1. Good morning, friends,
    My husband owns a business, and has had the same manager since it opened 2 years ago. Nearly all of the finances such as purchasing and taxes were handled by Manager. We were also friends with Manager, and had invited him to our home several times.

    However, we sadly learned that Manager was not only stealing large amounts of cash, but also didn’t pay the taxes last year and was using the business card for gambling (among other things). Obviously we have already retained legal counsel. My question is this: How do we tell others, including our loyal customers, about this? I am normally not one for airing dirty laundry, but people started asking where Manager has been, and Manager himself has been telling others that he’s innocent (despite two newspaper articles and piles of evidence). In fact, he’s angry with us because we haven’t “gotten over” his “little mistake”! I don’t want our customers to think we fired Manager for no reason, but a couple people already think this and we all know how gossip travels. Of course everyone who hears our side of the story can’t believe we didn’t fire him sooner, which is why I’m wondering how to tell others the truth in a tactful manner.
    I manage the social media aspect of the business, and so far have refrained from even mentioning this issue.

    • Elizabeth

      It sounds like a real disaster, I’m sorry you’re having to go through it.

      I agree with everything that Scarlett and Nina have said. I think not saying anything is the conservative approach, and it may serve you well. However, I can think of some situations in which it may not. If the manager was the point-person for the clients, and the person they dealt with, knew, and trusted, the clients may feel that they have a right to know something about what happened. Moreover, there’s also a question of trust that will be transferred to your husband (or whoever is the new point-person). They may wonder whether you guys have it together if this kind of thing went on under your noses for an extended period of time. (I’m not sure if this is an argument for saying something or not – but it might be an argument for saying something or not saying something – in a particular way.) So if someone asks, “What happened to Dave??” You can say, “Oh, he moved on to better things. Let’s see how your project is coming along…” But it isn’t good if they’ve already heard something and then feel as though you’re lying or obfuscating by not telling them anything. A better non-answer might be, “Dave is no longer with us. Unfortunately, due to some legal proceedings I can’t discuss the specifics, but suffice it to say that it took a little while for us to get over the shock and hurt of his behavior. In any case, we’ve worked hard to ensure no disruption in the quality of our service to you. Here are the projections we’ve been working on …”

      So, you’re saying – he’s not with us, I can’t tell you why, but it’s something he did, now let’s focus on the work at hand.

      I think when clients ask about the guy, they’re asking two things: first, they’re curious because something happened to someone they know. Second, and more importantly, they’re asking if they as clients have anything to worry about. The primary objective, I think, is reassuring them about the latter.

      It goes without saying that this is all in face-to-face conversations and nothing is written or in social media.

      • I certainly appreciate everyone’s ideas/suggestions, and I will continue to not even hint at anything via social media. Elizabeth, due to the nature of the business, I really like your non-answer where the legal issue is briefly addressed, and our shock and hurt (completely accurate) are mentioned, but no details given. Yes, Manager was the point person, and the face of the business for many. We are not entrusted with customer’s money, so they won’t have an concerns on that front (we provide a product, they imbibe… you get the idea).

        Fortunately the business is recovering quickly so far, and I have a completely separate career, so I am personally not affected (just my stress level… ugh). Again, thank you all for taking a moment to help me.

        • Rebecca

          Laura, I know it’s not exactly the same thing, but nearly a decade ago, I became extremely ill and was forced to leave my job. Many people, with whom I spoke and dealt regularly (not employees) had witnessed my decline in the months prior, and so naturally wanted to know all the sordid details after I left.

          I told my co-workers to simply tell everyone that “Rebecca is no longer with us” — which duly served to make them laugh, because in our shared dark humor, it sounded like I had truly “gone to a better place.”

          My point being, don’t worry about what others think or fish for. Just tell them the minimum. It’s nobody’s business, and practically speaking, if you DID open up with details, some people still wouldn’t be satisfied, until they got every last detail.

      • Lilli

        Spot on! I just wanted to emphasize your point about social media and emails. If it becomes a big legal fight the attorneys will look for and use anything that you’ve said about him against you. On the flip side of that – you should also be on the look out for any public comments he makes about your company. Best of luck!

  2. Scarlett

    Just Laura-I am sorry to hear of this. As much as you probably want to tell your side of the story, I would say nothing to customers at this time, for several reasons. First, it is a personnel matter which should remain between you, Husband and Manager until the full story of what happened becomes public information. Also, you could risk jeopardizing the investigation and/or any resulting criminal or civil proceedings as well as possibly invite litigation from Manager. I certainly wouldn’t post anything on the business’s web site or any type of social media. If you feel compelled to say “something,” I would simply state, “We parted ways,” “It didn’t work out,” “He moved on,” or something similarly truthful but nondescript. I wouldn’t say anything beyond that without seeking advice from the legal counsel you have wisely retained. The actual, complete truth will come out in the end. In the meantime, if anyone presses for details that shouldn’t be shared, then they are the ones being rude. I wish you the best.-Scarlett

    • Nina

      Dear Just Laura,

      Oh, what a shame–I’m so sorry you have to go through this. I was going to write you a long response, but then Scarlett said everything I would have. Thanks, Scarlett! :)

      I would only add that the quiet approach is what most major corporations take. Not that we would want to copy everything they do, but they do know the value of arguing in court, not in public.

      All the best with this unfortunate situation,

    • Vanna Keiler

      I completely agree with Scarlett’s suggestions. For business-related issues concerning an employee’s conduct, mum’s the word to avoid any litigious retaliation from fired employee. Similarly, any heard or written comments by employee should be noted and sent to attorney, who can present a temporary “cease and desist” until issue is resolved. The fastest way to squelch the rumors and questions, is to start interviewing for a “superstar” manager who will earn your trust back in employees and do the work the former manager was hired to do, so husband not doing two jobs. It’s hard to want to trust again, but businesses require many experts to join the team and good people can be found.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *