Sklover’s Thought for the Work Week

Published on October 5th, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

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“Autumn is the mellower season. What we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.”

– Samuel Butler

At work, as elsewhere in life, there are seasons. As the Bible says, “A time for everything.” Autumn is the time to harvest the fruits of the seeds planted and cared for all year long. But first comes the harvest, which is often one of the busier times of the year at work. Bear in mind that, while harvest is always a busy time, pretty soon you will be joyfully sitting down to a “full table” laid out in front of you, with friends and family, in good cheer.

© 2015 Alan L. Sklover. All Rights Reserved

[If you would like to contribute a favored quote, saying or proverb, please submit it to us at].

“The Three Kinds of Fraud – Recognizing and Avoiding Them at Work”

Published on September 30th, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

“No one will find me to have knowingly committed fraud.”

– Bernard Ebbers
(Inmate #56022-054, Oakdale
Federal Correctional Institution)

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORY: Every two years, Hal had to certify to his employer, a large law firm, that he had completed the Continuing Legal Education (“CLE”) courses necessary to maintain his law license. He did so although he had been so busy he had not completed two of them. He figured he could make it up during his upcoming vacation. When he was asked to attend a meeting with the Managing Partner, he thought it was to discuss his anticipated promotion to partner status. Instead, he was told he had committed a very serious fraud by his CLE certification misstatement, and was therefore fired, with a recommendation that he report himself to the Attorney Disciplinary Board for possible license suspension or disbarment. Hal’s misstatement sure was a costly mistake!

Gilbert was a Marketing Director for a company that sold franchise opportunities for a new “healthy” fast-food chain. The marketing brochures highlighted how fast-growing the franchise was. In fact, it noted that 23 new stores had opened up in just the last 12 months! Months later, he was quite taken aback when he was named in a lawsuit by three franchise purchasers who had lost money on their franchise investment. Their lawsuit alleged that Gilbert had participated in a fraud. Why? Because while it was true that 23 new stores had opened up in the previous 12 months, it was also true – and not mentioned in the marketing materials – that 41 had gone bankrupt in that same period. A fairly costly omission, no?

Ariana was perplexed. Her offer letter stated that she would be awarded a 3% ownership interest in her employer “upon approval of the Board of Directors at their next meeting.” She had resigned her previous job for this very opportunity to become an owner of a company. After hearing nothing in six months, in exasperation, Ariana asked for a meeting with the company President, and a clear answer at the meeting. Sure enough, she got her clear answer: the Board had voted not to award her any stock ownership interest, without reason. It sure didn’t seem like they ever really intended to give her the ownership interest in the first place. She felt fooled and tricked; even defrauded. A costly lesson for her.

LESSON TO LEARN: What Hal did, what Gilbert failed to do, and what happened to Ariana were, in each instance, kinds of fraud that can happen at work. It could happen (1) to you, (2) by you, (3) by your employer, (4) against your employer, and (5) in any number of other ways. If you are not careful in your statements and actions, and mindful of those of others around you, you could be harmed by fraud at work. I hear about such situations often.

The word “fraud” sounds so negative, so scary, and so accusatory. It is all of those things, but at the same time “fraud” is a simple concept, and one you should try to “avoid like the plague” in light of its implications and possible consequences to you. Being accused of “fraud” – or similar words, like deception, misrepresentation, misleading, and dishonest – can ruin your reputation and end your career. Likewise, being the victim of fraud can be both costly and hurtful.

Four different aspects of today’s workplace each mandate that you understand, and avoid, any situation that could be characterized as “fraud”:

First, “zero tolerance.” We live in a very “zero tolerance world” when it comes to workplace allegations of improper behavior. Even “whispered” allegations against you can be devastating. If your colleagues, your employer or your customers come to believe, rightly or wrongly, that you have not been honest with them, it could well result in immediate dismissal. That can happen to any employee, even one with a signed, long-term contract.

Second, the internet. We live in a very information-rich world, in which accusations against you – even if you are not “found guilty” – can become known worldwide, follow you into your future, and be near-impossible to erase.

Third, increased competition. So many companies and organizations are under so much financial pressure these days that we are seeing many of them encouraging their employees to “bend the rules,” “stretch the truth,” and “cut corners” in any number of ways. An employee can easily get caught up in a fraudulent scheme hatched by others, and even blamed for it. And companies have to keep a keen eye out for others – including customers and vendors – from defrauding them.

Fourth, seemingly lowered integrity standards. The world, and that includes the world of work, seems at times to have recently suffered from “lowered standards” of honesty. Everyone seems a bit less confident that showing good faith will result in others showing good faith in return. When it comes to collecting what you have been promised and are due, it seems to be a bit of a less dependable world. And there seems to be more “fraudsters out there” than ever before.

In recent times, Volkswagen has been accused of fraud by deceiving environmental regulators as to the fuel efficiency of their diesel automobiles. General Motors has been accused of fraud by failing to tell auto safety regulators of over 100 deaths resulting from a defective ignition switch. Investors in mortgage-backed securities have collected billions in damages for being defrauded by mortgage processors. Surely, certain individuals were at fault, and certain others were not. If there is a problem where you work, will you be accused?

But, “forewarned is forearmed.” There is a lot you can do to protect yourself, your interests, your career, and your reputation, from fraud against you, your company, and your clients, and accusations that you engaged in fraud, as well.

No matter who is to blame, and who may be victimized, it is wise to be vigilant to the possible occurrence of such situations, and be cognizant of their telltale signs. Prevention is the name of the game in this context.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Basically, there are three kinds of fraud, and all are sometimes seen at work. Learn to recognize them, and consider what you will do if you find fraud in your midst:
Continue Reading. . .

Sklover’s Thought for the Work Week

Published on September 28th, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

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“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”

– African Proverb

At work, are you growing tired of the limited rewards, never-ending demands, and uncertainty of working for others? Might you be considering “going out” on your own? If so, join the crowd. Having done so myself with success, and having helped clients do so, as well, I wholeheartedly endorse this proverb. Consider quietly speaking with others in your industry about “going out” with you. People you admire. People you seem to share interests with. People whose values are your values. In new enterprises, one has the power of one. Two have the power of four. And four have the power of 16.

© 2015 Alan L. Sklover. All Rights Reserved

[If you would like to contribute a favored quote, saying or proverb, please submit it to us at].

A Secret of Job Security

Published on September 25th, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

Secrets of Job Security

 Secret of Job Security #26:

Every once in a while, take an extra step to show you really are “On the Team.”

Everyone is supposed to do his or her job. And everyone is supposed to arrive on time and stay the full day or shift.

But no one is expected to volunteer to serve on a Committee, be a mentor to a new hires, or contribute to – or even help run – the firm’s annual charity fund. Such extra effort is unusual, but noticed, and a great source of job security.

Every now and then, exert an extra effort. Fulfill a special need. If you do, you will quickly attain “special value” status: someone who is surely “On the Team.”

A client of mine, who holds a finance position in a small company, asked the Chief Operating Officer if any assistance might be needed to run an off-site conference, even though (a) his job had nothing to do with the conference, and (b) it was taking place on his day off.

My client thought it might be a good learning experience, and an in-house networking opportunity, as well. He helped out, his doing so impressed the heck out of his management, and unquestionably elevated his job security.

When you are someone who shows he or she is “On the Team,” your perceived value increases multifold, as did his. If at some later date decisions are being made about “who stays, who goes” you are a “keeper.”

Job Security – confidence that your job transitions, if any, will be at your choice and upon your timing – is created, elevated and cemented in such ways.

It is at the same time quite obvious, and a true secret, too.

© 2015 Alan L. Sklover. All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Strictly Prohibited

10 Tax-Free Fringe Benefits (i.e., “Perks”)

Published on September 22nd, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

“The real difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”

– Will Rogers

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORY: Just yesterday, Jay, a long-time client, called. He asked me a question I am asked a lot: “Hey, Al . . . I have asked my boss for a raise, but he said that he can’t right now. He said, though, that if I was interested, he would consider “tax-free perk’s,” instead. Any idea of what he is talking about? Is that legal?”

Jay seems to be facing what a lot of people are facing these days: it’s getting harder to “make ends meet” and employers are very reluctant to significant raises, if any at all. Instead, many employers are offering tax-free fringe benefits (“perquisites,” or more commonly, “perks,” for short.), instead, either by offering them to certain individuals who are deemed particularly deserving of them, or to all employees in a structured fringe benefit plan.

Showing employees they are appreciated, and keeping costs under control, are both big parts of successfully running a business.

LESSON TO LEARN: Pretty much everyone knows that employers can pay for employees’ health insurance and life insurance as a tax-free benefits, but beyond those two, and a few others, most people don’t know of the many tax-free perks employers can provide employees under US. law.

Since such tax-free fringe benefits are treated by the IRS as both (a) entirely valid business expenses to employers, yet (b) also tax-free “rewards” to employees, it makes offering them doubly attractive from both employer and employee perspectives.

While I am not a tax lawyer, and cannot provide tax-related advice, I do suggest you (a) consider the value that such tax-free fringe benefits may be to you, and (b) confirm with your tax advisor or personal accountant that, indeed, they would be tax-free to you, as whether you qualify of some of these non-taxed perks does require attention to detail. (Indeed, the amount of tax-free benefit under several of these benefits changes from year to year.) Then, if it makes sense in your situation, consider raising the request for one or more of these to your employer.

If you can get better “rewarded” by your employer, and have no greater a tax bill, what could be so bad?

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are ten tax-free employment “fringe benefits” that might make sense for you, and to your employer:
Continue Reading. . .

Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 30 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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