Dear Evil HR Lady,

 Among three other job titles, I’m an HR Coordinator for an international Christian non-profit organization. HR is not my area of expertise but due what I would consider a history of “lean” hiring practices, I’ve taken on the role (another issue altogether! 😉 Needless to say, your blog has been immensely helpful.

 I received the following e-mail (forwarded from our CEO) regarding the working hours of salaried vs. hourly employees:

“Please do some research to the difference between what we should expect between salaried and hourly employees. We need to have realistic expectations and those that are salaried need to know that they don’t just work from 9-5 on weekdays. I have noticed for instance that some do not respond to emails on weekends or after hours which makes me think that they do not understand their salaried expectations”

 I have some initial thoughts on this… but would truly appreciate your insight. Consider that a majority of our salaried positions are also fundraising positions (a select few are not).

 It’s probably wrong that I’m amused by your CEOs letter–but only because you received it and I didn’t. (Well, I did, but it’s not my responsibility, so I maintain my amusement.) The person who doesn’t understand is your CEO.

Now, for the rest of the discussion, I want to be very clear that what I’m going to be talking about here is salaried exempt employees. Not merely salaried employees, who can be exempt or non-exempt. These employees are those who are not eligible for overtime and receive the same paycheck regardless of hours worked. Clear? We are also assuming that all employees in question meet the federal guidelines for exempt status. (In other words, if you were going to leave a comment saying, “first thing you need to do is check to make sure they really are exempt! They are probably mislabeled!” you don’t have to waste your time doing that. Instead, post your favorite clean joke. Bonus points if it’s in German and will impress my German teacher.)

Okay, your CEO is right in the sense that exempt employees shouldn’t be clock punchers, but it needs to go both ways. If he expects that they’ll check their email on weekends, he also needs to not freak out if they cut out at 2:30 to go to a parent teacher conference. It’s about give and take. But mostly, it’s about expectations.

Some bosses have the idea that they own their exempt employees. They better be working or at least available at all times. While you can certainly require it, it’s a bad management technique and likely to lead to high turnover. What you really want are employees that are good employee and capable of making good decisions.

So, should you require employees to be in constant contact via email? Well, I don’t know. You’re not trauma surgeons who need to be at the hospital within a moment’s notice. But, fundraisers probably do need to be available should someone wish to donate large sums of money. (“I called and called, but no one would take my call, so I’m just going to have to buy cupcakes instead of making that donation!”) But, it’s also probably pretty reasonable to assume that there aren’t a lot of $30,000 donations that get lost because someone didn’t check her email on Saturday afternoon.

This is all about expectations. So, set some. What is expected? And what is reasonable? If all the work is getting done and things aren’t left hanging, there’s no reason to require weekend check ins. If things are falling through the cracks, there is reason to require it. If the only thing falling through the cracks are those that the CEO is sending out on Saturdays because he’s a w0rk-a-h0lic, it’s time for him to calm down.

What you need to do is figure out what is necessary for the health of the non-profit, and then have a Come to Jesus* meeting with either the employees or the CEO. If the employees aren’t performing at the right level, then they need to be instructed that more is expected of them. (This is not uncommon in the exempt employee world, by the way.) If the employees are performing at a high level, it’s the CEO that needs to be told to back off, and wait for Monday to roll around.

You want your employees to be engaged and happy to work for. Demanding that they are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is not the way to do that.

*Sorry, I frequently want to use that phrase, and don’t because I don’t want anyone to be offended, but I thought it was appropriate here.


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34 thoughts on “What does it mean to be salaried?

  1. It sounds like the CEO wants Christian Soldiers, rather than at-will employees.

    “Onward, Christian Soldiers, marching as to war …”

    1. Yes, I think this is a problem at a lot of non-profits. “Since you support our mission you must be willing to sacrifice everything!”

  2. In the case of my exempt fundraiser, I don’t so much want her spending weekends checking email, but make herself available if that $30,000 donor calls on Tuesday asking to meet on Saturday.

    1. Yes. And that’s the difference. If they aren’t doing that, then there’s a problem. If they are just not returning every piddly email, then it’s the boss that has the problem.

  3. Ole was on his deathbed. Pastor Inqvist had already been there to give the last rites. Ole was just waiting to die. It was boring.

    Then he smelled the most wonderful aroma wafting up from the kitchen. It was the fragrance of Lena’s rhubarb bars, just out of the oven. They were Ole’s favorite.

    He rolled out of bed and landed with a thud on the floor. Too weak to walk, he dragged himself down the hall. He rolled down the stairs, his head thumping against each step. He pulled himself to the kitchen and painfully, slowly, carefully pulled himself up by holding the silverware drawer.

    As he was reaching for one of the cooling bars, Lena walked into the kitchen. She rushed over and slapped the bar out of his hand.

    “Ach, Ole!” she exclaimed. “For shame! Dose are for after da funeral!”

  4. I had a boss like this once. He told us flat out that he owned us 24/7.

    He also told us that we would never receive an ‘exceeds expectations’ from him for our annual review because whatever we did, however much we did, however fantastically we did it, that was simply what he expected – so only ‘meets expectations’ from him.

    Of course, there were plenty of opportunities to receive a ‘fails to meet expectations’.

    1. I’m going to channel my inner psychic and guess that he was a rotten boss and had high turnover.

  5. How many buccaneers does it take to change a lightbulb?

    100. 1 to hold the lightbulb, and 99 to drink until the ship spins!

    1. How many HR people does it take to change a light bulb?

      None, we prefer working in the dark.

  6. Knock Knock. Who’s there? A Door. A Door who? Adorable little me, please let me in!

    I think you should also add to the list that bosses should let their staff take holidays without interruption in less it is something absolutely drastic. An old boss of mine told us staff (upon her takeover) that we were to always be available – actually, she never even made this a rule – it was just what she expected and if we didn’t deliver 24/7, she would threaten our jobs. (None of WERE exempt by they way but she sure wanted to treat us like we were hers 24/7). So when I was preparing for my holidays & had passed off any necessary work & client info to coworkers she told me I could not go. I told her this was not an option as my husband could ONLY go for his holidays during the scheduled time. She told me to go on my own after. I told her no. So she told me she expected me to check email everyday. Call in everyday, and do any necessary work while I was gone. I do not have a laptop and had to borrow one from a friend because my job was threatened otherwise. I would check email part way through the day. All requests from her could have been directed to those coworkers covering my shift while I was gone but she still insisted that I was the one and only person to answer her question. If I did not respond to her within 1/2 hour she would email again & then call my parents house where we were visiting. After 3 days of this a HUGE family fight broke out & I was asked to return home (by family) if all I was going to do was work. I wrote a polite, professional email back to the wicked woman and told her that my friend needed her laptop back and any further requests could be directed to so&so in the office until I returned. I handed in my time for my 3 days of work once I got back to the office. She told me “they were considered volunteer hours and the ‘warm and fuzzy feeling’ (no joke -that’s what she said) was enough payment”. After a chat with the Labour Board, I was compensated for ALL OT time that I had worked & I moved on to another job!

    Sadly, I see this happen with exempt employees a lot & they don’t get the same recourse as I had. Well, other than finding a new job. I am also in Canada and do not know all ins & outs of how the Labour Board works in the US. Here, even exempt employees have protection from the Labour Board if things become unfair.

    Bosses should know when staff is going on holidays or have days off & should really plan accordingly.

    1. Your boss sounded light a nightmare! And you would have been owed payment in the US as well, but you’re right that an exempt employee wouldn’t have.

  7. “If the employees are performing at a high level, it’s the CEO that needs to be told to back off, and wait for Monday to roll around.”

    Let me know how that works out for you………

  8. Two fish were in a tank; one looked at the other and said, “You man the guns, I’ll drive!”

  9. How do you make a Swiss Roll?

    Easy, push him off the mountain.

    Sorry, that was the “wurst” joke ever.

    1. Do you know what the best part of living in Switzerland is?

      Well, I’m not sure, but the flag is a big plus!

  10. How many CEOs does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    Just one, they hold the bulb, and the world revolves around them.

  11. I asked a German coworker for a good German joke, here’s her reply.

    “{Her huband}’s joke is that there a no german jokes! We are the ones other people make fun of!”

  12. I was wondering if yyou ever thought of changing thee structyure of your website?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more iin the wayy of content soo people could
    connect with it better. Youve gott an awful lot of text for only having one or two images.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

  13. Generally speaking, exempt employees are expected to be present at work during their scheduled work times in order to perform work that is essential to the description job. Management should discuss with their exempt employees how their expectations of work relate to time spent at work. Management can also ask employee to inform them if they will not be at work during some hours of a typical work day. It is necessary, so that others who need to coordinate with that employee can be informed of the change in work schedule for the day.
    I totally agree, it’s all about expectations, but also communication. From the start as an employer, you should clearly define what your expectations are and what are you giving back. If an exempt employee is doing his required work till the end of the day I don’t see the necessity to pay attention on his mail address or telephone after work.
    It can exist exceptional circumstances when you should keep an eye on you mails end phone, but this situations shouldn’t be daily. In this situations should be an agreement between employer and employee. I’m not mean a written agreement or something like this, it can be simply a discussion , an mutual respect agreement.
    I believe in communication and what it can do. I think that CEO didn’t know exactly what an exempt employee means and he didn’t know that besides work people have personal life too. I’m sorry if I’m harsh, but I don’t like when people don’t know what respect and rights are.

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