is it impostor syndrome or a bad fit, managing is stressful, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I submitted an expense report late and now can’t get reimbursed for thousands of dollars

I work for a big company that you’ve heard of — we bounce in and out of the Fortune 500 depending on various market conditions.

I seldom travel for work and they can’t seem to get me a travel card — the application goes through fine but then it gets sent to the office instead of to me and I just haven’t bothered to pursue it from there. I work remote from about 1500 miles away so it’s not like I can walk over to somebody’s desk to see what is up with this.

I have made two trips for the company and paid for them out of pocket, about $2500 each time. The first one I got reimbursed for with no problem but the second one came at a VERY busy time for me — I was basically working two jobs, and had been for over a year. I failed to submit my expense report for several months. Uh, like eight months.

So my manager approved the expense but the accounting team says it has sat for too long and I need SVP-level approval to get reimbursed. They included a truncated image file that is probably part of some Employee Handbook that I am sure I have been required to say I read and understood, which appears to state the rules codifying their position.

My boss’ boss (senior director) is not interested in taking up for me. I cold-emailed the guy who could probably approve it, I was very contrite and humble, but I haven’t heard back from him and now it’s been a week. I plan to look into the problem with getting my travel card to me, and I guess to email the SVP guy again, maybe start stalking him on Slack or Linkedin or something. Any suggestions?

Ask your manager to help you approach whoever you need to approve this. Explain that you’re panicking that you’re going to be told to eat these charges, that it’s a large amount of money and you can’t, and that you really need his help in resolving this (and yes, promise you’ll never let expenses sit so long again — not that you would after this anyway). Your manager may be able to push to get this resolved more quickly.

If for some reason you don’t want to do that (if your manager is notoriously passive, for example), then yes, follow up with an email to the SVP, consider calling his assistant to explain the situation and ask for help, and then call the SVP directly if you haven’t heard back a week after your second email. It’s possible that he’s actually on this and just didn’t bother to get back to you to tell you that, but keep pursuing it until you hear something.

2. Reference told me that the job was beneath the candidate

I’m in the middle of re-staffing my office for a new program. I interviewed a young woman, and I thought she was just “okay”; I got the feeling that she would just take this job and if something better came along she’d bail. Right now I need people who can finish out the program; the job is part-time in the evenings. I voiced my concerns to my boss, and he said to call her references to see what they think of her. I called one of her references, and she spent the entire conversation telling me how the job the candidate applied for is “beneath her” and “I should offer her another positon, because this position couldn’t pay what she’s worth.”

I hung up from that call with a bad taste in my mouth. It just reinforces my first red flag, in not wanting to hire her. My boss believes I’m being “picky”; I just don’t want to have to deal with someone’s jump-ship attitude for the course of the program. Am I right for not wanting to hire her?

Wow — what a weird reference. Saying that sort of thing on a reference call is so weird that I think it’s got to be more about the reference than your candidate. I’d call more references and see what the others say. I’d also try to parse out exactly what’s making you think that she’ll leave as soon as something better comes along, and what’s making you think she’s mediocre. The answer to whether or not to hire her likely lies in that stuff.

3. How do I separate impostor syndrome from legitimate concerns about my ability to do the job?

I might be getting a job offer soon. I recently had the second interview, where more details of the job were laid out. To be honest, it was intimidating; it would be a drastic change from the environment I am used to. However, I also know that I have extremely low self-confidence right now.

I’m concerned about the decision I would have to make were I offered the job. I know it is a decision I would need to approach objectively, weighing all the variables. How can I tell imposter syndrome apart from plain old incompatibility for the position?

Assess it the way a good employer would assess if you’re right for the job: Look for evidence in your background (skills, work experience, accomplishments, strengths) that indicates you’d be good at the work. Take emotion out of it (other than the question of whether you WANT to do this work) and go on a hunt for evidence.

4. Should I list my job-related restaurant budget as part of my benefits?

I’m currently in the process of job-hunting, and one particular HR department has asked me to send them my previous salary and benefits. Now, I’m aware that this HR department is bureaucratic in the extreme, so I’ve decided to bite the bullet and send it to them.

The problem is, I’m not sure if the following situation constitutes a “benefit” or not. In my previous job, I was a writer for a foodie/culinary website, so I had access to a monthly budget for “job-related” meals. This included meals at restaurants that I wanted to explore for the website, or just some new eatery that had caught my eye. This was not part of my base salary, so I won’t list it as such. However, can I list this as one of my benefits?

I was allowed to choose how to spend it, and whether to spend it or not — it was absolutely not a requirement that I had to find X number of new restaurants. Also, since we only wrote about good restaurants, I was not obligated to write about every single place I ate at. The budgeted amount was large enough for 2-3 high-end meals, which I could eat at my discretion. Thus, I can’t say it was a “responsibility” because I wasn’t required to spend the money or do anything with it. If anything, it felt more like a “perk” to me. What are your thoughts on this?

Yeah, I’d say it’s more perk than benefit. They offered it to you because it would help you do your job better, presumably, and because the nature of your job required you to be in touch with the local restaurant scene. I wouldn’t list it (although I also don’t think you look like a ridiculous person if you choose to anyway).

Also, that HR department sucks for asking for your salary and benefits, which are none of their business.

Also, I think you just inspired droves of people to look for jobs at culinary websites.

5. Managing is stressful!

I find the managing-people aspect of being a manager really hard and emotionally taxing. One problem is that I have no one to talk to about my managerial issues. This is different than my weekly meeting with my manager – we’re mostly project oriented. He’s always available for any question, but I don’t feel close enough to him for more personal venting sessions. Obviously it’s not appropriate to talk to any coworkers (whether peer, or above) about my employees. I can’t talk to friends and family because I can only expect them to listen to so much – plus, since most of them aren’t managers, I feel bad taking the other perspective when they’ve often vented about managers.

I feel like workplaces should have therapists (who are skilled at management) available to employees. This is exactly what I need. Is there any chance it’s a thing? All of these new questions and thoughts never were a part of my life until I stepped into the managerial role. Tell me if I’m alone or do other managers face such issues?

You are so not alone; managing can be really emotionally taxing and sometimes lonely. It’s hard to have other people’s professional lives riding on decisions you make, and it’s hard not to be able to talk to most people about the toughest/most challenging parts of your work. (In fact, I help run a “management hotline” for a client, where managers can call in and get quick advice on management challenges they’re facing, and while it’s usually focused on practical advice, at the end of calls sometimes callers say in a relieved tone, “This was just like therapy!”)

In any case, workplace therapists aren’t a common thing (although management coaches exist; the hotline I referenced above is part of that), but I wonder if you could put together some sort of managers’ study group in your office. You could meet periodically to talk (in confidence) about common managerial challenges (either free-flowing, or with a specific topic each time, like giving feedback, or having tough conversations, or hiring, or so forth). Beyond that, you might be able to find similar groups online. Or there’s this site too!

{ 203 comments… read them below }

  1. steve g

    #5 really hits home this month. I’m going to explode if I don’t talk to someone about what I’m going through, but I work with my friends, my other friends work at competitors, and obviously I can’t talk about stuff with coworkers. It’s also really really hard to know what to do with someone when their job is going to change and they don’t qualify for the new type of job, and haven’t done anything to suggest that revamped role is for them. So do you keep the status quo for them, even if it is a waste of resources overall, or cut them loose into this abysmal job market even though they’ve been here longer?

    1. BizzieLizzie

      I’m in exactly the same boat – feel like I’m over worrying about an employee. I have a difficult decision to make soon re keeping on/letting go an employee.
      More a case of bad fit in 1st 3 months, several peices of direct/hard feedback from me – one being very blunt as in ‘we can’t keep you on if you don’t improve’ & we need to see behaviours x, y, z stop. So some improvement in next 2 months, but probation ends soon, and my dilemma is if the employee has improved enough to ‘keep on’. Gut feel is we’ll see issues after 6 months again.
      Note – I’m not in the US, I’m dealing with very different set of employment laws in an EMEA country where it is very hard to remove people after 6 months.

      I would love to know if a private individual can access a helpline like Alison provides for one of her clients – I’d pay from my own pocket.

      I am human and I don’t like to take someone livelihood away lightly.

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        Maybe it’s something you could post in the open thread later, but I would say trust your gut! I know it’s a tough call, but if the improvements haven’t been sufficient and you don’t think they’ll be maintained, having dead weight on the team will negatively affect everyone.

        1. BizzieLizzie

          Thanks Apollo Warbucks! True every time I don’t trust my gut feel, it comes back to bite. I may well take your advice post it on the open thread tomorrow.

          1. Helpful Hand

            BizzieLizzie, right now I’m in the middle of a project where I train (on the job) / mentor / coach a Sales Director into his role. Until you can find a more useful resource, please feel free to write me at the e-mail linked in my user name if you think I can be of any assistance. From a fellow AAM-er to another (btw, I’m also from an EMEA country). (And please don’t think I’m tooting my own horn – I’ve been there and I know how much the advice I received at the time helped me. Just paying it back, I suppose).

      2. Nervous Accountant

        After witnessing so many layoffs and firings and been fired from a job a long time ago….I really wish more people were as humane as what I see on this board.

      3. AdAgencyChick

        I get it. I’ve been there — it feels awful to have to tell someone they’re out of a job.

        On the other hand, your other employees are suffering if they have to pick up the slack for someone who’s not working out, and believe me, they notice.

        I think if you’re not sure whether someone is up to snuff — the answer is probably no, they aren’t. Someone on probation should be working to make you *enthusiastic* about the fact that she’s turned around.

        1. AdAgencyChick

          (And I hasten to say — this is because you’re not sure *after* the employee has had several months of being made aware of the problem and told that she needs to change.)

      4. Parfait

        Oh the other hand, the one time that happened to me? It was the best thing that ever happened to me career-wise. It jolted me out of complacency. I ended a bad relationship that was depressing me (which contributed a lot to my poor performance in that job), moved to a new state, and got into a new line of work that is much better suited to me. It was a hard blow at the time, but ten years later I’m really glad it happened.

    2. Vicki

      In my experience, every one of my managers who has had this problem (“their job is going to change and they don’t qualify for the new type of job, and haven’t done anything to suggest that revamped role is for them.”) has tried to forcibly shoehorn me into the new description.

      And, often, it’s not even the case that my job is “going to change”. It’s more that the new manager doesn’t understand my job and decided to change it to something he does understand (that I would never have applied for in the first place).

      If this job change it coming from outside, ask why and talk to the employee. Be upfront and give them a Choice! If the change is coming from inside (you) ask yourself some very deep probing questions about why you think this change needs to happen.

      But please, involve the employee in the decision. Do not just “tell” them “This is how things are now.” Ands if you decide to “cut them loose” make it an honest layoff with an appropriate severance package. (One of my companies did this sort of thing to slightly less than 50 people, each with only 2 weeks’ pay in lieu of notice, hand us your badge, and leave by the back door.)

    3. BuildMeUp

      I second the advice to involve the employee in the decision! Let them know that things are going to be changing, and give them their options. In the past Alison has also recommended offering a “transition period” when an employee isn’t working out — giving them x amount of time to look for a new job before the change happens and their position is eliminated.

    4. Rat Racer

      I have been wishing and wishing that my company could create some kind of “manager peer” circle where we could bring issues to the table and brainstorm them together. Managing people IS so hard: full of intellectual, interpersonal and moral quandaries. AAM has been my bible for this – but it would be SO nice to have the opportunity for back and forth conversation.

      1. MMM

        We are starting one where I work. Once a month to meet and talk through goals,vdecisions, and difficulties, including practicing difficult conversations.

    5. Graciosa

      Alison’s advice surprised me on this one – she never mentioned HR!

      I talk to my HR rep all the time. *All* the time. I started my job with a very difficult situation to manage and spoke to her at least a few times a week at the beginning. Now that I’ve been doing this for some time, it’s only occasional and much more task oriented, but she is still the person I go to for help with difficult situations.

      My particular HR rep is extraordinary (I may be prejudiced because she helps me every time and is an oasis of calm under any circumstance) but sometimes just being able to talk through a situation with another person is enough.

      Managers are absolutely allowed to talk about employee situations with HR – this is our safe place. I could even make the argument that making sure someone is up to date on any personnel issues is a job requirement (what if something happened to you?) and HR and your manager are really the only legitimate options.

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Well, you have one of the rare good ones, from my perspective. More often than not, HR is obligated to raise any concerns you bring to them up the chain, depending what it is. So most people would never speak to HR about their own boss, for example, because it would get back to them. You’ll read here often that their first responsibility is to the Company, therefore a lot of employees distrust HR for these types of matters, and only go to them if something serious or illegal is happening.

        1. Graciosa

          No disagreement that HR would raise certain concerns up the chain – but managers are part of the chain! Helping management handle employee situations is part of the job description. Coaching me as a manager to perform better is a major key to avoiding problems.

          My HR rep has absolutely told me to say things in a different way, (“Well, that sounds a bit like X, which might make the employee think [bad thing] instead of [real problem]. Why don’t you frame it [this way]?” Whenever she does this, it helps me avoid real misunderstandings and communicate effectively to my team.

          If I went to HR to ask how to get rid of someone in a protected class I didn’t like *for that reason* and not for a performance issue, I would absolutely hear about it. I should. But I would never face any issues as a basically good manager who wanted help on how to handle the job of managing my team.

          I am completely prepared to believe that not all HR reps are as skilled in coaching as mine (she is truly top notch!), but the thought that managers are afraid to get help in managing from HR is a strange one to me. I really hope that’s an anomaly.

        2. LD

          I haven’t found it to be any more rare to have a good HR rep than it is to have a good manager or a good employee and in fact most of the HR people I’ve dealt with have been very good at their jobs. Every job has it’s share of people who aren’t as skilled or experienced. Also, with rare exception, HR is the role that most employees and employers misunderstand to their detriment and chagrin.

          1. Stranger than fiction

            Of course I know there’s good ones, especially here on this blog and it’s refreshing. I was simply coming at it from my own experience and of others close to me. We could tell some nightmare HR stories. Unfortunately it’s made me reluctant to confide in them in the manner graciosa describes. But again it’s good to know there’s awesome ones out there. And you’re totally right there’s also bad managers and employees.

      2. Colleen

        Graciosa, I hope (by some coincidence) that you’re talking about my HR department! :) I try really really hard to be the type of HR person you’re describing. To Stranger than fiction’s point, though: yes, if a manager or employee calls HR to complain about their own manager, they do have to take some kind of action. Otherwise, they’re that crappy HR person we hear about all too often: “I brought my concerns to HR but they didn’t do anything.” It’s this exact rock-and-hard-place that makes HR management jobs a special brand of lonely.

        1. Winter is Coming

          It is a special brand of lonely. We see, hear, and know about things that we can’t discuss with anyone else. It’s disheartening sometimes!!

  2. Eric

    #5 mentioned that they wont talk to peers about issues. If they really are peers, I’m not seeing why that would be any issue.

      1. Koko

        Yeah, ideally I wouldn’t want my manager to talk about my performance with anyone at the company unless it was strictly necessary. I would hate to think that a bunch of higher-ups had a low opinion of me because my manager shared some frustration with them. Even if my manager was generally happy with me, the higher-ups barely hear anything about me and maybe this frustration becomes the only thing they really know about me.

    1. MaryMary

      Talking to peers could be really valuable. When I was a young manager, my boss set up a biweekly meeting for three of us who were in similiar management roles on similar teams in the same division. Just the three managers, our boss did not attend. In theory, the meeting was to find synergies between our teams and share resources. In reality, we started calling it Teapot Manager Therapy. We did talk about cross-team projects and helped each other with similar problems and issues on our teams. But just as often the meeting started with one of us storming into the meeting, shutting the door, and saying, “before we get started, I have to vent for a minute.” The most experienced young manager kept our meeting from devolving into a total bitch fest, but it helped me feel so much less alone and I learned a lot.

      1. Nashira

        I have a weekly team meeting that could best be described as the Clay Throwing Contractors’ Group Therapy. Once our remote manager gets off the conference line, it’s time for the rest of us and our supervisor to vent about client frustrations. We work with some difficult, hostile folks. It’s so reassuring to find out that something isn’t just one person’s problem!

    2. NK

      I had the same thought. Obviously the OP should use discretion in which peers she chooses to talk to and what she says, but I don’t think it’s inappropriate in general to talk to same-level managers about management/employee issues.

      1. Stranger than fiction

        If so, maybe just don’t mention any names, just speak in generalities, like “one of my team members drives me crazy when he does X, do you ever run into that on your team, and how did you handle it:”

        1. OhNo

          Agreed. Especially if you end up setting up a manager group meeting for the express purpose of discussing issues, you can make “no names or identifying characteristics” part of the rules of the discussion. It would be harder to do if the company is small and everybody knows everything about everybody else, but in a larger company, it should be possible.

  3. LadyMountaineer

    OP2, It might be weird but I once had one of my references tell an employer that I was ‘too good’ for them and although it was a weird hierarchy between good vs bad (I’m a good software engineer and a bad software trainer) it turned out I wasn’t fit for the position at all and left quickly after being hired.

    Could it be that they are communicating a mismatch in skills sets and maybe doing that poorly? I would want to know why (other than salary and hours) this person would assert that assumption.

      1. MK

        I think it’s hard to judge the tone. “She is too good for this job, you should offer her another” could be overly aggressive hyperbole from a person prone to exaggerated statements who really wants to help the candidate. Or it could be someone with weird ideas about references. Or it could someone who knows the candidate is looking for a different kind of job.

        1. LBK

          Yeah, I think depending how it was said I could see that being an attempt at selling the candidate – “she’s almost TOO good an employee, she could do even more than the job you’re offering her!” Either way, kind of weird and if you can’t say it the right way to make it clear it’s hyperbole then it’s just going to come off condescendingly.

          1. OP #2

            Her tone on the phone was: “Ugh, she’s too good for that position”
            And she said, “She should be running departments at your organization” & “I’m just afraid that she would be making her worth. But she’s a humble girl” o.O

            1. I'm a Little Teapot

              Oh, that is *definitely* just an idiot reference who doesn’t know much about hiring and thinks she’s helping this person with this “she’s too good for you” crap. She’s probably thinking “Oh, if I do this amd hard-sell her I can get her a *better* job.” I’d disregard anything this reference has to say, and probably give the applicant a heads up on how inadvertently harmful her reference could be, regardless of whether or not I ended up hiring her.

      2. Stranger than fiction

        That was my thought, that it was their well-intended way of saying “she’s not only good for this role you speak of, she’s TOO good for it, so of course you should hire her, she’ll go far…”

    1. OP #2

      Hi,
      I work a large non-profit, and I run a Youth Employment/Education department. During the interview she asked me if my organization had any openings instructing Adults. My kids (14-15 yr. olds) have serious “barriers” against them, and the positon would be a Career Advisor, I want someone who is going to listen their concerns and not act like they’re better than them.
      Her reference happened to be her professor, and she kept saying that she doesn’t believe that the position would “pay her worth”, and that “If I would have known, I would have told her not to apply”. It took all my mental power not to tell her off. I can see that her professor wants the best for her, but she isn’t doing her any favors by making ruse remarks.

      1. Ad Astra

        It sounds like the professor is kind of a snob, but nothing you’ve mentioned here makes me think this candidate would feel the same way. Do you think you can find a better candidate for this position? And can you afford to wait for a better candidate to come along? I think the answers to those questions will determine if you’re being too picky or not.

        1. OP #2

          I can afford to have that positon open another 2 weeks, my HR dept is going to relist the job posting, so hopefully I can get more candidates.
          I’ve had issues in the past with a staff member thinking they were better than my kids, and it didn’t end well. So, I do not want a repeat.
          The reason I don’t think she’d be a good fit is, she doesn’t have any experience working with this age group, she just graduated; and when she spoke she sounded hesitant. I feel as though she just would prefer to work in her comfort zone of Adults.

          1. OhNo

            I’m going to go out on a limb here and say: do not hire her. It’s been my experience that if you’re going to work with kids (or young adults), you really have to be committed to working with kids. The fact that she’s not, added to the weird reference, really does make it sound like a bad fit. Go with your gut and see if you can find someone else to fill the job.

            1. Marian the Librarian

              I work with teens, and I completely agree. In a position like that, you really need someone who’s going to be a teen advocate, not someone who views this teen position as a stopover to working with adults.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot

          Yeah, I’ve met a fair number of professors who display the same kind of snobbery – they think an entry-level job is way beneath their super speshul students (or their super speshul kids).

          1. I'm a Little Teapot

            (My dad’s a professor, and he was horrified at the jobs I took my first year out of college. Which were crappy jobs, but I couldn’t find anything better. It took a while for him to adjust his expectations to match reality. Also, one of my computer science professors was vocally shocked to run into me working retail that year.)

  4. BuildMeUp

    #1 – I would vote against “stalking” the SVP on Linkedin, but definitely talk to your manager and follow up with the SVP if needed. Alison’s suggestion to call the SVP’s assistant is also a great one! The SVP might be busy and overlook or forget about your email, and the assistant will hopefully be able to help.

    Is there another SVP you can try contacting if the first one is a dead end?

    (I know it’s not much consolation, but if worst comes to worst, you should be able to recoup some of the money by claiming the travel expenses on your taxes. The TurboTax website has an article about the requirements and how much you can deduct.)

    1. Not an IT Guy

      I agree about claiming it on your taxes. I submitted an expense report on time for travel but the manager wouldn’t approve it (after he told me to submit). So I kept claiming it as un-reimbursed expenses on my taxes every year until finally another manager pushed it through three years later and I got paid.

      1. louise

        How interesting! I made purchases I was specifically told to make and my boss then refused the expenses when I submitted the report. That was over a year ago. I mentioned it to the accountant recently and he rolled his eyes and said “I know you were approved for that. Just give it to me and he’ll never see it again. It’ll be on your next check.” One of the nice things about being a small business where there are not layers upon layers of bureaucracy.

      2. Stranger than fiction

        Wow, I wonder what the laws on this are?? I’m thinking that they included the travel portion of the employee handbook because it was something she signed and agreed to upon hiring, but does that get them off the hook??

      3. Green

        Um, you can only claim it once on your taxes and if you are eventually reimbursed you need to go back and modify your taxes or claim the reimbursement as income.

        1. Green

          This is also why people really need to understand deductions they take … IRS don’t care if it was due to cluelessness.

    2. Sparty07

      One of the first lessons I learned as an intern was the power of being on the admin’s good side. I have gotten so much accomplished by befriending admins. The admin to the president of our division controlled the season baseball tickets, and every so often when no VP’s claimed the tickets, she would offer them to me (a lowly analyst).

    3. Natalie

      Although it’s worth noting that you have to itemize to take advantage of this, and for many people it doesn’t make financial sense to do so.

      (This really started to bug me when I was getting rid of a car and people kept telling me to donate it, because I could “write it off”. Not without paying hundreds more in taxes! This year, my first year of homeownership, is the first year itemizing *might* be advantageous for me.)

  5. SCR

    1. I was once having trouble getting some members of my project team to submit expenses in a timely manner — we invoiced monthly directly to the client and expenses had to be submitted so I could pull the total for accuracy. I mean, duh. I would constantly have to go and check for expenses for 3 months back in the system and then reconcile that with what I invoiced that month to make sure I caught things submitted months later and it was just really obnoxious and a mess.

    So I went to the Director of Finance who paid out expenses and asked what the requirement was. I had no desire not to pay people for what they are owed but I was wondering if he could light the fire in them to get it done sooner and what the legal window was or whatever. And he told me that technically there wasn’t a limit that he tells people they have to be done in 90 days and really should be done in the month they occur for ease of accounting and whatever but legally he couldn’t refuse to pay if it was a legitimate expense. I had forgotten to submit something when I first started, I think it was a rental car, and asked “oh so I could feasibly submit something from 1.5 years ago then?” He said he’d be annoyed at me but sure, if I had the receipt and could demonstrate it was legit then fine.

    I’m not sure about the legality bit and maybe it was just Illinois but I’d look that up or just make it clear to your company that they cannot refuse to pay you. They need to demonstrate a really good reason why getting it in late is such an issue. Especially if it’s not going to a client or something like that. It’s really bad practice to refuse to pay. Is an employee handbook a legally binding document? It’s not your contract…? If there’s a policy contained within that’s illegal and you sign that you agree does that negate the law? I’m assuming not. I’m not an attorney though so I have no idea.

    You should definitely make clear to your manager that this is unaccpetable and have them deal with it.

    1. BuildMeUp

      I don’t think there’s a federal law regarding expense reimbursement (although IANAL, either, so please correct me if I’m wrong!), so it probably depends on the state.

      In the absence of a state law, they can definitely go by whatever is in the employee handbook. It is normally considered legally binding in court cases. The OP signed an agreement with her employer that included the terms regarding timeliness of submitting for expense reimbursement; that means she agreed to the terms. If the terms say that an SVP can override the time limit, there might be some wiggle room there.

      I actually don’t think Illinois has a law regarding this, so it might have just been your employer having a policy that said they reimbursed for expenses, and no time limit, meaning they would have no standing if they refused to reimburse after a certain time period.

      1. fposte

        According to my state’s travel FAQ, there does seem to be a relevant IRS rule that probably affects the situation: within 60 days, a travel reimbursement isn’t taxable, but after that, it becomes taxable and has to be included on the W-2 (you can petition for an exception, but I don’t know if that needs a basis or anything). So 60 days means a whole different style of processing.

    2. MK

      If by “is this legal?”, you mean that the OP is owed the money, that’s probably true. But the OP is the one who screwed up here, so I don’t think it’s appropriate to adopt a ” this is unacceptable” attitude, given the fact that the company isn’t actually refusing to reimburse her; they just have a different process for expenses submitted late.

      And if this process takes longer, I would say that’s fair enough. I realise the OPis panicking, but she is considering stalking the SVP after not hearing back for a week, when she was eight months late submitting the expenses.

      1. SCR

        But her manager isn’t helping at all and she’s offsite. It seems like he should at least offer some assistance so she can get paid. I’d be freaking out over $2500 too.

        1. MK

          Sure,it’s totally understandable. And the OP should be assertive in asking for the reimbursement, if the process doesn’t seem to be moving along. But she really isn’t in a good position to make demands about getting the money a.s.a.p. when it slipped her mind for so long. I can see the SVP reading the E-mail and thinking “Oh, a reimbursement request for expenses for eight months ago. Nothing too urgent then, I ‘ll get to it when I get to it”.

          1. A Dispatcher

            Exactly – It kind of reminds me of what my mom loved to say to me when I procrastinated as a kid and then ran to her with things I needed to be done RIGHT NOW! even though I’d actually had plenty of time to get them done in a timely fashion… “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine” (Oh how I wish I could say that to people who call me at my job sometimes! A lot of people don’t really understand what “emergency” means when it comes to 911 I think).

            I do get that $2500 is a good deal of money and have no problem with OP following up until he or she gets reimbursed, but I don’t think it having been only a week means OP needs to jump straight to linked-in stalking or the like. Caveat – if for some reason it is an emergency where you need the money asap, it might help to make that clear in your communications with the manager and SVP if you haven’t already. They may not realize that and could just be thinking since it took you 8 months to notice, it’s not something you need done right away.

        2. hbc

          Yes, it’s a lot of money, but it apparently wasn’t so much money that OP needed it 8 months ago, or 7 months ago, or 3 months ago. Her actions on this item set the urgency with which it needs to be addressed. In other words, if it takes roughly 240 days to take action on your own behalf, you can’t really get angry that someone else isn’t helping you out in 7.

          It still makes sense to follow up, of course, but the tone of every follow up should be “I realize this is so late due to my actions, and I just want to make sure it doesn’t linger and become worse” versus “I need this money now, so get me my signature.”

          1. Charityb

            Agreed. I think the OP knows that the mistake is on her end and isn’t planning on taking an imperious tone, which is a good sign. Most people don’t really like to be spoken to like that, and while bosses can get away with it doing it to subordinates it’s rare for supervisors/managers to want to put up with that from their employees.

            I definitely agree that going to LinkedIn stalking is weird and way too early — it’s a lot of money but a week’s delay isn’t really enough time to make it worth freaking out completely. It might be worthwhile instead trying to find a friend or colleague onsite who can help with the program. They might be able to help get her the travel card too which would be helpful for future problems.

          2. Hiring Mgr

            I don’t know…she’s still owed the money. What, are the finance people trying to teach her a lesson? Just continue to follow up on it..

            1. LBK

              I don’t think it’s that emotional, I just think they don’t have any investment in trying to get it done quickly since it’s outside their standard timeframe. I think within their normal timeframe they care because they have an expectation for turnaround that they probably want to meet, but at this point it’s not a priority.

            2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

              Finance is following the rules and policies as outlined.

              They told her there is a way to get this covered, but only if an SVP wants to sign-off.

              Finance can’t just “push things through” without consequences and conversations, so that’s why the onus on the late employee to seek approval.

            3. hbc

              Well, the finance people are following the SVP, but let’s say they weren’t, or we look at this from the SVP’s point of view. You just had an 8 month old item land on your desk, and it’s sitting there with items that were generated last month or last week or yesterday. If you’re going to triage, which of these is most likely to have an urgent impact on your company?

              Even if I’m choosing between two reimbursements to get done before the end of the day, am I going to cut the check to the person who followed the rules and make sure she doesn’t incur any credit card interest, or am I going to take the person who didn’t follow the rules and has been comfortable letting it float for the better part of a year? It’s no contest, unless I have a chance to squeeze it in before the close of the fiscal year or something. I doubt anyone’s holding on to it for spite, but people also don’t tend to go out of their way to accommodate those who make their lives harder.

              1. Hiring Mgr

                I’m not sure it’s making anyone’s life much harder–for the SVP it’s probably 45 seconds, but I agree it’s on the employee to make sure they SVP is aware.

        3. No sympathy

          Freaking out over $2,500 is all the more reason to turn receipts in on time. I work in a finance department and I’d be more than annoyed by someone who did this. While the amount isn’t material (accounting-wise), it makes the books messy if it’s from a different fiscal year, etc. And what if 10 people did this? 20? It adds up and sets a bad precedent.

          I actually work with someone who is late turning in every.single.thing I need from them EXCEPT when they want personal reimbursement, then they turn it in right away – and expect their reimbursement check to be ready within 1-2 days.

          1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

            Our finance team is really strict about the rules. Nothing over 90 days gets processed and nothing without an original itemized receipt goes through.

            I lost about $100 is expense on my first report because I was used to being able to turn in my Amex charge printouts.

            They are the same way with our corporate cards, if you lose the original receipt or if you are waiting on something from a vendor and payment is due, you write the company a check.

            1. fposte

              Yeah, I think the OP would be SOL at my workplace, too. I know a colleague has lost a chunk of change by waiting to submit.

              1. Lily Rowan

                Yeah, same. We have a no reimbursements after 180 days rule that has been emphasized several times recently in all-staff meetings and it’s a new fiscal year — I bet you’d be SOL.

          2. Kyrielle

            Good points.

            OP – one thing in this might help you, if you use it gently and politely. If your fiscal year aligns with the calendar year, or if you otherwise haven’t crossed the end of the fiscal year *yet*, and if you know that for sure, you could add (after the apologetic tone and “it will never happen again”), “I’m really hoping we can get this to finance before the end of the year so as not to add that complication for them.”

            Absolutely don’t add that unless you 100% know it hasn’t crossed a fiscal year boundary, though. If it has, saying that will just bring that whole mess into the conversation.

        4. Ad Astra

          I think the fact that the OP doesn’t travel often for work is relevant, too. It’s far less likely that this will become a recurring problem, so if I were an SVP I’d be more inclined to approve the exception. It doesn’t sound like this is causing anyone enormous inconvenience, and it is a significant amount of money.

            1. Polypants

              Yeah, but her workplace screwed up too by not issuing her a travel card. Poster #1 says that they tried to get a card, but the office never gave it to them. All of this could have been avoided if someone in the office could have been bothered to drop it in the mail.

              1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

                But she also chose not to follow-up on the card.

                When I had a company card it could only be shipped to accounting, and we had to sign paperwork to get it.

              2. No Sympathy

                No, all of this could have been avoided if s/he turned in the request for reimbursement in a timely manner.

                1. Polypants

                  I’m not disagreeing at all that OP1 is mostly culpable for this mess. I do have some sympathy however because the company didn’t facilitate the travel card better.

            2. Ad Astra

              An inconvenience as in it will be an annoying PITA or inconvenience as in it will significantly impact the finance department’s ability to do their jobs?

              1. Rat in the Sugar

                Well, if it was significantly impacting their ability to do their job I’d call it a bit more than an inconvenience, but yes, I work in accounting and I can tell you that this would create some trouble. The books for whatever month he traveled in are already closed, and it’s going to be messy for them to fix it now. It’s not the end of the world by any means, but it is inconvenient. Of course, accounting’s not going to touch it until it gets that SVP approval, anyway.

    3. Jcsgo

      The IRS does have requirements about expense reimbursements that depend on your company’s policy – whether they follow an accountable or nonaccountable reimbursement plan. Generally, the IRS standard for an acceptable range of time is 60 days from the date the expense was incurred (flight booked, meal purchased, etc.) Technically, the wording for an accountable reimb. plan is “within a reasonable range of time”, so it allows for flexibility. IANAL but I don’t know of any law that requires a company to reimburse someone who hasn’t followed proper accounting procedures – which would include not submitting an expense report for a company credit card. (Substantiating all expenses is still required for most company CC, depending on your position in the company.)

      1. LBK

        As far as I know, there’s no federal law that requires reimbursement at all, so I can’t imagine there’s statutes around timeliness. I think the IRS probably provides best practices especially as it pertains to tax deductible business expenses, but there’s no enforcement.

        1. Jcsgo

          The IRS is concerned about taxable income, and ways that people may want to get around having some of their income taxed. It has strict requirements for what is permitted as a reimbursement. If an employee/taxpayer is audited, and the IRS comes across reimbursement (not payroll) checks from the taxpayer’s employer, the IRS will want proof of what was being reimbursed. (Whether this proof comes from the employee or the employer depends upon the type of reimbursement plan the employer decided to have – accountable or nonaccountable. But it’s still wise for all employees to keep proof, in case their employer loses the records.)

          Without the substantiation indicating these are legitimate & approved business expenses, how would the IRS be able to discern that these payments were reimbursement and legally nontaxable? (vs. being under-the-table additional income given to the employee, which should be taxed?)

          1. LBK

            Right, but the IRS doesn’t care whether you reimburse the employee or not in the first place. If you do reimburse and then file a deduction for that reimbursement they care about that because they want to verify it was a non-taxable business expense, but that’s not the question at hand. The question is if the IRS (or some other governing body) requires employers to pay reimbursements, to which the answer is no. AFAIK California is the only place that actually has a law stating employers are required to reimburse employees for all business expenses, otherwise there’s no legal requirement.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger

      Yeah, I am not a llama, but I don’t think there’s a legal issue with putting a time limit on reimbursements. I know that in consulting, sometimes your contract specifies that certain expenses will be reimbursed monthly or quarterly, and it’s possible if the contract ended and was renewed since the OP took their trip, the client might refuse or even not have the budget to pay that $2500 now. Which means it would come out of the company’s pockets, which means all of the OP’s coworkers are paying for it.

      Now, if it were up to me I would say they should be reimbursed, and yes, if I were their coworker I’d take a $25 hit or whatever in order to see that they get reimbursed. (I know, they said it’s a big company, but I’m picturing this at my current company.) But I don’t think it’s fair of them to assume that *everyone* will be OK with that. It would be nice of the company to figure out a way to pay them, but the OP really dropped the ball here, and there may be good reasons for the reimbursement time limit.

      1. Charityb

        From the way I read it though, my understanding is that the OP can still get reimbursed but the delay means that she has to get approval from a higher level official. Her main problem is that the higher-level official seems inaccessible after a week. I actually think that her panic is a little premature; while everyone should respond to emails right away (even if it’s just to say that they will deal with the issue later) not everyone actually does. It’s definitely worth calling to follow up but I’m not totally convinced that the OP needs to take extreme measures like stalking the person on LinkedIn or even surrendering on the reimbursement.

        In the future of course the OP should be a lot less passive about complying with expense rules; there’s no reason to wait 8 months to fill out a form or to request a travel card and then not even try to get it forwarded to her home. But that passivity doesn’t mean that she can’t get reimbursed; it just might take a little bit more time than normal because of the heightened review process.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          Right, and I agree that they need to be very patient since the 8-month delay was totally on their side. But they were told that it needs this VP’s approval, not their signature, which indicates to me that there may be reasons that it could be denied. And actual, somewhat defensible business reasons, not just “we don’t have to, so we’re not going to”. The OP shouldn’t assume that the VP is holding it up or denying it just because they can.

    5. Oryx

      But they aren’t refusing to pay her. They are just telling her they need approval from someone higher up the chain due to the time lapse.

  6. lonepear

    #5 — it is a thing! A previous organization I worked with had its leadership team (both new and experienced managers) working with management coaches, usually a weekly/biweekly session which was a bit like manager therapy. You might see if you have a training/development budget available for you to hire a coach, or do it on your own.

    1. V dubs

      OP, I would also suggest seeking out a mentor. That’s what their for! Maybe also consuming some podcasts or books on management? Michael Hyatt is a great place to start!

  7. Kimmy Gibbler

    Re #1 — I’m sorry, but EIGHT MONTHS before submitting for reimbursement? To me, that seems crazy. If it’s a little bit beyond the required company policy (often 4-8 weeks) that’s one thing, but I would never even consider submitting an expense for reimbursement to my company after that long of a period of time because I absolutely know it would be denied.

    1. Ani

      I don’t know — one large medical practice routinely billed me an entire year after an appointment or procedure (and of course, it’s often a maddening mystery what all the charges are going to be). And then of course expects payment immediately.

      1. hermit crab

        I’ve received bills like that, where the payment “due date” is before I even received the bill in the first place!

        1. Hush42

          That’s probably because the payment is “Due Upon Receipt”. I run billing for the contracts department where I work and our invoices say the due date is the date they were generated because the system is set to due upon receipt. In reality you our clients have 30 days before we start calling/ e-mailing and 90 days before their account is put on hold.

      2. doreen

        This happened to me once- but when I called the insurance company that was supposed to cover it, I was told that the contract with the participating providers had a provision that stated 1) the insurance company wouldn’t pay if the bill was submitted more than a certain number of months after the service and 2) the provider couldn’t charge me either.

      3. Cat

        My condo building just cashed my “move-in” check 10 months after I moved in. I was fairly annoyed about it (but, like here, figured it was their right).

      4. Natalie

        We have contractors that do that all the time, sometimes for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was floored at how often I had to call people and ask for a bill. To channel Fry: SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

    2. BRR

      I don’t think anybody is going to argue that it’s not a long period of time but this should really fall under “It’s annoying but needs to be done” from the finance department.

      1. MK

        Yes, but it should also fall under “I was the one who didn’t follow the guidelines, so I can’t complain about being made to jump through some extra hoops. And, as I understand it, the finance department isn’t refusing to reimburse her, but they need approval from a higher-up.

        1. BRR

          Definitely. I didn’t want to get blowback but I’ll say it now that the op was really late on this and the finance department has internal and external regulations they need to follow which makes this a pita for them. I also don’t really feel that nobody has the time for 8 months to do an expense report.

        2. Cat

          If I was a senior vice president (I assume that’s high) at a Fortune 500 company, I can imagine that I would be mildly annoyed if one of the hoops accounting put in place was getting my approval over expense reports, though.

          1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

            It’s not just approval over expense reports, it’s paying out an eight month old expense, which violates company policy.

            At my company, anything that is against published policy has to be signed-off on by senior leadership, in case we were audited. In this case, the SVP would be responsible for explaining to the auditors why he felt this case warranted going against policy.

            1. Cat

              It just seems like a picayune thing to make your policy when you could draft it in a way so as not to drag high level people into it.

              1. No Sympathy

                But as Not the Droid pointed out it’s important to have high-level people sign off on things that go against company policy in case of audits. See also: Sarbanes-Oxley / internal controls and all that jazz.

                1. Cat

                  Yeah, but the company has control over drafting the policy in the first place, don’t they? Why draft a policy with extra bureaucracy if you don’t have to?

                2. Charityb

                  There are a couple of different reasons why a company might have a policy against approving really old expenses. Other people have noted that the expense is probably being charged to a customer or client’s account, and that customer or client may not want to get random stray bills for work that was done months ago or projects that have already completed. If the customer or client disallows the expense then this money comes out of the company’s bottom line.

                  On top of that, companies often have a policy against automatically approving old expenses because of the elevated fraud risk. A common form of reimbursement scam is someone trying to recycle an old expense report to get reimbursed twice for the same event. People submit an expense report on January the 3rd, get reimbursed, and then resubmit the same expense in October and claim that they “forgot”, hoping that the finance people don’t remember the original claim.

                  Requiring that reports be submitted in a reasonable amount of time makes this less likely.

                  I definitely agree that the OP should be reimbursed; this is a huge chunk of money and it’s a legitimate expense. Having been on the audit side before I can also see why companies have elevated review processes for expenses that are submitted this late though since this kind of thing imposes higher costs and risks on their business.

              2. Spiky Plant

                Well, there are also good financial management principles that mean involving other people for certain kinds of irregular instances to prevent fraud. A $2500 reimbursement from 8 months prior does warrant an additional level of scrutiny.

              3. Not the Droid You are Looking For

                For my company there are *a lot* of state and federal rules around how we spend our money. So we have really strong internal policies based around best practices and not getting in trouble with the government.

                So an eight month old expense report (which for us would cross fiscal years and be impossible to recover) is a *big* deal. Not to mention that if everyone ignored the 90-day rule it would create a backlog for finance. And as I mentioned get flagged by an auditor, which is a huge freaking deal.

                So it’s not a petty thing to need high level approval to put through.

    3. Merry and Bright

      Yes, I agree. I know the OP said she had been busy but I can’t imagine being too busy for 8 months to claim back my $2,500 (or the UK equivalent). I couldn’t afford to, for one thing.

    4. Ad Astra

      I’ve been known to let important things go for way too long, though I wouldn’t be able to afford to wait on a $2,500 reimbursement. Actually, I wouldn’t even be able to pay $2,500 out of pocket in the first place. Yikes.

      1. Arielle

        Yeah, I was recently out of pocket for about $650 and let my accounting department know in no uncertain terms that I needed to be reimbursed before my credit card payment was due. $2500, ouch.

  8. misspiggy

    Perhaps for #3, it would be good to think about evidence that a good friend who loves you would see if they shadowed you at work. If I don’t take that approach, my negative self talk is such that I immediately shut down on any form of evidence that I suggest to myself.

    1. Vorthys

      I love that tactic for myself. Reframing from a different perspective can immensely important when negative self-talk takes over. With self-confidence problems, one’s brain is being an asshole and sometimes needs to be forced to shape up.

    2. Dot Warner

      In a similar vein, I’d suggest that OP3 discuss the job and how it differs from what she’s been doing with someone she trusts (and either already knows she’s job hunting or who wouldn’t be upset if they found out). If possible, find somebody who’s either worked with you before or has done the type of job you applied for. If they tell you that this job wouldn’t be a good fit, don’t despair! Follow up by asking that person what you can do to become a good fit; after all, just because you aren’t ready for that job now, that doesn’t mean you’ll never ever be ready.

      I was in your shoes last summer and really really wish I had done this instead of ignoring my gut and plowing into a job I wasn’t ready for and failed miserably at.

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Yep I agree. Also, I’ve said here before that Ive experienced first hand where a job description lists a bunch of stuff that sounds intimidating, then I get on the job and find out all that stuff was just company specific jargon that nobody could possibly know until they’re working and training there. Don’t know if this applies to Op’s specific circumstance but food for thought.

  9. Jules the First

    #5 – maybe ask around among other managers in your company and check out LinkedIn and networking groups? There tend to be only one or two people with my job in any given organisation, but a bunch of us from different organisations but the same role meet for drinks once a month or so and do an open forum for anyone who needs to vent or get advice.

    I’m also a member of a private Facebook group for my MBTI type (we all took an awesome coaching course together) where I can post problems or rants and get advice from people in different industries who think like I do.

  10. Blue Anne

    #1 – has the company had a financial year end in the intervening eight months? From an accounting perspective, this is going to be a pain in the butt. Totally do-able! But a pain in the butt, especially if you incurred the expenses in the last financial year. That’s probably why they have that policy in place, and might be why you’re not getting anywhere now.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      Or the company bills expenses back to the client, and the client has a statute of limitations on when *they’ll* pay out. This is why an expense report is always the first thing I do when I get back to work after a trip, no matter how much work is going on in the office. NOTHING is more important to me than getting my money back!

      Which doesn’t help OP, although I hope Alison’s advice will.

      1. Blue Anne

        Oooh, that’s a good point too.

        I should probably fill out my last few weeks of expense claims. Ehehehe…

      2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

        I have a reoccurring appointment on my calendar for the day before they are due to finance each month. It can be a pain, but they stack up and finance has told us it’s much easier for them to process monthly.

      3. Bailey Quarters

        I’m in the same boat, AdAgencyChick. My goal is to have it within a day. Even though that can’t always happen, I make it a priority.

  11. BRR

    #1 Email again and wait a tiny bit, but if not just call (you shouldn’t have stalk a coworker on LinkedIn). I’m assuming you have a corporate directory. Some people avoid things they don’t want to deal with that come via email. It’s harder to do that if you call. Also it’s tougher to say no if you call. If they say no via email, I’d still call them and ask, “I really can’t afford to pay for my business trips, what do I need to do to get reimbursed?” Also it sounds like your company is big enough that you might have more than one person who could help. Can you try contacting somebody else? No matter what, this is a PITA for them and I 100% think you need to get reimbursed but you need to be apologetic.

    #4 To me that’s a perk. Also I never heard of a potential employer asking for benefits, I learned something new today.

    1. Sparty07

      I think it’s better for a company to ask about your total pay package (if they are going to require you to disclose your salary that I don’t like). When looking for my current job, I had many “discussions” with various recruiters about how salary wasn’t the only thing that mattered when making this decision. If a company is paying $50K in salary, but the benefits are worth $65K, someone may not leave their current job for $55K with only $5k in benefits.

      1. BRR

        I think it makes sense but I feel like companies have less flexibility with benefits. Also some things are hard to put a price on (flex time, work from home). I think companies should be transparent with benefits in addition to salary in postings. My old employer was large and had the entire list of benefits online so any potential applicant could see what they are and what they cost. They’re a good a example of what to do.

      2. Stranger than fiction

        True. I’ve never asked or received the benefits info til I’m on the job, so learned the hard way one time when my contribution doubled. Now that I’m at current job, one of the things that keeps me is the company contributes 90% of my premium and has absorbed the insurance company’s increase every year so far so if I ever did leave you better believe I’ll ask next time!

    2. Graciosa

      There’s a risk that the question “What do I need to do to be reimbursed?” will be answered with “Submit your expense report on time.”

      I’m not saying this to be nasty, but to emphasize your comment about the OP needing to be apologetic (and prepared). The reply to that response could be along the lines of, “I understand, and I am generally very prompt in submitting my expenses. In this case, I prioritized Critical Project over completing my expense report without realizing that it would add additional requirements to the reimbursement process, including the need to impose on you for your approval. I apologize for that, and once we get this single report taken care of, I assure you that it will never happen again. Is there anything else you need in order to close this out with your approval?”

      It’s a difficult balance to strike – the OP needs to own the mistake while still politely pressing for reimbursement. Annoying the SVP will not lead to approval – he or she can probably quote policy and say no – so the interactions have to present the OP in a way that makes the SVP want to issue the approval.

    1. LBK

      Agreed, and reading about it now I’m wondering why this isn’t a standard thing. It sounds invaluable.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      It actually started when I idly mentioned to my client a few years ago that my dream was to just sit on my couch in my pajamas and have a 1-900 number that people could call about management issues. We dropped the 1-900 part, and they actually schedule appointments so it’s not quite as hotline-y as I’d originally described to him, but it’s pretty close. I absolutely love doing it.

  12. Rye-Ann

    For #3, I would also suggest talking to someone else (ideally someone whom you have worked with, if possible, or at least someone whom you trust to be totally candid about your skills) and asking for a second opinion. Alison’s idea is definitely a good one, but having low confidence might bias any investigation you perform on yourself. I know if I were in your shoes it probably would! A second opinion could help mitigate that.

  13. Memyselfandi

    #5 really resonates. I have the additional problem of not having family or friends in my current location and find myself relating to one staff member as a friend rather than a boss because I don’t have anyone to talk to. I’m working on that last thing!

  14. Melissa

    For #3, I am part of a group of managers in positions similar to mine at other institutions who call each other for support and advice. We set up this informal network after a discussion at a conference–we were all looking for something similar to the “management therapy” you describe, and couldn’t discuss some of these issues at our own institutions. It has been a great resource.

  15. NYC Weez

    #1: It may just be me projecting my own issues onto your situation, but I’m getting a strong sense that you are a lot like me, in that you take the path of least resistance when it comes to your finances, even if that path costs more $$. When I was in college, I told my parents I’d been rejected for financial aid rather than admit that I didn’t get around to submitting the form on time. Even as an adult, I sometimes won’t pursue money owed to me if it involves added paper or legwork. There’s no logical reason for my hesitation. Nothing is that hard or challenging to handle. I just self-sabotage myself by procrastinating or giving up.

    AAM has given you some good advice on dealing with this particular situation. I would suggest that moving forward, you use the “Eat a Frog” approach to tasks that you keep wanting to avoid. It’s an old saying that if you eat a frog first thing every morning, nothing you do the rest of the day will be as bad–when I see something sitting on my to-do list for a few days that I keep avoiding for no good reason, I call it my “frog”, and I tackle it first thing the next day. Since I adopted this approach I’ve gotten a LOT better at handling all the stuff I know I should be doing.

    1. VictoriaHR

      I get a weird vibe from OP #1. There’s an attitude of “meh” regarding all of the employer’s rules, not just financial ones. For example, the accounting team sent her an image that was “probably part of some Employee Handbook that I am sure I have been required to say I read and understood” … that’s just so dismissive of the rules of the organization. If I were her manager, I’d be really annoyed with that type of attitude if it comes over email.

      1. Blue Anne

        I understand it though. We were talking about something similar in my IT Audit training just yesterday. Lots of companies have IT policies, which you have to sign to say that you read and understood and will comply. Sometimes you even have to sign them annually.

        But the UK courts keep coming down on the side of employees who have been dismissed for violating those policies, because every knows that hardly anyone reads the whole thing. As auditors we can’t take the existence of a good policy as evidence of good practice at all.

        1. F.

          I wonder if this means I can get out of a traffic ticket by claiming ignorance of the law? After all, I haven’t read the entire legal code. /sarc

          1. Blue Anne

            Well, the difference is that you took a test on the pertinent details of that code when you got your license, which is proof that you actually know about it and thus you can be expected to follow it. If this was for some reason something I was auditing, I might rely on that as evidence of good practice.

            In the same vein, companies are now doing things they can point to to prove that their employees are aware of policy: posting notices around offices, requiring a little quiz and/or training session on the policy once a year rather than just re-signing the policy, and so on. My firm installs a new screensaver on our computers every week or two which has reminders about security practices.

          2. Ad Astra

            Not to be annoying, but a lot of people do get off with a warning when they claim they didn’t know they were breaking the law.

        2. Ultraviolet

          It reminds me of my grad school in a way–our academic department is very laid-back and flexible with internal procedures, and when our students have to interact with the university’s administrative offices it really surprises them that they’re expected to be aware of and in compliance with the school’s policies and deadlines. And they can really resent it. I speculate that something similar is happening with the OP here–they’re used to more flexibility in their own department and the relative rigidity of the accounting department feels like a pointlessly complicated imposition. If this assessment is at all accurate, I’d encourage the OP to consider that the other departments have reasons for operating the way they do, and those reasons are not obvious to her because she interacts with those departments infrequently.

          1. No sympathy

            This, 1,000 times. I get so much push back from other departments about why I need this form or that form when it’s not really up to me. I need this form because IRS, and I need that form because auditor, etc.

            I don’t question why I have to do things a certain way for their departmental convenience, even if it’s more of a drag for me, but when it comes to accounting everyone whines and thinks the requirements are unnecessary.

      2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

        I was surprised by this as well.

        There was a pretty ridiculous scenario under which I lost receipts and when I approached finance, I was contrite and said, “I know the policy is x, but here is what happened…”

      3. boop

        At the risk of coming off as a jerk, #1 seemed to have a lot of “Ehh I don’ t feel like it” and “it’s everyone’s fault but mine” nestled between the lines.

        Everyone feels this way from time to time, and it’s not fun for OP either, but I’m not sure what kind of answer OP1 is expecting other than: Hey, try doing what’s required of you. It just might work!

    2. Applesauced

      I try to be on top of my finances in a big picture sense, but this is why I haven’t rolled over my 401k – ugh, I have to call?! and talk to a person?!

      1. Ad Astra

        That’s me! I actually have two 401k accounts that I need to roll over. And a router I need to return to my old internet provider. And none of the doctor’s offices around here allow online booking for new patients. Boooooo.

      2. Jen RO

        This sounds so familiar! I am postponing a medical appointment because I need to call a hotline and there is no way to do it online… ugh.

        1. JMegan

          I just made a dentist appointment that I have been putting off for that same reason. Thanks for the nudge!

        2. Heather

          I save all my phone appointment-making for days when I’m in a slightly more extroverted mood. Only problem is sometimes it takes a month for that to happen ;)

      3. Hush42

        This! I briefly worked at a government agency and I have like $200 sitting in a retirement account that needs to be rolled into my current 401K. Since it’s a government agency I have to find the correct person with my current 401k to fill out and send back the original paperwork to have them roll the money over.

      4. Blue Anne

        I’ve started doing a lot of this kind of thing for one or two of my friends, if it’s not super sensitive information. Calling to book an appointment at the doctor for them, opening the scary email and telling them if it’s good or bad news, calling to cancel a service, planning them a route for their trip on the train and just sending them the link to buy the tickets. If we get together I’m always the one who orders the pizza.

        I seem to have a lot of friends with crippling mental health problems. I’m glad I can do this stuff for them when they’re too socially anxious or don’t have the spoons.

        I feel like it’s a service I could charge for with other people though. :P

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

          There is a service like this for people with social anxiety issues.

          If I remember correctly, you can text/email them and they will make the phone calls for you.

          1. Rat in the Sugar

            Please tell me the name of that service, that would be amazing for me!!

            Also, Blue Anne, you are a great friend for helping them out instead of just teasing them about their anxiety the way certain friends do to me. Know that those of us who shrink from making our own pizza orders appreciate friends like you!

    3. Phoebe

      I often use this approach to get difficult tasks done and out of the way, but never had name for it. Now I do! Thanks!

    4. Koko

      I think it was in an open thread here a couple months ago someone mentions their team has a weekly meeting where each person shares one thing that they’re embarrassed has been on their to-do list for too long/that they keep putting off, gets insights or help from the rest of the team if there’s a reason for the delay or something they’re struggling with, or lays out their plan to get it done this week. Then the following week they report back on completing that task.

      Since then I’ve sort of started doing a similar thing privately. At the beginning of the week (my schedule gets more crunched and urgent and harder to find spare time in as the week goes on) I find the item that I keep pushing back and not working on and I’m getting sick of copying and pasting it from one to-do list to another every week…and I just knock it out first thing Monday morning.

      For me the reason those kind of tasks aren’t getting done is usually because they’re not urgent and will probably never be urgent. But it still gets to a point where it’s become ridiculous that I haven’t gotten around to it in 4 weeks. The Monday morning self-check-in sort of prompts me to give those items a faux urgency (it needs to get done because I’m sick of it, instead of it needs to get done for business reasons) that motivates me to get it done.

    5. Kyrielle

      I love this name and approach. And I think my to-do list has multiple croaks coming from it…urgh.

      Time to tackle them!

    6. Stranger than fiction

      I’m the same way when it comes to returning thing I’ve bought, like clothes especially. It just seems such a chore that I talk myself out of it saying “it’s only $x” but deep down I know that all those only $x is really adding up. I suppose the folks that get my donated stuff are stoked though.

  16. NicoleK

    OP#5. I paid for an experienced consultant out of my own pocket. As I wasn’t sure the level of support I would have in my organization-this is my first management position. I’m really thankful that I did. She’s been very helpful.

    1. Anon for this

      So did I! I was getting myself into a spot where I wished everyone I managed would quit and let me hire a new team, which is obviously a problem with ME. So I got a competent coach and it was a life-saver.

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Oh so that’s why new management likes to come in and clean house and hire their own hires ;) jk

  17. Not myself today

    #4 I want that job! I agree with Alison that it sounds more like a perk, but wouldn’t look completely off base if listed as a benefit.

    My company paying up to $300/month for commuter expenses? Benefit.
    Potential of $100+ in free food and beer from company sponsored beer hours and lunch meetings and events? Perk.

    1. Sparty07

      I’ve been told that people who work at Beam Spirits get a monthly alcohol subsidy they are able to submit receipts for liquor and get reimbursed.

    2. Charityb

      Honestly, I don’t really see this as a perk or a benefit. I mean, the reason they are given money to eat out at restaurants is because their job involves doing work at those restaurants. Is the money that a newspaper gives its food critics to eat at a restaurant considered a “perk” or a “benefit”? I think of perks as being things like, say, being able to sit in a corporate box seat at a sporting event and benefits as being things like health insurance.

      This is more like the company providing her with the resources needed for her to do the job. I’d put it in the same category as a company paying for an employee’s hotel room when they are assigned to a project in another state or buying an employee a laptop to work on spreadsheets for them. Maybe I’m reading it wrong though.

      1. Elsajeni

        I think it makes a difference that she isn’t obligated to write about every restaurant she uses the meal budget to eat at, or to use it at all. A newspaper’s food critics get their meal paid for specifically so they can write a review of that restaurant; they can’t decide not to write the review after all, or that they’re sick of restaurant food and want to just cook at home this week and not write any reviews. I feel like OP#4’s situation is more in the same category as, say… a college allowing its employees to take one free class per year, even if it’s not related to their jobs, or something like that.

  18. Cathy

    #5 – try someone in HR. That’s one of the things that we are there for. I know HR gets a bad rap but I’ve worked in HR for many years and had many managers who just needed to come talk about an employee and how to deal with a situation. It’s in HR’s best interest for a manager to handle a situation correctly. It’s good for the employee, the manage and business. We hate to have to say after the fact “You said what?!”

    1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

      My HR person at my last job was amazing! I would often go in with a situation and ask for advice on how to correctly manage it.

      Cathy is absolutely right, she was so excited that I was asking what my options were rather than just making it up, or resorting to a PIP which was standard at my company, and something she was trying to get away from.

  19. Not Karen

    Are we sure the reference in #2 isn’t her mother? (being slightly sarcastic here)

    #5 is this something an EAP would be any use at?

    1. Dr. Johnny Fever

      I have used EAP for this and found it very helpful. We used acceptance and commitment therapy to talk about my hesitance with management, the authentic style I hoped to maintain, and homework – specific observations to make on my instincts and reactions that weren’t constructive and reshape the patterns to something more useful.

      It took about 8 visits to get me aligned and feeling confident – I see her occasionally for very tough issues, like the time I was displaced and had to find another job, or was dealing with personal stress on top of a stressful work time.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever

        Oh, and if you decide you need more ongoing or regular discussion than EAP can provide, they will work with you to find a therapist who specializes in what you need and accepts your insurance. My outside visits were $6 each.

  20. F.

    OP#1: You seem to have a rather cavalier attitude to the procedures that have been put into place to help you as an employee and your employer work together. “…some Employee Handbook that I am sure I have been required to say I read and understood,…” HR and Legal departments don’t put these handbooks together and carefully review them just for the fun of it. Yes, the rules DO apply to you.

    As for getting the travel card, the company IS getting one for you: “… they can’t seem to get me a travel card — the application goes through fine but then it gets sent to the office instead of to me and I just haven’t bothered to pursue it from there. ” How hard is it to contact your boss (or their assistant) and ask for them to be on the lookout for it or help track it down at the home office and send it to you? Don’t blame them for your failure to act.

    Now you think a SVP should jump through hoops immediately to approve an expense reimbursement that you didn’t find important enough to submit for EIGHT MONTHS? At the very large, Fortune 500 company where I used to work, SVPs had hundreds of employees working under them. Your request is just one of many, many items to cross the SVP’s desk, and I am certain it is not their highest priority by a long shot. My advice to you to solve this particular problem is to be contrite, respectful and patient. Follow up with the SVP’s assistant but do not stalk. This may take some time.

    You brought this problem on yourself, and the consequences rightly fall on you. Having said that, there are steps you can take to ensure it does not happen again. First of all, read the Employee Handbook. It contains the guidelines you need for a good relationship with your employer. Following their procedures will make everything go much more smoothly. Secondly, don’t blow off the more mundane “housekeeping” tasks of your job like submitting expense reports. Look at it as a task like paying your bills or cleaning the bathroom; unpleasant but absolutely necessary. Set aside time on a regular basis to keep up with them, and they won’t pile up or be neglected. It will make your life easier in the long run.

      1. tango

        Secondly, one of the reasons given for taking so long is being busy with TWO jobs. That right there could be a violation of company policy if the reimbursing company does not know. I know at my job, second jobs need to be reported in case of conflict of interest. Secondly, I can’t see the first company being too thrilled to learn if asked, the reason OP didn’t meet her obligations in regards to submitting timely expense reports is because she was so busy with another job. Now if the other job is her full time work and this job just part time so getting reimbursement is not as high a priority, I can understand it more easily. But if this is her full time job it only stands to reason it should get more of her attention.

        1. BuildMeUp

          The OP says “I was basically working two jobs,” so I read that as “we were short staffed and the responsibilities of an empty position fell on me,” not that she was working an actual separate job.

  21. F.

    OP#2: You got the impression from the interview that the candidate would leave as soon as they thought something better came along. Then the reference implied that the job was “beneath” the candidate, also implying they would leave at first opportunity. This, coupled with your impression that the candidate was “mediocre”, makes me think this is not the person for the job. But you already know that. However, your boss may just want a body, any body, in the seat. Point out to your boss the cost of training and replacing an employee who does not work out and see if that helps them see it your way. Do you have any other, stronger candidates? Make the case for one of them. Otherwise, keep looking. A bad hire can be much worse than no hire at all.

    1. OP #2

      Yea, right now having that position vacant is adding stress to my staff. Unfortunately there aren’t any other strong candidates; my HR department offered to relist the position. Hopefully I find a good fit.

      1. RR

        Better a longer wait to fill a vacancy than the wrong fit! This is always true, but it seems especially true given the role you are trying to fill. Best of luck!

  22. Jcsgo

    #1: As someone who works in accounting and has recently had to follow up with multiple employees to clarify the required IRS procedures to keep expenses from becoming taxable income to employee (and hates doing so for the awkward, nitpicky position it puts me in)… It goes a long way to be contrite and honest when approaching the SVP and the finance team (whoever you interact with regarding the reimbursement). Honest in the sense that you want to understand what to do to not replicate this situation and to know how to follow the–yes, boring–rules. Honest in the sense that you get that you’re the one asking for a favor. That goes a long way.

    1. Jcsgo

      I think responsible and patient are 2 words I left out – patience will also show you’re contrite, and your patient initiative in following up will indicate your responsibility.

  23. F.M.

    #5 – Amen. I feel the same way on almost a daily basis. We are such a small company, we have no HR department. Or, rather… I AM HR. And the manager. And the IT person. And so on and so on. The only thing I am not is the owner of the biz, because if I was, I’d probably close the doors and go find something “happy” to do like sell balloons and ice cream. Anyway, something I found helpful was that in my city there are several business coaching type organizations that offer training and mentorship for people just like me. I signed up and it has been a huge help. Also, I saw a counselor on my own. That helped, too. I still say my life would be a whole lot better if people would just do their damn jobs and follow instructions! LOL But at least now I have some coping mechanisms. AND this website is great! I’ve been reading for months now and I realize that I don’t really have it that bad! ;)

  24. Foo Bar

    OP #1 here. Thanks for the advice everybody. To clear up a few things that I may not have fit into my op:

    I am not mad at the SVP for not turning this around in a week, just concerned not to have heard anything at all. I know I let it sit too long in the first place.

    I am not going to actually stalk anybody, on Linkedin or elswhere

    I am a boy

    I don’t remember ever seeing an employee handbook, it’s not like we have one lying around that I am ignoring. I KNOW that I let this go for too long and I am not blaming anybody else but I do find it odd that even the person coming down on me for breaking this rule couldn’t cite a url where I can find the rule and its brothers, just a screencap of something in like eighteen-point font

    I did let a fiscal year-end go by, and I know that makes it worse for everybody, and it might screw my manager out of some budget for this year, and it is very likely that they’ll end up processing it back to me as taxable income. So anybody out there that might be considering doing this, don’t do this

    1. Jcsgo

      Wish you the best with getting it reimbursed!
      Follow-up question, out of curiosity – looking back, is there anything that may have helped you realize it’d be a bit complicated to get reimbursed now and would have helped you submit the reimbursement earlier? (Or did you misplace the receipt/forget all about it/not realize it’d be a headache/personal crisis/some other reason or combination of reasons?) The part about the reimbursement likely becoming taxable income – were you aware of this?

      I ask because working in finance, I’m torn between explaining WHY I’m being nitpicky/a bit of a PITA regarding expense reports vs. just stating what needs to be done differently. And torn between whether I should be annoyingly proactive and randomly share bits from some sort of “Reimbursements 101” lecture vs. waiting until after a situation develops and saying, “Sorry, actually… these are the consequences”, which is a headache for both the employee and myself.

      1. Ad Astra

        In general, I think it’s helpful to explain WHY you need something done a certain way. Many people asking for reimbursements have no idea how your job works, which means they don’t have the knowledge or context to make your life a little easier when they have the opportunity.

    2. F.

      Contact your HR department for the Employee Handbook; they can send it to you electronically. It may even be on your company’s intranet site, if you have one.

  25. RWM

    Definitely agree with the suggestion in #5! My team has manager meetings every other week, as do manager groups at various levels, and I find them incredibly helpful.

  26. qkate

    OP #5: At my company, we have small groups of peer manager meetings. These are effectively support groups for managers. We try to keep the groups to about 5 or 6 people, rotate them every once in a while, and meet every couple of weeks. These meetings have been invaluable to me in my transition to management. I encourage you to lead the formation of something similar at your company!

Comments are closed.