My Boss Made Me Take the Fall

Last Updated Apr 5, 2010 8:00 AM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady, I have been working for the same bank for 5 years now. Every year I have met, if not exceeded, my goals and have received an increase. I work in a very competitive field. A large client needed to gain funding for a new project, but our bank was unable to provide it to them. So, they had to leave and go with another company. This new bank decided that the only way they could fund the project was if the business moved everything over to their bank. In total the business moved close to $1.5 million in assets. When I came up for my review this year, it was brought to my attention that I was the one who took the loss on my scorecard. The reason I had to take the loss is because I am responsible for bringing in new money. But I had no control over this business leaving. No one else in my branch had to suffer but me. How is this right? I have questioned and complained but keep getting the same answers. To make matters even worse, my boss came in and called everyone to the back office to receive their increases but me. They were called in as a group and I was the only one left out. So now on top of not getting a raise, everyone knows it. Does this seem right to you? Am I overreacting? I don't think you're overreacting. In fact, I think that how your boss handed out raises is utterly horrifying. The only time a group announcement of increases should occur is if it's a (usually union) situation where raises are dependent on longevity and everybody is getting an identical increase. Then the announcement is, "Hey everybody, today is March 1st, the day for your annual increase. So, everyone's paycheck is going up 2 percent! Congrats all around!"

I mean, how did that meeting go anyway? "Hey everybody, but not you, Stephanie! Come on in to my office to hear about your raises. Since your raises are based on how you did on your scorecard, everyone gets a different amount. Let's start with John. With a score card rating of 97, you get the highest raise out of everyone!" And on and on. Frightening. Even if the boss just called everyone in and handed them sheets of paper it's a bad idea. People care about money. They care about raises. They care what other people made and are dying do know if their own raise was better than everyone else's. Let's not put them in a situation where things can get awkward and ugly fast.

So, that's area one where your boss failed. Area two is that you got hit with the loss and (this next part is important) you didn't know it was going to happen. I'm obviously not a banker, but it makes sense to me that the person responsible for bringing in new clients would also be (at least partially) responsible for retaining the old clients. Otherwise, the salesperson has no motivation to bring in quality clients and to keep them happy for the long term. If your pay is based on the number in, but not affected by the retention rate, what's to keep you from promising service levels and products that the company can't really provide in the long fun?

The problem is that you were blindsided by it. Your score card should have been exceedingly clear about this bit of information. And, you should have been heavily involved in the attempt to keep this client. Yes, your bank couldn't provide their new funding, but there should have been an effort to keep their old business. So, now what? First of all, I wouldn't be so sure that no one else's scorecard got dinged by this. I can't imagine that your boss wasn't affected, since a manager should be graded on how his or her employees did. But, that is neither here nor there because you cannot control anyone else.

Make an appointment to sit down with your boss. Explain that you were blindsided by the loss. (Your boss already knows that you believe it is unfair and is going to dig in his heels over this, because otherwise he has to admit he made an error. At this point in the game, this is not likely.) Produce your scorecard for this year and go over it line by line. Since you are, obviously, now responsible for the retention of clients, ask how this fits into your scorecard. Also, clarify how you can have control over this issue.

If you have no control over clients leaving--for instance, the accounts are handed over to someone else--then you need to clearly articulate what is going on in that "I'm trying to understand" voice. Here's an example:

You: So what you are saying is, John has responsibility for interfacing with the current clients, but if one leaves, I'm responsible?

Boss: Yes.

You: So, even though I have no contact with them, I'm still responsible?

Hopefully, your boss will recognize how silly this is and either move the responsibility over to the right person, or give you the responsibility to interact with the current clients.

You need to worry about this year and not last year, because that is over and done with. Unless you can get clarity on these issues, this is not a place you want to stay.

If you get blindsided again, don't go running around complaining. Schedule one meeting with your boss, your boss's boss and HR and have the same, "help me understand" conversation. Try to get them to say out loud, "You had no control over this, but we're punishing you anyway." At least one of the people in the room should clue in that this is ridiculous.

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