Although it was no great secret that the company she worked for was experiencing a serious financial shortfall, it had never been officially acknowledged, and no one believed that paychecks would take the first hit. Surely the power that be had a back up plan, or funds set aside for just such an emergency? And if not, what about a short term bank loan?
Becky drove to work in silence, wondering what news the day was going to bring. Her coworkers arrived shortly after her, and were equally stunned when she let them know that their pay had also likely gone missing, two weeks worth of work done, uncompensated.
A few minutes later the supervisor who managed their branch of the business arrived. Becky said "We have a serious problem this morning."
"Yes," he replied, "we do." He went on to tell them that there had been talk of payroll failure last Friday, but when he left he believed that sufficient funds had been received to cover it. He was wrong, his paycheck wasn't in the bank either.
One would think that the company owner or the chief financial officer would surely have some kind of message waiting for staff upon arrival - at very least an email apologizing for the delay and letting them know things would quickly be made right. But nothing was forthcoming, not one word. Becky was now as much angry as she was stunned. Surely the hardworking staff deserved better treatment than this!
Less than an hour later the chief financial officer called to inquire about funds deposited from the weekend. He and Becky had a cordial phone relationship, as he called her every day for this information. Becky provided the amount of the deposit, which was not nearly enough to cover the semi-monthly payroll for the staff at the home office and it's five branches. Payments had been trickling in lately, and they both knew it was lucky there was a deposit of any kind.
Becky then told him matter-of-factly, "We didn't get paid today," stating the obvious.
"I know, but it wasn't our fault" he said without explanation, then added, "the checks should be in your accounts tomorrow."
"I hope so," Becky replied soberly, and ended the conversation before she said something she would regret. She relayed this information to her coworkers and the office manager. He told her that the home office was promoting the story that the payroll processing firm was to blame for the payday error, however he had it on good report that the real issue was lack of funds, as suspected. The rest of the day passed with everyone working studiously at there desks, heads down. There was little of the usual socialization. No one felt much like conversation.
Becky waited, silently simmering, hoping that surely her manager would pass the word along to the owner that something needed to be said to reassure employees. Although he agreed with her in principle, it didn't happen. The day ended without a single official word to employees about not getting paid.
Becky had long since promised herself that she would no longer work for employers that didn't respect her or value her contribution to their business. She had some bad ones before, really bad, bosses that made life miserable. Now here she was again, backed into a corner by a boss who was clearly hiding out with his head in the sand. "Probably embarrassed," as the manager had put it.
Becky feels that she and her coworkers had been disrespected by not receiving any advance notice that they would not be paid, and now no effort had been was being made to explain the situation or offer information about how it would be remedied. Had she been thirty or even forty, Becky would have given her two week notice today and started job hunting. However, my friend Becky is now sixty, and knows all too well that jobs for older women are hard to come by. Becky's only option is to continue working where she is, at least for the present.
Becky believes that honesty is essential to good leadership, that communication is always the best answer, and that ignoring problems never makes them go away. She suspects that her employer is going to learn all this soon enough. She is praying that she isn't pulled under if the ship begins to sink.