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Office politics: Fight back or let it go?

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Question: “An employee went on maternity leave and some of her duties were redistributed to other admins during her leave. I was given the responsibility of reviewing the company's wireless phones.  In reviewing the contracts, I discovered the company could save about $10,000.  However, the employee has returned to work and changed the online account password to prevent me from further access. I told my bosses, but they have not done anything about it. The employee is an executive assistant to the president. Should I just let it go?” — Anonymous


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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Barb. May 18, 2009 at 3:26 pm

I agree with you, purchasing agent. I used to do purchasing for a non-profit organization and had to make sure that we were well stocked for materials when I was leaving for vacation, otherwise my boss would let anybody sell us unneeded, or low quality materials as long as he got something for free.

I even had vendors who would only call on the days he was out to make sure they dealt directly with me. When the agency director asked me why, I referred him to the company reps themselves. I let them tell him that my boss was going around the quality vendors we’d been working with for years or was threatening to go to other vendors if they didn’t GIVE him something for HIS loyalty.

A few years later, my boss, the director, the head bookkeeper, and my bosses’ boss (his girlfriend) were all fired for mishandling funds – to the tune of $250,000 of FEDERAL and STATE money. Turns out they were all doing something similar. The Board of Directors fired them all in 1 afternoon.

I recognize that there are “typical” business “I’ll scratch your back…” scenarios, but when you’re dealing with someone else’s money – watch out!

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Lisa May 15, 2009 at 5:47 pm

I agree with Freda. There are a lot of things that go on behind closed doors that we lowly admins (I kid, I kid) are not privy to. There is probably more to the story than appears on the surface. If you have already mentioned it to your bosses, document that somewhere for your own protection and then just let it go. If you feel you must follow up, mention it one more time, but don’t press the issue any further.

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Purchasing agent May 15, 2009 at 4:11 pm

I too was out on short term and came back to find a couple of people thought they had made great strides in cost saving attempts. I am a purchasing agent. When word got out that I was out of the office, some “rejected” vendors came around the back door and proposed enormous savings to my fill ins. In the end, one vendor in particular shot off their foot just to get the other one in the door. The whole story may not have been explained here. Or, it could be that the EA is insecure in her job or, like in my situation, she knows more than what’s just on the surface and your cost savings may not really be true cost savings long term.

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Ann May 12, 2009 at 1:37 pm

If you have spoken with your boss and he/she has done nothing about it, you should let it go. As unfair as it seems, things could become worse for you if you pursue the matter.

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Cece May 11, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I am really disappointed in Freda’s response. DO THE RIGHT THING. In my company any savings and attempts at such are reflected in a yearly bonas. As Diana asked did you tell about the password change or about the cost savings? If it was the cost savings. I’d follow-up. In light of the large savings no matter what the reason for acting or not acting on it, you should be afforded at least an acknowledgement that the memo was received.

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Freda May 11, 2009 at 8:53 am

I would personally let it go. I have been an E.A. for roughly 27 years. In this time one of the most important things I have learned dealing with senior level management is that there are facts & reasons that even I am not privy too and shouldn’t be. The president is responsible for the company and there could be a reason that you are not aware of. All the other responses say to say something but I think this could put you on the way out the door.

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Diana May 10, 2009 at 12:40 am

What did you tell your bosses – that she changed the password and you can’t get in or about saving $10,000? If it was about the password, your bosses don’t care, so let it go. If it was about the savings, then follow up with an e-mail to your bosses and the other admin, going into a little more detail about your cost savings idea. Mention tactfully that you and the other admin could work together on this project to save the company a substantial amount. Work with her, if she’s willing, and it could pay off for you by showing the company you are a team player. Good luck!

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Lannie Love May 9, 2009 at 12:14 am

I would mention it to the boss. Any boss with high management experience will honor an idea or a way for the company to save money.

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Fellow Admin Asst May 8, 2009 at 4:24 pm

Did you discuss this with the Exec Asst yet? Will she readily share the credit with you if this is only a verbal communication? Are you prepared to not get any credit if she claims it herself? Or will she think you’re trying to make her look bad? You’ve already told your bosses. Are you able to remind your boss of your findings and ask him/her if you should pursue this further. Being you no longer have access to the account it may have been taken care of without you knowing. Follow the guidance of your boss and avoid overstepping invisible boundaries. If your boss indicates something in writing then be professionally careful on your wording and send to the Exec Asst your findings and suggestion and offer assistance to aid her if needed. CC only her immediate boss & yours. Then leave it at that. Many companies do not make common sense decisions even though it seems quite obvious to you. Definitely put it on your resume as JEC suggests.

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Sara May 8, 2009 at 4:11 pm

First off, great job being diligent in your responsbilities while the EA was on leave. You uncovered quite a savings for the company.

If you have not already discussed the matter with the EA, I would share with her your recommendations (probably via email so you can BCC: your manager on it and get credit). I would ask if she would like your assistance on this matter while she returns to her regular duties. Offer some time on your calendar to meet to go over the findings and the recommendation for the cost savings.

If she is not receptive, it may be because she is making calls on the company phones or someone in the company is receiving calls from her that she does not want uncovered. If that’s the case, you’ll need to discuss it with your supervisor, her supervisor, and potentially HR if it is a real violation of company policy.

Ultimately, stay calm throughout the interaction and be as helpful as you can without patronizing her work as an EA. In this case, I would think that even though it was your finding, it probably doesn’t matter too much who gets the credit. You wouldn’t have been performing the duty if she hadn’t gone out on leave and ultimately the company will save money. You know that you were responsible for the savings, so put it on your resume and if you have a supportive manager, make sure he puts it in your performance review.

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Marge Burch May 8, 2009 at 3:46 pm

You don’t need access to the system to give your feedback. Document what you found with possible solutions and send it to the boss as well as leaders that deal with technology/procurement/communication. And copy the EA as one recipient. Then let it go, but be ready to discuss if called upon.

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JEC May 8, 2009 at 3:28 pm

You should think of this as a good deed accomplished above and beyond! If know one else will gives you the credit you think you deserve, then give it to yourself! Make sure you list this as a result on your resume and don’t mention the petty part of it, only the resulting cost savings. It is a life experience that you have learned no matter who else cares and doesn’t care. It is your experience and those experiences are invaluable. Keep working smart and hard, and some day the right boss will notice. I promise.

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kim May 8, 2009 at 3:02 pm

I would document this to your supervisor and then let it go. There may be more to this situation than just the money involved. I have worked in a company where in some cases it wasn’t just about saving money, but developing a long term relationship with a vendor that pays itself back over time. Being that you stepped in to help for a short time does not always give you the entire history of the position.

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Jocelyn May 8, 2009 at 3:00 pm

It is always best when you know of something like a way to save $10k, in writing with the facts to back it up. So when it is noticed and people questions why you did not mention it, you can have the proof of your attempt. I would inform someone about this, in a casual way not to make waves because this is your work environment. Once you have done that, I would let it go.

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Laura May 8, 2009 at 2:57 pm

As an EA myself, I would much appreciate any feedback from my colleagues regarding improvement and cost save. This is a large sum of money that can be saved. I think you should discuss your findings with the EA and then approach your bosses as a team. You know her more than me, so if it seems she is likely not to be in agreeance to this, definetly write a letter yourself, give to bosses and then let go. It is not your responsibilty to follow up. If no one acts on it now, at least you have written documentation that it was addresses at one point.

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Patty May 8, 2009 at 2:56 pm

I agree that you MUST persue this. I had a clerk reporting to me a few years ago who had nothing to do with the company’s wireless phone bill. However, because she had worked in a company that provided that service, she asked me if she could look over the invoices to see if we were getting the most for our buck, so to speak.

She prepared a spreadsheet with what we were paying and then she showed us the plans that we should switch to that would save us a lot of money. I took that to the person responsible for setting up the accounts and everyone was thrilled with the finding.

If the EA is not willing to help you make the changes to the accounts, you should go above her and do whatever you have to. I don’t know what kind of hierarchy you have in your company, but there must be someone you can go to that will embrace your recommended changes.

If not, at least you will have done your best. Make sure you document everything, perhaps in a spreadsheet, and file it somewhere for future reference.

Good luck!

Patty

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Teyah May 8, 2009 at 2:48 pm

I agree with the others that you shouldn’t let this go. $10,000 is a lot of money and is nothing to sneeze at in this economy.

I get the impression that you have already spoken to the EA in question, or else she wouldn’t have changed the password on the account. Have you gone to your direct supervisor and explained? If not, do that. Your boss should be your advocate and your representative in meetings. In a sense, they are your bulldozers when need be.

That being said, let’s not forget who runs the company finances though. Have you ever approached the Exec Asst to the CFO about this? Every CFO in the country right now is trying to save as much money as they can. I would suggest that you speak to the CFO’s assistant and see what you can gain from him/her.

In the end, you can’t win them all though. If your ideas are ignored, then you can only do so much. Perhaps you should consider a career move if your concerns fall on deaf ears.

I went through something very similar years ago. I worked at a federal courthouse and the car company that was used to transfer the judges and clerks from the airports,etc. was awful.

They were always late, the cars were filthy, the drivers drove like maniacs one of the drivers tried to steal a discman from a son of one of the judges.

I brought this up to my boss who fought me tooth and nail on interviewing new companies. Finally after a month of arguing, she broke down and allowed me to interview new companies, but she never allowed the company I found to be used.

Approx 2 months passed and I was determined not to let this go. I called the P.U.C. and learned the filthy car company didn’t have business or car insurance for the past 5 years (!!).

At this point I didn’t even bother going to my direct supervisor. I went above her head, presented my findings and got an instant decision to replace the company with another company.

Unfortunately, when everyone commended my performance and made comments about how much the new car service was better, my boss took all the credit.

Oh well. At least the people were safe. Karma will get my old boss one day. Chances are that Karma has already repaid my old boss for all her support (sarcastically speaking).

If you believe in your heart that you should follow through with this, then you owe it to yourself to do just that. Good luck!

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Diane Johnson-Hung May 8, 2009 at 2:33 pm

I’m not sure how strong your relationship with the executive assistant (EA) is, but from the way you write it doesn’t sound like it is.

Definitely do not let this go. That kind of money can make/break a budget. Definitely write the memo that ANON suggested and submit it to the person overseeing the expenses for that account—in person. Keep your research handy (hopefully you printed out some of the account information before the EA changed the passwords) and protected.

It’s too bad the relationship between you and the EA wasn’t better–you might have had an ally for your proposal. the EA might have even had some reasons why that particular service was chosen over the cost-saving one.

On a side note, I was also out for a time on maternity leave. Once I returned to work, I took over where my partner (another admin in the department) left off. Part of returning to work was changing any and all passwords per our company policy. I’m sure this is why the passwords were changed and not shared in your case.

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celt365 May 8, 2009 at 2:27 pm

I agree with LeAnn. Write the memo, give it to everyone involved (including the EA) and then let it go.

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Tabby May 8, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Have you mentioned this savings to the EA yourself? I think I would talk with them first before proposing something to her/his boss.

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LeAnn May 8, 2009 at 2:22 pm

You should write a formal memo regarding what you found while you were covering the employees duties, but after that, let it go. It’s not your job, nor your responsibility. Your responsibility ended when she came back and you notified your boss of your findings.

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gamehen May 8, 2009 at 2:22 pm

No, do not let this go. You discovered quite a cost savings for your company and you should be sure to follow up on that. I understand the politics and dynamics here. Perhaps you can approach the person in questions, explain what you found and see if she is open to approaching her boss with you – as a team. If that isn’t a workable, then I think you should make an appointment with her boss, prepare the documentation to back yourself up and take it to the President of the company. If you have to make the appointment through his Exec. Admin. then that may be a bit more difficult. How determined are you? Good Luck.

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ANON May 8, 2009 at 2:19 pm

You shouldn’t let this go. $10,000 is a LOT of money. You need to write a formal memorandum explaining how the money could be saved and why you feel the change should be made.

If you state your case formally, hopefully the EA won’t be offended, however, if she is like some of the EA’s I have been in contact with over the years, I wish you luck!!

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