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Business news solutions items — April 20

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WORKPLACE

Reluctant new boss

Q: After my boss was promoted, our director asked if I would handle her responsibilities until he could find a replacement. I had no interest in the position myself, but was glad to help out. For six months, I did most of her tasks as well as my own. A few weeks ago, “Stacy” was hired to fill the supervisory job. Stacy came from another company and has no management experience. After assuming all the duties that belonged to my former boss, she also took away some responsibilities that have always been mine. Now she is clearly struggling with the workload. I offered to handle some of this work, but Stacy refuses to let go of anything. This makes me feel that I am no longer trusted. I would like to talk with Stacy about this, but I’m not sure what to say.

A: The issue is not your competence, but Stacy’s discomfort. Upper management obviously finds you trustworthy, because they made you the acting supervisor. Your new boss, however, is in unfamiliar territory and may not yet know whom to trust.

As a novice manager in a strange environment, Stacy is undoubtedly anxious to prove herself. Unfortunately, she is apparently trying to do this by controlling as much of the work as possible. While she would be expected to assume the supervisory duties, appropriating your tasks was a bonehead move that is quite likely to backfire.

Under these circumstances, Stacy is likely to view any offers of assistance as an attempt to reclaim your territory. So instead of focusing on her work, start by simply trying to get to know her. Ask about her previous experience and share insights about your company. Seek out her opinions and explore her ideas for your department.

Once Stacy believes you are on her side, she is more likely to trust you. And once she trusts you, she is more likely to delegate. So instead of feeling resentful and hurt, take the high road and start building bridges with your boss. In reality, this whole situation is much more about Stacy than about you.

— By Marie G. McIntyre

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

PERSONAL FINANCE

About charged-off debt

Q: If a debt is charged off, am I responsible for paying off that debt?

A: Yes, you must pay. But don’t feel bad about not knowing this, because many people are confused on this point. After all, if it’s charged off, it sure sounds like it went away, right? And it did — just not away from you.

When a debt or any asset is charged off, it is taken off a balance sheet. A debt that has been charged off is typically more than 180 days past due. If no payment has been made in that amount of time, the accounting rule is that, because it is unlikely it will be paid in the near future, it can’t be carried on the books as a current asset. Therefore, the debt is charged off. But the accounting move by the creditor to charge off the balance due in no way affects your responsibility to pay what is owed.

In the most basic terms, a debt is owed until it is paid. State laws, however, provide a statute of limitations for collecting a debt using the courts. The laws vary, but most states do not allow creditors to sue in court to collect on an open-ended account, such as a credit card account, after three to six years. (Unless you live in Rhode Island — a debt collector’s dream — with a statute of limitations of 10 years.)

Some collectors will still try to collect by phone and mail, even without the option of suing in court. Besides damaging your credit score, an unpaid charge-off can hurt. Most businesses are leery of long-term, unpaid credit accounts.

— By Steve Bucci, Bankrate.com


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