Is it ever appropriate for an employer to force an employee to take a pay cut for performance-related reasons in a technical field, even if the employer relies on subjective evaluations and refuses to implement more objective employee performance benchmarks?
On the one hand, 85% of my salary is still enough to survive, but on the other hand, the market rate for my position is about 120% of my original salary. Plus, this whole fiasco raises serious questions about the company's trustworthiness and ethical outlook. What should I do?
If it were me, I'd do the following:
- Start looking for a new job immediately
- Delay my response to the supervisor and partners as long as possible
- Resist taking a pay cut as long as I thought I could
- If it seems inevitable, negotiate a lesser pay cut
- When forced to do so, accept the cut in salary
- Resign the moment I found another job that I liked and that met my market rate
If your understanding of the supervisor and partner motivation is correct, and your assessment about your market value is correct, I agree with the questions raised by this sort of action.
At a minimum, the company doesn't know how to hire good people at the relevant prices. At worst, there is something else going on here that they aren't divulging.
It's not the kind of place I'd want to be, so I'd remain on their payroll only as long as it took me to find a better job.
The easiest way to counter this, what i consider to be very disrespectful and unprofessional behavior, is to ask what criteria your performance is being judged on, why it is considered not productive enough, e.g. what deadlines or performance goals you are missing and for a formal review in writing.
Either they have performance metrics they can/are measuring you on or they do not, based on your original question I would guess they do not and are just taking their chances. The only way I would actually take a pay cut is if they actually had a formal performance review and could show me that i wasn't actually performing at a high enough standard based on productivity metrics.
But what ever you do, start looking for another job immediately.
Tell your supervisor that you thought about it, and it would be a much tougher decision if he takes a 20% paycut himself. That should impress his management a lot more. If he doesn't like the idea, keep insisting on an explanation what would be bad about that idea.
What you should do: Start looking for another job immediately, because you and your supervisor cannot both stay at that company. By the way, put your work efforts down to normal. Your supervisor doesn't appreciate it, and you are only killing yourself.
Your goal shouldn't be to make enough to survive. Once in my long history a potential employer asked me how much I would need to survive. I gave him an honest answer, added that I would want twice as much to work for him, and he accepted.
So if you accept the fact that you and your supervisor are not both staying at that place, tell the partner that you had enough of that nonsense, and you want either a 10% rise or you'll be finding a better job elsewhere. Look, the fact that you even consider working for less indicates to that partner that your supervisor is telling the truth. Asking for 10% more makes it blatantly clear that your supervisor is clueless.
Yes, you should be looking for a new job if that's how they're treating you.
In the meantime, there are two people you need to speak to.
Your Union Rep. They should be able to explain to you your legal rights in this situation - and whether they can offer any assistance.
The HR department. Talk to them about the company's policy on pay and performance. It is entirely reasonable for them to say that your pay is related to performance - but it has to be contractual and legal.
While looking for a new job, find an employment lawyer (your union can help with this) and look at whether this constitutes Constructive Dismissal.
All that said, if you don't want to look for a new job - ask your boss to put down in writing exactly what performance goals the company expects of you. E.g. answering all customer queries within 30 minutes, receiving no negative feedback from suppliers etc. Only when you know what they want, can you understand if you truly are underperforming.
Going straight to a pay cut with no performance discussion is just odd. A pay cut in general is just odd. If you were hired into one position and did not perform and they offered another lower level position and told you the pay for new position is lower then maybe. You are doing the job your were hired into and they have not given any performance issues other than not productive enough. You know your performance has increase but your supervisor still suggested you have not improved. They should be telling you specific expectations of the position you are not performing and help you improve. Not fair but not much you can do about it. Stay calm and find a new job.