Office Politics 101: Neither a lender nor borrower be

A co-worker borrowed money and won’t pay it back. What should I do?

Q: A co-worker in another office borrowed $500 from me a few months ago.  I’ve Emailed him and left messages a number of times but I’ve heard nothing.  I’d like the money back right away.  What can I do?

A: Your situation is unfortunately not that uncommon.  It would be more accurate, I think, to make the point that you made the loan rather than stressing he borrowed it.  It was your decision.

My guess is that he made a rather dramatic appeal to you – perhaps based on some personal or family tragedy – and promised to pay you back in a matter of days.

The months have passed and now you regret lending him the money even though your motives were honorable, even admirable.  You may even be wondering whether he fabricated his plea in order to persuade you to make the loan.

You might be surprised to learn that he could have convinced others in the company to provide similar financial support although, even if true, it obviously would provide little comfort for you.

You’ll need to be convincing in making your appeal to collect your money.  He must pay his mortgage or rent to stay in his home, and is obliged to keep up with his monthly utilities.  His lifestyle, however, will not change if he fails to pay you back.

Emails, text messages and phone calls will not influence him. (“Delete” is a very easy button to press.)  You must meet him in person at the earliest opportunity.

Plan to drop by his office unannounced as he almost certainly will feel uncomfortable meeting you.  A colleague may informally tell you when he is available.

Your presence – your body language, tone of voice and eye contact – will have a significant impact on persuading him that he must pay you back immediately.

Professional collectors will often employ silence – noticeable gaps between appeals – as a technique to menace errant borrowers; you may also use this technique to capture his attention.

Give him the opportunity to explain but request the full amount.  Allowing him to “think about it” or “get back to you,” should not be acceptable.  Your message: he can make things right only be paying back the loan immediately.

You’ll need to be forceful and even uncharacteristically aggressive to collect your money.  Show him a measure of respect but ensure your meeting is successful through persuasive body language and a cogent demand for full payment.

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