my coworker is getting credit for my work, impossible billable hours requirements, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss’s boss keeps crediting my coworker for work that I’m doing

We have been doing a big internal communications project at work, and rather than hire someone to manage it, my boss and his supervisor decided to give me the job to do. It’s been a big undertaking and we’ve been successful at it. I manage the content on the internal project – writing it, editing it, and scheduling it, as well as requesting graphics for posts. I’m happy it has gone so well and that our executives have begun to see its value.

However, my boss’s manager gives credit to someone in my department who hasn’t contributed at all to the project but is, for some reason, lumped into it when she congratulates us on a job well done. She’s done this not just once, but repeatedly, including today during an introduction with a new employee. She told her I “did some things with the internal project,” when I’m doing the majority of the work.

The person she’s included in praising hasn’t spoken up and said she’s not part of the project, so our boss’s manager thinks she’s involved. I brought it up to my boss that this person isn’t part of it, but he doesn’t seem to see the big deal that this person is included when they don’t contribute. Is there any way I can get her to recognize the success has been because I’m doing the work and not someone else? Or am I overreacting?

It’s annoying that your boss won’t just correct the record. But since he won’t, the next time his manager makes a remark like this, you could say, “Actually, I’m running all our work on ___. Jane actually hasn’t been involved; she’s focusing on XYZ.” The keys here are that you need to sound casual and cheerful, and it’ll help if you add on that last part about what your coworker has been doing, so it sounds less like a put-down.

Alternately, if the dynamics in your office (and with your own boss) allow it, you could casually swing by the manager’s office one day and say something like, “Lucinda, I wanted to correct something about the ___ project — I noticed you’ve mentioned a couple of times that Jane is running that, but it’s actually me! Not a big deal, but I wanted to let you know!” (That said, in some offices this would solve the problem easily while in others it would be high treason against your boss, who told you it’s not a big deal, so you need to know your office.)

2. Letting employees include personal cell numbers in company communications

If we allow employees (who choose to do so) to include their personal cell phone numbers in official company communication, does that pose any threat to the business? This is in addition of any official company numbers.

Well, you’ll have the problem that their personal cell numbers are out there with people after they’re no longer working with you — and you probably won’t have much/any control over how they handle those calls at that point. I’m not a fan of that, but more and more people are doing what you describe.

3. Job searching and multiple pre-planned trips

I want to start looking for a new job soon – in both the public and private sector. I’m a bit spoiled in terms of leave coming from my current employer, and have about 3-4 trips currently scheduled for the next year, including a 2-week honeymoon in November. Should I hold off applying for jobs until after the honeymoon, after which I don’t currently have any trips planned? And if I were to apply now, when is the best time to discuss these plans? I think you usually say after you have an offer; is that correct?

No reason to hold off on applying — worst case scenario if you start applying now if that a job will turn out not to work well with your plans and you’ll decide at that point how to handle it. As for when to bring up your plan, wait until you have an offer (but discuss it before you accept that offer). At that point, they’ve already decided that they want to hire you and it will often be easier to negotiate the time off that you want. (It’s also worth noting that the more senior you are, the easier it is to negotiate this stuff. I might balk at four trips for a junior level person, depending on their length, but wouldn’t for a senior person, assuming the other three are shorter than the honeymoon.)

4. Silly raise policies

In my new hire training, I was led to believe that 10%+ raises were entirely possible for top-performers — “We’re a pay-for-performance company.”

Recently (review time), my boss said, “There’s no way we could give you a 10% raise. HR never approves raises over 5%. But if you worked somewhere else for a year, then came back, we could give you 25%+.”

Who creates a policy that says “No raises over 5% allowed, but we can rehire someone at any increase in salary”?


5. How can I meet these billable hour requirements?

I work for a very large international company. They provide liberal PTO. In order to receive a good rating on work, we must perform at a billable level (in my case, it is 90 percent – I must bill my client for my work to a level of 90% of the 40-hour work week).

If I take the 11 holidays they offer each year and the vacation time I accrue each year, there is no way I can meet the utilization 90% level. My client doesn’t work on the 11 holidays, so these count against my utilization also. My choice appears to be never take vacation and try not to take off on holidays – heaven help me if I am sick. PTO doesn’t appear to be paid at all if you have to make up every hour you miss, regardless of the reason you missed it. Is this legal / ethical?

It’s legal. Companies can be as unreasonable as they want. However, are you sure that they’re not calculating your your billable time based on the time that you actually work, excluding holidays and PTO? I’d seek clarification on that part. But if that’s not the case, then it means that they expect you to work more than 40 hours a week (which is certainly common in many professional jobs with billable hours).

{ 104 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephanie*

    #5: Billable Hours

    Yeah, I’d check if your target isn’t reduced by PTO. FirstJob reduced our work quotas (which were based on a certain number of hours/case) if we had training, PTO, or sick leave. So this resulted in people (myself included) taking sick leave (or PTO if they were really desperate) and still working just to get our quota target down. God help you if you actually needed the sick leave.

    People also loved blood drives, because you got like half a day’s hours written off to recover. That is the only place I’ve worked where the blood drive sign up filled up immediately.

    1. CAA*

      If you’re working at the client’s site, travel time is billable. If you’re flying, you’re probably traveling on your own time, which increases the billable hours per week.

      1. De Minimis*

        I worked at a similar place, I think they aren’t looking at 90% of your entire year, it’s that when you are in “normal” work status they expect you to have at least 36 billable hours a week. At least that’s how it worked at my former employer. Usually the busy periods allowed people to make up for the slower periods, although this was during the worst of the recession so the slow period was a lot slower than it normally would have been.

        1. Ethyl*

          Yeah that’s how it was at my previous environmental consulting jobs. Those 60-hour fieldwork weeks set off late December downtimes.

        2. De Minimis*

          Actually in looking at other replies, I wonder if my old job might have had utilization policies similar to what others have mentioned….I wouldn’t really know, I had such a tough time finding work that I pretty much blew any chance I had at meeting whatever goal it was after the first few months.

    2. Bea W*

      My former employer had a target of 80%, and all PTO counted against it. It was tough to meet, especially when the Big Boss didn’t like you and wouldn’t give you enough billable work to meet 80%.

    3. Artemesia*

      I think policies like this are designed to get people to fudge on billable hours. Many people in professions that work like this overcharge time. Heck they do that in auto mechanics where the 30 minute job is charged at 3 hours of labor because that is the ‘book time’ they have established. In unscrupulous law practices books are cooked all the time. And of course as Alison points out, the expectation in this type of job is not a 40 hour week. The hour targets assume people work 60 hours or more a week in many offices.

    4. batmom*

      My old company considered 100% utilization to be 40/week for every week in the quarter. It was not offset by PTO, stat holidays, or sick leave. I achieved it once (and my bonus was a $25 gift certificate to the company store. Totally worth it [sarcasm]). My current company considers 75% billable to be the target.

      Whether or not travel time is billable or counts towards utilization depends on the company.

      In the end, though, this is all allowable and will vary company to company. You’ll have to decide if it works for you.

  2. Purple Dragon*

    #2 – Personal Cell Phones

    I understand why companies are doing it but imho it isn’t a good idea. An ex-friend of mine took a call at a restaurant that was apparently a client from a previous company he’d worked for. He started off by trying to explain that he no longer worked for that company but the client was desperate and didn’t care. Their position was “you know how to fix it and our network is down so fix it now”. He ended up screaming at this client “beep you and the horse you rode in on” (he didn’t say beep) and then hung up.

    I would really recommend against it as other than bad references there’s nothing you can really do to stop this kind of thing.

    1. PEBCAK*

      My old company had forwarding, which is a good solution. If I was expecting something critical when I’d be out of the office, I could autoforward to my cell phone. This way, nobody had my direct number, AND I wasn’t answering work calls on personal time except in extremely busy times when I set it up that way.

      1. Pip*

        Yes! Forwarding is the obvious solution, especially when the employee can turn it on and off at their discretion.

        However, at the majority of the places I’ve worked, the phone systems were a hot mess of neglected setup/maintenance and uninformed users, so I understand if people choose the quick and easy solution of providing their private number instead of setting up forwarding.

        So there might be a technical solution for forwarding in place already at the company, but it’s either not working as it should or people don’t know how to use it (or that it even exists!). Might be worth looking into for OP #2.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I mentioned this in another thread, but Google Voice is a good workaround for lack of an institutionalized forwarding service. You set up a Google Voice account, get a Google Voice number on there, and have that number forward to your cell phone (or not). You can even block certain numbers. It’s a great filtering tool.

          1. AB*

            This exactly! Everyone should have a Google Voice number. If you ever have to sign up for something and need to give your phone number, you can give your Google Voice number. I also give my Google Voice number to work contacts. I have a work cell phone, but it is essentially a paperweight (bad reception, doesn’t hold a charge, has issues connecting to our work server). It has the added bonus that it will send you an email with your voicemail transcription, and you get free, unlimited texts.

                1. Koko*

                  Fear not! Although Google Voice in name is going away, the current Google Voice functionality will still be in Hangouts AND they plan to add VoIP support (you can make voice calls using your WiFi connection or data plan instead of your voice minutes). Of course, phone carriers may retaliate by blocking VoIP functionality on models they sell (because nobody ever jailbreaks/roots their phone).

                  Still irritating, because I really dislike having all these different types of communication in one app. I already stopped Hangouts from handling my SMS messages because I don’t need duplicate notifications and I don’t consider IMs (what used to be Google Talk before it rolled into Hangouts) to be as high priority as texts and therefore don’t want the same notification indicator for both types of messages. When Voice rolls into Hangouts I may seek a way to turn off Chat/IM entirely rather than constantly thinking I’m receiving a time-sensitive text when it’s really just some bored friend of mine trying to chat with me on Google.

          2. Paige Turner*

            Thank you for this suggestion! I just signed up and I think this will change my life ;) I hope it doesn’t go away!

    2. FiveNine*

      There’s been a tax change in the USA in the past few years where employers can do better by having employees buy their own smartphones and then reimbursing them all or some portion of the device as well as a flat amount each month for a plan. It gives employees choice in device and carrier, with Traveler they can access their internal email without a BlackBerry, and there’s some IRS ruling making it the new preference for employers. (It has its drawbacks; the reimbursement each month falls short from the employees point of view because at minimum they are billed tax but not reimbursed it when all the expenses used to be covered upfront when companies owned the devices and chose the plans).

      tl;dr IRS ruling encouraging move to employees owning smartphone they use for work and choosing personal calling plan.

    3. BeenThere*

      Yeah I’d avoid it, too risky. What about clients being drunk dialled and all sorts of fun scenarios?

      Personally I prefer to have a separate cell phone for business. If my employer wants me contactable after hours then they provide the device and pay for it. I’m sure they don’t want to pay my pre-paid rates for long after hours conference calls.

      There has also been precedent set where once you use you personal device for you current job, your current employer has the right to wipe the entire thing.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        This is exactly why I finally stopped being so cheap and got my own phone and quit using my work Blackberry for my personal stuff. I work for a subsidiary of a huge company, and the security requirements get stricter by the day.

  3. Neeta*

    #4: Raise policies

    I actually heard about such policies a lot, but I was under the impression that these things were sort of an “unwritten rule”. As in, no manager would tell you such a thing outright, but according to the grapevine leaving for a while and then returning was the only way to get a significant raise.

    1. Jen RO*

      It was an unspoken rule in my previous company as well – it was virtually impossible to get more than 10% (my raises were around 7%). And then I left (for 7 months) and I will go back with a 30% raise and title bump. I’m very happy about that, but one coworker who is working just as hard is now way underpaid compared to me, simply because she chose to stick it out. She is up for a major promotion soon, but if she doesn’t get that, she will definitely leave.

      1. Neeta*

        Aren’t you worried about colleagues resenting you for such a behavior? I know I’d be constantly paranoid about being talked about my “flightiness” behind my back.

        1. O*

          I don’t think that should be an issue, as long as you’re not constantly doing that. I’d say once or twice shouldn’t be a big deal, everyone knows circumstances change. I mean if you did it on purpose just for the raise, then I probably wouldn’t admit that to coworkers. I know the circumstances aren’t quite the same, but I never worried about it with my part time job, I worked on and off their at least three times in five years, because I moved out of state for school, came back for the summer, worked a month, graduated school, and came back again. As long as you don’t show you’re flighty, i.e. you had clear reasons for doing what you did, I doubt people would judge you for it.

          1. Jen RO*

            Oh, and to make it clear, when I left I was definitely not planning to come back. I joined a new company and three months later, major layoffs happened and it’s not a stable workplace at all. I interviewed with 2 companies and ex-company had the better offer (in terms of actual work, not financial).

        2. Jen RO*

          Well – I don’t know! My former coworkers have been asking me to come back ever since I left, and the coworker who is up for a promotion actually negotiated my return! (She is the team lead, I talked to her, she talked to the boss, etc). I am sure there will be some resentment, a bit from her (towards the company, not me personally) and a lot from the lowest performer on the team (but I don’t care, she sucks at her job and she’s going to be fired). The rest of the people are new and they are just glad I’m going back to help them.

          1. Neeta*

            Oh, I see, so basically they were the ones who contacted you, not the other way around.

            Well, yeah, that’s different then.
            I figured you’d contacted them again after not even a year of being gone.

        3. Koko*

          If one of my former and departed coworkers came back, I’d be thrilled! I miss many of them and wouldn’t dream of begrudging them the fact that they had to pursue better opportunities at that time. I can’t imagine anyone would react negatively unless they already had a problem with you in the past.

    2. Brett*

      My organization has compression so severe that new hires are making 25% more than people hired 2006-2011, with no pay grade or title changes.
      So how did they deal with this? By making people who quit eligible for rehire only at their last pay and grade!

      1. Mike C.*

        What an amazingly stupid policy. FFS, just pay people what they’re worth rather than playing games!

        1. Brett*

          It’s literally politics. The chief elected official looks good if no one gets raises. But then you have trouble hiring people so you only increase hiring maximums instead of salaries. The more employees’ salaries get out of line with market salaries, the harder it is for them to get hired elsewhere.

          1. LBK*

            How the hell does the CEO look good if no one gets raises? Is it actually seen as a positive to be a nickel and dimer that doesn’t value anyone working there or reward those who make the company successful? I guess the optimist in me hopes that the shareholders don’t actually appreciate that kind of thing…

            1. some1*

              Brett wrote “elected official”, not “CEO”.

              While the function may be the same, a CEO has to answer to shareholders while an elected offical has to answer to all the voters and taxpayers in her juristiction, who (oftentimes) don’t want to pay more taxes so govt employees can get raises.

              1. KC*

                And in either case, when you’re a shareholder, it’s a lot more about the bottom line and the return you’re seeing on your investment.

                Shareholders don’t often get a window into the day-to-day working conditions or the increase/bonus structures of the employees at a company–at least not on an individual level. And on an aggregate level, they want to see profit.

                1. LBK*

                  But then how do shareholders know the profit is the result of lack of raises/bonuses? My impression from Brett’s comment was that keeping employee salaries constant was considered a directly positive thing up at the top, maybe I misread and he just meant that making more profit makes you look good and one way to do that is by not paying people more?

            2. Brett*

              Chief elected official, not chief executive officer
              (e.g. elected by voters, not stockholders, I work for a large local government). We have a tax cut and a budget cut almost every election; and it works. The only incumbent who lost since the 1970s was the last one to increase taxes (over 20 years ago).

              1. LBK*

                Oh, sorry, I was thinking elected official meant elected by the board since I was in a corporate mindframe. Didn’t realize you were talking about government. And now you saying “it’s literally politics” makes more sense – guess people have watered down the meaning of that word so much that I assume “literally” actually means “figuratively” now!

              2. fractal*

                In that case, the constituents get exactly what they deserve (i.e. “lazy,” unproductive government workers).

              3. Bea W*

                It works for the elected official, but I’m guessing not so much for the government employees who never see a raise. That has to stink.

      2. Artemesia*

        I watched this pay compression thing happen to my father; after many years new engineers were making as much as he was — and he was literally a rocket scientist.

        After a merger in a company I worked in, I found my own salary grossly below that of the new people I worked with. My boss managed to get me a 30% raise one year and a 10% one the next year in spite of the fact that raises were usually less than 4% a year sometimes far less. And I later was able to do the same for several people I managed who were doing very important work but were grossly underpaid due to compression and the relatively poor pay scales of our company before the merger. I have always been grateful that he was aggressive in advocating for not just normal raises but salary adjustments for us.

      3. Brett*

        What timing…

        I just got my review about 10 minutes ago. It had “XXXX” pre-filled for the merit date on it. Guess that means no merit raises this year either (but I pretty much already knew that). My supervisor and I spent all of 10 seconds on it, since they have become so meaningless.

        1. Marcy*

          Mine doesn’t even spend 10 seconds. He emails it to me and then avoids me for a few weeks.

    3. KM*

      I worked at a call centre where they were happy to tell you this outright (because call centres are evil, no surprise). People who had worked there almost ten years fell farther and farther behind the new hires every year and were told that they should quit and try to get rehired again. In most cases, it seemed like a pretty transparent attempt to make them give up any advantages they had from seniority. :(

  4. Sophie*

    # 5

    I’m a lawyer, and the billable hours targets we have are set up so that you are expected to work more than 100% on any given day, as our system doesn’t take annual leave, sick leave, or public holidays into consideration. If you only worked 100% on every day you’re in the office, you would still fail to meet the yearly budget.

    It’s frustrating, but it is the nature of billable hours in our firm. We have to accept that staying back and working more than 40 hours is part of it.

    If you’re not in a professional job, this does sound very unfair.

    1. Us, Too*

      I’m not an attorney and when I’ve been in professional services organizations it worked the same way. Basically, you were expected to work more than 40 hrs/week. We were clear about that in hiring, though, so it wasn’t as if it was a surprise to anyone.

    2. Vv*

      Same in consulting, though our targets are a bit more reasonable maybe. Also we have a “standard day” of 7 or 8 hours depending on location. If I work 14 hours that day, and 12 of them were on direct client work, I’ll bill all 12, but they will be counted over a base of, say, 7 hours.

    3. Glorified Plumber*

      That sound utterly ridiculous… failing to meet targets even by showing up 100%.

      We have a weird 90% target, but PTO/Holidays do NOT count against that target, they are counted as “billable” hours in the calculation for targets (obviously, they aren’t billed to the client).

      As well, overtime hours work TOWARDS that target, meaning some of us like myself easily rack up 110%-115% billable status, even counting the OH work we do.

      I feel sorry for the folks who have this other layered “My PTO has to be managed” problem on top of already maintaining client billing. I’d go crazy…

      Plus, it seems like at my engineering firm, the 90% is a “soft” target. They would NEVER fire the super important guy we put on a super important overhead task cause he was only 75% billable, and we wouldn’t think twice about firing the 115% billable guy who spent 115% of his time wasting client money.

  5. KB*

    #5 – I work for a Big Four accounting firm, and our utilization goals are exactly as the poster describes. My target is 85-90%, and PTO and holidays count against that target. Our utilization targets are based on the assumption that we bill 8 hours per day, so in order to meet the utilization target, we are generally expected to bill 9+ hours per day. My bare minimum expectations are 45 hours/week.

    My clients are all public sector clients, nearly all of whom have a 40 hour/week cap, which leaves us in the same jam as the OP. An assignment with a client that allows >40 hours per week is considered a plum assignment.

  6. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. The cynic in me thinks either that the erroneously praised co-worker wants to take credit for the project, or that since the Boss’s Manager doesn’t come in to that part of the office often, the erroneously praised co-worker is the only person whose name she remembers.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      #1 happens to me all the time, only usually with my direct boss or my boss’s boss’s boss. There are two of us in our group, and my boss also manages two other much larger groups. He just lumps my coworker and I together even though we never work on the same stuff. TBH, he actually has no idea what either of us do, which isn’t always a bad thing. . .

    2. Lisa*

      This is a lesson to managers that do not realize that people care about this stuff, and when it keeps happening there is a moment when the employee stops caring and stops giving their all. That moment may happen years before they leave the job, but its a moment that everyone has had in their careers when they realize they are not valued so they stop trying and everyone loses (especially the idiot boss, who can’t see that they are going to lose a valuable asset when they leave or when they have that ‘moment’).

      OP is prob one of those people that can’t just have a job and clock out on time, but gives everything to projects they are in charge of. It infuriates me, these types of workers are the best ones and idiot managers like this get in the way and destroy it by refusing to correct a correctable situation.

      1. OP #1*

        Yes, exactly. I do give it my all here and sometimes feel overlooked! I plan to give this place a few years before looking elsewhere or striking out on my own, depending on finances, etc.

      2. Bea W*

        It wasn’t a paid position, but after a few really huge snubs (as in I received NO credit or recognition and someone who did no work received it all) I just resigned my volunteer position and walked out…only to be called back to some official meeting that was supposed to determine whether or not I would have to pay for an item that other officers received free. The thing was, I had already been told before I resigned, that in my position I would have to pay the fee and would not was considered included in the officer group (that was the last straw – they had done something similar once before at an event I lead the planning on and arranged space for AND got them a super deal through a personal connection!), and I had paid it, and in fact I had stated that in my letter that I was resigning my post and paying the fee out of my own pocket. So it was a meeting where people just sat around and got to humiliate me and pretend that they got to make a decision that I had already made.

        I’m the kind of person who like to do a lot of stuff in the background, but it was way more than just being in the background. It was actively having credit for work and respect stolen from me and handed to someone else who did absolutely nothing. Had it been my day job, I would have probably started looking elsewhere. At least I had the option to toss my hands up and say “no more!” and right before a huge public event.

        1. OP #1*

          That is horrible. I’m so sorry that happened to you! I also enjoy doing things in the background, but stealing work and acting as if you’ve done it? That’s pretty low of them.

    3. OP #1*

      I’ve been feeling it’s a bit of both. I noticed after I suggested changes to copy on our website (I do a lot of SEO at the company and she wrote the original copy) that the coworker in question has treated me differently, so perhaps she feels for this other project she shouldn’t correct our boss. Ah, office politics – so fun!

      1. Paige Turner*

        If your co-worker wrote the original copy, then maybe that’s why the other boss thinks she’s still working on it, instead of you. Hopefully you can clarify things, because it would be awkward if the boss eventually realized that she was wrong, and that everyone kept letting her say and think the wrong thing because no one wanted to correct her.

        1. OP #1*

          Oh, no, that’s a separate issue. The internal project is 100% the copy I have written. My coworker has just treated me differently from a different project not involving our VP (the main boss the OP is about). Sorry for the confusion.

      2. Lisa*

        How long has the un-optimized copy been live? You can prob do a report showing progress since you began SEO efforts and how flat visits to that content before you optimized the content, but your bosses prob just don’t understand the difference and that is why the writer is getting the credit when you optimized it so it was found in search results.

        Maybe you can do a teaching session, with higher ups to show what is SEO and what you did, and then show the increase in traffic.

    4. ixiu*

      #1 I feel that Allison’s approach to this problem could make OP come up as a bit of a credit hog, though rightly so.

      Perhaps you can put the person in question on the spot by asking them to elaborate on a hard topic about the project you are working on.

      Or if OP would not want to be so vocal about it, another approach would be to drop work for that project on them. If they question OP about it, OP can always say, “I thought you were working on this project with me since Adam has always mentioned you in the meetings when we are talking about the project.”

      Hopefully things will work out well for you, OP1.

  7. Lora*

    #5 – Yeah, mine is 100%. However, we just had to fire one of our guys for screwing up a client so badly we nearly lost a HUGE account, and we only kept the account by promising that his replacement’s training (me!) would do training free, since they had not gotten much for training the crummy guy. There is no way I will make 100% billability, training determines your access levels to their facility and I can’t do a whole lot without access to the entire building.

    I just decided to make sure I knocked it out of the park on the other goals. If they want an excuse to give me a lame increase, and say “want more money, work more hours” for another year, I guess I’m OK with that. I do get an overtime bonus, which is pretty generous, so I normally do at least 45-50/week just for the money. And I got authorized to do some business development projects on the side as well, so that counts as “above and beyond” there.

    1. MaryMary*

      Ah, that reminds me of the year we had billable hours goals as well as well as being required to spend a certain about of time training or coaching. Good times!

  8. FD*

    #2 Personal cell phones

    Yeah, this is pretty common, at minimum. In my field (hospitality), it’s not that unusual to be called any hour of the day or night if something urgent comes up, so it makes sense to include it.

    Personally, I’d prefer it if they provided work cell phones but they tend not to do that until you get into the higher echelons.

  9. Not So NewReader*

    The best cell phone system I have seen was done by one well known company. All the employees had cells and they all knew each other’s numbers. But, no one was allowed to give cell numbers to the clients. Perfect. Coworkers would act as relays, “I will call James for you and let him know you would like a call back.”

    What worked well here is if the phone rang the employee had a fair idea of who was calling and why because a limited number of people had access to the number. As a group, everyone was reliable in returning calls/ answering calls because there was not a constant deluge of calls to deal with.

    The company provided the phone (because certain bells and whistles had to be on each phone) and the employee was allowed a small percentage for personal use. (Yeah, if you really wanted a cell for personal use, then you needed to get your own cell.)

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Coworkers would act as relays, “I will call James for you and let him know you would like a call back.”

      That’s how we handled it at Exjob, when people called for anyone who was traveling. I didn’t give cell numbers ever without permission. If the caller didn’t like that, too bad. I wasn’t going to do it.

  10. Not So NewReader*

    #4. Am loving Alison’s one word answer to that question regarding raises.
    I have been told on interviews that x% raises are the norm. Once employed. people would laugh that I actually believed that. Well then, why was I told this as part of my interview? Naively, I thought that I should have been able to figure out all this double talk. It took me years to realize, no, it’s not ME. But I sometimes still have a hard time believing everything an interviewer says.

    1. Dan*

      My current employer has a reputation for bringing people in at generous starting salaries but then giving annual 2-3% raises outside of merit promotions.

      My first week at lunch, I told my team that my last job stiffed me on any raise at all for the first two reviews.

      To which they said, “3% looks like a windfall, huh?” Right they are…

  11. Janusz*

    In consulting your target is based on 2080 hours per year (52 X 40). A 90% target means billing at least 1,872 hours, leaving 208 hours for PTO, non-productive time, holidays, etc. Assuming all 11 holidays (88 hours), that leaves 120 hours – which is precisely 3 weeks of PTO.

    As others have mentioned, in consulting the expectation is you’re working 45 hours per week/minimum. That’s to make sure you get to take some vacation, in addition to losing time for training or unproductive time. If you get stuck on a project where you’re capped at 40 hours/week, that’s when you get a bit screwed on utilization.

    1. Us, Too*

      ExJob had this target, BUT… we gave anyone with 7 or more years of seniority 6 weeks of PTO. When you do the math, you realize that it’s mathematically impossible to use all your PTO and achieve your utilization targets unless you work longer hours. And that’s what was expected.

  12. Brett*

    #2 On all of these personal cell phones, how are companies dealing with security? Seems like a very weak link for losing lots of valuable information.

  13. LQ*

    I had this happening in my office, I let the boss’s boss know by tell him “Hey, if you have any problems or concerns let me know, it’ll be the quickest way to get an answer since I’m leading the project. ”
    The answer was “But aren’t you leading Other Project and Other Other Project.”
    “Yes, I’m working on all of them.”

    Apparently my boss had told his boss but his boss assumed he was wrong because there was no way one person was doing all that so he just started assuming my work was being done by someone else.

    1. Laura*

      I _love_ this way of putting it, because it comes across very non-aggressive and says nothing about the other co-worker at all.

  14. Mike C.*

    Is there anyone reading this post who thinks the sorts of pay policies in #4 are a good idea?

    Someone obviously does, so if that happens to be you, I’d love to hear why.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      This is not to say that *I* think this policy is a good idea, but I can guess that someone is making the argument that if we give a big raise to Sally, then Wakeen and Jane are going to want raises too — and all of a sudden your labor costs have gone up by 10%. Whereas if you hand out money only at hiring time, the cost increase isn’t all at once — and of course, the bean counter is hoping that some of the time you can even hire someone cheaper than the person who was there before.

      I still think it’s a recipe for training employees for your competitors.

      OP #4, I will say — it sounds like you have a good boss, one who is willing to tell you the truth even though it means s/he might lose you. People like that are like gold. Not saying it means you should stay at your company because of your boss, but this is a professional relationship to hold onto, even if you decide to move.

    2. Joey*

      I’ve seen this. It’s usually due to a systemic problem of managers being too generous with raises and failing to properly justify raises. So instead of dealing with each and every manager its easier to throw out a blanket rule. Meanwhile for the people who return there’s clear evidence they are worth more- the salary at the external company.

      Messed up, yes.

      1. LBK*

        Or, conversely, managers not willing to go to bat for their people to get the raises they’re worth. If Bob is too scared to make an argument to whomever controls the budget that Jane deserves a 15% raise even if everyone else is getting 5%, it’s easier for Bob to just blame it on policy than tell Jane that he isn’t comfortable making the case on her behalf.

        When the person is external, it’s easier for the manager to make the argument because, like you said, they can just base it all around the person’s current salary, and then it’s not an increase but just keeping in line with what they get now.

    3. LQ*

      I think these kinds of plans are often put into place to address making things equal. It will be equal and everyone will be treated exactly the same and then it will be fair. My experience with this restriction has been in union environments and big companies with strong hr dpts.

      (I strongly disagree with these policies but I think that’s the reason for them.)

  15. ali*

    #5 – wow, I thought having to meet 67% in order to get my bonus was bad.

    My team’s standard monthly utilization is below 20%, so we’ve been scrambling trying to figure out how to possibly do this. In the 2 months since this was announce, we’ve managed to reach about 30%. We can only bill for the amount of work we’re assigned, and we’re only assigned when the work comes in. It’s just a slow time of year, and I’m sure our busy times will make up to it – probably to about 40%, maybe even 50%, but 67% is absolutely ridiculous. We have too many non-billable tasks for that to happen.

    1. Tris Prior*

      +1. I remember fondly (ha!) the confluence of “Don’t bill any more time to your project this week,” “No, there isn’t anything else you can work on,” and “Why did you have so much nonbillable time on your timesheet this week?”

      I never did get a straight answer from management on how to have billable time while not being allowed to bill any hours!

      1. Artemesia*

        Their obvious answer would be to fire some people since they are overstaffed. It is a pyramid of catch 22s. If 60% is constantly unobtainable then it does appear they are overstaffed.

  16. Bea W*

    #4 There are a lot of idiots out there. I once applied internally for a position in the same pay grade on the same project under the same manager. My manager wanted me in that position and supported men and i was qualifed. It was a lateral move to a different career path. However HR gave me some line of BS that I would have to take a pay cut a grade below if I wanted to change jobs. That made absolutely no sense, and part of my argument was that if they hired someone from outside, they would be paying them as a grade 7, not grade 6. Not only that but they would likely end up paying an outside candidate more than I was currently making because of that whole dynamic where new people coming in tend to start higher than someone who’s been there for a few years.

    If my manager hadn’t advocated for me I would have followed quickly in the footsteps of the co-worker that opening was replacing. Outrageous doesn’t even begin to describe this level of idiocy.

    1. OriginalYup*

      A friend of mine recently went through something similar, where she was getting ready to accept a more senior position in a different department. The hiring manager was told that they could only offer her a new salary of her current salary plus 5%. Even though that new amount was below the advertised range, and well below the market rate. It was like they couldn’t conceptually understand that it wasn’t a promotion, it was an Entirely Different Job.

    2. batmom*

      I also experienced something similar. I was moving to a desk job, to a billable, 100% travel job, and was offered a 20% increase from the hiring manager. The company wouldn’t approve it and said that it was a lateral move and therefore no raise. I made the move anyway for professional development reasons and tried to negotiate a raise a year and a bit later, citing industry standards, etc. Still nothing.

      I finally left (to a job offering me almost 30% more salary) and boy, did I have original company’s attention then. Too little, too late, though.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I’d love to hear what they said when you were like “Thanks for nothing suckers, I’m out of here!” OK, I’m sure you were more professional than that when you resigned, but… :)

        1. batmom*

          I told my manager that I’d been pretty upfront with want I wanted and I’d got nowhere. He wasn’t really surprised, and it wasn’t his decision not to give me a raise. He gave me what he could at the time, it just wasn’t enough.

          Unfortunately, the organization is huge and I’m not sure whether they’ll ever notice or care that there’s a pattern there.

  17. John*

    #4 – the problem is the widespread practice of “peanut buttering” or spreading the raise pool around. Smart employers focus on taking care of top contributors, but too often failure to differentiate performance — and avoidance of uncomfortable conversations with the poor to middling performers — results in there being too few dollars left to take care of those you should be looking out for.

    #1 – I don’t think it was an oversight; more like bad management. In seeking undeserved recognition for the other employee, it sounds like her manager is a) protecting that person or b) setting them up for a raise/promotion/other opportunity.

    1. OP #1*

      You might be right about point B for #1 (my question). I’ve only been here 9 months and she’s been here 4 years, but does completely different work than I do – brochure writing, fielding reporter questions, etc. while I do SEO, social media management, and this internal project for the main company plus 2 affiliates.

      It surprised me that she was included as getting praise for the project since she hasn’t lent any help to it – my boss and a graphic designer have done it all, with the boss only providing guidance/feedback to the 2 of us. His boss, a VP, hasn’t been involved and may have not known how small our team is for the internal project. She was the one who said all 4 of us did a great job when 2 of us are carrying the full workload.

      I’d like to think it’s oversight, but they might have her do more PR work than just marketing communications in the near future. We will have to see.

  18. LBK*

    #1 coworker getting credit for your work

    Another angle to come at this from is ensuring people are directing their questions about the project to the right person. If everyone is being told by your manager that Jane is running the project and doing all this work, there could be pertinent info you’re missing, or she could be giving out bad info if she’s not referring everyone to you for answers. If you approach your manager as a matter of clarification for processing/providing info, not just receiving credit for the work, she might be more receptive and realize that you’re not just trying to get all the glory (which I’m not saying you are, but maybe that’s why she blew you off when you brought it up before).

    1. OP #1*

      Thanks for your feedback. I definitely need to do that. I find that I’m not always in the loop on suggestions from others about the project or get information second-hand when people have been messaging the wrong person. I don’t expect credit or want to get all of the glory because others are involved, but I want to make sure the right people are receiving the right info.

  19. MaryMary*

    #5 Billable hour goals are (generally, but not always) set under 40 hours a week x 52 weeks to allow for time you cannot bill: holidays, PTO, training, coaching, performance management, general non-client office activities, etc. You’re right, when you do that math the goals are not obtainable if you work 9-5 and take all of your PTO. You hit your goals by working more than 40 hours a week, not taking all of your PTO, and working on holidays. Often, even if your client isn’t available, there’s work you can be doing on their behalf. In my experience, the only time billable hour goals are adjusted is if someone worked a partial year (mid-year hire, FMLA, etc) or were promoted mid-year.

    I might not be the best one to ask, though, since I used to hit my billable hours target in July (my target was usually in the 1500-1600 range) and the crazy workload was the key reason I left that job.

    1. Us, Too*

      The worst project I was assigned was one in which travel time wasn’t billable. And I had to travel a LOT to attend client meetings and offsites. It was awful. I’d spend 20 hrs/week traveling, need to do 5-10 hours of nonbillable work (expense reports, staff meetings, etc) and still need to find a way to bill at least 36 hours of work. It was lifeforce-sucking.

  20. Brigitte*

    #4 – I wanted to add on something that wasn’t addressed here. I was under the impression that Pay for Performance compensation plans are usually heavily weighted toward bonuses. Is that the case for your company? It is for my husband’s, and in that case, it’s rare for salary to jump by much. The increased pay is achieved by reaching a higher bonus tier.

  21. Casey*

    I was in such a position as a youngster – many moons ago :-) I was a contractor. The project was in duress (though they did not tell me about it) and I was hired (through a headhunter) to 1) get blamed for the project failing or 2) do the impossible – since the guy had worked on it for 2 years with no resolution. Repeat: I was to accomplish what he could not do in 2 years in 6 months time – in short, my hire was a joke of sorts.

    Anywho, there were 2 parts: a back-end, database, programming part and a front-end, graphical interface part.

    I was working the project successfully – and – I was informed that the front-end (full-time) guy was getting all of the credit. The manager even went to the front-end guy and asked: “What do you think about getting rid of _____” (i.e. me) – to his credit, he (the front-end guy) responded “We’re dead”. Also, suspecting the riff raff, I gave the manager a copy of “C” source code (that was actually working).

    He came in minutes later – very scared and was eager to offer me a perm position. He gave me a low-ball offer (to which I laughed at) and came back the next day with a blank piece of paper saying “write down what you want”.

    If I were you, I would seek another position (quietly of course) and then give them a 2 weeks notice. I would not accept any “counter offer” because should you stay, they would just use the time to find someone else for you to train (if not the person who is taking credit for your work) and then usher you out. There is no reason to be treated poorly or not to be recognized for your work or even to be overworked.

    Employers and the media in general go through great lengths to convince you that you have to take their “stuff” and have no options – but this is not the case.

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