Take this job and...
May 18, 2010 4:07 PM   Subscribe

I was just given a pay-cut as a disciplinary action. This action came with no warning. Time to quit, right?

I recently made a couple minor mistakes at work that didn't result in any personal, property, or major financial damage to anyone. At the time, they were shrugged off by my supervisors as no big deal and, when I mentioned my concern and took responsibility, I got the, "Everyone makes mistakes, nobody's perfect" line. When given an opening and opportunity, nobody mentioned any problems with my job performance.

Today, I walked in and sat down in a meeting with my supervisor who told me that I wasn't meeting their expectations and I was being given a pay-cut. After a 3 month probation, they'll think about restoring my original pay grade.
I'm not sure that I want to work it out or that I can feel comfortable working at this job anymore after a surprise like this. I've only been here for a couple weeks and I don't have any roots yet.
It's fine to bounce, right?
posted by Jon-o to Work & Money (51 answers total)
Bounce away, Jon-o. Good on you for knowing that you don't want to work for someone who'll dick their employees around like that.
posted by booknerd at 4:08 PM on May 18, 2010 [10 favorites]

I agree with leaving. Sudden pay cuts are not fun.
posted by theichibun at 4:19 PM on May 18, 2010

Maybe I'm just foolishly lenient, but a pay cut is way, way down the road of disciplinary action for my employees. Verbal warning and correction, one-on-one meeting, probation and final warning... and well, we've never had to go beyond that. My employees are generally quite happy and productive. Had an employee that got into the habit of arriving late. After being sent home with "Try it again tomorrow" a couple times, they miraculously made it on time thereafter.

That your employer's reaction so early in the process is to dock your pay (especially when you've only been there a couple weeks!) does not speak well of the employer. If you stick around, you're likely going to be dealing with even more of this in the future. I'd bounce.
posted by xedrik at 4:19 PM on May 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

You've been there two weeks? Leave. Don't even put it on your resume.
posted by kindall at 4:20 PM on May 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

These aren't people you want to work for.
posted by enn at 4:21 PM on May 18, 2010

That's ridiculous, you can do better
posted by ghharr at 4:22 PM on May 18, 2010

Life's far too short to put up with that kind of management. Give 'em notice and walk.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:30 PM on May 18, 2010

I worked a terrible job right after college that pulled some stuff like this on me. The difference was, I didn't know what they were doing was not okay and not normal workplace stuff because it was my first job after college.

It sucked.

I spent three months in fear of making stupid mistakes, of losing my job, and so forth. Well, I ended up losing the job anyway and had no self-esteem at the end of it. So, don't do what I did. Leave now and find something better.
posted by zizzle at 4:32 PM on May 18, 2010

Sounds to me like they hired you, then realized they need to tighten their budget, and are now casting about for convenient excuses for pay cuts. That they decided to use your minor mistake as an excuse is pretty lame. Unless you have no other financial option, I'd ditch that outfit.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:33 PM on May 18, 2010 [14 favorites]

Sounds to me like they faced a smaller budget and took it out on the new guy. Walk away.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 4:33 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Review the employee handbook, particularly the section on disciplinary actions. If they are violating their policies, talk to A) HR and B) a lawyer. If they aren't violating their policies, then you should absolutely bail.
posted by jenkinsEar at 4:36 PM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Even the craziest boss I've had gave me a yelling-at before even threatening to cut my pay. Salvador/BusyBusyBusy have it.
posted by griphus at 4:36 PM on May 18, 2010

On the other hand...

You don't mention that your supervisor stated that the "mistakes" were the reason they were giving you a pay-cut. You say they stated that you weren't meeting their expectations. I think this statement and the pay-cut is their way of saying, "Look elsewhere. We really don't want to fire you." By all means look elsewhere, but be thankful that they didn't just dump you.

On yet another hand, is it possible that, if you tried harder, paid greater attention to detail (or whatever fits your situation) you might learn from this, show them that you have a future with this company and can earn back that pay-cut and maybe a future bonus? What would it take to "meet their expectations?"
posted by Old Geezer at 4:40 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Walk. If the initial two week period is when you are making mistakes, this is supposedly your probationary period (at the very least) and some time getting up to speed would normally be expected.

I expect new employees to have some teething issues. It's after a month or so I expect them to sort their shit out. It'd only be as a last resort (as opposed to sacking them) that I'd suggest a pay cut.

Walk away. Seriously. Fuck that.
posted by Brockles at 4:47 PM on May 18, 2010

Yes, that is a truly major WTF. Did you ask your supervisor why he or she did not make any good-faith attempt whatsoever to help a new employee get on their feet or discuss any concerns with your performance ahead of time? Like above commenters have said, it goes private discussion, documented discussion with HR or senior management present, written "performance plan" (ultimatim) in your file, THEN maybe paycheck. Although, normal places would just skip the pay action and just fire you if it was that bad.

Do what jenkisEar suggests, just to see if you can make their poor management come back to bite them in the ass WHILE you look for a new job. Because you don't want to work THERE. Also, I would ask other employees if that was normal practice there. No need to keep crap like that a secret.
posted by ctmf at 4:49 PM on May 18, 2010

Response by poster: Just to clarify, they itemized the mistakes as their criteria for determining my pay cut.
posted by Jon-o at 4:49 PM on May 18, 2010

Quit, and remember that you owe them nothing--not even any notice.

Too many people give their bosses too much authority over them. Just quit, and screw them. (This does sound like a job where any reference won't ever be needed; if not, you might want to consider no notice. Although it sounds like they're not happy with you anyway, so screw 'em.)

And BTW: Getting fired/disciplined is OK. Don't take it personally, just move on.
posted by mixer at 4:52 PM on May 18, 2010

Yeah, that isn't normal. I don't know what kind of field you work in, but generally "the new guy" (which you still are after only two weeks of working there) is expected to make little mistakes here and there. What the employer does is continue to coach the new guy so he gets better and stops making these silly mistakes. And that is because, as you said that your employer said, everybody makes mistakes and nobody's perfect. I've never heard of someone's pay getting cut after only two weeks because they made a couple small mistakes. In the cases where a new person's work was really that bad, the person has simply been fired.
posted by wondermouse at 4:57 PM on May 18, 2010

Nthing quit. And then get a union job where they can't do that to you.
posted by jardinier at 5:00 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

A pay cut after two weeks? An itemized list of criteria? RUN away from these people. They have already proven to be sketchy as hell and things will not improve. You already know this.
posted by futureisunwritten at 5:00 PM on May 18, 2010

well if they fired you, they may have to pay unemployment, whereas if you quit they certainlly do not.

Yeah, check your policies and procedures. If they aren't following them they leave themselves open for disciplinary action.
posted by edgeways at 5:00 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sounds like they a) don't like you and/or b) want you to quit so they don't have to pay unemployment. Either way, not worth staying.
posted by bahama mama at 5:05 PM on May 18, 2010

They are passively/aggressively asking you to leave. You could wait them out, there might be severance in it for you if you hang in long enough. But, only 2 weeks, prolly not worth the wait.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:11 PM on May 18, 2010

yes, they are basically trying to get rid of you. get out while you can and of course leave it off your resume!
posted by raw sugar at 5:13 PM on May 18, 2010

In the first two weeks of a job, minor mistakes are expected. Call me cynical, but it looks like they're pulling bait-and-switch here: They got you in at advertised salary, now they're seeing if they can get you to stay at a different salary while pinning it all on you. Nthing DTFMA.
posted by ignignokt at 5:36 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

They are passively/aggressively asking you to leave.

Around these parts that's known as constructive dismissal. Also illegal. These people are nuts. Don't stick around to see what they do next.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:36 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've only quit two jobs in my life. The last one was when my manager, who had been hired three months previously and spoken to me once in that time, gave me my highly negative evaluation, citing all sorts of procedural problems. When I asked why he hadn't spoken to me about these issues ("If you wanted a weekly report why didn't you ever ask me to write one?") his response was "I'm speaking to you about them now."
I quit the next morning. HR was entirely sympathetic.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 5:37 PM on May 18, 2010

Yeah, this is not a place you want to continue working at. The fact that there wasn't any coaching offered before discipline was taken is outrageous. That is was done to a new employee who is expected to not know everything about the company and to make mistakes is just insane.

Before you do, though, see if you can appeal your docking. Say you don't believe it was fair and that you'd appreciate constructive feedback as opposed to the whip. If they deny that, then say you have no choice but to resign....but give them notice. Make them be in the position to have to fire you. This may help you preserve the right to unemployment in your state.
posted by inturnaround at 5:41 PM on May 18, 2010

You've only been there a few weeks? Unless you're a surgeon or something, your first month is a grace period where any mistakes are forgiven as "learning experiences." And I can't believe they went right to the pay cut. I don't think I've ever heard of that happening - I mean, if someone's mistake is bad enough to warrant a pay cut, I'd just fire them.

Boggle, bounce, and count yourself lucky to have learned the truth about the company this soon, before you had anything emotionally invested.
posted by ErikaB at 5:47 PM on May 18, 2010

is the pay cut provision articulated in your employment contract?

Leave regardless, but I would seriously doubt that there would not be some sort of escalation procedure - written warning - second written warning.... Not sure what jurisdiction you are in, but it might be worth checking if they can actually do this before you quit. But I agree with the other callers - quit like you've never quit before - and don't forget to tell the supervisor to get fucked.
posted by the noob at 5:51 PM on May 18, 2010

It should go without saying, but if you do stay, never admit to another mistake.
posted by callmejay at 6:38 PM on May 18, 2010

What are your prospects for finding a new job? How are your finances?

From your account, the company sucks and blows. But if you're in an awful job market with poor prospects, think hard before giving up any job. Call HR and ask for mediation, or just hang in until you find something better.
posted by theora55 at 6:38 PM on May 18, 2010

A few weeks, and their first official HR disciplinary action after a minor fuckup during the probation period is a pay cut, after your immediate supervisors brushed it off as no big thing? There are only four options:

1: your immediate supervisors are passive-aggressive people who are afraid of direct confrontation, so you should bail.

2: the company culture is a letter-not-spirit kind of place with zero tolerance for mistakes of any kind, so you should consider whether the benefits of working there outweigh that kind of pressure, and bail if they aren't.

3: someone, somewhere, didn't want you hired (or changed their mind after hiring you) and is trying to get you to quit, so you should bail.

4: you are understating the impact of your mistake, or overstating your ownership of the mistake and the way you communicated it.

If it's number four, you know it already (we can't possibly), and so you wouldn't be here. So, bail. Especially with a only a few weeks on the payroll -- you don't ever need to mention you had this job on a resume (or to anyone, really.)
posted by davejay at 6:44 PM on May 18, 2010

Oh, and never, ever fear leaving a bad job situation if you personally think it is warranted.

I got fired once, from a grocery store job (union) after four years. I called in on a Monday morning to get my hours for the week, and was told I wasn't working until the weekend. I came in on the weekend and found someone had hand-written hours for me during the week (which I obviously knew nothing about), and I was reprimanded for not showing up. So I worked my shift, walked away, and never looked back. I eventually received a notice from the company stating that I'd just been fired for failing to show up for my scheduled hours -- about a year later. I had long since moved on to a better job.

One other time, I had a good, highly-visible and reasonably well-paying job in my chosen (first) career, but had a terrible boss. After a big event that we'd all busted ass for, he called us all into a meeting and (instead of congratulating us on the success) he proceeded to berate everyone for real or imagined slights (mine was failing to improve sales in a department I had nothing to do with, and when the CFO apologized on the spot for never telling me the boss wanted me to own it, the boss said "it doesn't matter that he didn't know, it matters that he didn't do it.") I walked out of the meeting, made a phone call, got a temp job for crap money, typed up a resignation letter and walked the same day. The temp job led to a full-time job in my second, and much more lucrative, career.

Meanwhile, the best job I ever had (that is, the one I worked hardest for) was a low-paying job shooting weddings and other events, where the bosses said "look, we know this is a crap job, and you can do more than we need, but we're glad and grateful you're here, and when you leave -- which we know you will -- we'd love to have you back any time you want." Bosses like that, and jobs like that, do exist (hell, I've got my dream boss right now!)

So, run. And don't look back.
posted by davejay at 6:51 PM on May 18, 2010

side note: that awful boss? I still have a Facebook friend request from him in my mailbox, unconfirmed. he sent it after he found out where I work now. heh.
posted by davejay at 6:52 PM on May 18, 2010

Oh no no no no nooooo to "the noob's" last sentence! Yes, leave... BUT do it gracefully. Something like "clearly this is not a good fit for either of us, and I'm giving you my two-week notice." Do not burn any bridges. You never know where people will end up, and you could end up working with some of these folks again at a much better company. Develop and cherish a reputation as a class act.

And when you're interviewing at your next place, resist all urges to bad-mouth the jerks. You just come off as a whiner and a bad risk as well - a person who bad-mouths his old employer might might bad-mouth his new one, too. (And if this company you're leaving is as odd as they sound, their reputation is probably not great and your leaving won't be held against you.) Oh wait, "raw sugar" was right to say leave it off your resume.
posted by evilmomlady at 6:54 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Line up a new job, and leave once you have reasonable prospects. I'd have to imagine that your current employers are expecting you to do this.

Unless you've got enough money saved up to be comfortable living without a job for a prolonged period.
posted by schmod at 7:22 PM on May 18, 2010

On week two of employment, when your boss screws you, you don't owe said boss two more weeks of work. Go in and quietly collect your things tomorrow morning, carry them out to your car, and then go to HR and quit.
posted by fritley at 7:42 PM on May 18, 2010

I generally agree that this is waaaay over the top, with one caveat, mentioned by davejay above: you are either purposefully or unintentionally understating the importance of the mistake you made. I'm a manager in a union environment, and a pay cut for a certain period of time IS a step on our disciplinary continuum, but it is almost never the first step. We only go straight there for something egregious/illegal. And, to be honest, if someone did something like that in their first two weeks of employment, we'd just let them go, as we are free to do that relatively easily during a six-month trial service.

There are some mistakes, however, that may seem minor to you but are a big, big deal to your employer, even if they don't result in any "personal, property, or major financial damage". In my business, we've had folks disciplined at this level for things like altering an official document, even when they were somewhat well-intentioned, or a major confidentiality violation-things that they clearly had been trained were wrong, even though they were new. If I was you, I'd ask for some clarity about why the pay cut, and try to figure out what they are taking so seriously. Even if you choose to leave (and may not be a bad idea, if they are really just crazy or trying to get rid of you), it'd be good to know what they think about you, so you can either avoid the same mistake at the next place, or know whether to use them as a reference or not.
posted by purenitrous at 7:53 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Leave, but don't treat it like some grand moment. Just say "I don't like the job as much I expected to" or somesuch and resign. It was a cheap two-week learning experience for you. Imagine if you'd invested a full year in the job first!

And of course, don't put it on your resume etc.
posted by rokusan at 8:43 PM on May 18, 2010

Yes, leave. I am a "boss" and pay cuts are very very very rare and given with warning way in advance. No one should ever get a pay cut after two weeks on a job. This does not bode well.
posted by fifilaru at 9:09 PM on May 18, 2010

Around these parts that's known as constructive dismissal. Also illegal. These people are nuts. Don't stick around to see what they do next.

This. They want to get rid of you, but they don't want to have to pay unemployment, so they're giving you a reason to quit, saving them the expense. Talk to a labor lawyer if it's convenient and easy (e.g., free consultation). You might have a lawsuit on your hands.
posted by fatbird at 10:16 PM on May 18, 2010

They sound like they are desparately trying to avoid an unemployment claim from you. A sudden pay cut, at least in my state, triggers unemployment unless, IIRC, it's for cause.

But the state labor board (in my state) gets to decide whether they think the employer is being reasonable or not.

So I'd recommend contacting the labor board while you search for a new job, and starting those wheels moving. If the employer's cause is bogus, you'll get paid while looking for the new gig.
posted by zippy at 12:28 AM on May 19, 2010

You've only been there two weeks. Leave. Now. You do NOT owe them two-weeks notice. If you DO give them two-weeks notice, expect them to be the worst office hell of your life. These guys sound like dicks. If you made mistakes at only two weeks in, then it's a failure of theirs to not properly train you to their expectations.



posted by Thorzdad at 5:51 AM on May 19, 2010

If you do quit you MUST state that you are doing so because of the pay cut, and do it in writing. This will help insure that you can collect unemployment. No guarantee, but citing a difference in what you were told you would earn and what the reality of it was may help you defend your leaving to the unemployment office.
posted by Gungho at 10:05 AM on May 19, 2010

I would just stop showing up to this assclown office.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:35 PM on May 19, 2010

You can't just stop showing up, of course, but the idea that you can turn this around is rather like offering to let you go if you just dig a long narrow hole in the backyard first.

In your place, I would write a letter of resignation and deliver it to the MD in the manner of Patrick McGoohan in the title sequence of The Prisoner. Well, not really. But I would write a letter, hand it to the MD with a brief "so long, and thanks for all the fish", and then walk out.
posted by tel3path at 3:17 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update:
My network of contacts has landed me another job that not only allows me to totally specialize in my area of expertise but also pays me 20% more. I'm moving my toolbox tomorrow, if all goes well.
Thanks again, everyone. Everyone that I've relayed this story to has confirmed the craziness at hand here.

To add to the crazy, today my boss sat me down and lectured me again, claiming that I had lied my way into the position and accused me of trying to sabotage his business. I didn't really have a response for him, as I'm sure you can imagine.
posted by Jon-o at 2:08 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Congrats, Jon-o! Just in the nick of time. Wishing you supportive supervisors and stable co-workers! (And great benefits!)
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:38 PM on May 20, 2010

Congrats, Jon-o. Run, don't walk!
posted by tel3path at 4:41 PM on May 22, 2010

Response by poster: Last paycheck is collected, toolbox is moved, and I'm starting a new job on Monday.
posted by Jon-o at 1:08 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

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