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No. 111 – My boss comes in late, leaves early and gets paid way more than me

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14 June 2023

I work in a small satellite office (our head office is overseas) and I’ve realised my boss doesn’t seem to be doing much work. I lead most of our projects, which I enjoy, but I fear my boss is taking advantage of our flexible environment. He takes days, if not weeks, to respond to colleagues’ emails, often comes in late, takes long lunches, then leaves early. I’m frustrated by how little he’s contributing when I’m confident he’s being paid a generous salary. How should I handle this? If I were to broach the topic with upper management, how can I make sure it doesn’t reflect poorly on me?

I am going to say with confidence that virtually every person reading your letter will be thinking of a lazy boss they have worked with in the past, or may be working with now. All too often, people are promoted well beyond their abilities and then remunerated far better than they deserve. It may be because they know how to manage up particularly well, or they may know the right people. Either way, it is very frustrating.

If you have noticed his behaviour, then you would hope “upper management” are aware as well. While they might not know he isn’t physically in the office as much, they will be able to tell the output he is producing is not there. Personally, I think raising this with your boss’ boss is a risky move, unless you have something tangible to report about his behaviour. It is much better, I think, to focus on what you can control, which is the way you are successfully carrying out your role. Seek out opportunities to work on projects and initiatives that will expose you to others in the business, including head office. If you ever have a formal 360 review process, that is your opportunity to be honest and frank in your feedback.

I work in sales and am responsible for winning new business and rescuing high-value contracts with at-risk customers. I have been very successful, but the company has delayed paying any commissions this financial year because of delays in issuing new contracts. Last year, the company changed my contract without my knowledge, which led to a significant financial loss to me. I have complained, but I’m constantly being held off. Could I try legal action while still an employee?

There are many red flags in your email. I obviously don’t know the full circumstances or what kind of contract you are on, but it would be highly unusual (if not against employment laws) for your company to unilaterally change your contract without consulting you first and gaining your agreement. The fact you are owed money, presumably under your contract, that is not being paid is (to use the most polite term I can) dodgy. I would seek advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman, or a lawyer if you can afford it, to understand your rights. When you clearly understand the facts of your situation, then decide next steps. Bringing lawyers in as a current employee will create a challenging work environment for you, so I would seek legal advice but think carefully about the best way to then navigate a positive outcome.

With performance reviews coming up there are already whispers around my organisation that our annual salary bump will be lower than inflation. I believe I’ve worked hard this year. Can I request compensation through additional annual leave, if a pay increase is off the table?

Depending on the specific skill set you have or what industry you work in, your employer may well be keen to hold on to you and so be open-minded about options. Many organisations are open to providing annual leave and will negotiate what your overall package looks like.

Before you organise to have the meeting to discuss this, think about what is most important to you about additional annual leave. Do you want to be able to take extra time during school holidays, for example, or are you wanting to accrue additional leave days for a major holiday at some point? Just like a salary review, be ready to set out the ways you add value and how you are committed to a long-term future with the company. You will then hopefully be well-placed to ask what non-financial options might be on the table in addition to a pay rise.

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