Discord may be sending a warning

Dear Joan:
I have been working in a computer software company for only a few months. When I was hired it was to head the customer service efforts for the existing client base. One month ago the office manager left and a portion of her duties were reassigned to me. Those duties were about 1/4 of her position's workload. The added tasks assimilated well into my previous role, new customer project management and managing the company's scheduling process.

I had assumed that when I took on the additional work and responsibility I would receive additional compensation. However, I received my first paycheck and there was no increase. I spoke with my manager who is also the owner of the company and was told that I was expected to accept those tasks as "part of the team effort, not for a raise." He seemed surprised that I had asked him about it.

During the last 3 months, three people have left the company. I had an open relationship with two of them and was told that their reasons for leaving included financial and career growth promises, made by the owner, that were never kept. This pattern concerns me not only because of future growth but my commission structure is connected to my position package. When I gave the owner my commission report last week I was told that some of the commissions were not due yet, which directly disagreed with what the accounting department told me.

I have also had a discussion with the owner about the "each department is an island" philosophy he has. As head of customer service I work with all the departments and find that they blame each other for the mistakes that happen. And there are a lot of mistakes, mainly due to a complete lack of communication. This does affect me directly because I'm the one who has to satisfy the justly unhappy customer. It also affects my department's profitability when we can't sell additional services to these dissatisfied consumers.

Another personnel issue affecting this company is favoritism. The sales manager is the owner's brother-in-law. The sales manager has been accused of a number of very unethical acts by a number of customers and employees. He seems to be immune to consequences. This manager has an assistant that acts more like his girlfriend than his employee. She spends half her day in his office laughing and giggling. Then a great deal more time is spent on the phone with her friends. Yet I've heard they are way behind on their goals. But these people get exorbitant raises and bonuses on a regular basis.

Once I tried talking to the owner about these issues and he seemed preoccupied and uninterested. Next I tried putting these concerns into a memo. This resulted in a very tense meeting in which he denied everything, including the turnover and informed me that I would have to accept my pay level as it was.

Are there any suggestions you have to get through to this owner? He started the company 10 years ago with just a couple of people and now has grown to 20. I would like to see this opportunity be wildly successful for all of us, as well as make our customers’ glad they bought our product.

The emperor has no clothes and he isn't crazy about you pointing that out...especially as a brand new employee. I'm not suggesting that your perceptions are incorrect, but perhaps you're coming on too strong as a newcomer. While your enthusiasm is wonderful, most owners will resent a new employee's suggestions and demands that are made before they have proven themselves.

Let's take some of these situations individually. Taking on 25 percent of the office manager's job probably could have warranted a raise of some kind. However, because the tasks fit so well in your current job, they probably should have been there all along. The key is this: If the tasks just add to your volume of work and not much to your level of responsibility and authority, your boss may have a point. If that were an isolated incident, I'd suggest that you tone it down and prove yourself. But there are bigger problems here.

As you spelled out the commission disagreement, the other employee’s broken promises, dissatisfied customers, and the lack of urgency in the sales department, I began to suspect that your company is in trouble and the owner is having some financial problems.

What makes matters worse, it appears that the owner may be over his head when it comes to knowing how to fix it. Like many entrepreneurs with a sharp technical mind, he may not be prepared for the complexity of a growing business and all the communication needs and employee problems. The situation with the brother-in-law is extremely serious and needs to be dealt with immediately if the owner hopes to succeed (and to stay out of court).

Unless this owner takes steps quickly-within the next few months-I'd start looking for another job. He should either begin working with an outside consultant who isn't afraid to tell him what he needs to hear, or he should hire an operations manager he can trust to manage the day to day business. I'm afraid you will have little influence. In fact, you may already have stepped over the line.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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