Below the line

It was a challenging week last week, and I expect no different this week, and in the weeks to come. Reckon it’s hit a critical stage, and not optimistic about how it’s going to work out.

What happened last week is that I got a response from HR in reference to some questions I asked them. To recap, they had finally responded to my earlier queries to report that while my claim for a job re-classification wasn’t merited, a review had suggested that my role fit into a particular pay band – which just so happened to be a higher salary than I had previously been paid.

I decided to drop the re-classification claim because, basically, over it, but I did respond with seemed perfectly logical and reasonable questions: since they had determined I belonged within a higher pay band then didn’t it follow that I had been short paid prior to that? And, given that I was rated incorrectly, the pay-rise at review was based on a lesser amount. I argued that I should be being paid somewhere in the middle of the band, rather at the very bottom.

Their response was disappointing. They didn’t dispute that I had been paid beneath my rated salary, but that they had no obligation to pay me that amount as long as I was being paid within the award. As for the review, I would have my opportunity June next year.

You know, I really wanted this to be sorted out – but how could I leave it at that? I sent another email, suggesting that theirs was a very narrow and bureaucratic interpretation of the situation, and of dubious morality, particularly as I had challenged the salary before I even commenced in the role. I told them it failed the pub test, and I encouraged them to take the opportunity to make a common sense resolution, without prejudice.

The result of all this is that it’s now gone before the Director of HR for review. I’m told I shouldn’t expect much from her, and I now believe the politics of it make it difficult: they have painted themselves into a corner. Had they done the fair thing it would have cost them little, and would have been a powerful message of goodwill – but, not to be.

I’m sceptical of my future here now. I think I’ve been reasonable throughout, but it has dragged on so long that I’ve probably got a line through my name now, and, worst case scenario, they may look to performance manage me out of the organisation, deeming me a trouble-maker. I’ll let you make a judgement on that – this is the sequence of events:

  1. Apply for and get offered a job internally. Contract is presented to me with the words “you’ll have to make a decision on this”. The salary is well beneath expectations. I’m told it is subject for review in June, and that I’ll receive a pay rise of $5,000 at a minimum.
  2. I hold off on signing the contract. I asked for it to be reviewed as the salary is so far off. To no-one’s surprise HR respond saying it’s all correct, though their response is barely intelligible. Between a rock and a hard place I decide to sign, looking towards the review in June.
  3. In June I am advised of the recommended pay-rise. My manager tells me even before I read it that it’s a deal less that what she requested. It is very disappointing, and is less even than the $5K promised me.
  4. I choose to challenge. Both my manager and her manager support this. I meet with HR to discuss. I give them a revised PD which incorporates project management, staff supervision, and other items missing from it. I tell them it’s at least $20K under the odds.
  5. Six weeks later and still no response and I send an angry email reminding them. A few days later they respond with their email rejecting my claims (and ignoring my points), but assessing the role higher than what I had been paid. The rest is history, as above.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do in this situation. I’m not a member of a union, and unfortunately there appear few options for someone such as me to take independent action. I expect they think that I should go away, which is probably what they counted on.

I hate that. I’m a stubborn type anyway, but it offends mightily my sense of justice that organisations like this believe – probably with good justification – that they can ride roughshod over people like me, and get away with it. That’s not a world I can believe in. I certainly can’t let it go.

I sometimes think this is my great flaw. How much easier would it be to just go with the flow? Why do I need to dig my heels in? I don’t do it lightly. I’m aware of what it might cost me, and there are times certainly when the pragmatic option would be to let it go. It’s not in me though. I hate injustice. I hate bullying. By nature I’m very democratic. I’ve had more to fight about in recent years, but it’s been there right from the start.

What is different now is where I sit. Once upon a time I was above the line, where most things would be sorted out. That’s because I was in a position and earning a salary that made me appear more important. It’s a cynical view but there’s plenty of evidence to support it. Even then I was aware of it, though not to its full extent. I would wonder why something of my alleged status would be offered a better interest rate, for example, than someone of supposedly lesser status – and who could benefit more from it.

Now I’m below the line and rather than receiving these advantages, am dismissed as being an irrelevant nuisance. What I would have received without comment before is now denied to me.

I dislike that from a personal point of view, though I’ve become accustomed to it. I hate it that we can live in such a world though, and I won’t be a party to it (which is a strong motivator for my start-up, which seeks to level the playing field).

Common sense says let it go – principle says stick to your guns. That’s what I’ll do.

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