Opinion

Is politeness causing unnecessary costs to UK businesses?

3 min read

10 November 2015

Former editor

Politeness could be costing UK businesses according to the latest research into expenses claims, lead by cloud-based expenses management company, webexpenses.

A factor that is often an issue when managing expenses is highlighting and challenging potentially bogus looking claims. This is exacerbated further in a British business culture, where traits and values such as politeness and civility can become a boundary.

One of the toughest tasks when you’re managing expenses is challenging suspicious looking claims. It’s an awkward and uncomfortable task, one which can involve questioning a co-worker’s integrity.

Webexpenses recently focused attention on this issue in its #toopolite campaign, commissioning a survey of more than 1,000 managers who worked at companies throughout the UK in a bid to find out more about how real-world interactions can affect an expenses policy.

Interestingly, one in five people surveyed said that they would not challenge an expenses claim that they suspected of being fraudulent. Lateness, days off sick and poor performance were other areas that prompted a similar response.

This begs the question, is over politeness costing businesses money?

Some 78 per cent of UK managers think that this is the case, with 22 per cent saying that they have not questioned people taking too long on their lunch break, 21 per cent admitting they had not challenged people coming into work late and a further 20 per cent saying that they hadn’t challenged a fraudulent expenses claim.

When asked why they would allow these issues to go unchallenged, 20 per cent said it was due to not wanting to upset anyone, 20 per cent indicated they would feel awkward and 17 per cent didn’t want to appear rude.

Adam Reynolds, CEO of webexpenses, said: “It’s clear to see from our findings that these factors are increasingly having a detrimental effect on the nation’s businesses. With a reluctance of UK managers to challenge their employees over simple discrepancies, considerable amounts of time and money are being lost.

“At webexpenses we aim to provide a clear visibility of a company’s finance function in order to more effectively manage the company expenses.”

To delve deeper into these findings, webexpenses also sought the expertise and opinion of top business psychologist Laura Haydock. She said: “Achieving the right mix of pushiness and politeness can be difficult but once mastered can reap huge benefits. Being effective in business can involve walking a tightrope between being too polite and too pushy.”

Webexpenses provides a robust and real-time system which transforms the way companies are able to manage and monitor their expenses.

You can find the full findings of the research in the webexpenses special report, and for a quick overview of the key findings take a look at the infographic based on the survey.