our office manager isn’t processing payroll on time

A reader writes:

I work as a legal assistant at a small law firm. Today is payday, but this morning the office manager emailed all of the hourly employees to tell them that the bank had processed payroll late, so our money would not be direct deposited on time. This means that for most of us the money won’t be available in our accounts until Monday. I don’t know if I believe that the error was on the part of the bank, especially because this has happened before (at least 4 other times), and I can’t help but wonder if the office manager isn’t processing payroll in a timely fashion. The trouble is that I don’t have any way of knowing for sure.

We get paid twice a month, and while I personally will be okay until the paycheck posts, there are others here who really rely on getting paid on time because bills come out on auto draft, and there needs to be money to cover them. What I’m wondering is if the founding partner of the firm is aware of this. The emails sent out by the office manager only go to the legal assistants, so I don’t know if he has ever been made aware of this issue. I told my supervising attorney, who was shocked and said it was completely unacceptable, but I don’t know if he will pass along the information. I’ve never worked at a company that didn’t get payroll issued on time, so I don’t know what to make of this. Do you have any advice for ways to make sure this doesn’t become a recurring problem?

It’s very unusual for a bank to process payroll late if they received the information on time, and doing it five times on the same account is really unlikely. So I’d bet money that your office manager isn’t processing payroll on time. (And if for some reason she is, she needs to deal more aggressively with the bank about why this keeps happening. Either way, someone needs to intervene.)

And the fact that your supervising attorney was shocked and said it was unacceptable indicates that people at a higher level probably aren’t aware of this and would want to be. Talk to him again, and tell him that this has happened at least five times now, it’s become a pattern, and you’re concerned that someone needs to step in.

It’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t do anything at that point … but if he’s pathologically passive or something, then you could skip him and go straight to whoever is in a position to do something about it — whether that’s the founding partner or the office manager’s supervisor. Just say something like this: “Jane, I’m pretty sure you don’t know this and would want to be aware of it. Our payroll has been late five times in the last year (or whatever), and I’m wondering if there’s something that can be done to resolve it so it doesn’t keep happening. I’ve heard several people say that it’s caused problems for them because their bills are on auto-pay and their accounts ended up overdrawn, and I know the firm doesn’t want that happening.”

For that matter, you could always talk to the office manager herself about what’s going on, but if you suspect she’s the type who covers up her mistakes (and it sounds like it), that may not do any good.

People’s paychecks are serious enough that you should talk to someone who will do something about this. And any good manager will.


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