Hello! I have read your posts for years now and finally decided I had a problem worth your time.
I am a Sr.Supervisor in Supply Chain with 16 direct reports spread out over two departments. When I interviewed and negotiated it was for the job over one of the two departments with 8 direct report. I was hired to replace the previous manager over that one department. On my first day, I was notified and handed a paper to sign saying I would now be over the two departments (16 direct reports) instead of the one I originally interviewed, negotiated and accepted the offer for (8 direct reports).
The first issue here is that they switched the responsibility on me and did not adjust pay, grade or title. Second is I replace a Manager that was two job grades above me and had only the one group of 8. Many people commented to me about how I should have a higher title since I had so many direct reports–I’m a supervisor but replaced a manager.
With this going on for about 18 months, at first, I was just happy to have the opportunity. However, as more and more people said something to me I started to discuss it back and agree with them.
I spoke up on a few occasions to both Mgmt and HR and they just did not seem to want to hear me out.
At the end of the day, my pay grade is the same as the Sr people who work for me. I made comments to some of those employees that I am in the same pay grade as them. I did this as I began to get more frustrated with the situation. I was tricked into more responsibility with the same pay and then find out that my pay grade is the same is the people who work for me and lower than many peers I am expected to work with daily from other departments. I am expected to be a leader without the appropriate pay.
I finally was called into my bosses office and scolded because I spoke to my employees as well as my peers about my pay grade and that I planned to talk to Mgmt and HR about it. I was told how if HR found out about this they would not like it and so on. I know technically it is bad practice to discuss salary with others especially my salary with an employee..but in this case, it was not salary but job grade that was mentioned.
Now I feel I have this target on my back. My boss and her boss seem to treat me different. I was unofficially told I only have to worry about the one department but nothing official. I now have a weekly 1:1 with my boss and each time she usually has a list of “feedback” for me to improve on. The feedback is usually 2nd party via skip levels with my employees. This makes for a strange environment because my employees do not respect me as my boss does not seem to. My boss seems to encourage this by allowing them to run to her to fix it if I say or ask them to do something they don’t agree with. I am being undermined.
Did I do anything wrong in this case? What should I do? I feel scared for my job because I spoke up about an obvious issue. My people don’t respect me and seem to want me to fail. I am a good fair boss. Help!
Okay, I’m going to apologize at the beginning because this is a long and complicated question and I’m sure I’m going to miss something, although I suspect my readers will point it out and solve it for you.
You’ve got lots of problems, let’s talk about them one by one.
The job deception.
They could have completely lied to you, or they could have had things change between the interview and the start of work. This does happen from time to time–someone could have resigned, and they just decided to not to fill the position.
Additionally, it’s not necessarily wrong or evil that you’re a lower grade than your predecessor. Jobs get re-evaluated all the time. The job description could have changed, or you could have fewer qualifications. It happens the other way too. Once upon a time I quit a job and they hired three people to replace me at a higher salary and grade than I had. I don’t know whether I should be honored that I was doing so much work that they needed 3 people to replace me or angry that I was underpaid and overworked.
So, the pay grade in itself isn’t a bad thing. The change in workload is terrible, but it may not have been an intentional deception.
However, how your boss handled it was completely bonkers.
The pay problem.
Your pay was probably correct to manage one group. As I said, the job could have been reclassified and, obviously, you thought it was fair or you wouldn’t have taken it. But, now that you are doing the work of two people, you certainly deserve a pay raise and a promotion, (I’m presuming you are doing a good job, but if you’re not, well, then you haven’t earned a pay and a promotion.)
The discussion problem.
Here’s the deal, discussing salary with your coworkers is part of discussing workplace conditions and they can’t stop you from doing it, nor can they (legally) punish you for doing so. That said, it’s not generally wise to complain to your direct reports about your salary. Your boss? Your peers? Better idea. You messed up complaining to your direct reports.
You didn’t mess up complaining to your boss, though.
The management problem.
With your boss actively undermining your management, and you complaining to your staff about your pay, it’s no wonder you’re having difficulty managing the people. You treated them like peers and your boss is acting like their boss, so it makes sense that they don’t respect you as a manager.
Solving this mess.
Get a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, your favorite, sit on the couch and watch Netflix. I really liked The Mentalist, but I warn you the ending of the series is dumb.
Oh, wait, that will make you feel temporarily better, but it won’t solve your problems long term.
Stop treating your direct reports like your peers. You don’t complain to them about anything except their performance. No complaining about your salary, your assignments, the number of people you manage, your parking spot, or the food available in the cafeteria. Got it? You toe the company line when you are around your direct reports. Period.
Over the long term.
In your one:one meetings with your boss you need to address these things, one at a time. He’s shown that he’s not really excited about the idea of giving you a raise and a promotion, nor is he excited about helping you succeed as a manager. That’s a problem, but you need to find out why. Maybe your performance isn’t that hot. Maybe he’s gotten pressure from above to cut his budgets. Maybe he’s a jerk.
Address the management issues first. Here’s a sample of what to say (which you should rephrase to fit your personality).
You: I know I screwed up by discussing my pay problems with my direct employees. It was wrong of me to treat them like peers when they are not. I won’t make that mistake again.
I’d like to fix things so that I can be an effective manager, but I need your help to do so. First of all, you told me that I was only responsible for Group A, but when we talk you set goals for me regarding Group B. Can I get some clarification around what my exact responsibilities are?
If he reaffirms that it’s group A that you are responsible for, after the meeting, send him an email that says, “Thanks for our discussion today. This email is just to confirm that I am only responsible for Group A and that someone else will manage Group B. Please let me know if this is false.” Under no circumstances should you ever delete that email.
From then on, when he asks you about Group B, say, “As we agreed on June 30, 2016, I’m not responsible for that group. Let’s talk about Group A.” Lather, rinse, repeat.
Next topic for you to discuss: Your ability to manage. Again, a sample dialogue.
In order to be an effective manager, I need you to have my back. If any of my people come to you with a problem, can you please direct them back to me? I will then take it up with you if I need support.
This will be a topic that you’ll have to repeat a lot. Additionally, you’ll need to address it with your direct reports. Sample dialogue:
Jane, I understand that you went to Bill about problem X. In the future, I need you to come to me first, and I’ll decide whether he needs to be looped in on that. Can you do that for me?
This will take a lot of repeating, because you and your manager have trained them otherwise.
This one is harder because I’m not a huge fan of complaining about a salary you thought was fair when you were hired. I think it was wrong of them to offer you a salary that was, apparently, below market rate, and I don’t blame you for making a mistake. Companies love the information asymetry of salary information and they use it against their employees all the time.
If your boss agrees to simply have you responsible for Group A, then I’d let the money and title thing go for a while–say until you hit your two year mark. If he wants you to take on Group B, here’s a sample dialogue:
Bill, when I agreed to a salary of $X, that was with the understanding that I would be responsible for Group A only. Now that I’m responsible for Group A and Group B, it makes sense that my title and salary grade and salary should reflect that responsibility. What do we need to do to get the ball rolling on this?
Now, while I told you to rephrase everthing in your own language the “we” in that last sentence is on purpose. It’s a sneaky little way of signally to his subconscious that you are in this together. It’s necessary for him to feel that way in order to get his help on this.
Will this work? Probably not.
What about HR?
If any HR person says boo to you about discussing your salary, I want you to respond, “The National Labor Relations Board allows me to discuss my working conditions, which includes my salary.”
Also start looking for a new job.
You may be able to salvage this one. I have high hopes (probably because of excessive ice cream consumption), but when your boss has shown himself to be problematic, and you’ve been in a job for 18 months already and it will likely take 6 or more months to find a better job, beginning the job search is never a bad idea. If it turns out that everything resolves and life is good, no problem. If it doesn’t, well, then you’ve got a back up plan in place.