Dear J.T. & Dale: I have been working from home for my company throughout the pandemic. My boss just told me the company has decided to reduce everybody’s salaries by 20%, because the employees aren’t coming back into the office. Can they do that? — Alexandra
J.T.: Yes. Unless you are part of a union, then your salary is always up for renegotiation. They can restructure jobs at any time and tell you that your new job is at a new pay rate, whereupon you can then choose to accept it, or you can quit.
DALE: Even so, this surprises me. After all, there’s plenty of data and commentary on companies saving money by having remote employees. Global Workplace Analytics puts employers’ cost savings at $11K per employee, and that’s assuming employees are remote just half the time. The same study estimates that employees would save $2,500 to $4,000 per year, again assuming a hybrid remote/office model, based mostly on the cost of commuting, but also on wardrobe and miscellany (for example, Starbucks). I suppose a greedy and short-sighted employer might want to grab off some of the employees’ savings, but that kind of pay cut would get just about everyone on staff to start a job search. Maybe the company is in trouble and needs to reduce staff, but that’s the worst way possible to do it — the best employees are the ones who can leave most easily.
J.T.: I would suggest you start to put together a list of the things you do that are above and beyond your original duties. By sharing how much additional value you bring to the organization, especially throughout the pandemic, you can argue that you’ve actually earned a raise, and perhaps they’ll compromise by keeping your salary at the same rate. Otherwise, I would suspect that we will see a lot more companies doing this, because they can’t afford to keep office space that nobody’s using.
DALE: But the company can eventually shed that surplus space, and some companies are already subleasing extra square footage. So let’s hope your employer backs down. Meanwhile, do not quit your job — that will only make a job search more onerous — but do get a job search up and running. Even if the company relents, keep looking for someplace new — this isn’t the sort of management that’s going to help you thrive.
Dear J.T. & Dale: So I’ve been secretly writing a manuscript for a book about my work. My boss is literally crazy. His wife and the antics that happen in our company are just too hilarious. I actually sent it to a literary agent, and she fell in love with it and wants to pitch it. But I’m having second thoughts because I really do love the job and my boss, and I feel like they’ll be upset if this book gets published. What should I do? — Hank
J.T.: I know I’d be pretty upset if a book came out about me. I also think that if there’s anything slanderous, I’d probably consider suing. The owners pay you to do a job and you’re returning the favor by humiliating them in a book?
DALE: That’s bleak. In my experience, most people enjoy being written about, and that includes people who relish being called crazy — they tend to find themselves fascinating and think others should, too.
J.T.: In that case, you should come clean and allow the owners to read the manuscript. Maybe they’ll be OK with it. Or, if they are only mildly concerned, perhaps you can take the sting out of the situation with some rewrites. The other option is to use a pen name and change the names/storyline enough that they don’t know it’s you.
DALE: But before you do any of that, dip the toe. Start by dropping into the office conversation something like, “This office is so hilarious, I’m going to start keeping notes,” and see the reaction. My guess is you’ll get encouragement, not alarm, but, either way, you’ll be able to discern the path forward.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” 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) 2021 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.