Can't seem to get ahead...need your experience and expertise.
May 18, 2012 7:54 PM   Subscribe

I got moved to a new department at work-- only to find out I'm working harder and with less of a break for the same pay. I feel I'm getting punished for being a good worker. How do I civilly and professionally tell my boss this without being canned?

A couple weeks back I landed myself a summer job. My boyfriend has been working for the company for almost 3 months now and he seems to enjoy it-- I figured I would, too. They hire in groups and they've been hiring a lot lately. I applied and was hired on nearly immediately. I passed their "technical test" which means I was eligible for their testing position (which pays $10.00/hour). They apparently didn't have that position available because I was only offered packaging despite passing the test. At first, I was doing "packaging" work, or rather, taking electronics that had been repaired or otherwise approved for resale, cleaning them and then putting them in bags/boxes. Easy work but tiring. I quickly "moved up the ranks" and was 2nd to 4th in the production rates within the first few days.

Then a couple days ago, our general manager pulled me aside and said he's noticed my high production levels and said that I was the best candidate for a new position that opened up and that I would report to the "camera department" the next day. Given the fact that he was impressed with my skills, I assumed that I was getting a better position with at least better pay-- boy, was I wrong.
The last couple of days have been hell. The breaks (including lunch) in the other department were 15 minutes with 30 minutes for lunch. Now, I get a 10 minute break (and might I say, given security checks and long hallways, it takes me 7 minutes just to leave the building) and 25 minutes for lunch. I also found out earlier today that I'm not getting any kind of pay raise... and the work? Much harder and much more demanding both physically and mentally. The job is repairing broken cameras.... which involves taking them apart, removing the broken parts and replacing them. I get shocked at least once on every camera I take apart. We're expected to repair or break down 46 cameras a day. I was given a very shitty look from the HR lady for simply ASKING if I was supposed to be getting paid more per hour for working in repair.

How can I handle this without seeming like a "whiner"? Is there a professional way to talk to the boss about it? The other job had better breaks and easier work for the same pay. How is this fair? Is this really that common?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you an hourly paid employee? Do you know if you are exempt or non-exempt?
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:03 PM on May 18, 2012

It sounds like you have a difficult situation. Under the circumstances it looks to me like you have two choices. You can just suck it up and decide to accept that these are the terms of the job that you have with this employer or you can choose to find another job. Is it fair? no. There is a lot of unfair out there and this is an example of it. Perhaps you will find a situation elsewhere that is better suited to your sense of fairness. On the other hand, you may find that toughing it out will let you grow into a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that you can overcome this kind of adversity. Either way, it is up to you. But, don't bother approaching anybody at work. They know what they are asking of you and they really don't care what you think. They will just hire someone else to fill your spot.
posted by Old Geezer at 8:19 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look for something else so that you can say, "hey, I've got other options." I was in a similar position 15 years ago and they gave me a raise...only it was 15 years ago, so the market was much kinder then. Given the market today, I would focus my remaining energy on getting a better gig because $10/hr for a hard, diligent worker is sad. I know it's hard in this economy, but hoping you can find something better. Good luck!
posted by smirkette at 8:35 PM on May 18, 2012

There is a third option here depending on how duplicitous you are willing to be. That would be to intentionally fuck up.
posted by Rubbstone at 8:45 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're supposed to fix one camera every ten minutes for an entire day? For 8 bucks an hour? That's wrong. First of all, I'd love to know who you work for so I can be sure to not buy their products but secondly I think you need to take the gamble of re-approaching HR. As a new employee, it may be uncomfortable BUT - now is the time to say "this isn't what I agreed to" rather than a month or so down the line (which I guess you know since you're asking). If you needed to, you could say something like "I feel like I did my previous job very well, but I'm not sure I can do the repair job as well" or just tell them that its too much work for the decrease in breaks and lack of pay. No employer is going to go out of their way to pay you more, but if you don't ask you'll definitely not get what you want.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:56 PM on May 18, 2012 [8 favorites]

Ask to be transferred to the testing position that pays the $10/hr. When they say that is not available, then tell them your concern about the position you are in. Ask to be transferred back to the starting position until the testing position becomes available. Tell them you are more valuable to them in the original position because of your speed and efficiency which you feel you lack in your current position.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:59 PM on May 18, 2012

That's really unfortunate. You should speak to the person that you gave this position and tell him that you realize that this position isn't a good fit for you and you would like to go back to your previous position. Don't talk about money or the breaks, just say that you want your old position back which would allow you to have those longer breaks and more money compared to what you are making right now.

If this doesn't work then I'd suggest sticking it out until you find a better job. Consider checking out Indeed for some jobs in your area.
posted by livinglearning at 9:18 PM on May 18, 2012

This sucks, and I am not the best person to offer advice on pushing back & negotiating. That said, you may want to look into your state's labor laws. Certain breaks are mandated. Anywhere I've worked, 15 minute & a minimum of 30 minute (unpaid) lunch breaks were mandated. Granted, plenty of people worked through lunch or cut breaks short (myself included), but if your employment options are limited and you do not get anywhere with a pay increase, you can at least make them fulfill their legal obligations. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 9:23 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah I'd just go back to the guy who suggested the new job and say "this job just isn't as good a fit, so let's go ahead and transfer me back to the last job as of Monday." When he asks you why just say something positive and vague like "I really felt like [old job] played to my strengths way better than this one; I can contribute better to the company in that group than I can here." Don't talk about the crap conditions in the new role. If he refuses, then use Linkedin to find contacts at competing companies and apply there.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:21 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're getting paid LESS after the move? Not the same?
I'd talk to the general manager guy and ask if he realised he was giving you a serious demotion - because you were under the impression you were being moved because you performed well. Have the attitude that he's a great guy and it doesn't occur to you that he can't get things fixed, whether that's your old pay at your new place, or your old job at your old pay.

BTW, you shouldn't be getting zapped from cameras - if there is only a few different models that you work on, you should be able to learn where the big capacitor is, and if they won't let you short it with a scewdriver (bang!) before working on it, short it with a resistor. That will drain its charge. I would think failing to do this also qualifies as a work hazard - normally you just get a zap, but if the zap is between fingers on different hands, it'll go through your heart, and then hopefully it'll only feel like a horse kicked you in the chest.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:47 PM on May 18, 2012

I believe the OP interviewed for a position that was $10 an hour, but ended up in a packing job ($8 an hour) before being moved to camera repair ($8).

There is a good chance this is not going to work out the way you want it to. What you're experiencing is pretty typical of large companies with high low-skill staff turnover. (There are a lot of horror stories about Amazon's warehouses, for example.) So, knowing that, your best best is to start looking for another gig while you approach your old manager or HR and request an immediate transfer back to packing. If they are having a hard time staffing cameras, they will hem and haw and tell you this isn't possible right now, at which point you either suck it up or quit.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:44 AM on May 19, 2012

You did not get rewarded for being a good worker. You were identified as a sucker by management and moved in to a position where you could be better exploited. Your economically rational goal in jobs like this is to only do the minimum amount of work required to avoid being fired. Doing otherwise identifies you as a sucker.

As others have said, ask for old position back, or quit.
posted by kithrater at 6:30 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pretending to believe it was all an honest mistake is probably your best bet, although if you aren't able to let the manager subtly realize that you are only pretending, then he'll just try to fob you off with some guff about human resources for at least two or three more weeks, saying that they haven't gotten back to him or that he's waiting on approval or whatnot.

Basically, unless there's some kind of specific license required to work in the area in question or the zapping is the result of safety law violations, you're pretty much up the creek; you agreed to work for the company, and you agreed to the transfer to the new area; that means they don't have a strong legal incentive to actually pay you the ten bucks per hour and will perforce delay doing so as long as possible (up to and including indefinitely). You have therefore learned that your company is dickheads. At least you found out early, ne?

Going up the chain of command and actually reporting the issue to your company's HR office or something might well produce results, but see the previous comments about foot-dragging and delaying tactics. You can also expect a real fight about any kind of retroactive pay, even if you do squeeze a pay increase out of them. Lastly, doing this will move you from the "sucker" bucket into the "troublemaker" bucket, and you can look forward to being terminated on trumped-up, "unrelated" productivity or behavioral charges within a few months unless you are either very lucky or very careful.
posted by Scattercat at 6:41 AM on May 19, 2012

From the OP:
Honestly, I don't really care--I thought I did, but the more I realize I have no power here despite the unfairness the less I'm starting to care. I guess the long and short of it is I AM a sucker, only now I'm a sucker who isn't going to work as hard and I guess that's the best solution,. I was told that once my 90 days were up, I would get moved into a permanent position for more an hour-- only I can't stay. School is more important so I DON'T end up being a sucker for a menacing corporation like this permanently. I guess I'll just have to continue to play coy until school is back in session in the fall.
posted by jessamyn at 8:27 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

[Anonymized per OP request, some odd bumpiness as a result, sorry.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:28 AM on May 19, 2012

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