Dear J.T. & Dale: Our boss seems to have “checked out.” About a year ago, he got a divorce; he was devastated. His wife of 20 years left him for another man. Six months later, he met a younger woman and has been with her constantly. He’s taken more time off for vacation in the past few months than he did in the five years prior. Things are starting to fall apart. Clients are getting upset. When I talk to him about it, he says “I’ll take care of it,” but he doesn’t. I hate seeing all our hard work being jeopardized because our boss thinks he’s in love. Is it OK to say something? – Shelli
DALE: First off, let’s be happy for him. There’s no need for that cynical “thinks he’s in love.” (In my experience, love has little to do with thinking.) Now, let’s strategize about making everyone as happy as the boss.
J.T.: Which takes us to this: Yes, you can say something. Just be very careful. You can’t blame the new romance. (It’s not your business.) BUT, you can blame his work schedule/vacation time as having an impact on the business. You might say something like: “In the past four months, we’ve had an increase in customer complaints by 30 percent, and revenues are down 6 percent. We believe the reduced time you’ve been in the office is part of the reason. We need to devise a plan to stop the decline of the business. What do you suggest?” While you can’t tell him to stop what he is doing, you can make it clear that his change in behavior requires a new action plan in the office.
DALE: I was right there with you till you got to that part about blaming the problems on his “reduced time.” Instead, let’s offer positive alternatives – everybody happy, remember. Here’s your chance, Shelli, to suggest some reorganization, starring good old Shelli. Suggest, for instance, that you take over dealing with some of the clients or take on other executive duties. You’ll soon need a zippy new title to go along with that, and a new pay grade. Love is a beautiful thing, so let’s spread it around.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I just found out that I make more than my co-worker. She has been here for two years, and I just started. She was stressed one day and said, “This isn’t worth the $20/hour they pay me.” I’m getting $25. As a guy, I feel bad because I think equal pay is important. I have two sisters. I want to say something, but then she’ll tell my boss and I’ll get in trouble for discussing my pay rate. Suggestions? – Marlon
J.T.: It’s so good to hear your concern about equal pay. It’s a huge problem, and your sisters are lucky to have a brother who understands. That said, you can’t tell your co-worker what you make. Every employee is different. You don’t know how her performance is viewed by the company; perhaps her attitude or quality of work isn’t up to their standards. You could be seen as a more accomplished employee based on what you bring to the table.
DALE: There is, however, the chance that she is underpaid because she failed to negotiate her pay when joining the company, or that she has failed to refresh her knowledge of her market value. Because you’ve just been in the job market, you might be able to help. You’d start by engaging her in a discussion of pay rates at similar companies, or asking her about pay raises at your firm.
J.T.: You say, “I was wondering, what’s the process here for earning a raise?” This will help you know whether she’s even thought about asking for one. If she says she doesn’t know, then you can say: “I just started, so it’s too soon for me, but you’ve been here awhile. Maybe you’re eligible?”
DALE: That gets the conversation started, and perhaps you can help her to see that she has options – if not with the current company, then with a more enlightened one elsewhere.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2017 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.