Work office money issuesMoney troubles are hard to contain, and if your own finances are in shambles, the problems can quickly bleed through to the rest of your life. As private as you hope to keep such issues, don't kid yourself into thinking that you can hide them from your employer.

According to a recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management, some 83% of HR professionals think that personal financial challenges have at least some impact on employees' performance. Those same HR professionals aren't blind to economic reality -- 80% of them believe that employees at their organizations are facing more financial challenges than they were five years ago.

And it's not a stretch to connect the dots: How you manage your own money can have an impact on the work you do for your company.

Why HR Is Worried

Human resources managers worry about more than just employee well-being. The well-being of the company matters to them, too. If they suspect an employee's financial situation is challenging, you can bet that they've got at least one eye out for the risks that employee may pose to the company.

Though the consequences are unpleasant, the logic is fairly straightforward: If someone can't maintain control of their own financial situation when their personal money is on the line, what would make them motivated to be a better steward of the company's money belonging to nameless and faceless shareholders?

That said, at most companies, having personal money troubles are not a fire-able offense. But if your performance is slipping, the odds are slim that your boss will pick you for the next available role of increasing responsibility. If the company also has reason to believe money troubles are behind your performance slippage, you can expect significantly tighter scrutiny on whatever areas you do have any individual discretion over.

Anatomy of a Career Death Spiral

Limited advancement opportunities. Higher likelihood of being micromanaged. And the generally lower raises that come with being viewed as anything other than a rock-star performer these days.

These aren't exactly the ingredients for fast job advancement -- or even a very satisfying career. But it's the negative spiral of what can happen at work for those with money troubles at home that spill over to affect job performance. And that's assuming the employee remains a paragon of ethics and virtue.

Is it fair to have career troubles just because you're having money troubles at home? Probably not, but speaking frankly, whether it's "fair" or not doesn't really matter. It is what it is.

Those who actually do cross the line into downright illegal behavior shouldn't expect to remain employed for very long, especially if they've already been flagged as a financial risk and are being closely watched.

Of course, your best shot at avoiding that particular career death spiral is to be so in control of your money that nobody has any reason to suspect you're having troubles. However, if you are dealing with financial hardship, there is plenty you can do to keep your at-work performance and reputation intact.

Stop Showing Off

If you are having money troubles, the first step toward regaining control is to stop trying to put on flashy displays of wealth you don't really have. You're neither fooling nor impressing anybody by showcasing your spending, and your employer already knows what you make. Spending money faster than your boss knows you're earning it is a major red flag and can actually invite more scrutiny, not less.

You still need to dress appropriately for your job and to maintain reliable transportation to get you to and from work. But a $21,000 Kia Optima -- or even a reliable used car -- should be able to get you to work just as well as a $173,000 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. And, a reasonably priced ride won't raise the overt question of how you could possibly afford it on your salary.

Even in less instantly obvious ways, getting in control of your finances is largely a matter of understanding -- and making tough choices -- on how and where you spend your cash. Brown-bagging your lunch can easily save you between $20 and $40 a week versus eating out, and home-brewed coffee instead of a couple daily cups from the coffee shop can have a similar impact.

No matter how you choose to cut back, doing so will help you get in control of your finances. And with control over your finances, you'll gain the opportunity to stop the career death spiral that otherwise threatens to turn some short-term cash flow issues into a serious long-term problem.

Ultimately, in the long run, being a strong steward of your own cash gives you many more opportunities elsewhere. In the short term, especially in this employment market, it will help you keep and move forward in the job you have today.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Goal Setting

Want to succeed? Then you need goals!

View Course »

What is Inflation?

Why do prices go up?

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

Enticing perspective Chuck! In fact I admire you advice on saving money regardless of whether this will affect your job or not, especially this will show an attitude of someone who's responsible and will directly influence all aspects of your life
Thanks again!

Are you a job seeker, employee, manager, or HR fanatic? check out for info and tips.
LebHR - The Lebanese Human Resources Community

February 09 2012 at 2:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

~~~~~welcome to our club and enjoy yourself~~~~~you are not alone and find your soul


February 07 2012 at 4:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you have bad credit and your history shows that you are doing nothing about it, then your credibility is fubar -- have fun working in the growing bottom wage pool fighting english-as-a-second-languagers who will work for free. If your history has a derogatory stage that you've remedied, or are working on remedying, then you show intention of being proactive about honoring your debts which does wonders for your score; or filing banko after which your score will eventually go up (compared to stagnation of doing nothing). Point is... if you have numerous calls per day from need to get off your arse and do something about it. And your previous/present/future is thinking just that... do something about it... just not on our time.

February 03 2012 at 6:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Ryan's comment

previous/present/future employer

February 03 2012 at 6:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A lot of people are having financial trouble today not so much as buying a $173,000.00 car as this article suggest, or living in a $400,000.00 house but because of simple mathematics, such as good jobs being outsourced to another country. I know people who had good careers then poof, along came the recession/depression ( call it what you like)it took them time to NO.1 get a job, then ( here is a real shocker for all you harvard grads out there) NO.2 when they finally got a job it paid substancially less then the previous job.
Now I know some folks out there mismanage money, but most try to do with what they have and to punish people just because they are having financial troubles is counter- productive. Now if that employee is stealing money or missing working on a regular basis, then I can understand to fire him/her ( equal oppurtunity). But alas that is America for you" fix the blame instead of the problem" therefore you still have problem then we can blame someone else..

February 03 2012 at 1:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

WHEN the employee puts the company at risk, then and only then is it the company's business. Until then, it is a private matter--and how does ANY company think that you will resolve your financial issues when you don't have a job, thanks to THEM?

Most people are in financial difficulty now because of our ECONOMY, not bad choices they made.

In case anyone has forgotten, our founding fathers tried to ensure that just that thing would NOT happen in the new country they were forging. In England, people were put into debtor's prison, and then had no way to pay their debt at all.

Shall we let corporate America run us back to serfdom?

February 03 2012 at 8:42 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to JoanneVLavender's comment

You are a very wise person!!!.

February 03 2012 at 1:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Welcome Mieka

I'm sorry, unless you are in a job handling money, such as accounting, you personal finances should be no busines of your employer. Millions are on shaky ground in this economy, sthrough no fault of their own. Are we going to put millions out of work and on the street because of nosy bosses? How wrong?

February 03 2012 at 4:35 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Welcome Mieka's comment

Thank you. My remarks echoed yours!

February 03 2012 at 8:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's actually against the law to fire anyone who is employed in the United States for filing bankruptcy. If you filed banko and are subsequently fired -- the termination letter will indicate it was due to performance issues for example; or any other reason . . . aside from the employee's bankruptcy. Any company that is sophisticated enough to monitor your credit is well aware of this. Aside ... i work in credit. Someone fresh off a banko discharge makes the best kind of borrower... they pay off the loan 100% of the time.

February 02 2012 at 8:46 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Ryan's comment

Sure, encourage irresponsibility.

February 02 2012 at 10:01 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

I spent alot of time in the consumer lending/credit card industry. When we were considering an individual for a job, our first step was a credit check. Poor credit was also a reason for temination.

February 02 2012 at 1:57 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Handleys's comment
Welcome Mieka

That is understandable considering you were working in the credit industry.

February 03 2012 at 4:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Like the corporate kettle is calling the employee distressed, cripes the bottom line in most companies and business is as flat lined as ever. Employers who live in glass corporate offices shouldn't be throwing around stones at the employees,

February 02 2012 at 12:54 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Mark Allyn

Heck, you don't even need a car or buy fancy clothing. I make my own clothes and I ride a bicycle to work. And when I want to look 'flashy', I also can do that on a budget.

February 02 2012 at 11:20 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply