I want a chunk of the change, please.
December 20, 2011 6:55 AM   Subscribe

Is there any recourse for this sticky work situation? Crying about wanting a chunk of the commission, and whining about the business owner's kids inside.

I work at a small (about 15 employees) company in Wisconsin. I do design and web maintenance for them, the other players in the office are the accountant and the secretary. There is no HR person.

The owner employees 3 salesmen- two are his sons and one he refers to as his adopted son. All three are salaried with commission.

The issue is, the salesmen often pass off all (and I mean ALL) the work onto the accountant, the secretary, and myself. We are the ones contacting prospective employees, creating and requesting quotes, and basically making the sales. Often times we are the sole and only contact the customer has with the company. When we sell an item, the customer is assigned to a salesman and he gets the commission. If it's a repeat customer the commission goes to whoever he was assigned to previously.

Other times the customer will call office, tell the salesman what he wants and the salesman will have us do all the leg work, then he calls him back with the information and quotations we created for him. He might spend a total of 10 minutes on the sale.

We are not a high-volume sales company, we average maybe two or three sales a day if we are lucky.

Aside from creating a bit of stress on us (we have increasingly more and more support work to do while maintaining our other job responsibilities), we are getting jaded about doing all the work and watching the salesmen rake in the profits.

I'm contemplating bringing it up with the boss/owner, but I know what his reaction will be. He has his sons up on a pedestal and any mention of this will be seen as a personal attack. While we get in every day at 8am, they come in around noon, head to lunch, and then maybe get to work if they don't spend the day doing drugs in the back. He is aware of their behavior but still treats them like they can walk on water.

It doesn't help that the owner is an extremely misogynistic person, and the accountant, secretary, and myself are women (but that is a whole other hairy situation).

And so I turn to you, MetaFilter. What is the best way to handle this situation? Are there any laws that might be on our side? Should I just keep quiet, do my work (and theirs), and be thankful I have a job?
posted by Syllables to Work & Money (19 answers total)
Well you've correctly identified that criticizing The Boyz isn't going to help.

If I were you I would write down all of your actions every day and the next time you have a performance/pay review, you will have researched salaries for SalesAccountSecretaryOMats in your region, and you will say "I believe these duties accurately reflect the duties of a SalesAccountSecretaryOMat and the median salary in this region is $MEGA_BUCKS. I'd like my own title and salary to reflect my duties going forward."

Of course, he will blow you off and heckle you and cut your salary. You will deal with it by accepting one of the many other offers you have already lined up, and leaving.

(p.s. this means you need to start looking for another job now, sorry)
posted by tel3path at 7:00 AM on December 20, 2011 [15 favorites]

This is the unfortunate side of working for a family business. Personally, I would look for other work; the situation is pretty much unlikely to change. Complaining will do no good except make it uncomfortable for you.

The only constructive suggestion I have is for the three of you to establish with the boss exactly what your duties are and then do those duties and nothing else. The salesmen theoretically can't complain if you are doing what your mutual boss told you to. Chances are, however, they will complain or, at the least, badmouth you to their dad until you need to leave.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:04 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

You cannot correct this situation. Small company + nepotism + misogyny? No chance. The best thing you can do is find a better job.
posted by ook at 7:06 AM on December 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

First, start looking for another job. Like, right now. You might not find one, but it'll make you feel better knowing there's opportunity out there, somewhere.

Now, nothing you can say about the salesmen in this situation will help you. Slagging coworkers hardly ever helps matter, and considering the nepotism and gender issues in play, it's almost 100% likely to backfire on you than anything else. The best you can do is bring it up as a team issue. As in, you're all a team, and you're all working hard and you all deserve to share in the profits. The boss will probably counter that with the fact that you're getting a salary and etcetera.

At the end of the day, it's really, really unlikely that a designer, secretary and accountant will get chunks of commission. Especially if the people getting commission are relatives. You're better off trying to get a raise. And, like GenjiandProust says, you can try out a sort of junior-version malicious compliance, but that's going to reflect poorly on you and no one else.
posted by griphus at 7:07 AM on December 20, 2011

What would happen if you said to a salesman that you would be happy to do all that work, but it has to wait until tomorrow when you finish your job function work?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:12 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

JohnnyGunn, sales are always a priority. Per the boss, we drop whatever we are doing when a quote request comes in.
posted by Syllables at 7:19 AM on December 20, 2011

Well. To expand on my previous answer, you could spend some time quietly documenting the amount of sales work you're each doing, the salesmens' hours and what they're not doing, and especially the drug use, then get all three of you to simultaneously refuse to do any work outside of your officially designated duties or else get designated as salesmen with an equal chance at the commission, then when you get fired (and you will) the three of you can bring a wrongful termination suit (possibly with a side order of gender discrimination). If you're not in an at-will state, and can stomach (and afford) a lengthy lawsuit, and the business has deep enough pockets to make it worthwhile, that might work. You'd have to talk to a good local lawyer to be sure.

Any half measures or discussion with the boss about fairness or commissions will not work; if the boss is already tolerating this much from his kids then he's willfully blind and will always side with them. It'd have to be either all out warfare or a strategic retreat.
posted by ook at 7:27 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Then while sales should be a priority, not sure they should be yours. You have two jobs, but are getting paid for one. I agree with the above posters that you need to start looking for another job. That could include asking to be made a salesperson at your present company. That seems like a pretty cushy job.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:27 AM on December 20, 2011

Thanks for everyone. I had an inkling of what the answers would be, but was still hoping. Time to start looking for a new job I guess.
posted by Syllables at 7:35 AM on December 20, 2011

This is the system that the sole proprietor has set up in order to do business. It's working for him, it's certainly working for his sons, and the people that it's not working for are continuing to do the work.

You can't change this situation, because it's too advantageous to the people who own or are heirs to this business. Get another job and get out. Otherwise, you're going to drive yourself insane.
posted by xingcat at 7:36 AM on December 20, 2011 [10 favorites]

So, basically you work in Neverland.

Get another job. In that job, before things get out of hand, be very clear about what you will and will not do. You will work 8 hours a day. You will take a one hour lunch break. You will not perform duties outside of your job description. You will not handle personal business. You will not have direct contact with clients about the terms of contracts, the specifications of products, or anything other than administrative concerns. You will answer to one person. You will take your vacation days. Your work product will be good, consistent, and timely, but it will damn sure be within your purview and your purview alone.

Your employer has taken advantage of you. He's a bad boss. Bad boss' only get better (and rarely even then) if they are accountable to someone more powerful. This is not, and never will be, the situation in your current job.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 7:39 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is it really bugging you so much that you want to get a new job? If so, please, write down everything you do on a daily basis. If you are truly doing the work load of a sales person then present that to a future employer (in a positive, loved to be helpful, just needed more money kind of way).

Your current situation is not fair but we are not children. Life doesn't have to be fair. You are being paid a set rate to do specific tasks. They aren't demanding that you wash their car or give them lap dances. You are support personal for sales. You don't like your job and there isn't any room for advancement so yes, you probably should look for something else. Just don't expect the next place to be fair, either.
posted by myselfasme at 7:56 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding and thirding what others have said about there is little you can do to change this situation.

The process is working for the owner, and it's working for his sons, and short of the other individuals in the office (you and , who actually do the work and know all the ins-and-outs of day-to-day function, approaching him with written demands stating "he needs to immediately change the pay structure or we're all walking this week" nothing is going to change.

I'd start looking for another job (in case this goes south) and start talking to your coworkers about drafting up something you can all agree to handing to him with your signatures.
posted by zombieApoc at 8:02 AM on December 20, 2011

Ugh. Sorry for the sentence structure above, I was apparently halfway through one thought when I went on to another one.

There's no way he can defend the current structure if you have the data to backup that the salespeople are reaping the rewards without doing any of the work. Make sure to detail out your tasks and how they relate to the company, and be ready to possibly be disappointed. The one thing you have going for you is your numbers, if all of you can stand behind a statement of "this needs to change or we walk" then things will change.
posted by zombieApoc at 8:07 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your career will be happier - over your entire lifetime - if you focus exclusively on what YOUR compensation is, not other people's. The only exception to that is being competitively paid, but that's something you should consider 99% in the wide field and 1% inside the company.

I say this because you can look at this from another angle. The sales people get paid a salary plus commission and you're feeling like since you're now doing more to support their sales you should be earning part of their commission. But aren't the entirety of their sales providing the cash to pay your salary, which you get whether an individual sale closes or not?

That doesn't defend your boss allowing a demoralizing frat-party atmosphere where you feel un-appreciated. But that's not about money and you will never win - in your head or in negotiation - if you make it that way. But you can't address his management failure or his golden boys' slackness without attacking other people's choices and actions. When you focus on you and what you're doing and what your compensation is you can indirectly highlight those things.

Instead you should document, as other suggest above, and after a few weeks consider approaching your boss and saying hey, I'm/we're doing more to directly suport closing the initial sale and I think it would be fair if we shared in the commission; here's some examples from the last few weeks.

Avoid focusing on what you to do service the job since that's pretty clearly implied in what you'd already been hired to do. And as I said, consider the larger market. If you're in an area where you're getting a competitive wage and there's a dozen people who'd like to have the job you have now, additional sales support role or not, maybe you need to just shrug it off as the cost of being employed.

But I'd look for other work. You can't fix jerk from below. Just let the place attract and keep the kind of people it deserves.
posted by phearlez at 9:31 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, if you don't like these answers, you could always get a lawyer. Document as you go, both for the purposes of going to your boss to ask for a raise/promotion/commission, etc, and also to show a lawyer when you inevitably get shit-canned. If you can get the other people to go on this documentation mission with you then you'll have an even better case. Then when you all get fired, sue the pants off them for discrimination, take over their business and PROFIT!

You might also just look into unemployment rules for where you are. Even if you get fired you may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you demonstrate that you were fired without cause. However, there may be a period of time that you have to be employed before you are eligible for benefits. So, if you're worried about being unemployed, make sure you're under the line regarding time employed -- typically 6mo - 1 year.

And, yeah, look for another job.

And, no, I don't really expect you to take my advice. I'm just sick of hearing about workplaces like this. I'll be happy when the old guard dies off and is hopefully replaced by more ethical folks who don't treat women like second-class citizens -- good enough to do all the dirty work, not good enough to get paid. *ahem*
posted by amanda at 9:35 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

If starting your business is not on the table, could the three of you defect to a competitor as a team? Sounds like you know enough to be valuable.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:35 PM on December 20, 2011

If the three of you do everything... could you just start your own competing business?
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:40 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

If the three of you do all the work anyway, can you set up shop for yourselves and directly compete? If all the "salesmen" do is drugs all day, I can't imagine it would be very difficult to outcompete them.
posted by cairdeas at 8:10 PM on December 20, 2011

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