. It was very uncomfortable.

  14. Juni*

    Dude. There has never been a better opportunity to use the office grapevine. Find your closest friend in the office, explain the delicate position, and have that person tell the office gossip, “I was talking with OP, who as you know I’m friends with outside of work, and she said that Bosslady tried to cut her a check but it bounced, leaving her paying a $15 fee and not getting any of the money we gave to her!” Then just wait. Let the hyenas eat her.

    1. FD*

      I like the idea in general…except that as the office manager, this person probably handles other accounts. Which means that this probably isn’t an isolated incident; there’s a pretty significant risk for embezzlement. Someone needs to run an audit NOW.

      1. AF*

        I was just thinking about this! Does this woman have an iPad? Maybe she got a new job at this office and is up to her old tricks already!

  15. Blinx*

    OP, very sorry for the loss of your mother, as well as being thrown into this crappy situation in which you are completely innocent! No one needs to deal with this, especially at such a stressful time in your life.

    I’m flabbergasted on several levels. Is this woman so cavalier with money that she just has multiple check books and ATM cards lying around, with no idea of the amount in the account? Does she have too many accounts to keep track of? Or none at all — what does she use for her personal banking — it makes no sense at all!

    I’d also think back to what other collections this manager has made in the past and check to ensure that those funds were received by the intended target.

    1. some1*

      As to your second paragraph, I had a former friend who wrote bad checks to one of our mutual friends and mutual friend’s business about 11-12 years ago. The account had been closed by her bank for insufficient funds months before, but she presented the situation as though it was open account and she just bounced the checks due to carelessness. She apparently had no idea the people who deposited the checks would be able to learn info about why the checks bounced.

      TL/DR: I think the LW’s manager knew full well her starter checks were no good.

  16. some1*

    The first red flag here is that the manager suggested a cash gift for bereavement, which to me is crass. Unless she has firsthand knowledge that the LW is responsible for some out-of-pocket end-of-life expenses, or that the the LW’s relative/family wanted money donated to a favorite case in lieu of flowers. But even then, people send a check/donate online to that charity so the bereaved family doesn’t have to.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I see nothing wrong with a cash gift as a general idea. It would allow the OP to spend the money as she saw fit – perhaps to go out for some pizza or something on the days she just doesn’t feel like cooking or whatever. Cash gift isn’t the problem, the way it was handled is the problem.

    2. Jamie*

      I used to think that too – because in my personal experience all donations given for a death were to charitable causes “in lieu of flowers.”

      But since working, I’ve seen collections taken up for cash more often than not. It’s customary in some social circles and if people need to pay the associated costs, or lost a loved one who provided income to the household, then it can be the best use of money.

      I don’t want to donate $100 to a charity if the person I know who suffered a loss can really use that to pay down the funeral or buy groceries.

      I did find it crass when I first heard about it, but now if they don’t specify a charity I give cash and then can use or donate as they see fit. (For casual acquaintances/co-workers whom I don’t know well enough to ask.)

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Cash can come in very handy when a loved one dies. My father passed away out in the boonies of South Dakota and to deal with the final arrangements and two trips out there to take care of his hoarding, I maxed out every credit card I had.

        Dying is expensive and life insurance can take a while.

        1. khilde*

          Sorry to hear about your dad. You have ties to SD? What part of the boonies are we talking about? I’m in Pierre. From the Black Hills.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule*

            No ties to SD, that’s just where he ended up. He was in Mission about 100 miles south of you. We got to drive home in that fabulous blizzard you all had the first part of April.

            1. khilde*

              Oh my gosh, that was horrible. That was truly one of the worst blizzards we’ve had in recent memory. Nearly the entire state was closed down (which is also mega rare). Glad you made it through – I’m sure you have some stories to tell. I have been down to Mission to provide some training to the employees in the school district. It is a completely different world down there. But the scenery is amazing. I am one of those weird people that feels most at home in the middle of nowhere without another human in sight.

              1. ExceptionToTheRule*

                My dad worked for the TCSD for 10 years. He taught math and science. After he retired, he started part-time teaching at the university.

                The world is small sometimes!

      2. Colette*

        When my dad died, I few back home and took a week off work from a contract job. I ended up getting paid because my manager and her manager were awesome, but they didn’t have to pay me, so there could have been a bigger financial hit than just the plane ticket & related expenses.

        And I second the “use it to order pizza when they don’t feel like cooking” – the first week, I don’t think anyone in the family was able to cook, and I was completely exhausted for at least a month afterwards.

      3. FD*

        I agree, if one can afford it, it can be a real lifesaver. And if the person doesn’t feel comfortable spending it on themselves, they can donate it to the charity of their choice.

        I can’t imagine trying to drag myself out of the house to get groceries, let alone cook, right after a parent had died. Having some extra money not only for essentials but for being able to have the funds to order food delivered could be a real godsend.

      4. JuliB*

        Cash is good because we no longer give casseroles, clean houses, run errands, etc for the survivors. Many times people cannot function properly for some time, and this way they can order out/buy prepared foods, etc. I think it helps a lot.

        1. Emily*

          I put my 15-year-old dog to sleep this summer, and could barely eat or sleep for a week afterward. And she was just my dog (pet lovers will know there’s no “just” about it, but if this was hard, I don’t know what I’ll do when I lose my parents.) Friends sent wonderful notes and brought me snacks and kind things like that, but the best gesture was the giftcard from my coworkers to the deli around the corner from work. When I finally started to get my appetite back, but couldn’t yet face a trip to the grocery store, I used it to treat myself to nutritious, prepared lunches, and rich chocolate. I’ll always remember that their gift helped me take care of myself at a time when I was really at a loss.

          OP, Remember that your coworkers wanted to give you this money because they care about you, and telling them that you haven’t received it, especially under these crazy circumstances, isn’t a sign that you expected or feel entitled to their gift. Is there a particular coworker who you trust enough to approach? I think if you spoke with one person, she might be able to take it from there, without you having to “rally the troops” yourself, which could feel awkward.

          The only thing I’d add to the language Alison wrote would be something like, “and I’m so grateful for the gesture,” because I think a recognition or a thank you is an effective motivator.

          I’m so sorry for your loss, and that you’re dealing with this situation on top of it all.

    3. Natalie*

      It actually may not be crass, depending on the OP’s community. Cash gifts for the bereaved are really common in some places. In my experience, albeit limited, it seems to be a particularly common practice in manufacturing communities – factory workers, miners, etc. My ex’s family (all autoworkers) considered cash gifts for bereavement typical, and he noticed a similar practice in working class PA.

        1. annie*

          My older family members do this. It’s to pay for the funeral costs and its old fashioned from the times before people had life insurance or could not afford life insurance. I would say even in my family this has dropped off in the last 15 years as life insurance has become more standard even for low income people.

        2. some1*

          I see how a money gift could be very welcome for someone going through this, but I do think if the LW’s manager had taken up a collection for flowers or a charity the scam could possibly have been discovered sooner, so that may be why the manager suggested it.

      1. Melissa*

        Yeah, both of my parents are blue collar and this kind of thing was very common when I was growing up at their jobs. They did cash gifts for a lot of things, actually.

    4. Rayner*

      When my father died two years ago, cash would have been so much more helpful than a donation to a charity or even flowers etc. We had to drive hundreds of miles for the arrangements, again for the funeral, again for the scattering of ashes, and pay for flowers, and memorial cards (like the hymns and prayers printed on card? IDK what they’re called) and everything else.

      We lived hand to mouth during the months afterwards. I wanted to say “It’s great that you donated twenty five to a charity my father liked. Meanwhile, we’re struggling to eat – two meals a day for a month until the paycheck comes. Thank you.”

      It’s bitter, and I get that people feel it’s less crass to donate, but really, the best thing to do is either ask, or just drop the money in an envelope with a sympathy card, and give it to the family soon after you find out. They can make that choice themselves.

    5. Jenna*

      I see nothing wrong with cash. It’s useful, and always the right size and color.

      When my husband died, my boss showed up at the funeral with a sympathy card signed by everyone at the office, and an envelope with cash. It was a welcome surprise. Several people from work came to the funeral.

  17. nyxalinth*

    I’m sorry for your loss, OP.

    Follow AAM’s advice…then, start looking for another job, just in case nothing is done to the beeyotch who defrauded your co-workers. You can stay if you wish..but I just wouldn’t trust a company that wouldn’t do anything about it, if they don’t.

    Also, even if nothing seems to get done, trust in God or Karma or whatever you believe in that justice will eventually bite her on the butt.

  18. NylaW*

    My condolences, OP, on the loss of your mother. I hope this situation gets resolved and that you at least get your $15 back. I think because you are now out money as well as your coworkers, and that your manager has been dealing directly with you to get you the money, that you have every right to take it over her head in addition to alerting those who donated. Though I might wait until they say something to you instead of going around and telling them outright, but that’s just me.

    Every day I read this blog and every day I’m amazed and how many terrible people there are in the workplace. It makes me feel so fortunate that my boss and coworkers are great people.

  19. Arbynka*

    While, while back, when I was a teenager, the system in country changed. Communist regime fell, we were transitioning into a capitalism. My dad lost job he had held pretty much forever. Then my mom got sick. I could not get job during a school year, my younger brother was too young to get any job at all. For a while we had to survive on dad’s unemployment and mom’s health insurance coverage. It was tough. Many times there was nothing in our fridge. And I mean nothing. I was hungry a lot. It sucked so bad. Then summer came and I got job at the grocery store. One day I broke down and stole a little kinder snack bar. I felt so…horrible. When I got paid I went to my manager and paid him back. I said I was sorry I was hungry and eaten that bar. I paid back yet after all these years I still feel bad about it :(

    1. Ruffingit*

      Let it go. You stole out of a genuine need, not because you have ethics problems. That makes things a lot different in my eyes. And, you paid the store back for what you took. You are allowed to move on now from this guilt. It’s OK. HUGS!!

      1. Jamie*

        Yep – what she said.

        And I’m not a hugger – but genuine hugs from me too – you have to be a really ethical person for this to still be bothering you.

        You were hungry, not momentarily but truly hungry. Different rules apply – forgive yourself and let it go.

        1. Chinook*

          Add me to the voices that say you need to let it go and that the proof of how good a person you are is in the fact that you haven’t. There are very few good reasons to steal, but you had one of them.

      1. Arbynka*

        It got better :) My dad finally found a new job (he worked there until he retired few years back), I graduated and got a pretty well paid job as well, my mom got better. We all stuck together as a family and got thru it.

        It is hard for me to understand how OP’s manager could just take money her co-workers collected for her bereavement fund.

        And OP, I am sorry for your loss.

    2. QualityControlFreak*

      Arbynka, what you have written about what you did and why, and how you felt (and still feel) about it shows clearly that you are an ethical person whose sense of right and wrong comes from the inside – not from the threat of being caught or any other outside force. Forgive yourself. You apologized and you made it right. I’m so glad everything worked out for you and your family.

    3. Fee*

      This story to me is exactly why I don’t buy that the manager had some ‘need’ that caused her to appropriate the money, even temporarily. Someone stealing because they’re ‘forced’ into is either going to confess when the guilt gets too much or go to great lengths to cover the theft up, because they don’t want the bigger circumstances that caused them to do it to be discovered. If manager produced the gift card the day after OP asked about it and then lo and behold money starts going missing from petty cash, I’d be willing to maybe consider financial/addiction problems. But writing a check from an account you never use? Withdrawing on a card you don’t remember the PIN for? These are such weird things to do and such terrible excuses I feel like the manager is scamming in plain sight.

      I’ve had a relative appropriate funds to cover debts caused by addiction. They ended up in hospital from the stress. I’ve been personally scammed by someone passing a bad cheque when I worked in retail, and they breezed right in and outta there.

  20. Employment lawyer*

    You should report it to your boss ASAP if you trust them. Here are a few reasons why:

    (a) You will look like someone who cares about the company. Unless you have reason to believe that the company would sanction this (few would) then the higher-ups would want to know what is going on.

    (b) You look like someone who is capable of distinguishing real problems from small problems. You can point out that you didn’t report it until there was obviously a larger issue going on. This shows you’re not reporting people for making basic mistakes (everyone can forget to give a gift card.)

    (c) Most important: you get to tell the story first, rather than taking the risk that your manager will eventually pay you and then preemptively retaliate against you to make you less of a risk. That’s depressingly common and very difficult to defend against.

    If you’re concerned about coming off greedy, the safest way (if you can afford it) is to make it “not about the money” by offering to make a donation to a charity in the name of the deceased. That removes greed from the issue.

    If you trust the supervisor to do the right thing (i.e. protect you from your manager, and/or fire your manager) then it’s a bad bad idea to rely on the grapevine. If you don’t trust your supervisor then you can use the grapevine method, but should start looking for a new job.

    That said, I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that this person has a substance abuse issue or a mental health issue and not merely “financial problems.” That behavior simply isn’t normal.

    1. Cimorene*

      Yeah, I immediately assumed she has a drug problem or a gambling problem. My partner’s boss appears to be draining money from his business (co-owned with his wife, who’s let a few tidbits slip about how her husband essentially takes the money from the company and just spends it). This revelation came after he would just…disappear for hours and hours, at which point I was like, “I bet he’s having an affair.” Then that, plus the money disappearing–now I bet he has a gambling problem.

  21. thenoiseinspace*

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and propose a different thought: it’s possible that she was desperate for money to make it to her next paycheck, fully intending to repay the money once she got paid.

    For example, she could have had a major bill come up on, say, the 15th, and she doesn’t get paid until the 30th. She might have used this money with the intent of taking that same amount out of her next paycheck and buying the gift card, and OP still gets the money.

    I’m not defending her: obviously, it’s still an immoral thing to do and one that definitely calls into question her ability to handle office funds. However, terms like “soulless monster” wouldn’t necessarily apply.

    It doesn’t excuse anything, but the fact is that we’re only seeing one side of the story and judging her for it. To me, intent does matter: setting up a fund as a scam with the intention of taking it all from the beginning is very different from intending to replace the cash as soon as she had it. It’s still immoral and unethical and probably illegal, of course, and it’s not an excuse.

    Her flippant attitude does seem odd, though…well, anyway, it’s just something to think about. OP, I’m so sorry for your loss, and that you’re now going through all of this.

      1. thenoiseinspace*

        Exactly. That’s the nagging thing that makes me not quite able to give her the benefit of the doubt. I want to think the best of people, I really do, but the way she’s handling it makes it pretty tough.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Yeeaaaaahhh you make some good points, but it’s not enough to excuse her. I still would fire her butt and check every penny and every account she has access too. Legally, it’s a misdemeanor amount but at most companies, theft is a termination offense.

      She could have been thinking “How am I going to pay that bill,” or “Hey, I really want that purse/tech/shiny thing.” Either way, I feel like she pounced on the opportunity to collect bereavement money when it came up, to benefit herself. That’s charity fraud.

      1. thenoiseinspace*

        Oh, I’d fire her too, no question – I just take issue the level of negativity and calling her evil and soulless, etc. What she did is wrong and there should be very serious consequences, but would people still be so vicious if, say, it was for a payment for a sick child? I’m pulling this out of the air, obviously, and there’s no way I’d let her stay at the company as it in no way excuses her behavior, but I’m very wary of condemning people’s character until I hear the whole story.

        1. TL*

          Yeah, but she started the collection. And you don’t touch other people’s money.

          And if she had been an honest-er person – something like, oh my gosh, I misplaced the card! (magically reappears payday!) or even, I’m so sorry I had an emergency come up and that was the only cash on hand. I know it was horrible but on payday you’ll get the money.

          I’m just not buying that there were good intentions anywhere in the spending of the money.

        2. Ruffingit*

          I get not wanting to condemn her character, but the facts as we know them (and sure, there could be other facts, but we are going on what we know) is that she took up a collection for an employee whose mother just died. She promised to give the gift card AFTER she was asked by a co-worker about it. She wrote a check that bounced. She then promised to make good on the original money and the check fee and hasn’t done so. She apparently has enough money to have lunch at the Mexican restaurant, but can’t pay the OP what she owes her. I think we can go ahead and call her soulless on this evidence because the OP is grieving and this woman has now added a bounced check charge on top of everything else the OP has to deal with.

          If the woman had taken the money to make a payment for her sick child, had admitted it at least to the OP and then set up a payment plan to get the original amount back to the OP, even if it was just $5 a month, I’d be more forgiving because circumstances would dictate that. But here…NO.

    2. JuliB*

      While I haven’t been involved in many office collections, I would probably take the cash and use a credit card to get the gift card so I wouldn’t be walking around with a lot of money. So the whole ‘giving a check’ to the OP strikes me as odd.

      My condolences, OP.

    3. Rana*

      …and yet she was still willing to go out to eat at a restaurant. Sorry, no benefit of the doubt here (and I’m usually a person who will give one).

      OP – I’m very sorry that you’re having to deal with this in addition to your loss.

  22. Malissa*

    OP–Sorry you have to deal with this during a difficult time.

    I second the suggestion of having a talk with the boss that also contributed. They should know. For all of the reasons mentioned. But mostly because this smells and in two months, a year or even five years from now if/when this manager gets fired for stealing, will you feel guilty for not speaking up?
    If you are able to say not my problem and walk away, then that’s great. But I’m guessing because you wrote in, you are going to be able to do that.

  23. thenoiseinspace*

    On a slight tangent, thin might be a good time to mention Meal Train ( It’s a way to organize meals for people who are going through life changes. A friend had someone set this up for her after she had her baby, and she didn’t have to cook for weeks thanks to the generosity of her neighbors. It would work just as well for bereavement – as people have mentioned, it’s a difficult time and people would likely be unable to bring themselves to cook. If any of you have friends going through a tough time (or even a happy but difficult one, like a new baby) give it a thought. It really does help!

    1. Bea W*

      My church uses a similar site to organize meals for members who are going through any kind of life change or challenge – new baby, serious illness, bereavement, personal disaster, etc. When a message gets sent out with the link, there will also be information about special dietary restrictions and personal preferences. People really appreciate being brought home cooked meals.

  24. S3*

    My sister noticed an anomaly with petty cash. She informed her superior right away & it turned out that one of her coworkers had not only been taking small amounts of money from the petty cash box, but she had been padding expense reports.

    It turned into a huge drama & her coworker was obviously fired. I hope that your office manager isn’t doing this, but I’d fear the worst.

    I’d definitely tell a manager (and keep an eye on your wallet at all times at the office!).

  25. Arby*

    Sounds like the office manager has some financial responsibility issues. Could be a gambling problem or other addiction, or it may be something less seedy. Either way, she has shown a deliberate willingness to take other people’s money and appropriate it for herself.
    The fact that she could not repay the OP immediately shows that she most likely did not have $150 (or $165 now) to her name. It’s not like she used a $20 out of the fund for lunch and was waiting to hit the ATM to replenish it. Her flippant comment about the PIN number was her way of saying don’t hold your breath waiting to be paid.
    Bottom line: her attitude towards money indicates that she will not hesitate to embezzle, if she’s not already doing so. Her boss needs to be advised so s/he can handle it pronto.
    In the meantime, no more collections in the office!

  26. Kou*

    If we’re sharing gross theft stories, a family member worked for Big Cancer Nonprofit when the head of an entire division was found to have stolen nearly a million dollars from the organization. He would order cell phones using the org’s accounts, which would typically be part of his job, but then he’d sell them on eBay and keep that money. He’s falsify activity logs for the phones to cover up the loss. Did it for years before an audit found him out.

    This was during the recession and the org was having a major budget crisis as well, to compound things. Layoffs, lots of services being cut back.

  27. Jean*

    OP, I’m sorry your loss of your mother was compounded by the graceless behavior of your office manager.

    Speaking of graceless, I have a question: by “office manager” do you mean someone who supervises all or most of the staff, or do you mean the person who handles logistics, vendors, kitchen & coffee supplies, photocopier/printer/fax supplies and repairs, petty cash, parking permits, transit passes, and/or keeps track of keys going to new employees and being handed back by departing employees, etc? Neither position should include stealing from fellow employees, but whether the thief is sinning against peers or direct reports does put a different spin on the situation.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      It could be either, or both. In smaller companies, the office manager wears a lot of those hats and where I’ve worked, usually the supply stuff gets delegated to staff members (at Exjob, that was me).

      But it really doesn’t matter WHO she stole the money from. I have never worked in a company where stealing from anyone was not a termination offense. Not only that, but she instigated the collection, which adds fraud to the list.

      And OP, I am sorry for your loss. *HUG*

      1. Ruffingit*

        I agree it doesn’t matter per se which position this woman holds at the company, but I do think it adds an extra “you suck” layer to the situation if the thief is also your boss. Presumably, that person makes more money than you do and they’re in a position of authority over you. It’s all bad of course regardless, but for me if the boss is doing the stealing, it’s not just a pile of dog sh!t, it’s a compost heap.

    2. Ellie H.*

      I was a little confused by that too. To my mind, office manager means the latter – someone who is in charge of the office, logistics, supplies, keys, all the stuff you listed, and maybe in charge of some personnel in the sense of being the supervisor of lower level reception staff and entering people’s hours for payroll, but not someone who is necessarily a supervisor of other employees. I have a coworker who also acts as our office manager but I would never call her “a manager” despite her being “office manager.”

      However, the fact that after saying “our office manager” the OP subsequently wrote “my manager” makes me think that when she said “office manager,” she meant “the manager who is in charge of our office.” Maybe someone might clarify. But yeah, it doesn’t make any difference in terms of ethics.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I noticed that too, but she’s in a medical office, where this might make more sense. (They often have an office manager who manages the rest of the non-doctor staff.)

      2. Jean*

        Thank you all for your responses. You articulated the situation much better than I had. I sure hope I didn’t give the impression that stealing is better or worse depending on whether the thief does or does not supervise others!
        – Elizabeth West: “stealing from anyone [is]… a termination offense. Not only that, but she instigated the collection, which adds fraud to the list…”
        – Ruffingit: “it adds an extra ‘you suck’ layer to the situation if the thief is also your boss”
        Ellie H.: “But yeah, it doesn’t make any difference in terms of ethics.”

        1. Ruffingit*

          You didn’t give that impression to me, I just personally feel, as I said, that it adds an extra layer of awful if the person is the boss. I am so sorry this happened to you on the heels of your mother’s death, it’s just so wrong. My sympathies for your mother’s passing and for your egregious boss.

  28. Diane*

    OP, I’m so sorry.

    I’ll echo others’ suggestions to tell a trusted coworker what’s happened, and let your coworkers bring this forward. But I also think it’s perfectly reasonable to explain the situation to the OM’s boss as well.

    You mention this is a medical clinic. I’m deeply concerned that the OM’s lack of ethics could extend to patient records, drug samples, or even responding to patients and insurers in a timely way. Please find a way to bring her crappy behavior to the attention of the bosses.

  29. AB*

    ” I was off a week, and when I returned a coworker asked me if I received the gift card.”

    This, alone, would be enough reason to go to the coworkers, one by one (asking the one who mentioned the donation, if necessary, who the other contributors was), to thank them individually and say, “I heard that there was a collection on my behalf, and I’m touched. My apologies for not mentioning it before, but I haven’t received the gift card, and didn’t know about your gesture until Jane asked me about it.”

    And then I’d let the coworkers deal with the stealing manager…

  30. Not So NewReader*

    I had to re-read what you wrote, OP.

    Let’s see. Supposedly a VP gave money? Hmmm. That VP will be very interested in finding out you did not get the money.

    I think that the best bet is to ask the woman who initially mentioned the gift card to you. Tell her about what happened. Tell her about the list of excuses- the weak attempts to get you the money. I am thinking that she knew something was up that is why she asked.
    Yes, this is hard, especially on the heals of such a loss as your mom.
    Sadly, there are predators out there that prey on folks who have been hit by a hard loss. For a number of reasons, not the least of which is most likely a grieving person will not report a scammer. Widows have to watch out for this– as if they have nothing better to do…sigh…
    Please ask someone around you to help you. Barest minimum aim for getting your $15 back. Yes, this is a difficult situation and who needs the BS anyway? BUT. People want to help and if you let them know how they can help they probably will.
    If you were my coworker and I put dollars in card for you- I would want to know that you did not receive it. I would thank you for telling me the truth.
    In a similar situation, I covered the debt on behalf of a fellow employee and just I settled back and watched. (Uneventful ending to that story- eventually the employee paid the money but it took about 4 months.)
    Please ask someone to help you. And let us know how it lands.

    Losing a parent is such a difficult loss. I am so very sorry.

    1. AB*

      “If you were my coworker and I put dollars in card for you- I would want to know that you did not receive it. I would thank you for telling me the truth.”

      Not to mention, as I was pointing out above, that not saying anything could actually hurt OP’s reputation, as some of the coworkers may be (unjustly) thinking how rude of her not to thank them for the gift card, or even acknowledge its receipt.

  31. Wren*

    This is a very long thread, so, sorry if this has already been said, but how does anyone even know that the total amount contributed was even $150? The manager has already demonstrated some level of un-trustworthiness. I wouldn’t put it past her to skim something off the true amount contributed.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Agreed. I thought about that as well. There’s no way to know how much was given unless every person who gave reveals the amount they contributed and they may or may not wish to do so.

  32. MR*

    I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first time this has happened with the manager. Doing this takes a lot of guts, and the manager just has a ‘eh, so what’ attitude about it. She seems way too calm, cool and collected about doing this.

    I’d be more apt to relay this story to the original coworker and let them handle it. Hopefully that $15 isn’t a make or break thing for you, but you can certainly use that as a reason to never accept anything but cash from that manager again.

  33. FRRibs*

    Just to keep off the bandwagon; it doesn’t have to have been out of malice. This sort of thing is a good example of what someone with a serious case of adult ADD can end up doing unwittingly.

    1. Jamie*

      Oh come ON! I am extremely well versed in the variations of adult AD(H)D (I credit it with my ability to hyperfocus as well as the fact that I compensate by taking mini-mental breaks which contribute to my own bursts of insane productivity) but ADD doesn’t make you a liar or a thief.

      We have enough trouble with some people classifying it as a disability or mental illness without the stigma that we can inadvertently steal people’s money.

      And FWIW I have never believed it to be either an illness nor a disability in anyway. In fact, channeled properly it’s a superpower. That’s what I’ve always taught my kids (who are 3 for 3 on this) and that’s what I truly believe. If I had a chance to get rid of it tomorrow no thank you – I’m keeping it.

      And money is safe with me.

      1. Bea W*


        Money is safe with me. You might have to remind me to pay you back, and when that happens I immediately apologize for forgetting and start digging around in my bag for my wallet.

        1. Bea W*

          …and when I’ve discovered my wallet is at home, I will apologize again, explain I will pay you first thing tomorrow, write myself a sticky note reminder, and tack it to the edge of my monitor while you’re still standing there.

          1. Jamie*

            You crack me up! And yes, just checked to make sure I didn’t forget my wallet. However, I can’t find my hairbrush…

      2. bearing*

        Boy, Jamie, I would love to hear you expound on your philosophy about AD(H)D as a superpower. I teach some kids and work alongside some adults who identify as having AD(H)D and I would love to know more about this!

      3. FRRibs*


        I see what I did here: you think I meant ADD would make someone vile enough to do something like this on purpose? Oh Gosh No! I mean that a person with ADD could lose track of money, forget to get a card, then in shame try to cover up that they forgot and don’t have the money on them until they can come up with more, forget their ATM pin, and be very slow to get around to fixing this because they forget or keep putting it off. I know because I have done my own share of dumb things, and been accused of doing so on purpose rather than from lack of mindfulness.. Which is why I wrote my initial post from a somewhat defensive viewpoint. My wall of text to clear that up follows.

        For the record,I used to make daily deposits of 5-50K in cash and checks, with the occasional really big deposit (ever had a million dollars worth of cash, checks and foreign bank notes on your car’s front seat? I have.) , and had some clients pay bills with grocery bags full of small bills that I had to count out (also fun). Never did it occur to me to take something that didn’t belong to me…if we wanted to take it a step farther. I have never pirated a movie or computer program, and every MP3 I own I paid for (Seriously! I am made fun of constantly.) I also have ADD, which I wish I had learned about before I was in my 40s.

        On topic reply first:

        The manager may be a “liar and a thief”. Likely but not definite. From what the OP posted, there has yet to be confirmed falsehoods. The bounced check is likely a falsehood, but she could just be clueless , The train of action begins to strain credibility, but it still isn’t in the realm of impossibility. Malice has not been proven yet…hideous failure of the social contract, yes, terribly so. But his isn’t as simple a case as the manager who stole an ipad and was caught with it in her house. These could be the actions of someone who is really well…call it what you like. Not acting with wisdom. Even if this was a bad case of SNAFU, this person needs to dealt with, yes.. I would just temper what needs to be done with the recognition that there are stupid people, and there are bad people; sometimes they both do the same things. Effectively the problem is the same and the repercussions are the same , but until it’s certain the money was taken in fraud and not simply a cascade of horribly inept choices delaying the money being put in the right hands, wait to lay the wreath at thievery. Brass tacks, yes.

        I say this with all respect to the OP and agree this is an awful situation, and I’m just as disgusted as everyone else here. I know and have met and had friends deal with literal sociopaths, so I know that someone could be as base as this. But someone with the least amount of rationality, even if they performed small graft on employees, would include an officer of the organization among the victims, and would do something that no decent person would comprehend? Doing something that is impossible to claim they didn’t do? How long has this person worked there? I wait to see how it turns out, and hope if is just a really, really bad series of bad choices. That doesn’t make it any better, but I would rather be called an idiot than a thief and liar.

        TLDR: Poor choice and malice may have the same repercussions, but how you feel when you deal the repercussions should be different depending on which it is. Speaking as a human an not a manager.

        ***If you want a good example of MALICE, I do have a story that would make this seem benign in comparison. If I haven’t recounted the story of my friend whose fiance had cancer, I’ll bring it up in the next open thread.***

        AD(H)D tangent:

        I’m glad you take advantage of the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses, as many people do (and I am very glad you know that your children have it and can work with it now, rather than later in life).. When I said “serious”, I implied as more than a mild case, undiagnosed, un-aware, un-treated (whether you believe in therapy/coaching, medication, or just good self-awareness). To say that because you are functional with ADD/ADHD is not to say that all people who have the traits are functional…especially if they themselves are not aware and not compensating for the weaknesses that go with the strengths. Like all traits/behaviors, everything is on a spectrum. Some are functional, some are barely functional, and some are not. It is because the relatively less successful are barely or not functional that they become the poster child for something that…I agree!…has many strengths. Outsiders always look at negatives while ignoring positives.

        I may not have been aware of the traits/strengths/trials of ADD/ADHD until the last few years, but with awareness and research am becoming more so, and recognize how the stereotypical behaviors and co-morbidities can affect a life. With awareness, I am better at compensating on some things, and working on others. That said, if you read the literature (leaving the issues of stigma and prejudice aside for the moment, all the benefits, etc) you are aware some of the common attributes include disorganization, bad planning, poor skills with impulse control and money management. Those are all in evidence here. I am definitely not saying ADHD is connected to a lack of character! But it is not a great stretch to say that without mindfulness, it can be a contributing factor to doing something even this poorly thought out. I am not a mental health professional and don’t presume to make a credible diagnosis, but merely remark that indeed, some people who do not cope well with their ADD/ADHD are capable of doing something like this, and without malicious intent. My observation may be a case of shaping the world to the outline of my window on the world, I guess.

        1. FRRibs*


          Original intended point: She may be doing this because of bad choices and lack of mindfullness, not because she’s cackling while rubbing her hands over her ill-gotten gains.

          The ADD thing was intended as a throwaway example of possible reasons why someone would do something like this. I used ADD as an example because the traits of this manager…if we go by the dumb but not evil theory…can fit in the DSM-IV criteria for ADD.

          I don’t mean she has ADD, or that people with ADD are train wrecks.

    2. Bea W*

      Oh hell, seriously, just no. You just sound like you have no realistic idea of what adult ADD is.

      I have pretty awful adult ADD (backed up by really atrocious neuro-cog test scores when I was evaluated), and I might flake out on occasion, but the series of events described by the LW are way beyond flaking out. Let’s recap.

      1. The LW gets an iffy looking personal check in the mail only after asking the manager about the gift. Manager explained she thought it would be easier to write a check than buying a gift card. You know what else is easier than using the *cash* people gave you to buy a gift card? Give the person the *cash*.

      2. The check bounces and the manager claims the account was closed due to inactivity. If this were the case, the account would have had to be inactive for years, and after attempts to contact the account holder, the money in the account would have been turned over to the state as lost property, and the account holder notified, at least in MA. It’s really unlikely someone that flaky would even have starter checks left from an account that old that they have allegedly never used for years or know where to find them. An adult with “serious” ADD being able to do this? BWAHAHA!

      3. She apparently has another good bank account to which she has an ATM card, except she has forgotten the PIN. Okay, that might be reasonable in and of itself if she doesn’t use the ATM ever, but in context, it sure looks like more of the same BS.

      So, this woman doesn’t ever write checks, is unsure what bank accounts are still good, and never uses her ATM or debit card. Some people are really bad with finances and just leave it all to a SO to deal with, but when someone is really that bad with doing simple things like writing checks or using an ATM, it’s logical to conclude that they would be more likely, if honest, to either just buy the gift card or hand the LW the cash she had collected.

      I would bet my precious bottle of Vyvanse that ADD is not the root cause here. ADD doesn’t make you dishonest, and it might hinder your ability to proactively come up with new ruses to avoid paying out money you kept for yourself.

    3. ella*

      Adding my voice to all the ADDers who disagree with you. I might’ve procrastinated buying the gift card, but I wouldn’t give the person a shady check or put them off for weeks. And if I had forgotten to buy a gift card in a timely fashion, you can bet that my response would be profuse and genuine regret and embarrassment, not a cavalier attitude and excuses. It’s a serious situation to put oneself in—on my left I’ve got a whole bunch of people who’ve trusted me with their money, and on my right, a stressed out and sad person who I’m trying to help out a bit. Having ADD doesn’t make you oblivious to those facts. (Being a sociopath does, however.)


      1. FRRibs*

        Quite true. What should have been done and what were done were not the same. I am not defending her…just curious as to the motivations and hoping it turns out well for the OP.

        Going on a tangient:

        Shame makes people do strange things. Ignore problems. Avoid problems. Allow minor problems to cascade into major problems. Money problems can make people do foolish things. When you have to choose between paying your rent and buying groceries, you are forced to say “the check’s in the mail.” There are other examples, including a person who drove an hour out of their way because they refused to ask directions (cough…long ago).

        Sometimes people will not express their embarassment, their shame. They will keep up an inscrutable face even though their insides roil. I think this is why people who are concerned with “face” exasperate people who do not understand it.

        1. Emily*

          You make a good point about the strange ways people deal with shame. It could even be something as simple as losing the money and not knowing how to handle a) the fact that you didn’t take care of your colleagues’ contribution and b) coming to terms with replacing the entire gift with your own money. That said, lying only compounds the mistake. Everyone messes up or has an unlucky day—that’s not a reflection of one’s character. Dishonesty is.

  34. Liz*

    OP, what a terrible situation. Losing a parent is so hard.

    Others have given lots of suggestions for dealing with the missing gift card, but I just wanted to suggest a solution to the bounced check charge: call your bank, explain (the short version) of what happened, and ask very nicely if they’ll waive the bounced check fee. I would be most surprised if they didn’t agree immediately. (And if they don’t, please post back with the bank’s name!)

  35. Working Girl*

    Very sorry about your Mom. Mom’s are very special people. She will always be with you in your thoughts and memories. God bless.

    Now about that manager – totally unacceptable behaviour – isn’t that what we call theft? Not a good quality to have in a manager. I would let the other staff that paid money know that you didn’t receive it. The relationship with your manager is already broken now whether you say something or not, she knows you know what she did. You should speak with the boss and tell him you don’t want to cause waves but this cost you $15 that you want back and let him deal with it. She should be fired for breaching trust and misusing funds.

  36. Mena*

    Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. Two ‘fundraisers’ come to mind …

    In one instance a middle-aged person died and his girlfriend held a ‘fundraiser’ to pay the funeral bill. The band donated their time and a local caterer donated his time AND food. A fee was charged to attend and cash was collected at the event. No money was every paid toward the funeral bill – she never paid the funeral bill at all.

    And another was the sister of the deceased, who lived out of town. She returned to the home town and pretty much followed the plan outlined above. She kept all the money – oh, and the funeral bill had already been paid in full by the younger brother.

    No so nice people ripping off nice people – very sad.

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