"The world's largest software company is making a lot of boneheaded moves lately."
-- Rick Munarriz, last Friday

Those words were written the day before Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) made itself look like a cheapskate of gigantic proportions. Uncle Scrooge looks like a free-spending left-wing liberal by comparison.

News broke over the weekend that Mr. Softy doled out a few erroneous severance checks to recently laid-off ex-employees. Then its accountants sent out demands for restitution of the overpayments to a handful of those poor souls. "Twist the knife a little harder, please." All of the "boneheaded moves" Rick had described immediately paled beyond the pale.

This week, the damage control spinners are working overtime in Redmond. "It didn't make sense for us to continue on the path we were on," Microsoft's senior VP of human resources Lisa Brummel told CNET News. Better then to go into full reverse, tell the overpaid ex-workers to keep the difference, and make sure that the underpaid ones got their fair share in the end.

In the grand scheme of things, this is really not a big deal. 25 people got around $5,000 too much in their farewell package, and only 20 got the short shrift. That's a small piece of the 5,000 payroll cuts, and with over $20 billion in cash lying around, Microsoft can certainly afford to cover the cracks.

But it's important for Microsoft to settle this brouhaha which has already been covered by hundreds of news outlets, and quickly. The company ain't hiring anytime soon, but the recession will end someday. If a top recruit is weighing job offers from good old Microsoft, possibly a resurgent Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), and the new superpower Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Mr. Softy doesn't want to have an image of bad faith and sloppy accounting tipping the scales.

I'm never going to accuse Redmond of outright evil like scamming their outgoing layoffs, of course. But the "sloppy accounting" charge might stick. I understand that it's hard to keep all the parts of such a huge and complex financial beast perfectly healthy at all times; even Ms. Brummel says that she's been overpaid once and had to send a check back.

If this is a sign of systemic accounting failures, Microsoft had better get its books in order. The company loves its internal tools development, but another mistake or two in this area could make the company look very bad indeed. Hey, Paychex (NASDAQ:PAYX) or Automatic Data Processing (NYSE:ADP) could use another big client, right? There's no shame in asking for help, Mr. Softy.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.