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The Question:

My husband finds himself in an odd position. He recently found out that he was being given the opportunity to hire several direct reports, as his workload merits it. He has been in his current position for three years, and his last performance review indicated that he was ready for a step up. His title is changing, and the company says the three new hires will receive his old title, just with far less pay.

Is this okay? They are very lax about job descriptions at this company and my fear is that, once the new staff arrive, my husband will have implicitly agreed to the new job description and terms and will have no recourse to push for a raise. Any guidance is greatly appreciated.

The Answer:

I am unclear from your question whether you are concerned about your husband, his job description (or lack thereof) and his remuneration level, or whether you are concerned about the new staff, their lack of job clarity, and lower pay, or both. I will respond based on what I believe are your concerns for your husband, but some of my answer applies to the new staff too.

This is not an uncommon situation for many small to medium-sized private companies that do not have appropriate management and human resource systems in place. In answer to your question, no, this is not okay from a management and ethical standards perspective. If your husband were part of a union or a professional association, then this would not happen or, if it did, then it would be grieved by the union or professional association on behalf of your husband.

The good news is that the company recognizes your husband's potential and the workload in his area. They have rewarded him with a new title and new staff members. But they have not clearly identified what is involved in his new position with respect to his role and new responsibilities, or his compensation level.

If your husband did not receive an increase in pay, benefits, and/or more stock options when he took on this new position, he should be asking for this prior to hiring the new staff or the company may say that they have used the funds for the new positions. Your husband should not only get his new job clearly outlined in a position description and an employment letter, he should also be integrally involved in drafting the descriptions of the new positions, and the interview and hiring process for the new staff members.

Your husband needs to do his homework. He should Google similar companies, check their websites, and speak to company HR officials to get information on comparable job descriptions and compensation levels. Often, labour, management or professional associations will have published reports on salary levels. He should check these out.

Your husband should thank the company for the new position and title, and ask whether they will be presenting him with a new position description and an official offer letter that outlines his new compensation.

If the company says no, then your husband should draft his own position description and employment letter. He may want to get some advice and support from a labour lawyer in drafting the employee letter of agreement.

Your husband should clearly indicate that he wants to be involved in delineating the roles and responsibilities of the new staff and hiring those who will report to him.

If your husband does not take these steps, his inaction will be interpreted as implicitly agreeing with the reorganization and expansion process. Your husband may also want to suggest that the company and HR officials refer to the provincial employment standards act and labour code to ensure that they are living up to their obligations.

Bruce Sandy is principal of and Pathfinder Coaching & Consulting in Vancouver.

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