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THE QUESTION

A superior informs a subordinate that she will have two employees reporting to her. The job has never included supervising others and was not a part of the job description when hired. Moreover, the duties of the two employees have little to do with the work of this individual and in fact their specialized work is with the head of another department. The supervisor does not provide a letter advising of the change but announces it during a staff meeting. The supervisor advised the subordinate that she will not be compensated and will not remove other assigned duties because the shuffle doesn't change anything. What are the subordinate's rights?

THE FIRST ANSWER

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Colleen Clarke

Corporate trainer and author of How to Get a Job and Keep It, Toronto

This restructuring is not a situation of rights. When you are given new responsibilities, ask for more money, more perks and training. If the company doesn't provide what you need, you have choices – take on the job with a smile or a frown, or leave. This situation was handled very unprofessionally.

If you stay, do it with a positive attitude. This is a learning experience so get as much out of it as possible. Book a meeting with your superior immediately. Ask why this change was made, and how you are to proceed with two employees whose jobs you do not know and with no supervisory training. Insist on registering for a supervisory course and ask your supervisor to recommend books to assist you in acquiring leadership skills. Understand the benchmarks of each employee's role, and how they are measured in performance reviews.

Read each employee's résumé, and in individual meetings, ask them to describe their skill set and what their job entails. Get to know them, eat lunch with them often in the first month. Introduce them to your colleagues. Broaden your knowledge base and skill set.

If there is no extra compensation, negotiate perks and benefits. Set up systems to work under, increase your network, delegate, and keep your résumé up to date – it is going to sing by this time next year.

THE SECOND ANSWER

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Bruce Sandy

Principal, Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting, Vancouver

The first thing to consider is whether the subordinate is a member of a union. If she is, then she can ask for support from her local representative or shop steward. The collective agreement will spell out the duties of and the appropriate pay scale for a union position which has employees or staff reporting to them. If the superior tries to make the subordinate do something counter to the collective agreement, then the union can grieve and likely resolve the case for the subordinate. The union can also help push for the reclassification of the subordinate's position.

If the subordinate is not part of a bargaining unit, she will either have to make her case that the reporting and supervisory/management responsibilities are not part of her original position, classification and pay level, or seek the advice of a lawyer. The lawyer can represent her in the interactions with the company, if necessary, citing appropriate employment legislation and labour codes, and reminding the company of its obligations around fair labour practices.

This may set up an adversarial position with the superior/company, depending how the case is received and handled. If the subordinate is willing to take on the two new employees, then she should research the duties and salary levels of similar positions inside and outside the company. She (or her lawyer) will then have to ask for a position reclassification and an appropriate pay increase.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com

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