The Expense Game

Expense accounts.  You’re think that the very phrase was self explanatory.

It’s an accounting of the expenses you incurred in order to perform your job.

I don’t submit my expenses to drive to work.  I don’t submit my expense for my morning coffee.  I’m not a great fan of the office coffee, so I get my own tea.  If someone else brings in a box, I’m grateful, but I don’t get upset when I buy it myself.

Now, my boss brings in a scone or a muffin for me which I hugely appreciate.  I don’t have to worry about something to munch on, if I don’t bring a lunch usually it’s enough to power me through my 2:00 lull.  I’m not going on strike if I don’t get a muffin every day.  I won’t work harder if I get two.  I take it as a sign of appreciation of what I do.

If I have to drive to Alberta Printer to get supplies, I’ll submit my expenses to be reimbursed for the ink.  But they’re close to my home and it works out to going a few blocks out of my way.  I’d do it on days that I would drive anyways.  I wouldn’t charge travel expenses for that.  It’s my sign of appreciation.

It’s also my responsibility to do things as inexpensively as possible.  Combine trips.  Think ahead to be efficient.  Expense cheques aren’t free money, it’s money that covers costs.  It’s money that the company needs to spend to operate.  I spent it on behalf of the company in order for me to operate.

The company doesn’t need coffee in the morning.  I needed coffee.  Well, to be honest I wanted coffee.  That’s clearly over the line.

Meeting a client over lunch?  Sure, I’m okay with that.  Except I’d almost never take on that role.  I got grumpy with a former co-worker that picked up the tab when meeting with a sales rep giving us a quote.  You’re selling me something, you pick up the first tab, I’ll pick up the second when we close the deal.  You’re exchanging my time for lunch, I’m willing to reciprocate.  But things are orderly and spelled out and follow basic rules.

I don’t go for fast food to do business, nor do I go to the best steak house in town.  I want someplace quiet, somewhere not rushed, suitable to conversation and thought.  I’m not looking for a special meal, I’m looking for a special discussion about what are my best options.  Business is primary in any business lunch.  Any place that serves a healthy meal that meets those requirements is fine.

If you need to expense your muffin in the morning, you have a problem.  If you’re making $425,000 and that’s not enough for you to fix your own car, you have a serious problem.  If you’re forgetting that you are a public SERVANT first and foremost, we have a management problem.

We deserve a permanent solution to this problem of ours.