Question: “Employees in our small company have been told that we will get no raises because sales have dropped off. However, the three owners keep spending money like there’s no tomorrow. These men drive company cars costing over $100,000 apiece, take their wives and girlfriends to Europe at company expense, and pay big bucks for a VIP box at the stadium. They also charge their kids’ cell phones and computers to the business. They tell us to cut back, yet they keep flaunting their spending. Do they think we won’t notice the double standard? No money for us, but plenty for them. Most employees think the owners are lying about low sales to avoid giving raises. Can we do anything to stop this or should we just leave?” —Offended Workers
Answer: Smart managers know that unhappy, resentful employees are not good for business, so they try to treat people fairly. But these guys are either completely clueless or motivated solely by personal gain.
If sales are indeed declining, their excessive spending is reckless and short-sighted. However, it’s their money, so they’re free to squander it as foolishly as they wish.
Pointing out their extravagance will sound like personal criticism and could be hazardous to your career. If you decide to take that risk, approach the owner who seems most open to feedback. In your comments, minimize complaints and maximize business concerns.
For example: “I thought you might like to know that some employees don’t believe that business has actually slowed down. Raises were cancelled, but there still seem to be a lot of extraexpenses. This has had such a negative effect on morale that some people have talked about quitting.”
In fact, leaving for a better-managed business might not be a bad idea. If the owners continue to fritter away the profits, this small company could disappear altogether.
For tips on the best way to take a concern to your manager, see How to Complain to Your Boss.