Ariel Skelley—Getty Images
By Ask a Manager
June 10, 2015

Q: Can I skip my office’s day at the beach?

I’ve been in my office for about seven months now and I recently learned that every year, the team goes on a summer outing. It’s not necessarily a team-building outing. It’s just a day away from the office enjoying each other’s company.

This year the team voted on spending the day at the beach (other options were kayaking, laser tag, and going to the movies). I really don’t want to attend this outing for multiple reasons. I don’t really like going to the beach and even though I like my colleagues just fine, I don’t necessarily want to spend an entire day just socializing with them. Part of me wishes we picked one of the other activity that didn’t require being away for the entire day and that also involved an activity.

Do I have to suck it up and go to this? Is there any way to graciously ask to sit this out?

A: You should go, be sick that day, or have a scheduling conflict. I would not ask to sit it out on grounds of just not wanting to go, or you’ll come across as Not Interested in Being Part of the Team. That’s silly — you shouldn’t have to spend a day at the beach if you don’t want to — but that tends to be how this stuff goes.

Q: I racked up $20,000 in personal debt on my corporate card. What do I do now?

Somehow I have managed to rack up a rolling balance of $20,000 on my company credit card and I can’t ever pay it all off in one go. I had a bankruptcy a few years ago and can’t qualify for a loan to cover the full amount.

I have ADD, so impulse control, particularly when under stress, has always been an issue for me. But I also genuinely misunderstood the way my corporate credit card was to be used. Over the past few years I have used it for everything from personal shopping to medical bills. But by far the biggest charges were for my car loan.

Here’s what happened: After working for my company for two years on-site at a client office, I was informed that the client had canceled the contract, so I would need to do another function, which would require driving all over town instead of being based in an office. My manager said point-blank that if I did not get a car within the week, there was nothing he could do for me. He stated clearly and explicitly that the company card could not be used for personal expenses, but he also mentioned that it would not be checked up on if it got paid in full each month.

I can use PayPal to get cash out of the card and into my bank account, so what I have been doing is waiting until the bill is due (a new billing cycle) and taking out that amount with PayPal, then using the cash to pay it off, plus adding in my own money to try and reduce the balance a little. This just means I get charged PayPal fees for the cash advance, and it means nothing more is due until the next billing cycle. This results in the next month having that balance plus charges, minus any and all money I can put toward it out of my pay (generally $2,000 a month).

I am scared to bring it up with my manager because it might mean I will lose my job once they realize what’s been happening,

I am starting to get unwell from the constant stress and thought that HR might see it as theft and I could be sent to jail, lose my job, and lose my reputation and ability to get another job. Basically, I am terrified that I have ruined my life completely.

A: Ooooh.

Okay, yeah, this isn’t good, but you know that so I’m not going to dwell on that.

The right thing to do: Tell your manager what happened. Come clean and accept the consequences. There is a good chance that you will lose your job over it, but if you’re an otherwise good employee and you’re genuinely contrite, they may be willing to work out a payment plan with you and not take legal action. Legal action is possible, but it’s generally no one’s first choice, so if you show that you’re horrified at what happened and that you’re genuinely committed to aggressively paying it off, they may prefer to just let that happen.

The other option: I suppose that you could keep paying it off as aggressively as you can and hope that you have it paid off before anyone notices. I’m surprised that no one has noticed yet, and the fact that they haven’t might mean you could actually get it paid off before they do — but if they do notice, the fact that you didn’t proactively come clean won’t be good. On the other hand, I suppose you could plead ignorance and point to the fact that you’ve been aggressively working to pay it down to show that you had no intent of trying to get the company to shoulder the charges.

However, before you proceed, you should talk to a lawyer, because you’ll need someone on your side who can advise you legally.

These questions are adapted from ones that originally appeared on Ask a Manager. Some questions have been edited for length.

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