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I'm a recent graduate and new to the employment world, let alone the startup world, so please bear with me. I need some advice on how to communicate with my boss regarding my salary.

I was hired at a local creative startup agency last July. We don't have an office (yet). We're currently 4, yes FOUR including my boss (the CCO and Founder), in the company. We only meet when it's necessary. And we communicate via online.

Everything's signed and done. I got my salary for the month of July (transferred by my boss himself who gave me the notice via email) in its last week. However I still haven't received my paycheck for August. I was wondering if it's impolite to give him a text message that he hasn't transferred it yet. Should I wait until the end of the week to ask him? Should I just casually slip it in an e-mail thread (looks rude)? I don't know how to approach the situation.

We're in the middle of a huge pitch and shoot so I could just imagine why he hasn't done so. But my social anxiety, impostor syndrome, and innocence to the "real world" are taking over me.

If this was in big ad agencies, I know it's probably dealt with considering they have HR and Finance departments that take care of these things.

Any help or advice is greatly appreciated.

Edit: I'm from the Philippines, where startups are in a tricky situation (because our government still has to make up their mind in terms of business laws and such). But we're a legal creative agency, backed by a bigger company.

I appreciate the help. I'm learning a lot on how to handle this kind of situation and it's given me great insights.

Update: Gave my boss a text message and he said he'll double check and give me an update shortly. Will keep everyone posted.

Final Update: Boss quickly apologized for the delay of the paycheck. He’s transferred the money and has given me the proof of the said transfer. Thank you again everyone for the advice. I hope this discussion helps people who find themselves on a similar boat.

migrated from money.stackexchange.com Sep 6 '18 at 7:39

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  • @Mawg Though it wasn't clearly stated when I could expect it, it does state "per month" which could mean I would get my paycheck at the end of it, which what happened during my first month with them. – Acer Sep 6 '18 at 12:54
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    We have a written contract but it's not stated exactly when I can expect my paycheck--such as "end of month" or "every 15th of the month". It only states "X amount per month". I did receive my paycheck during my first three months of doing freelance work and my first paycheck as a full-time employee. I think it's hard to assume anything at this point since I haven't asked him about it yet (also transfers may take 1-3 business days as pointed by others). I will edit the original post once I get an update. @Mawg – Acer Sep 6 '18 at 13:10
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    By the way, "last July" written in September 2018 means July 2017. It sounds like you mean "in July", i.e., in July 2018 but I don't want to edit in case you do mean that you've been working there for just over a year. – David Richerby Sep 7 '18 at 14:43
  • Thoughts from 2011 on the subject: vimeo.com/22053820 – chucksmash Sep 8 '18 at 19:06
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Just start with whatever you use for general informal communications with your boss (instant messaging, text messaging, whatever) and just say:

Hi Boss. My August salary doesn't seem to have made it into my bank account yet - could you check on this? Thanks!

I'd be pretty sure you'd then get a response which is either "Aaargh. Sorry. Slipped my mind. I'll get it paid ASAP" or "That's strange, I'll check with the bank". As other answers and comments have noted, if you start getting any sort of evasive response, it might be time to be start worrying about whether your employer can meet its payroll.

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    ...and if their response isn't something like "Oh, sorry, I'll make sure it's sorted out ASAP", especially if they get defensive or hostile, that's a valuable early warning sign that this might be one of those startups where the boss thinks it's okay to delay or not pay staff whenever there is a cashflow or credit problem, and you should prepare to move on. – user568458 Sep 6 '18 at 11:25
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    @user568458 I'll definitely take note of that. I have to be honest, I would be completely surprised if his response would be the exact opposite of what you just said. I hope it won't be and that the crazy schedule we have right now is what caused this delay. Thank you. – Acer Sep 6 '18 at 12:42
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    @user568458 Just to expand -- "defensive or hostile" includes "Sorry, we're having an issue with the bank" and the like. It might be a genuine issue with the bank, but those are exceedingly rare, especially with something as common as payroll -- doubly so when they've already done it once. – Nic Hartley Sep 6 '18 at 18:47
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    "you should prepare to move on" - and you might start by just "forgetting" to do any work for a few days, if the boss "forgot" to pay you. No, I'm not joking. Use the time looking for another employer who is better organized! – alephzero Sep 6 '18 at 19:56
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    @alephzero Or you could do the ethical thing and actually take a day off for that. Don't stoop to a dishonest person's level. – jpmc26 Sep 7 '18 at 19:16
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Your work contract should not only include how much your salary is, but also when it's due. Keeping in mind that money transfers can take up to 3 days, it's appropriate to check in with your boss 3 - 5 days after the salary was due. You don't need to give any reasons for asking where the money is, it's part of your contract and should be transferred automatically.

Another fair warning: delayed salaries are a sign that:

  • Either your boss is transferring the money manually every month and should really setup automatically transfers, or
  • The company is not doing well and might become bankrupt very fast, especially in the Startup scene. Watch out for additional warnings and don't let your boss delay your salary for more than one month, ever.
  • In the contract, it only stated that I will be receiving "X amount per month". Where I'm from, the usual practice is we get half of our paycheck halfway through the month and the other half by the end of the month. He's not originally from here so I guess there's that. Yes correct, he does the transfer by himself. He sent the transfer detail of my July paycheck via e-mail. – Acer Sep 6 '18 at 12:52
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    I disagree. It's appropriate to check the day after the salary was due. The boss needs to start the transfer an appropriate number of days early to make sure it arrives in time. If the contract doesn't say, I would expect payment in my account by midnight on the last day of the month. It is then fair to chase on the first day of the next month. – Martin Bonner Sep 6 '18 at 13:52
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    @PatrickEspinosa My experience (UK, Germany, and Switzerland), is that if pay is quoted "per month", it will be paid towards the end of the month (in a single payment). Your boss'es experience may well be similar. – Martin Bonner Sep 6 '18 at 13:53
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    You definitely need clarity on when that salary is due. Whatever you negotiate is fine but leaving it vague is problematic. Also: if they stop paying you, that means you don't have a job anymore. Don't continue working if they are not paying you according to the due date. – catfood Sep 6 '18 at 21:35
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    @MartinBonner I think that depends on where you live/work. It's not standard practice at all here in NL. In fact, most contracts explicitly state on which day of the month payment should be done, not on which day the money should be in the employee's account. – kevin Sep 7 '18 at 12:36
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To add to the other good answers, just because it's "crunch time" or people are busy, your paychecks should still be on time.

Late paychecks are a sign of several things to watch out for:

  1. They need an accounting firm to handle the money for them
  2. They need more help/people/employees
  3. They could be out of money
  4. They could be trying to get free labor from you
  5. Too many other options to mention.

There's a lot that could determine if it's 1 or 2, and this could just be growing pains of the company. They might know the problem, or they may need it suggested. If it remains a problem for you, make it a problem for them, but without burning bridges. Don't make an ultimatum, "I need to get paid on time or I'm outta here". Instead suggest options and state facts, "Have you thought about letting someone else handle the bills? I need a steady paycheck." Let them decide what to do about your question and also let their imagination decide what your statement means.

Option 3 is something that you will have to decide if you are OK with. Are they going to make it up to you later? This isn't just about coming current on the paycheck, but can include stock or other equity in the company, a large bonus, percentages of sales, or a whole host of other possibilities. If you think they can "make it big" and reward you fully for it (I'm still talking about more than just a paycheck), then go for it. If not, look for a new job.

For option 4, get out now. Find a new job and hound these people to pay you for the work you did. If it's worth it, get a lawyer, since it's usually against the law to not get paid for work you did when you were told you were going to get paid.

There will always be options 5's out there that we can't consider. The reality might be a combination of what I've suggested or things no one could reasonably consider.

As Philip Kendall suggested, first talk to you boss and see what the hold up is and then make a decision. Just make sure your BS detector is on so you can make a determination, based on what your boss says, whether the situation is 1 through 5. Good luck!

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Not sure how it works in Philippines, but given that you are a team of four and spent a year working together, I'd suggest more involved and constructive approach. Other than what Philip Kendall suggested, ask if the company is doing alright financially and if there are any problems you can help with. Your boss is probably doing a lot of things by himself and he might have simply forgot. Or something indeed didn't add up he doesn't have the money on the bank account to transfer to you. A client delayed payment or costs were greater than revenues and something needs to be changed? Maybe you can help? Normally, there is little room for passengers on a boat of four.

  • I just added a quick update about my situation (see edit above). We haven't been working together for a year, only a couple of months if I count my freelance work with them. I just started to work with them full-time last July. Of course I want to help him in whatever way I can but I'm not sure how I would do that, financially? The only way I could think of is to make sure I deliver the tasks and projects in the best of my possibilities. – Acer Sep 7 '18 at 9:59
  • I think it is something worth asking your boss. He is not just a CCO, he is also a CEO, COO, CTO, CFO, CMO, etc. Maybe he could delegate some responsibilities to one of your three to keep the boat sailing smoothly. Sometimes people just run out of time in a 24-hour day. – Arthur Tarasov Sep 7 '18 at 10:09

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