Is there an office game being played here?
April 26, 2011 9:31 PM   Subscribe

Is there an office game being played here?

We are socially awkward nerds and can't figure this out. DH works in IT and needs some skills updating. He would like to take a course and is willing to pay for it. He has been told to not spend his own money on training though and that work will pay for it. However, work won't reimburse him for the classes because there is no training budget this year. He was told the same thing last year.

This leaves us scratching our heads because of the indefinite logic loop. Work will not give him time off to go for training btw. It is hard to say that if he went for a course on his own dime and time what the reaction from his workplace would be. He has worked there for many years and is a good employee.

Is there a head game at work here? What's the best strategy for DH to get the training he needs? Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It sounds like what they are saying is that really, he needs to pay for his own classes, and not to do it on work time. Although, there may have been a general policy of helping employees pay for them in the past.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:35 PM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Is he hearing this from the same person? Because I would think if it were the same person telling him these things, they would recognise the absurdity of what they are saying. I would guess it's a case of one person saying one thing, and one person saying another.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:42 PM on April 26, 2011

The best strategy is to pick what you think you need, and figure out how to pay for it. Some training can be had at a discount if you plead that you're paying for it out of your own pocket. If you're paying for training out of your own pocket, you might be in a position to get work to give you the time off for it. If they say no to that, they've tipped their hand, and it's time to shop for work elsewhere.
posted by dws at 9:46 PM on April 26, 2011

This sounds less like a headgame and more like incompetence.
posted by kavasa at 9:48 PM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

DH should pay for the course himself, attend on his own time, and not say anything to his employers, because what he does on his own (non-work) time is his own business and none of theirs. If this is the second year in a row that they've said "it's not in the budget", it seems as though they are stringing him along and are not seeing his career development as a priority. So he has to take matters into his own hands.

Then, with his newfound training, he should look for work elsewhere--a place that would appreciate his dedication and commitment to staying current in the field.
posted by parkerama at 9:52 PM on April 26, 2011 [21 favorites]

It could be the case that the company has a general policy of providing relevant training to employees when there is money available in the budget, and in the last two years, due to the economic downturn (or whatever), there just isn't money in the budget to do this (does DH work in government/public service, by chance?). I don't think this is terribly uncommon or illogical. DH may have heard that the company provides money for training, and therefore it would generally be wise to try and get the company to cover it. But if the company doesn't currently have money for this purpose, DH needs to decide whether it is worth getting a skills upgrade on his own dime.

It sounds like DH does need to update his skills - this will benefit DH professionally, whether it's with DH's current company or some future employer. DH should just spend his own money, do training outside of work time, and be satisfied that his skills are updated and transferable. Otherwise he will be waiting an indefinite amount of time for his company to have training money again, which doesn't benefit DH professionally at all in the meantime.
posted by just_ducky at 9:55 PM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with parkerama, although there are a couple of other points that occurred to me:

1. Is this training related to his work in some way? Usually, for technical trainings, it is easier to either get time-off or to get reimbursed. But the same is not true for soft skills courses (which is quite strange in my opinion).

2. Is there any specific HR Policy on training reimbursements? I am asking this, since line managers are not very conversant with company rules and they definitely don't want their people to be off for a few days (unless it is the mandatory vacation days). If there is a written policy, it might be easier to get either time-off or money

But, just in case, DH decides to attend the training at his own expense and time, don't tell the company. They don't deserve such a person.
posted by theobserver at 10:32 PM on April 26, 2011

The best strategy is to talk to a company representative, likely Human Resources and/or your manager, who
1) KNOWS what the policy on tuition reimbursement is
2) can confirm whether or not this policy hinges upon a training budget
3) can tell you what happens in the case where there is no budget but someone wants to take a class.

We cannot answer your question. All we can do is speculate which is what you are doing already. There is an answer - you need to talk to the person who definitively has it.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 10:36 PM on April 26, 2011

Here's my guess.

The manner in which your husband is proposing to do this coursework sounds like to his management a proposal that the course(s) be "for credit" as it were: as part of a management approved/recommended career development effort that should have positive consequences for job performance, compensation, promotion, etc.

A workplace would only need to mildly bureaucratic for management to have to disapprove that. Official training is paid for by the company, and unofficial training can't be "for credit," and therefore it is only right (and kind, for that matter) to discourage someone from going out of pocket for training for which "credit" would be denied. Also, if your husband is non-exempt or there's union or policy-book rules on overtime, than the notion of doing it "on your own time" becomes quite problematic: if it is for the benefit of the job and has any kind of management blessing, it could feel like a unpaid overtime problem.
posted by MattD at 10:57 PM on April 26, 2011

"Skills updating" is not soft skills, maybe it's not clear from the OP's question. It is learning newer versions of the software and stuff that you already know or want to use, but "relevant" is more or less assumed. People rarely start over skills-wise in IT.

His current company is lame. Dude needs to sign up for the class ASAP, take the vacation (if it's a 1wk type class), go to the class, and then find a new job, stat. If he uses his time in the class to network with the other people in the class, he may have another job by the end of it. All IT training-type classes are filled with people from companies who actually pay for the class and pay for them to be there. Regardless, after the class he should get another job. He'll probably get a nice bump in salary, too, especially if he practices negotiating in anticipation. Then he can take a nice big dump on his boss' desk.
posted by rhizome at 11:09 PM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think MattD's take on things is probably correct, particularly if your husband works for any kind of government or quasi-government organization.

This sounds a lot like the way my agency is currently operating. The official policy is to encourage training and to pay for it. However there is no money currently available. They don't want it to seem as though they are pushing the burden for training on to the employee, because that violates policy, so they have to officially take the position to discourage doing training on one's own dime and time.

What I wound up doing in my case was saying that I was very grateful for the policy of encouraging training and paying for it. I was most most appreciative of the policy, indeed! However, because I want this training now I told them I was going to take the class myself on my own dime. I told them I would request vacation time for the class if they would not authorize me to take it officially, but I was going to take it anyway for personal growth. They dithered/discussed behind the scenes with HR and ultimately did give me official time off to take the class in one instance, even when I paid for it myself. For another class I did use my own vacation time as well as my own money.
posted by gudrun at 11:17 PM on April 26, 2011

Management may see the "skills updating" he seeks as something not necessary for his current or future position(s) within the firm, and therefore finds his current skills, plus full work hours, worth more than advanced (but moot) skills with reduced hours while he studies.

Whether they're right or wrong about the value of the training doesn't really matter: if the employer's belief is that the training benefits the employee but not the firm, it's quite understandable that the employer might not endorse or support that training with money and/or time off.

(The cost/risk of disincenting the employee from remaining with the firm is probably also a calculation here. Of course, if they feel his value is maximized already, that fits with the theory above, too.)

Either way, there's no morality requirement here. It could be a straightforward business disagreement on the costs-vs-benefits of the training in question.
posted by rokusan at 12:52 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds much, much more likely that both statements are exactly correct than that they're "playing head games": The firm pays for employee training, AND they're out of training money. With the economic downturn, they're not the only ones. And depending on how large the organization is and how it works, it may be that one person approves courses but someone else controls payment and the two are not communicating.

Regardless of being socially-awkward nerds, you need to communicate with the company here -- the manager, HR, whomever it is who is control of this. Point out, calmly and without anger, that two years in a row he's requested this training, been told the company will pay for it, and then been told there is no money for it. Ask, "Why is that? Is there a way around this?"

My organization's training budget, for example, is being run out super-early in the fiscal year because we are so tight on cash, so we have two strategies -- people whose training is deemed priority (they're in a multi-year process we committed to pay for, they're one course away from increasing a credential that's valuable to us, it's training we really need that employee to have, etc.) are given part of the pot; the other part of the pot is on a first-come, first-served basis starting on a particular date and going until the pot runs out, which is quick. So if there's a limited budget, the HR rep or whomever can help him navigate the process properly, either getting on the priority list or letting him know he needs to submit the paperwork on the very first day it can be submitted, or whatever.

Or if there's no budget at all, or no chance he can get on the budget, then he can say, "I'd like to work out a way I can pay for this training myself and get this training." And work with them on the time-off issue. Hopefully at that point they'll be more sympathetic.

It is possible they're resistant because either they will owe him a salary increase when he completes a particular credential or because they're afraid he will jump ship. But these are both straw men, I think; it's very common around me for companies and governments to defer credentialed-raises right now (so common that even union contracts have been midterm-negotiated to allow such deferrals during the downturn) and say something like, we'll count your tenure at level X as starting the date you complete your training, but no credential-based salary adjustments are going to be done for at least two fiscal years. Or if they fear he'll jump ship, it's very common for companies (and governments) to require that the credential the company paid for be used at that company for, say, three years (or whatever) or the employee must pay back the cost. (We use a time-adjusted reimbursement; we have a very generous educational reimbursement policy where we often pay for people to get masters' degrees, which does lead to ship-jumping as soon as it's done, so we require generally 3 more years working for us full-time after completion of the degree. If you leave right away, you owe us 100%; after the first year, 75%; after the second, 50%; and so on.) Anyway, if either of those turns out to be the case, he can certainly discuss such solutions with HR, stressing his loyalty over many years, though they may not be willing to make a change.

It's also possible the company is going down like the Titanic, but I hope you'd already know that.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:31 AM on April 27, 2011

Ultimately, skills updating and career enhancement is the responsibility of the individual. If the company is telling an employee not to become smarter and more well trained, something is wrong. Who knows what it is, but it is a sign that getting the training is even more important. Whatever happens, more certifications are better.

It's possible they are trying to be nice and really don't want him to have to go out-of-pocket for the training, but that doesn't matter. Good intentions can often lead to bad outcomes.
posted by gjc at 6:47 AM on April 27, 2011

I agree with rhizome - take a week off of work if you have to and take the class. It's unfortunate that the company won't pay for the week and that vacation time is taken, but taking the time does allow for networking with other attendees.

If DH doesn't want to part ways from the company and/or doesn't want to take vacation time to attend the class, consider enrolling at a university, either online or locally. Tuition reimbursement comes out of a different bucket than training does and with a little research, you can find university classes that provide equivalent training.
posted by indigo4963 at 7:14 AM on April 27, 2011

If he ends up taking the class, be sure to keep all your tuition receipts and use them to apply for a tax credit next year.

Up to $2500 in job-related tuition expenses can be put towards your income tax bill (i.e. not as a deduction from your reported income - it actually gets applied against what you owe the IRS) through either the Hope credit or the American Opportunity Credit.

(Assuming you're in the U.S. obviously.)
posted by ErikaB at 2:46 PM on April 27, 2011

I agree with kavasa, this is not a conspiracy against DH, it's just the general fumbling that sometimes happens with companies. There could be lots of reasons for an absence of a training budget, some good, some-not-so-good. I don't think it's an office game.
posted by pmed at 3:22 PM on April 27, 2011

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