Companies & Industries

Borrowing Trouble at Work


Bad enough you lent a deadbeat colleague money. But don't involve your co-workers—or worse, your managers—in what is a personal matter, advises Liz Ryan

Dear Liz,

I should not have done it, but I loaned money to a colleague when she needed it for a security deposit. It is a pretty large sum ($750), and I have asked her about it a dozen times and haven't seen a penny. I don't know how to proceed. I see her every day. I don't know whether to tell my boss or our HR person about it. It is too much money for me to just forget about it. What do you advise?

Yours,

Dana

Dear Dana,

Ouch! That is a big sum to fork over and kiss goodbye. I definitely feel your discomfort. I would have a different conversation with your workmate, and say: "I've tried to address this issue with you several times and haven't gotten any useful response. I would really like to work this out with you. I would hate to go to small claims court and file a claim and force you to appear in court and perhaps have to involve the company via a wage garnishment. We need to figure this out."

Work out a payment plan with her if you can, and put everything in writing. Please, please tell me Dana that you have some correspondence or paperwork that covers the details of this loan, and that it is signed by both of you. If not, you may have a herculean task collecting a penny. I advise you not to approach your boss or your company's HR person with this issue, which is personal and not work-related. The truth is, sad to say, this unfortunate situation doesn't reflect well on either of you.

The painful lesson here is never to lend a co-worker a sum any larger than the cost of one lunch—for instance, if you and she happen to eat at a spot that doesn't accept credit cards, and your colleague doesn't have any cash on her that day. And don't let anyone run up a tab with you—one lunch loan outstanding at a time!

Of course, I'm talking about your other colleagues here. You won't lend this shiftless teammate another dime, for any reason, even after the first loan is (let's hope) repaid in full. Once bitten, twice shy, as they say.

Cheers,

Liz

Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace and a former Fortune 500 HR executive. She can be reached at liz@asklizryan.com.

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