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Overworked and Underpaid

Q. I was hired at a company for a certain job, with specific responsibilities, at a certain rate of pay. Over the course of the last year, the company has added more work but not added additional pay. Recently the company has added additional work that has impacted our ability to earn our commission. Management says this is our job, and they will not compensate us for any changes. Is it okay for the company to do this?

A. When is a deal not a deal? Every day at work is a study in negotiation, and your situation is no different. Situations at work change, the economy changes, and most employment situations change on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean that employees should be treated unfairly. Communication between management and employees as changes occur becomes more important than ever.

Employers look for ways to maximize the value each employee contributes to the organization, and often that means changing roles, changing how work is done, and adding the work of employees whose roles have been eliminated to remaining employees. I find that employees are willing to support their employer by coping with changes in their roles, and adding additional duties which they may not be trained or compensated for — to a point.

Companies can change duties of current employees, and they can change compensation plans. Employees under contract, or union positions, may be protected from these changes. Employers have very little tolerance for employees who see every change or added responsibility as a need for more compensation. However if your compensation has been negatively impacted, raising your concerns is appropriate.

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Most often employers are concerned about ensuring employees can make the same compensation under changing circumstances. If they have not had a meeting with you, individually, or in a group, to show you how the new work can be handled allowing enough time for you to earn commission, I would ask for that type of meeting to be held. You, or a supervisor or manager, could speak to Human Resources — “I know the company is trying to do more with less, and I am committed to trying to make us as successful as possible. The initial changes to our job added plenty of work, which we work hard to keep up with. The new changes have added so much additional work that we can’t complete the work that allows us to earn our commission. I’m not sure you are aware of that, or if we are missing something with these changes. Can you review the changes and the working assumptions with us?”.

The way your concern is expressed lets management know this issue is more than just one person thinking there has been unfair treatment. Asking for communication also shows that you expect the communication to be two-way — giving you the opportunity to understand managements’ view of the situation, and for them to understand yours. An important point organizations now understand is that based on the current economy and difficulty changing jobs, disgruntled employees often don’t leave an organization, they impact it.

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