By Venansio Ahabwe
Mr. Naperi worked in a company for many years and was gradually promoted till he became a Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Everyone in the company knew him to be intelligent, calm, hardworking and a high achiever. So, they hoped the company would greatly benefit from his talents. His problem, however, was that everyone knew him quite too well. Both low cadre workers as well as high ranking directors of the company had interacted with him all this time; and some believed that they knew him inside out. They knew his strengths and understood his values.
Unfortunately, they also knew his major weakness; he was a man who believed he knew everything and rarely accepted his mistakes. Yet, being vulnerable and admitting to mistakes is a hallmark of a leader who is open and transparent. One day, one of the directors approached Naperi with an awkward proposal. He had a loan and was about to lose property to the bank. As a director, he knew the financial status of the company and asked Naperi to help him access the funds. Naperi listened to the director and understood his problem. He offered words of consolation but also understood that it was wrong to use company funds to sort a private debt.
As a person, Naperi hated to participate in fraudulent deals. Yet, he also knew that the director was part of the team which supervised the CEO, so he might turn against him if he could not get the help he needed. The board of directors had the mandate to renew or terminate Naperi’s employment in the company, based on independent assessment of each director. Therefore, Naperi found himself between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, he wanted to keep his job. On the other hand, he wanted to maintain his integrity.
As a solution, he decided to take leave during which period he advised the troubled director to conclude the matter with the deputy CEO. He also advised his deputy to interact with the director and make an independent decision on the matter. In principle, Naperi wanted to evade responsibility as CEO. He did not want to encourage fraud but he also feared to tell ‘his boss’ that his proposal was a bad idea. He wanted to have his cake and eat it at the same time. He wished to transfer all responsibility to his deputy. In so doing, he believed he would preserve his own integrity and also maintain a good relationship with ‘his boss’. Naperi went on leave and his deputy briefly took over the office. The deputy CEO imagined that Naperi had made a recommendation that the director should be ‘helped’.
It is said that a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse. Therefore, he cooperated with the troubled director and processed the funds to settle the bank loan. The company lost the money! When Naperi returned to office, he noticed the anomaly but kept quiet about it. He knew that the director’s request should never have been entertained. Yet he had not stated his views clearly to anyone. When the company accounts were audited, the problematic transaction was easily detected. The board of directors asked him to explain the financial irregularity, but he passed on the blame to the deputy CEO who had processed the transaction. The man was subjected to disciplinary procedures and fired from his job!
This did not close the matter though. It was on record that the funds were abused while Naperi was out of office but he was also blamed as the company’s principal accounting officer. He had neither properly supervised his staff nor offered technical guidance to the director, which had led both of them to abuse the funds of the company. The doctrine of vicarious liability holds that a supervisor is liable for a supervisee’s negligent actions if they were committed in the course or scope of official, and hence, authorised duties. A manager who does not properly carry out supervisory roles exposes the company to avoidable losses. As the English saying, “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas!” Good as he had all along been regarded, Naperi was eventually declared incompetent. He too was not merely fired from the job but his terminal benefits were withheld in order for the organization to recover some of the money lost.
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