should we cut the salary of a disappointing new hire?

A reader writes:

We hired an employee almost two months ago who seemed to have quite a lot of experience in our field (which is rare in our city). She asked for a higher salary than entry-level, which we were okay with giving based on her experience. Now, almost two months in, it’s become obvious to us that she actually doesn’t have as much experience in the field as she thought she did and her work is only slightly better than what we get from candidates straight out of school or switching into this industry from another one. Essentially, we regret paying her the higher salary and feel that she isn’t worth it. Legally, we know that we can reduce it a bit, but should we? And if so, how do we handle that situation? (She is at $60k. Entry level for us is $45k, possibly $50k. We haven’t settled on a firm number yet.)

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Client is demanding that I work from his office
  • Giving a staff member development opportunities without exploiting her
  • How do hiring managers view job seekers who took buyouts?
  • Asking to extend employer-paid interview travel

{ 243 comments… read them below }

  1. Dragoning*

    OP1, considering this makes you the kind of employer people have nightmares about. You’re not happy paying her that amount? Companies are never happy paying their employees the amount they do. And?

    1. Czhorat*

      I see where they’re coming from: they would have paid X salary for basic skills, Y salary for advanced skills. The candidate pretended to be more skilled then they were, and the hiring firm believed it. Now they see the employee performing and realize they’re paying for experience that isn’t there.

      This is a failure in the hiring process, and the frustration is understandable. That said, unless the candidate lied on a factual detail (ie, that they had an accredidation that they really don’t) then there’s nothing to do about it but try to do better next time.

      1. KRM*

        The candidate didn’t pretend though. She feels like she represented herself as she is. They saw it differently. It’s like if you ask me if I’m proficient in excel. I would say yes to that general question, and it’s true—for what *I* use it for in in my job! If you think me saying ‘yes’ means I have different excel skills (that you didn’t ask me about specifically
        ) and you expect me to use them, we’re both going to be disappointed. This is why you have to ask about your specific needs for things, so you know for sure you’re all on the same page. Their current options are to 1-put her on an improvement plan to see if she can get up to where they need her or 2-cut their losses and admit they made a mistake.

        1. ThinMint*

          What’s tricky for me is that it doesn’t sound like this increased salary bumped her job title. She was still hired to do the entry level position. So she should be held to the standards of what an employee in an entry level position should be doing.
          It sounds like she’s meeting those standards, just not meeting what they had hoped for her based on what they paid her. But if she’s meeting the requirements for the job, it’s the employer’s tough cookies they paid her that amount.

          All that said, I work in government where positions and pay scales are regimented. Outside of government, maybe it can’t be thought of that way.

          1. KRM*

            I think that seems fair. I mean, they wanted her to perform to the top of X title and she’s being paid for that, but she’s still just an X. So they can go over with her and say “you’re doing C and D great, and we’d like you to come up to speed on A and maybe use more B as you said you’ve done before”. Then she has clear expectations, and should (theoretically) know if she’s not meeting them by a review period, whether that be an ‘end of probationary period’ or ‘year review’.

            1. AnnaBananna*

              But we’re all forgetting that 1) this is why many companies have probationary periods, 2) in lieu of probation, the new hire should be coached out while following a pretty regimented performance plan.

          2. Snow globe*

            I’m not sure its correct to say she was hired into an entry level position. Some jobs have a wide salary range, and people paid at the top end are expected to produce more/better work than someone on the lower end That’s perfectly fair.

          3. fhqwhgads*

            It sort of sounds like they hired at the top of the pay band for this role – expecting her to operate at top level, but oops, she’s barely higher than the bottom. So the answer isn’t the cut her pay now, but if she’s doing an acceptable job for the role in general, it might just mean she’s not really eligible for a pay increase for a while, not until she ups her game to the level they’re already paying her for.

            If she’s not up to snuff for the role in general, they could consider letting her go, but if she’s doing fine (but being paid for Top Performer), she might just need to catch her skills up to her pay. Which will probably be disappointing to her come review time, but I also think it could be explained pretty plainly. And it’d be way less disappointing than a pay cut right now.

    2. MsChanandlerBong*

      THANK YOU. In the first week of January, my boss informed us he’s cutting our pay–mine by $5 an hour, and my coworker’s by $3 an hour. This is after we just got a raise in August after not getting raises for two to three years. He said people have been asking for benefits and he can’t afford to pay what we make now and offer health insurance and a 401(k) match. I was like…that is not my problem. I have a Roth IRA and don’t plan to use the 401(k), and I can’t even use the company’s insurance because I telecommute from a different state. Thankfully, he changed his mind when my coworker and I told him our thoughts (my coworker told him that if he cuts our pay, he will no longer be available to work OT because he’ll have to get a second job to make up the difference).

      * Now, before everyone says my boss is a terrible guy, I don’t think he is. He’s from a country with a collectivist culture, so he is all about everything being “equal” and doing what is best for the group. In his mind, cutting our individual pay is good for the group because it would allow everyone to have benefits. I also think my boss has always been well-off and doesn’t think about employees’ finances all that much. He says things like “Why is this freelancer mad? It’s only $100” a lot. And I think, “You have never tried to take $20 out of the ATM only to find out you have $16.87 in your account, and it shows.”

      1. Well Then*

        Wow, that’s outrageous! I’m glad you pushed back and he relented.

        Side note – if your employer is going to match 401(k) contributions, it’s worth checking with the administrator to see if you can make yours as Roth deductions.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          I am, too, because I was really mad. I do WAY more than is in my job description, so I was underpaid to begin with. When we got the raise in August, I finally felt like I was compensated fairly. Then to be told I was going to lose over $10K a year was not a good feeling. I am glad my coworker told him he’d have to get a second job, or else I don’t think he would have relented.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Wow! I’m glad that situation was resolved favorably because I would not react well to an employer telling me they would be cutting my pay.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I would start looking for a new job, at the very least, if an employer did that to me.

      3. emmelemm*


        That is a huge amount. Even if you make $50/hr!, that’s a 10% drop. Just, no.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          And for many, many people, it would be a lot more than a 10% pay cut. Not enough nope memes on the entire internet for this!

          Somebody needs to sit this guy down and explain that if you cut someone’s pay in order to provide new benefits, you’re not actually giving them anything (or not nearly as much as you think you are). Giving employees something with one hand while taking something else away with the other is banana crackers.

      4. Avasarala*

        I work in a collectivist culture, and many collectivist cultures do have a way to justify inequality!

        For example, I can see all of us shouldering a smaller burden so that one person doesn’t get the larger burden alone. But Confucian philosophy also sets up a hierarchy where each person acts according to their role in the best interest of the group. The parent’s job is to protect and lead and guide, the child’s job is to support and follow and obey. Under this thinking, your boss should take a pay cut to protect his employees, because it’s his responsibility to guide them and consider the group’s best interest. You can still have hierarchy in collectivist cultures, not everything is “equal”, so don’t chalk up your boss’s decisions to just his culture!

        1. selena81*

          ‘you boss should take a pay cut’

          There is really nothing nice or socialistic about telling *other* people that they should share equally among each other. You boss sounds like an entitled a-h-, please don’t let him fool you into thinking that treating his workforce like this would be acceptable ‘in other cultures’. You don’t give a raise just to take it back a few months later, you don’t brag about benefits that a lot of employees can’t use, and if the company is in bad shape you look at your own salary&expenses first.

        2. Scarlet2*

          To be honest, our very individualistic cultures also have plenty of ways to justify inequality…

    3. Green Goose*

      Yeah I just can’t imagine a world where lowering the salary would result in the employee doing a better job or creating a better situation in the office.
      My friend had a similar situation years ago when they were hiring an office adminstrator who needed to be well-versed in QuickBooks, the woman they interviewed viewed her own skills in QB pretty highly but when she started working it was clear that she was not up to the standard that was needed. My friend talked with her about it a few times when issues arose and she made vague promises about getting better but eventually they said she would need to take a course to be up to the level she had listed in her resume. She decided to resign instead of take the course. But they did learn how to better screen for specific skills in future interviews.

    4. Sacred Ground*

      They are already that kind of employer to anyone who does the same work at the same level under the same title for $45k. “But they were a better negotiator at the hiring stage!” is not an acceptable reason for such large pay discrepancies. As a lower-paid coworker I’d be pissed and looking elsewhere right away.

      1. Snow globe*

        That’s why I’m not completely in agreement with Alison here. It’s not fair to other entry level employees who are earning 25% less for the same quality of work. There will be morale problems no matter what the LW does

        1. Wing Leader*

          But other entry-level employees won’t know what she makes, so I don’t see how morale plays into that aspect (unless this woman is bragging about it to everyone, but OP didn’t say anything like that). And it’s very normal to pay people more for better or higher quality work. It’s not always about being “fair.” I do see that the issue here is that the woman is being paid more for average work that anyone could do. But that’s on the employer for not screening properly.

          1. Em*

            I work in a job where we have a huge range–think 30 to 60k. No one makes over 42ish, despite that range being stated. I talk about what I make because it helps my coworkers negotiate for raises and I encourage them to do the same.

          2. Perpal*

            they might learn. It’s legal to talk, in fact, people should talk; sharing salaries is probably the way most discrimination gets caught “gee why are all the people in x group making less”

      2. selena81*

        I would certainly feel hurt if i found out a co-worker was making a whole lot more then me just from doing a Dunning-Kruger (she thought she was great at this skill and the recruiter stupidly took her word for it).
        The mistake is on the recruiters so it would be unfair to take away her salary. But they should really learn from this.

    5. Senor Montoya*

      Really, just *considering* it and asking about it makes OP a nightmare employer? That’s kind of harsh!

      The answer to the OP may still be “no”, but I can see reasons for asking, such as, others in the office at this employees level know what the level is and thus have a good idea of the salary, and can see (and maybe are affected by) the employee’s lack of knowledge and experience. That’s not good for morale.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Yes, just considering it makes the employer a nightmare because it shows they’re willing to correct the mistakes they make in a way that’s going to negatively impact their employees. There’s no way for a 25% pay cut to seem like anything other than a punishment. Even if it was to fix a legitimate banking error, that amount still stings. If they cut her pay, I guarantee her coworkers will hear about it, they’re going to question the motivations (and financial stability) of their company and morale will take a big hit, and if the employer tries to explain their reasoning, they kind of look worse?

        OP is already resentful of the employee—the say the employee obviously misrepresented her experience but it seems like they think that because of the employee’s performance level, which is just … I dunno, I’ve worked with enough slackers to know X years doing something doesn’t guarantee proficiency. OP is honestly better off cutting the employee loose and starting over.

        Ideally they’d explain to the employee what kind of changes need to be made to justify the current salary but only if they’d really be happy with better work now. Some employers can hold a grudge, even unintentionally, that sabotages everything going forward.

      2. LeslieCrusher*

        Yes, considering slashing someone’s pay by 15k two months after hiring them because you didn’t do due diligence when negogiating your offer makes you a nightmare employer.

  2. Lilo*

    No, no, no. Any new employee is a risk. Sometimes they don’t work out and you have to let someone go but lowering their salary? No way.

    If you really want to change for the future you *might* offer performance based bonuses. But you will need clear, objective standards for those.

    1. Jenny*

      Also consider the message it sends to your other staff. If my boss cut someone’s salary I would get very nervous.

    2. LP*

      Yeah, in the future a better method would be to offer the new person to start at the base salary with the promise of a raise to the higher salary after X amount of time (six months?) if XY and Z conditions are met. As long as an employer isn’t lying and will actually give the raise, this way you have a kind of trial period.

      1. Working Mom*

        I haven’t read Alison’s response (or all the comments), but I agree – it’s not wise to lower the new EE’s salary. Instead, I would manage this new EE very closely and work to coach/lead this EE to perform at the level they implied during the interview. Not to say “You must perform at X level or we’ll reduce your pay” – but considering this EE felt confident enough if their skills to push for a higher salary – hold them accountable to the highest level that they can effectively perform at now; and coach this person to further develop those skills.

        Also – consider that this new EE is only 5-10K higher that what you’d normally pay. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big of a difference.

  3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    If we hire someone on who says they’re higher than entry level and therefore we give them a higher salary, we hold them to that standard. We would never drop someone’s salary, instead if you’re brought in as an advanced level option, you’d be put on a PIP early on and terminated if she doesn’t adjust to your standards of that advanced pay grade. That’s the fair thing to do.

    Reducing her salary would only save you money, it won’t fix the actual issue of the fact she misrepresented her experience to you or that she’s going to ask you for a raise soon enough, then that’s another uncomfortable situation you find yourself in. It’s going about things incorrectly.

    1. ampersand*

      You make a good point–if the company saves themselves 10K a year by reducing her salary…then what? It’s not like the savings is sufficient to hire someone else to do the work, and they still have an employee who isn’t working at the level they anticipated. The only reason to decrease her salary is to punish her, IMO. There’s no real benefit to the company here.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        And honestly, this is something that you internalize. You may feel “better” because “at least she’s not costing as much anymore!”

        But you’re going to use this to judge her [somewhat rightly but at the same time, let things go…man] for the rest of the time she’s working in the organization. Memories are long after all.

        It’s a really quick and rather short sighted answer to the real problems that have popped up.

    2. fposte*

      Yes, I think there may be an element of resentment in play here. But I bet they’ve hired employees who’ve turned out to be better than anticipated sometimes–did they bump their salaries *up* accordingly? (I’m guessing no.)

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        did they bump their salaries *up* accordingly? (I’m guessing no.)

        Ding ding ding ding.

        I’ve been blessed with a couple places actually starting me out on a trial wage basis to prove myself. And then upon completion jump it up to where my skill level belongs. But those people are very few and far between, I took a chance because I would have rather taken it than stayed where I was before for my own assorted reasons. But that’s not the norm at all, I’m well aware of that as someone who’s also seen people stay at the same pay rate for 20 years.

        1. Mama Bear*

          ^^ This.

          Also, what is the cost of finding, hiring, and onboarding someone new? Is she fully a lost cause or could it be considered a cost-savings to bring her up to par vs starting over with another potentially bad hire?

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            That cost is usually double the employee’s salary according to the data presented to me by one of my old company’s HR compensation analysts during a training class focused on recruitment and interviewing job candidates.

        2. Database Developer Dude*

          This is essentially $21.63 vs $28.84 per hour, gross. It’s a difference of $7.21 per hour. Assume approximately 22% in taxes total, we’re talking a difference of $5.63 per hour, or $460.40 per paycheck.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I know…I work in finance/accounting. Thanks for the mansplaining though. I’m well aware of the math.

            I took a 10k cut one time for extremely personal reasons. It happens.

            1. Windchime*

              I took a 15K paycut, also for personal reasons. I’m lucky enough that it didn’t make my life hard (my car payment ended around the same time), but yeah–it wasn’t fun. But sometimes sh*t happens.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                I’m wondering what the Dude thought he was adding to the conversation tho? He was responding to a comment about The Man’s trial wage arrangement and he posted no opinion, only data.

      2. hbc*

        My company does, usually at review time but sometimes sooner if we’ve obviously whiffed on the starting salary. But even then, we’ve never moved someone down. It’s just…you’re not going to end up with a worker worth $5K/yr after taking a morale hit like that. Unless you have a clear objective basis for pay (like commission for sales people, but salaried), you’re pretty much stuck with letting them go or waiting for everyone else to catch up with earned raises and COLA.

      3. SweetestCin*

        From experience – no.

        And not just “no”, but it impacted raises and such for the following EIGHT years, until they hired a similar position to what I was doing, title be ignored, and their legal team reviewed my compensation package and said that it’d be in their best interest to do something about the disparity.

      4. Fikly*

        What? You mean a company wants to lower someone’s salary, but not raise someone’s salary, based on the exact same principle? I’m shocked!

    3. KHB*

      I don’t think it’s just about saving money – it’s also about being fair to the other employees in similar roles (and it sounds like they have a number of them, if they have a clear salary framework for what entry-level employees are worth.) So they have a bunch of people making $45-50K, and one person making $60K for essentially the same work. That’s generally a situation employers want to avoid.

      If her work meets (and very slightly exceeds) the standards for entry-level employees, it wouldn’t seem that a PIP or termination would be warranted. And it doesn’t sound like she deliberately misrepresented her experience. I get that cutting her salary two months in isn’t a great thing to do, but none of the other options here seem that great either.

      1. Fibchopkin*

        Hard disagree on this one. If she didn’t intentionally misrepresent her experience, then the answer is to very clearly spell out what the company’s expectations of her are, where she’s falling short, and how much she’ll need to improve to stay employed. If you just lower her salary, you not only will almost certainly lose her and exponentially increase the cost to your organization by reinitializing the hiring, onboarding, and training process, you also drastically effect the morale and trust of other employees and, in today’s world of online reviews and viral workplace snafus, the public. You do NOT want to be that company that hired someone, promised her one salary, then cut it without even giving her the opportunity to come up to standard. It will make it harder to recruit and retain good talent if they are worried that you’ll go back on your word about salary.

        1. KHB*

          and how much she’ll need to improve to stay employed.

          She’s already performing at a satisfactory level to stay employed. Just not to merit the higher salary they’re giving her.

          A closer read of Alison’s second paragraph make it look like she’s suggesting maybe cutting the employee’s salary after giving her some warning and a chance to get up to speed. That sounds like the right way to go to me.

          1. Fibchopkin*

            I still think that’s a horrible idea. Getting fully demoted, which involves a title change and job description change along with the salary cut is difficult enough to turn into a positive outcome, but keeping an employee’s title the same but decreasing her pay is another kettle of fish entirely. It’s a HORRIBLE look to potential new recruits when word gets out about the ordeal, and as Alison directly said in that second paragraph, it’s highly likely to have a negative outcome in the form of a morale hit and retention loss.

            1. KHB*

              But the solution you’re suggesting – telling her that her job is in danger over a miscommunication, when she’s already slightly outperforming other employees at her level – is also going to affect her morale, and it’s also going to scare the bejeezus out of potential new recruits if they hear about it.

              Like I said, I don’t think there are any great options here, so it’s a matter of finding the one that’s least bad.

              1. Fibchopkin*

                But I’m (and, I think, the majority of commenters) are not suggesting “telling her that her job is in danger over a miscommunication” I am suggesting telling her that she is not performing up to standard, then clearly communicating what those standards are, and giving her the opportunity to meet those standards. Then, after all of that documented and prove-able action has been taken, you either get an employee who can perform the job you hired her for, and you keep her, or you realize that you made a mistake in hiring her, and you let her go during her probationary period. Which is the fair and normal way to proceed. It is underhanded to hire a candidate whom you have presumably vetted through interviews, reference checks, and employment checks, agree to a specific salary, and then, a mere 60 days into the game, say “whelp, you weren’t hat I was looking for, so Imma just go back on my word and pay you less.” She’s either doing the job up to standard, or she’s not. If she is, you don’t try and reduce her salary, if she’s not, you part ways. That’s just how businesses function.

                1. KHB*

                  and you let her go during her probationary period.

                  How is this not telling her that her job is in danger?

                2. NotAnotherManager!*

                  It is telling her that her job is in danger, but not over a miscommunication, over her inability to perform the stated requirements of her job. This also only works if she has a different job title and description from the other people being paid entry-level wage, since it sounds like she is working at a slightly higher level than they are just not as high as the employer expected.

                  If this is a case where the employer is paying her more for the same job title/description and is simply disappointed, then they have created this mess for themselves and should not take it out on the employee by lowering her pay. They SHOULD take a good look at their hiring process and interview questions to figure out how this disconnect happened. When I have a more qualified applicant for entry-level, I ask a lot of very specific questions about their experience and how they would handle certain hypothetical, which tells me more about their experience than a resume description of it.

                  They can cut her pay because of buyer’s remorse, but that sounds like a road to bad Glassdoor feedback and having to go back to the drawing board on hiring (which is itself a financial hit) because there is no way my employer could drop my pay 15-25% and have me be excited about continuing to work for them. Cutting her pay is basically firing her slowly.

                3. Senor Montoya*

                  Right, she was hired to do work at a higher level (at the 60K level), but is not doing work AT the 60 K level, she’s doing work at the 50K level.

              2. RUKiddingMe*

                They hired somebody to work at slightly above entry level and agreed to a salary that they didn’t really want to pay to begin with.

                She is apparently doing the slightly above entry level work just fine but they don’t like the fact that they’re paying her that salary.

                They want her to do higher-level work for that salary, but that’s not what they agreed to.

                But… that’s not what they agreed to. They agreed to pay her what she’s getting in exchange for the level of work she’s doing, apparently accurately.

                They just don’t want to pay her that much money for being “slightly above entry level.“

                That’s their mistake for agreeing to that salary level to begin with.

                They need to accept that they agreed to a salary that was higher than what they want to pay (i.e. she negotiated).

                Lesson learned about negotiation for them. Now they need to be grownups and suck it up.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  This is the other side of that advice to job seekers about not taking a job you want that pays a salary you’re not happy with because you’ll start resenting the job even though you agreed.

            2. Sacred Ground*

              Paying one person a third more than others working the same job at the same level is a pretty horrible idea too. If this happened at my job, a new hire starts at $60k doing what I’m doing for $45k and not doing it any better, then I’d be asking for an immediate raise to the same level or just start looking for another job since compensation at my current employer seems to me to be arbitrary and unfair.

              I’m really, really surprised that people here are ok with this pay discrepancy. If OP is a white male and any new non-white, non-male employees are doing the same work for far less pay, justbecause that’s what OP negotiated, then are you all still ok with that?

              1. Quill*

                This is pretty much all “entry level” roles when you’re a temp or permacontractor though – you have the same title, benefits, and job security but what people are willing to pay you is related to your experience as well as the contracting company or temp company you go through.

                Salary transparency everywhere would help a bunch for everyone involved so we’d actually know what the market rate for all this type of stuff was. :/

              2. Academic Addie*

                Is anyone OK with the pay discrepancy, though? I see a lot of people saying what you’re saying: that this is a problem because the new employee is doing the same work as the others, but being paid much more.
                Regardless of whether or not the situation is good, it is the situation and the OP has to deal with it somehow. Cutting that person’s pay probably isn’t going to look much less arbitrary and unfair from the outside.

                I don’t think this is really at all analogous to racial or gender pay disparities. The OP thought this person was going to come in at a higher level and take on more advanced work. That’s a perfectly reasonable justification to pay someone differently. Perhaps they shouldn’t have the same job title, but many organizations [including mine] do have fairly wide pay bands and relatively few differentiated titles. I’d certainly prefer more titles to choose from when I hire personnel, but that decision is out of my pay grade;)

                1. Snow globe*

                  I don’t really consider it a pay discrepancy if it is explicitly tied to experience and if stated job goals are different ( and it seems the goals are different since she’s not performing to where the LW expects.).

              3. Not a Blossom*

                I lived that life. New hires were being brought in at a higher rate than me even though I was doing some of the most difficult work. I asked about it, but they wouldn’t budge. Finally, the overlords set a new floor for salary for that position and brought me up to it, even though by then I had years of experience at that job and, again, was doing some of the most difficult place. It SUCKED.

                1. Massmatt*

                  I’ve been there too, it became clear that to get more pay I had to move on, so I did.

                  This company also had a terrible record for hiring from within, basically experience with our company was drastically discounted outside candidates were pretty much the only ones seriously considered for most mid-to-upper positions.

                  Ironically, people who moved on became quite coveted by the recruitment team simply by having an outside job at the top of their resume. I was recruited heavily after I left but was not interested in going back to a dead end job.

              4. Senor Montoya*

                I agree, I would be HOT if I were at the lower level and discovered a new hire at my level was making that much more. I’d be even madder if I were at the higher level and the new employee was not performing at the higher level and was getting paid what I was making. Not good at all.

              5. Vauxhall Prefect*

                I’ve been in the position where we hired a new analyst to my level and I found out they were making more than me, even though all the communication I had was that I was considered the senior analyst in the team. I certainly got annoyed and went to tell my manager that I wanted either a pay bump or more honest communication about where they saw my position in the team (and ultimately got the pay bump).

                But there’s no scenario where I would have wanted the solution to be lowering her pay so that it was in line with my own. That would have been horribly demoralizing to our new analyst and to me as well, as I imagine it would be if OP reduced the salary of this new hire.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Alison is pointing out that if you do go the route of cutting someone’s pay, it’s fair to give them some kind of warning is all. She’s not suggesting a paycut is a good choice, just “if you got that way, do it this way.”

            Which still, cutting pay is the way you lose employees. Not just this one. I’m gone if someone gets their pay cut for anything short of a demotion. And I know most others around me would also be jumping ship.

            1. KHB*

              And what if you find out that Clarissa is making 33% more than you are for doing exactly the same work at almost exactly the same level? Wouldn’t you want to jump ship over that too? Because I sure would.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                Yeah, this is my point of hesitation. As it is, she came in with what I’d consider an insane boost over the candidates she’s comparable with, and that’s a major concern for the employer. Shrugging and saying “oh well, oops!” is not gonna handle that issue.

              2. NotAnotherManager!*

                I’d want a raise out of it, and to know how whomever decides salaries came up with that. Whether or not I jump ship would depend on the outcome of that conversation and how much I liked the job.

                I get asked about pay discrepancies all the time, and they’re much easier to handle when you have objective criteria for establishing pay and can tell people what they need to do to hit the next level (and come through for them when they do).

                1. KHB*

                  I’m assuming that giving all their entry-level employees a raise to $60K isn’t a viable option.

                  And it sounds like they do have objective criteria for setting salaries (i.e., entry-level work in this role is worth $45-50K, experience is worth $10-15K more), but the problem is that – for reasons that are not necessarily anyone’s fault – they have this one employee who’s way outside of that structure. And that’s a problem they need to fix.

                2. NotAnotherManager!*

                  No one’s saying they don’t need to address what’s going on, just that dropping the salary of this employee, who’s performing higher than entry-level but not at whatever preconceived level OP#1 expected, is not the right way to fix it. And it’s not a faultless situation – the employer (1) has too wide a pay band for one position; (2) doesn’t appear to have objective/explicit performance expectations for pay within that position; and (3) didn’t vet the hire in an effective way.

                  Their classification of entry-level v. experienced appears subjective to me. There are a few objective ways to parse this – by years of experience or by specific and measurable performance metrics (outlined in job descriptions) are the two most common. If it is years of experience, that’s easy to look at a resume and count (but it’s also demoralizing because high performers can’t advance based on their performance, only by the ticking of the clock). If it’s performance metrics, then hold her to those (but I’m guessing this doesn’t exist) with performance coaching and let her go if she can’t meet them.

                  This situation is not good. I’ve been there, and it’s a tough knot to untangle in a way that is equitable and doesn’t create bad precedent or run off good people. It took me years to iron out all the comp problems with a team I inherited about a decade ago, and it required a very supportive boss and a frankly amazing HR head.

              3. Is Butter a Carb?*

                It happens all the time unfortunately. When you jump companies you get big bumps. Is that super annoying to the people who already work there? Yes. But it’s also not rare so I don’t see how this is different than most other situations.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  It’s a big equity problem. We do pay equity analyses regularly, and you have to work those people into your system, not make them an exception that creates tons of problems. If you have to go that high to get someone, other organizations would probably do the same for your employees to make a move, so they need to be comped fairly, too.

                  But, I totally know what you’re talking about – I just worked an overpaid lateral out of my system last year (and it came up every time we did comp review), and I know we made a top-end offer based on market scarcity and competition for the seemingly-good candidate. It ended up being a bad call. Thank goodness, we’d put them into a higher-level position to accommodate the salary, and the person was ultimately managed out for not meeting the quality and productivity targets for that higher-level position.

                2. Autumnheart*

                  It’s not just annoying, it encourages experienced people to leave. If you’re a company, presumably you value the employees who have the context, experience and internal knowledge to make your company run efficiently. An employer would be smart to make sure that those employees weren’t vulnerable to a better deal at the competition. Not unless they like wasting money training people and giving them all sorts of internal knowledge, only to watch it all walk out the door.

        2. Burned Out Supervisor*

          I’m guessing that she might, in fact, have been truthful about her experience in the industry, it just may be that she wasn’t doing very well at those jobs. Years doesn’t equal skill (ask me how I know!).

        3. Close Bracket*

          And if you hand her all that crap after just two months, you will also almost certainly lose her.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        It’s a great strategy if you want her to quit.

        I’ve taken a pay cut to start, and was lied to about bonuses and increases, but if someone cut my pay? Bye.

    4. Close Bracket*

      If my employer PIPed me after two freaking months, I would tell them where to shove their PIP and their job.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, she’s likely still in training. And if the experience they wanted her for isn’t 100% translatable because she still needs her work reviewed, the protocols are slightly different… I’m actually very concerned that they think they have an accurate idea of her performance after this amount of time, especially if they wrote in recently, given how much of a cluster December can be for some offices…

      2. KMK*

        Been there. I went from a consultant in one department (where I did really well, but the job was ending) to perm in another and it was a disaster, partly because of the management (not saying I didn’t fail, but there could have been some help where I needed).

        A new manager was brought in, and she had me on a PIP in 4 weeks. She put in the request to fire me right before the holidays. HR waited until after the new year.

        I may have called her a narcissistic c word on the way out.

      3. SweetestCin*

        There is this.

        I had a position at “big general contractor” where it took a solid month to obtain my computer, my logins, my correct software, and everything else that was physically required to actually do my job. Even then, though I was willing to jump in head first, I STILL had to go through stupid online training for certain aspects of my job to obtain the correct permissions, as well as complete a few certifications that looked nice on paper but didn’t really apply to what I did. None of the training was actually useful as it was very entry level (i.e. “this is a floor plan. This is a detail. This is a specification.” Dude. This isn’t my first rodeo, and I’ve drawn them/written them for years…)

  4. AndersonDarling*

    #1 I’m conflicted about this because I have worked with people who inflated their experience and I ended up doing their work while they got the big salary. BUT, it sounds like the employee in the question presented her experience accurately and it was interpreted by all parties as the higher level of experience. And the employee happened to be a good negotiator and subsequently was awarded a higher salary.
    If the employee lied, that would be a completely different situation where I would suggest a demotion, if not departure. But this was just a mistake on everyone’s part so the company needs to hold it’s end of the agreement.

    1. Just J.*

      Have to disagree. Even if the employee presented her experience accurately, she’s not performing where the company needs her to. I agree with Alison’s response: clarify where she needs to be, what goals she needs to meet, and give her six months to prove herself. After that, it becomes a demotion or a PIP.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yep, though I think six months is quite generous. I’d do check-ins at 30-, 60-, and 90-day marks to review progress. She needs to do the job she was hired to do or be managed out. If she lied about her qualifications, then she should be fired for lying.

        You cannot hire someone and then drop their salary 15-25%, which is what LW#1 is talking about doing. That is a crappy, crappy thing to do. If she’s okay, and they want to keep her, then maybe they don’t do merit increases for a bit.

      2. AndersonDarling*

        If the employee went into a higher band, a Lead Analyst vs Analyst, then I would agree. But it sounds like the employee is at the same title/band as the entry level employees. It’s just that she negotiated to get the top of the pay scale instead of the bottom of the pay scale. She is performing within the expectations of that title, but the manager thought she would leading the pack.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          That’s kind of my read, too, which would make lowering her salary significantly a really bad look. I think the employer screwed up here and are going to have to eat the mistake.

          1. Bluephone*

            Word. Cutting her salary is a story that would definitely grow legs. Maybe OP’s company/industry is big enough to not be affected by that (not-even-rumor) mill. Maybe not. Does OP’s company honestly want to take the chance that potential job candidates with any iota of prospects (i.e. not job hunting out of desperation) will give this company a WIDE berth for years and years? I bet dollars to donuts that the cost incurred by only being able to hire bottom-tier candidates, not being able to fill positions because no one will go near your company, etc is a much higher cost than this employee’s current “unfair” salary.
            I’m not in a position to quit my current job without something else lined up but if I heard tomorrow that I was getting a pay cut (even for “we’re so in the red omg” reasons), I would most likely: 1–get my walking boots on. 2–tell everyone I know, and then some, to avoid that company forever (both as a potential employee and a potential customer).

        2. Ego Chamber*

          Also can we talk about this time frame for a minute? I’ve never had a job in my life where my training was entirely finished and my performance had leveled out enough to be able to accurately interpret it within two months of being hired.

          I’m not saying OP is totally off base, especially since they didn’t mention the industry or type of work, but I am saying it sounds like they super regret the salary they agreed to and seem to be really reaching for a solid reason to “correct” it.

    2. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      I knew someone who represented herself accurately…and they hired her for anyway expecting a much different result and higher standards and then were all frustrated when she didn’t measure up. Put on a performance plan, the works and she was snapped up by another department where she was a much better fit and her work was exemplary. The first department, as far as I know, never admitted they hired the wrong person based on their own incorrect perceptions.

      1. Bluephone*

        That happened to a guy at my office. We were hired on the same day, for different teams in the same department (think TARDIS email writer vs. TARDIS overall designer). The guy’s supervisor apparently didn’t know what she wanted out of him/the position and fired him before 6 months. Everyone knew it was a case of the hiring manager not really having a clue about this role but the company acted like the guy had somehow “lied”to them.

        1. Leela*

          I was definitely let go from a position that I was hired for as “recruiter” and then it turned out they just wanted a recruiting admin…they literally just had me stapling papers and doing data entry. I mentioned what I was doing was misaligned with what I was told in the interview and asked if it was temporary and then they just let me go (I was on contract). I was pretty unhappy about not only winding up in the wrong job because of what I was told, but also losing my job on the spot when I asked about the difference

    3. Annony*

      I think that the employee can be held to the same standard regardless of whether she lied or not. She was hired to do a job and she is not doing it satisfactorily. The employer does not have to just shrug as say “well she didn’t lie so we need to deal with it.” They can put her on a PIP and lay out exactly what they need to see from her if she wants to keep the job. If she can’t do the job then they should let her go. Demoting her would just be demoralizing.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        It sounds like she is performing satisfactorily for the job, but she didn’t hit the ground running like the manager expected. It will be difficult to put her on a PIP with the requirements that she exceeds expectations while it is okay for the the rest of the team to meet expectations.
        Instead of a PIP, I’d figure out exactly what expectations I’d be happy with, and lay out a training plan to get the employee to that level. It could be shadowing, outside training, or mentoring. It’s possible that she will be a rockstar employee, but she just needs the time that all the other team members received.

        1. Annony*

          If she was brought in at a higher salary due to having more expertise it is reasonable to have higher expectations for her work. They do need to lay out exactly what those expectations are but they would still only be asking that she meet expectations.

        2. Senor Montoya*

          She is performing satisfactorily for the low end. She is not satisfactory for the high end.

          50 k = you perform at X level.
          60k = you perform X + Y level.
          She’s not performing at X + Y, she’s performing at X. She was hired to perform at X + Y level, not just at X level. = she is not performing satisfactorily for the level she was hired to work at.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I don’t think it’s usually broken down that way. At my last job they had very clearly laid out expectations for every level but it was like Associate has x expectations, Senior has y expectations, Lead has z expectations… There’s nothing that says Associate paid 60k has y expectations while Associate paid 45k has x expectations.

      2. TechWorker*

        Is being let go for not meeting expectations *less* demoralising than being told ‘you’re a good employee but not good enough to justify the pay differential between yourself and others here’…? Like I’m not disagreeing a pay cut is demoralising and could lead to her leaving but if you’re worried about how she’ll feel about the situation then being let go (especially if she *is* meeting the basic demands of the job, just not the higher level ones) doesn’t exactly sound more pleasant…

        1. Annony*

          It isn’t pleasant. But if she is no longer working there it also won’t cause a larger issue for the team. Seeing a coworker get a pay cut would really make me rethink working for my employer. And then you need to try to work with her when she is going to probably be pretty unhappy and demotivated. I really don’t think that would be a salvageable situation.

  5. Lora*

    Buyout OP, in my field (pharma) the people who took the buyout were the smart ones!! Every hiring manager in my field who I know would be gazing upon you with envy, muttering, “you lucky bastard” under their breaths. I have some friends in tech/IT/software development who have also wished fervently for a buyout during every takeover. It’s viewed as a chance to relax and do something creative for a change without having to worry about money quite so much, or in startup-land, it means you did such a good job that your company’s product that you likely put a lot of late nights and weekends into, was worth buying out – it didn’t fizzle like other startups.

    I have requested buyouts in the past, only to be told “no not YOU, we need you here” and then have my job change substantially (for the worse) and end up finding a new job elsewhere as a result…with no buyout. Have many friends who took chances on startups with stock options, and now those stock options will likely be worth less than the paper they’re printed on due to no buyout from the big dogs. Enjoy your buyout!!!

    1. Autumnheart*

      As a tangent, today I am annoyed by our job culture, which expects employees to act against their own interest at virtually every level, or else they’re greedy jerks who dare to take money that….should rightfully go to the company’s profits? In this example, the alternative to taking a buyout is to stay until you get laid off, and risk that you won’t even get severance or even back pay, in addition to being out of a job. (I’ve worked for some start-ups who convinced people to keep working even when they couldn’t meet payroll, until employees individually decided they couldn’t keep working for free.)

      It’s all just so exploitative. Yuck. Grr.

      1. Leela*

        My husband was pulled into a meeting where they said “well, we have to shut down. We can’t pay you severance, and we can’t pay you your last paycheck. Buuuuuut would you all mind sticking around and finishing out the product? We can’t pay you NOW but maybe once we finish…”

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          I was laid off (technically furloughed and then laid off) from a tiny bio-tech company along with three other coworkers a couple of years ago. I was the admin, but the three of them were all engineers and/or lab techs. They were given a months severance and escorted to the door. I was given two weeks and then told that even though that would be my last paid day, I was more than welcome to help put together the furlough paperwork and other HR requirements needed for the lay offs. I laughed, packed up my stuff, and walked out.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        I worked for a company where being unable to make payroll was a regular, frequent state of affairs that lasted for months and possibly years….

      3. Ego Chamber*

        Yup! At least the entire experiment seems to be coming to an inevitable and predictable end, so there’s that.

    2. many bells down*

      My husband’s company went through a round of downsizing a while back, and so many people took the offered buyout that they’ve actually had to hire some of them BACK. Best of both worlds!

      1. Antilles*

        That’s really dumb (for the company) – typically you’d stagger buyout offers specifically so it doesn’t work like that – we would like to clear out 2000 employees, so we start by asking 2200 (under the premise that a few people will decline); if only 1000 accept, we ask for another 1200 hoping this time around 1000 will accept and we’ll be at our target number, then maybe another round, etc.
        I mean, you probably don’t *exactly* hit your target; maybe you end up with like 1950 and call that good enough, maybe you end up with like 2100 and meh, whatever…but you really shouldn’t be missing by so many that you get desperate enough to hire them back.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          In my experience, unless it’s happening for economic reasons that are hitting the whole industry, the need to get rid of employees is the result of a very long chain of stupid decisions. In that case it’s easy to go over the target because the low level people have a much more realistic idea of the company’s viability.

          1. Leela*

            I recently worked at a place that I left shortly thereafter (not a bad experience, just got a way better offer), and I found out that after I’d left they’d laid off an enormous amount of people, so much that everyone who wasn’t laid off had to work OT to make up for the loss. Oh, and they decided on the number to cut without considering that anyone might bail in the face of a massive layoff, even if they weren’t going to be laid off. But of course people did, they lost everyone who could get out and are still hemorrhaging employeesbecause no one wants to do the work of 3-4 people because the company made bad calls

        2. Bilateralrope*

          Wouldn’t it be better to make the offer to everyone, with the understanding that you’ll pick randomly from those who accept if too many say yes?

          That way, you get it over with in one round and avoid any accusations of bias in who you picked for the first round of offers.

          Though this assumes that you know how many people you need to lay off.

          1. EinJungerLudendorff*

            Depends on who you want to lay off. I imagine the employees are not all interchangable, so the offers will depend on the job and their evaluation of your worth.

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      A friend’s company recently went through restructuring and he was one of many laid off with severance. When some expressed sympathy he was like “nah, this way I get time off to job search and get paid for it. If I was one of the people who survived layoffs, I’d still be job hunting but working full/over-time at an understaffed company.”

      Fairly certain most people will not be thinking less of someone for taking a buyout, just jealous!

    4. Anchee*

      I took a buyout a little over a year ago. I was in the newspaper industry (so sad what’s happening). It was absolutely the best decision. The terms were far better than offered when they do rounds of layoffs…which are inevitable.

      Explaining this in interviews was not hard, no one was surprised. This could be because the struggles in my industry are widely known? But, no one looked at me sideways for taking a really good offer after 20 years of loyalty to the business. I’m still young and need security my old job couldn’t offer any more. Why wouldn’t I take the package? Reasonable people see it as a smart move.

      1. Skeptical Squirrel*

        My degree is in mass communications with an emphasis on print. I ended up in office jobs because I wasn’t willing to leave my larger home city to go to the boonies to work at small newspapers making $2 less an hour for the experience.

        Looking at how the industry went, probably just as well.

  6. Jennifer*

    #1 This kind of reasoning astounds me and I see it in letters here all the time. People resorting to drastic measures like cutting salaries when the solution should be obvious. Talk to the person! Find out why she’s falling short. She may not even be aware of what your expectations are for her. If her performance does not improve over time you may end up having to put her on a PIP or even terminating her. Then you can hire someone else at a lower salary. But try to give her a chance.

    It also seems like you didn’t do your due diligence before hiring her.

    1. KMK*

      Well said, Jennifer. Depending on the industry, and the company, and the department, it takes a while to get oriented to a new place.

      LW1, What was the employee’s orientation? Is she clear on the expectations? Not, did you explain, but is she clear? Someone can’t improve if you don’t give them specific feedback. Her previous employer probably did things differently.

      I was canned from a job after six months where I was thrown into something I wasn’t equipped to handle and utterly failed. Maybe with some assistance (and I did ask), I could have done better, but instead I got put on a PIP after a new manager had been there a month (funny, everyone working for her now is someone she hired).

      1. Jennifer*

        Good points. Plus maybe she worked somewhere where standards were so low she really felt like she was the greatest thing since sliced bread because she was praised constantly. I’ve worked places where you get applauded basically for being a (somewhat) functioning adult.

      2. londonedit*

        Same. I lasted 6 months at a job where I arrived into a chaotic situation, no one fully explained what their expectations were, and I floundered around trying to make sense of what I was meant to be doing until they said ‘Look, we actually wanted you to do XYZ and you’re not doing it’.

        Two months really isn’t a long time – I don’t usually feel totally confident in a new role until I’ve been doing it for maybe six months, though I’ve usually got to grips with most things by about the three-month point – and I definitely think someone should sit down and have a proper chat with this employee before they resort to the ‘Right you’re not performing as we wanted you to, we’re cutting your salary’ option. That’s going to be humiliating enough, let alone if it comes totally out of the blue.

  7. mguiney*

    To be fair, this employee is only two months in. At two months, it’s entirely possible that she’s just having a rough onboarding experience

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is true as well. It depends on the actual job of course, some are easier to hit the ground running than others. But since this is specialized, I’d assume it takes longer than 2 months.

      Also what is her attitude like? How does she take the feedback and critics you are giving her [you’re giving her that right, she knows she isn’t up to snuff, right?]?

      She may need time to adjust and come up to speed. Again, this is why I say you need to have a real discussion, training opportunities and your standards put in front of her.

      Something about wanting to just drop someone’s salary also just screams “Are you expectations actually doable?”

      I was once hired because of my actual impressive background. They thought I’d take over the place for them one day, I did it before. I could have done it again…if you didn’t road block me and give me a skeleton crew that was missing a frigging couple limbs. But I’m the jerkwad who I’m sure they’d love to drop my salary to zero because of their extreme expectations

      1. Quill*

        My current job, because I needed access to a very specific software, I didn’t get to train on that software until I’d been there six weeks, because the only people in IT who could set up access didn’t get to my request until then.

    2. Merci Dee*

      This was my thought, as well. At every place I’ve ever worked, I’ve had at least a 90-day probationary period. One place even had a 120-day probationary period. So in real terms, she’s only worked 2/3 of her probation. Also keeping in mind that there may be some massive differences between the company/companies where she gained her experience and your company. If she’s been working in small to mid-sized outfits and you’re a large employer, scaling up can take some getting used to. Ditto if she was working in large companies and moved to your small or mid-sized organization.

      Nobody is going to walk into a brand-new job and know every inch of your operational processes in an hour. Coach your new hires, and give them a realistic opportunity to get up to speed with your environment.

    3. rayray*

      Exactly! She worked hard and made an awesome resume and interviewed well. That was exactly what she needed to do as the job seeker. I bet she is experienced, but going to a new company is going to be challenging for anybody. Sometimes jobs are hard to adjust to. She probably is experienced but needs to learn how this specific office works. There’s differences in culture, lingo, processes, and much more. I like the idea of checking in with her to see what might be challenging, or what questions she has. It’s SO frustrating when you start a new job, and people give you instructions as if you’ve been there a decade and know exactly where to find everything and what exact steps happen for things. You could be at your job for months before a very specific circumstance happens, and then you need to learn how to handle it when that does happen.

      I feel bad for this girl. If this company wants to go back and take away the salary that was promised and agreed upon, who knows what other slimy things they pull on their employees.

      1. Leela*

        “You could be at your job for months before a very specific circumstance happens, and then you need to learn how to handle it when that does happen.” Yes, and even more so because a lot of companies (not claiming that this is OP’s necessarily!) do a very poor job of training. They’ll just have someone who does the job train you and give them EXTREMELY general instructions like “show them how to use [x proprietary software]” but not say “you need to cover x, y, and z, and the outcome is that they could do ___”, then the company gets upset months later when the employee doesn’t know how to do y because “but they should have showed you that in training!” Yes…they should have. Did they? Did you tell them to? The answer is often no, with no clear training roadmap and assuming it will probably just work out and then getting frustrated with someone who doesn’t know something they were never told, even sometimes going as far as to blame them for not asking like they could possibly have known that they would need to know this for down the line.

        This has happened to me before, and it was one of the most common complaints I’d get in HR

        1. Rayray*

          Yep. I have definitely been down that road before. It’s awful to get yelled at for something that went wrong because someone didn’t tell that you always do it x way, except for when z variable occurs. I had a coworker who would always get after me at my first post-College job even though she had done a terrible job training me. It wasn’t 100% her fault, she was overwhelmed and not a skilled job trainer but man, was she mean and nasty to me. I remember just when I was feeling a lite more confident, I went in one day and as soon as I sat down she just laid into me and I had to try to hold back crying…and I am NOT a crier.

    4. Goldfinch*

      It took me almost two years to feel independently functional at my job, and I came in with 12 years of experience and a Master’s degree. Everything here is done “the hard way”. It’s stupid and backwards.

      The fact that this company is quick to jump on the idea of hacking up her paycheck may be evidence that it’s also a place at which a new person will struggle to get up to speed. This company seems to expect this woman to perform at a high level via guessing management’s wants and needs. This place may lack logic and clear guidance in its structure, processes, and daily tasks.

      1. jemima*

        Yep, it takes a while to get fully settled in and feel independently functional, just as you said. A major issue I have dealt with is long-timers who have certain processes and functions so fully ingrained in their mind, they don’t stop to think about how someone maybe isn’t used to a system used at your office or doesn’t know the lingo. She’s probably perfectly capable, but getting used to a major life adjustment and figuring out this new office.

    5. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      This. It took me three months to integrate completely in my role. The learning curve was tough, and it took me ages to get access to the systems I use on a daily basis.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        My current role took me six months to learn well enough to not need to ask questions all the time. It took nearly a month just to get all of my access set up!

        My predecessor went on medical leave two months in, and then quit. I found out later he never really mastered it, and couldn’t handle the stress.

        I ended up writing or expanding the documentation over the two years after that.

  8. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    You are unimpressed with her ability to do this job so you want to pay her less money. Significantly less. And if she gets up to speed, will her salary be increased?
    This is a short term solution to long term problem. Either she can do the job you hired her for, or she can’t. If she can’t do it, paying her less isn’t going to make her work better.
    You are upset that she misrepresented herself. OK, you have to deal with that long term. Will you be happy keeping her around feeling that way? Is she able to do the job at an entry level? If you pay her at an entry level, will you be happy with her only doing that work and not stretching?
    This was a bad hire. Handle that.

  9. Holly*

    I agree with Allison’s advice with the caveat that if this person is not performing to the level you expect – it’s not a question of lowering their salary, it’s a question about whether you want to keep them in that position! After a PIP (or equivalent to try and correct this) they should be either demoted or dismissed. Not sure how it makes them to keep them in the same title but on a lower salary when the concern is they are not meeting that level of seniority.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It sounds like the title is entry level (rather than having a higher level of seniority) but the direct report negotiated a higher salary for that title based on more experience that she was presumed to bring in, so I don’t think there is anywhere for her to be ‘demoted’ to, as such.

      I think the additional experience was perceived as a bit of a ‘value add’ to the entry-level job as it was, rather than being for a different, higher level job.

      For example if I take a job as a “1st line llama groomer” where the expectation is that the difficult cases (too matted, exotic breed of llama with unknown grooming requirements, sensitive temperament, correcting mistakes of someone else who tried and failed to groom the llama etc) will be passed to “2nd line llama grooming support” — with the expectation that I’ll be able to handle more of the difficult cases than the average entry level llama groomer due to my past experience with “grooming difficult llamas”.

      Employer sees the possibility that I can handle more of the 1st line cases than the average entry level, so is willing to pay more. But then gets disappointed that my experience was actually just with grooming overly arrogant llamas which don’t come up that often, so I have to pass most of the cases to 2nd line anyway. Now I’m an overpaid 1st line llama groomer.

      1. Is Butter a Carb?*

        I just want to say I love how committed you are to AAM’s favorite career in this response.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I miss rice sculpting. It was a niche field, sure, but it just never regained its initial popularity after llama grooming became the new hotness. :(

    2. cncx*

      came here to say this. a former team inherited someone with a programmer salary who was doing helpdesk. he got talked to about getting certifications and taking on different tasks and like, actually doing a programmer job, he chose not to.

  10. Cyrus*

    “Client is demanding that I work from his office”

    Am I reading too much into things, or is OP.2 one of those times someone is officially a contractor but really should be a salaried employee and the company is doing something legally shady?

    1. Filosofickle*

      That was my first thought. One of the rules for being genuinely independent is being able to determine how and where one works. That would be the case where I live (CA). Is this a full-time gig? A project? It wasn’t clear.

    2. CRM*

      I don’t think it’s unusual to have contractors work in the office, especially if they are full-time. If this is OP’s only client, and she is doing the equivalent of 40hrs/wk for them, then requesting OP to be in the office wouldn’t be unreasonable. It only becomes problematic when the company doesn’t set an end date, has them working on projects that are outside the scope of the contract, or pays them for 20hrs/wk but expects 40hrs/wk of work.

      1. Stormy Weather*

        It sounds like that was not what was agreed to, though. OP was to work remotely and be available for onsite meetings with sufficient notice.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        ‘I don’t think it’s unusual to have contractors work in the office, especially if they are full-time. If this is OP’s only client, and she is doing the equivalent of 40hrs/wk for them, then requesting OP to be in the office wouldn’t be unreasonable.’

        Not so. It doesn’t matter if the OP has only this one client to support: the client cannot insist that the 1099 contractor must work in the office, nor can he demand a specific number of hours per day from the contractor. In fact, all the 1099 contracts I’ve entered into stipulate the contractor is NOT an employee, and they are not under obligation to work a set schedule in a specific location. If the client insists on treating a contractor like an employee, he creates co-employment issues he does not need or want to deal with.

        It’s fine to ask the contractor to attend a project meeting or status call or suchlike. Demanding a set schedule or onsite support is not okay. If the client wants to control the contractor this degree, he needs to hire a full-time W2 employee.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      I thought about that, but the bit about his having a team that helps with programming and coding sounds more like a legit contractor.

    4. Nanani*

      This. #2, it would be illegal to accept.
      They’d have to start paying you as an employee and deal with taxes accordingly.

    5. JSPA*

      Came to say this.

      It’s the way to push back: working consistently at the client’s site, using client’s equipment, doing exactly the job assigned by client, per the client’s orders and at the client’s convenience while being prevented from doing work for other clients? That’s not a contractor client relationship! That’s an employee-boss relationship. The IRS has many things to say about misclassifying those. “Let’s not get the IRS up in your business or mine” is a potent retort.

    6. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, the insistence on working from his office says “temporary” (hired via third party W2) not “independent contractor” (hired via 1099).

      If you’re paid on a 1099, and have multiple clients, it’s not reasonable for your client to insist that you have your butt in a seat that he can watch and interrupt.


  11. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    The second letter, from the contractor. No, you cannot tell someone something they don’t want to hear and have them happily, immediately agree to it. It sucks, I know. He wants a full time employee without the commitment. You want the work his company provides. All you can do is tell him that you can’t work in his office and find out if that is a deal breaker. It’s a gamble. Sorry.

  12. Akcipitrokulo*

    Another point stood out to me…

    “…doesn’t have as much experience in the field as SHE thought she did..” (my emphasis).

    She didn’t lead you on – in conversations with you, both sides thought she had the experience needed. Maybe because of her lack of experience she didn’t realise she needed more! But this is in no way her fault, and it would be grossly unfair to penalise her for it.

    If getting her up to speed is an option, I’d go for that. And if she’s otherwise good, and has good attitude, then you could get yourself an exeptional and motivated employee by explaining to her “we actually expected you to be able to handle X. We’d like to work with you to reach that point…” and then discuss training, shadowing, learning of job, etc.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Yes, this.

      I used to work in a field where I had a ton of experience, and I took a job where they were excited to bring me on because of it. But when I started working there, they got mad because they thought I didn’t have enough experience, and I got frustrated because their organization was using standards that were well below industry best practice (and in many cases, were just flagrantly illegal and dangerous.)

      I’m sure they’d say I was a terrible employee who misled them about my knowledge. I think they were a dumpster fire and am shocked they haven’t been shut down by regulators.

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I’m in that position now (though not as extreme) – I was a superstar in my previous role because the organization was set up for the role to succeed, but I haven’t had nearly as much success in my new role. I’m sure they would say the problem is me, but I’m performing as well as my more experienced colleagues. This organization just isn’t following best practices for success.

      2. JSPA*

        Good point! “she can’t or won’t do what we want her to do” ≠ “she doesn’t know what she’s doing.” Sometimes it’s the ask that’s dodgy, not the employee.

        OP should ask themselves (or others): are the process and goals an industry standard thing? Or do they incorporate some innovations that may or may not be 100% legit, let alone standard?

        I can think of a situation that boiled down to, “Here we divide by zero, which as you know, is tricky. Just set it equal to this number I’ll be supplying you, as the defined exception.”

    2. rayray*

      It’s the job seekers’ responsibility to sell themselves well. It sounds like she didn’t flat out lie about anything. Education and work experience can be verified. References can be checked. If the employer reviewed the resume, application, references, and felt good about the interview, it’s on them. They also offered a salary, and it was agreed upon. Sounds like they’re the types that have been at their own job for years and years, and don’t understand that someone who has only been there a couple months wouldn’t have everything as ingrained in their minds. New jobs take adjusting to. I could just scream this. I have been yelled at at my past couple jobs when I started new, because I was still learning office specific tasks. It’s FRUSTRATING when your boss has no patience or understanding about where you as a new employee are coming from.

    3. sofar*

      Yes, and experience doesn’t always transfer to skills. For example, I’ve seen candidates with more years of experience in their field turn out to be LESS proficient (at the actual tasks we assign them) than candidates we’ve hired straight out of school. Even if they can point to examples of their past work, you don’t know things like how long it took them to do the work, how much help they had, how many rounds of edits, etc.

      That’s why I like on-site timed tests during the hiring process (even as a candidate!). Because candidates will swear up and down they can turn around amazing work on same-day deadlines, and point to their portfolios. We could have dodged a few bullets if we’d slated an hour during the on-site interview to give them a sample assignment and see what they can do with an hour. I’ve had to do these tests myself as a candidate. And, while stressful, it’s such a valuable window into what the company expects.

      1. Leela*

        “Even if they can point to examples of their past work, you don’t know things like how long it took them to do the work, how much help they had, how many rounds of edits, etc.”

        Extremely true and for the same reasons, the candidates might be making misguided assumptions about their skills too! They might think “oh yeah I’ve definitely done X” but maybe had more help than they’d get at the interviewing company or different deadlines

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        When I was interviewing for a job that wanted a certain level of Excel expertise, including macro development, they gave me a written test. Apparently different agencies had different standards for “expert” in Excel. (Yes, I got the job, they were thrilled to find someone who could actually write and debug Excel macros.)

    4. Chili*

      Yes! I feel like the LW thinks it is the employee’s fault she is now overpaid but, unless the candidate did truly misrepresent her experience, it was actually the LW’s and the company’s responsibility to ensure they were paying the employee something they’d be happy with given her experience.

      Every job applicant is told to negotiate and ask for more so money isn’t left on the table. If the employer doesn’t do their due diligence to determine if they’d be happy with the work this employee is capable of, it’s kind of on them that they’re now overpaying the employee. If she’s truly not meeting the requirements of the role, she should be subject to a PIP, but if this is just “I mean, you’re fine but not the absolute marvel we hoped” I think the company should eat the cost since it was their mistake.

      It’ll be awkward during performance review/ pay raise discussion time, but “We hired you at the top of the pay band for this role and you haven’t met the requirements to be promoted or justify being paid more” is preferable to “Hey, we’ve decided after two months to pay you significantly less than you agreed to work for.”

  13. windsofwinter*

    I’m confused by this letter. The employee didn’t have as much experience as SHE thought she did? What does that even mean? You know if you have two years experience in llama wrangling or not. I don’t think she lied because the LW probably would have said so if that were the case. Sounds like they were very unclear on expectations.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      We wanted 2 years llama analysis experience which she said she had… but she did x-style analysis of llama horns and we needed y-style analysis of hooves!

      1. I'm that person*

        Llamas don’t have horns. You should fire her because obviously she lied about her experience.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          I wouldn’t say that’s a lie, unless she was directly asked if she had experience with analyzing llama hooves specifically. Sometimes these skills hooves/horns do crossover easily… but sometimes they don’t.
          If it WAS a lie, then I would cut loose much quicker. Either way though, I suppose you’ve learned to ask deeper questions or give a skill test for that particular skill if you can.

        2. Christmas Carol*

          Then how do they make a noise when someone cuts them off in traffic, or if their team wins the Super Bowl?

        1. Oh So Anon*

          Yes, and sometimes it’s one of these things that happens because the people directly involved in the interview process aren’t really capable of assessing those skills.

          This is something that I’ve seen happen not infrequently when hiring for a role that has some analyst tasks but that reports to a non-analyst (or someone who hasn’t been an analyst in years). Unless you have someone with subject matter expertise/skills similar to what you’re hiring for present on the hiring panel, it’s really easy to end up with everyone having a gross misunderstanding of the skills needed to do a job.

    2. Bee*

      It might be that, say, two years of experience at a much smaller company is more equivalent to one year of experience at this company, in terms of expectations and variety of situations encountered and amount learned. So they could very well have both thought she had enough experience in flat year terms, but since she’s started, she’s encountered a lot of things for the first time that they would have expected her to have down pat.

    3. AL (the other one)*

      I’ve interviewed people who said they had excellent and advanced skills in Excel. They truly thought they were great.

      My perspective after a test was… different.
      (I’d had one bad experience, hence the testing for all new candidates afterwards)

      1. Quill*

        Excel, like many other programs, is highly dependent on what you use it for… so when places ask “excel proficiency” I always wonder “do you mean making macros, or do you mean standard stuff like making coherent graphs and being able to add cells together?”

        And I can make macros, but there are definitely things you can to in Excel (accounting stuff comes to mind) that I’m not at all proficient in.

        1. Hamburke*

          I can do pivot tables and recorded macro mashups and vlookups but not graphs (or coding macros – VBA is a simple programming language but I don’t think that way). I check proficient on applications but know I’m over my head often enough – that’s why google is my bff!

          1. Grapey*

            Yeah I really feel like tech questions should be “how few google searches does it take you to figure it out”

  14. HailRobonia*

    For the extending travel thing, I’m not a hiring manager but I would see that as a positive – this candidate is expressing and interest in experiencing the area and would presumably be more able to make a better-informed decision regarding relocation.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yeah, we do this all the time with business travel as employees, it’s not considered a big ask at all, especially given what you said, which would be great for the LW to mention. And since they’re not yet employed, there’s no need to ask for personal time off for the extension!

  15. merp*

    For OP 3, this sounds like it works just like library work, even if you’re coming from a different industry – and when I was a library assistant or specialist, I grabbed every opportunity to do librarian level work that I could because the job market is so tough. Absolutely appreciate you giving it the thought you’re giving it, though – in my opinion, the “professional” and the “staff” distinctions and their associated pay levels completely suck, and it’s kind of you to not want to take advantage of that.

    Better still to get rid of the distinction altogether, but that’s not exactly possible overnight ;)

    1. EPLawyer*

      I know when I was a paralegal, I loved doing the “attorney stuff.” Everything was reviewed of course. My salary paid my bills with some savings so I didn’t mind my salary didn’t go up. I liked the challenge.

      It’s pretty normal for people to work above their paygrade to get experience needed to be promoted. As long as its not long term doing the job basically with never a pay raise then it’s fine. Opportunities, not workload increase is the key here.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I am a paralegal. What does a paralegal do? Thank you for asking: It varies wildly. In theory, a paralegal might be doing anything that does not require being a member of the bar. I can’t give legal advice. I can’t put on a suit and go talk to a judge. (I have in fact ended up talking to a judge twice in my career. Both were by accident: visits not anticipated to include judicial involvement. I began both conversations by stating that I am not a lawyer.) I can’t sign legal pleadings.

      This is the upper bar on my activities. In practice, most paralegals are limited by their training. While a paralegal cannot sign a pleading, he can draft it for a lawyer’s review and signature. “Pleading” covers a wide range of documents, from routine boilerplate to complex legal arguments. Part of why I make better money than many paralegals is that I can draft more complex pleadings than most, and provide useful feedback on those my boss drafts, both on substance and copy editing. (Hire an English major!)

      Am I being exploited? Don’t be ridiculous. I would hardly prefer to be relegated to less interesting work. This also would be valuable experience, were I inclined (which I am not) to become a lawyer myself.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Well… sure, but “I make better money than many paralegals” is a relevant factor there, right? If you were paid at the same level as a paralegal who was only capable of drafting simple pleadings and could copy-edit but not provide substantive feedback, you might be less thrilled about being given the more complex and high-level work that you do. The OP isn’t offering (and very likely isn’t able to offer) any increased pay for taking on these advanced-level tasks, and I think she’s right to be mindful about the line between “I am giving my paraprofessional staff advanced-level work as a development opportunity” and “I am hiring staff into paraprofessional roles, at paraprofessional rates of pay, and still getting the work of a certified professional out of them.”

    3. CallofDewey*

      That was my thought too- sounds exactly like a library. I’m technically at a staff level, but jump at every opportunity I can get to do “librarian” work- from what I’ve seen, it really helps your resume and getting that first librarian job!

  16. Saberise*

    I found the original post on this with comments from the OP. They had had conversations about improvements they needed to make etc. But in the end it turned out that they had lied about having experience in things they didn’t have and the company decided to let them go.

    1. Close Bracket*

      it turned out that they had lied about having experience in things they didn’t have

      That is a much different thing than “didn’t have the experience she thought she did!”

        1. S'ok*

          I don’t mind it. The scenario as initially described is interesting and useful to people who might right now be toying with the idea of cutting the salary of a disappointing new hire. A letter rerun from 2016 is no longer about that actual letter writer anymore anyway, it’s now an idea we’re all discussing.

    2. Mockingbird*

      Ah, thanks so much for tracking that down, Saberise. Very interesting to read the OP’s updates.

  17. Antilles*

    For #5, given that it’s potentially an international relocation, I’d actually be impressed if you asked for a few extra days to get to know the area. With the amount of money I’m spending on getting you a work visa/paperwork, relocating you, etc…you spending a bit of time making sure the country/area isn’t a total mismatch actually benefits me. Far better than if you never leave the airport/hotel/company HQ during your interview process and only later realize that “welp, I actually kind of hate this place”.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      Fun story on this:

      Husband used to work at a facility in a very small, rural town. Lots of Amish in the area as well, so it was completely normal to drive into town and see a few buggies parked at the grocery store.

      They hired a young engineer straight out of college from another state. The guy only lasted a week – and left because there was not enough to do, the town was too quiet, and the buggies freaked him out (all in his words).

      This would have been probably not gotten to that point if this person would have stayed in the area at least over the weekend. Plus, at least with some of Husband’s interviews (I was prior just gov’t, so no chance they’d pay for that), it was very common for the company itself to offer to delay the return flight back for a couple days so they could see the area.

  18. Laura*

    When I was consulting, guaranteed on site time was an added fee to our offerings.

    So for OP2, another option would be to offer something like 1-2/days in-office per week at $x/month (or hours per month on site).
    That can make the time worth it for you, and ensure the client gets their regular, ongoing face time.

  19. baseballfan*

    I empathize with this because I have dealt with the exact situation. We hired a new team member who vastly overstated his experience (for example, he claimed to have experience with a particular software application, when that experience was limited to putting together spreadsheets that were the inputs to the other application). He was completely lacking in the experience needed for his position and from almost day one, it was a problem. I spent all my time teaching him things he should have already known how to do, and he took days to complete tasks that should have taken an hour or two. We were behind on deadlines and it was extremely frustrating.

    Long story short – after several months, he was fired. But no, we didn’t consider lowering his pay. That was our cross to bear.

    1. Dan*

      My take on this is twofold: 1) Job seekers self promote. It’s what we *do*. 2) Relying on a person’s high-level self assessment of a particular skill will be fraught with peril. (Are you good with Excel? Yes! But I’ve never done a mail merge, and it turns out that’s all you want me to do.) Somewhat more seriously: I use Excel nearly every day. You could ask me how long I’ve been using Excel, and I can say “for years” and it would not be a lie. But all I really do with it is open CSV files that I generate in other software and sort and filter the data.

      If you are depending on an employee to have a particular skill when they are hired, you sure better have processes in place to objectively assess that skill. Even though I have MS Office installed on my computer, and I use some part of it every day, I can’t pass the application-specific tests that temp agencies give. But I don’t need to, because that’s not part of my job.

      My last group hired a new person straight out of college whose experience didn’t live up to expectations. My immediate response was “Supervisor X and Manager Y don’t have those technical skills, and wouldn’t know how to assess them during an interview, so I hardly fault the applicant when we can’t hire properly. The blame’s on us, not him.”

  20. StaceyIzMe*

    I think that it makes sense to focus on it as a performance issue but not within the role’s requirements, per se, but within her salary requirements and the skills that she represented herself as having. In order to do this credibly, you’ll need to have specific benchmarks for work quality and quantity that you’d expect to see at that salary level. It would be entirely fair to manage her with the higher performance metrics in mind since this is where she presented her skills and experience when negotiating for salary. It wouldn’t be a total disaster if she decided to leave after seeing the gap between where she is and where she should be. In all honesty, there is some reasonable expectation that if an employee represents themselves as capable in a key area and then fails to deliver, some professional impact is expected. It’s not a moral failing (unless the exaggeration rises to the level of pure fabrication) but a natural consequence of “we’re paying you to do x and y and you’re only delivering x and half of y” is that the “missing piece” is going to pose a problem requiring real effort at enhanced performance and getting to the required skill level and consistency. (All of this, obviously, assumes that this is a clear cut case of a quantifiable gap in skills as seen in work product and not just a case of generalized buyer’s remorse.)

  21. MissDisplaced*

    #1 I think you hold them to that skills standard (whatever skills those may be–and you’d better be crystal clear what those skills are) or you cut her loose. There really isn’t a middle ground here unless you have another lower-level role available you could shift her to or you’re willing to train/wait for her to come up to speed.

    I say this because many employers either didn’t fully understand the job and what it entailed, have unrealistic expectations for the role, or find something about the employee they don’t like that wasn’t evident in the interviewing process.

    Sometimes it does happen and it really isn’t either party’s fault. Happened to my husband where the company thought he’d be able to learn the job based on his previous technical experience. But the job was SO far out of his technical experience that he just couldn’t do so without basically going back to school. He tried. They tried. But eventually it became clear no one was happy and he was let go (with unemployment). There were also some politics at play where another long-time worker was jockeying to prove how indispensable he was to the company by not being willing to provide training–but it was still really just a poor fit for my husband technically. I’m honestly not sure why they ever hired him in the first place.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Especially from 60k a year…

      It reminds me of the Simpson’s line of “To Mr. Burns, that’s one less ivory back scratcher.”

  22. AnotherSarah*

    For OP3–it’s awesome that you’re thinking about this! I think it’s different, though, than offering someone “exposure” in exchange for work–this is professional development, basically. Is there another way to compensate the staffer? You say she’s exempt, so could you encourage her to take off a little early, something like that? Or compensate not via paycheck but with a paid training?

  23. Dancing Otter*

    If am employer told me they were lowering my salary, I would be on the phone to a recruiter before I even reached my office. I wouldn’t even update my resume first.
    I would download my contact list and any valuable (to me) files that very day, and strip my office of personal possessions. Depending how nasty they were in the conversation… well, let’s just say there are a lot of ways a person in my profession can make life difficult for a former employer if her system access isn’t cut off fast enough.
    And I would not give notice when I quit.* If they can be a-holes like that, they deserve zero consideration from me.

    * I might even quit on the spot, if there weren’t anything I wanted off the computer. But I have savings/investments enough to survive very nicely, thank you. Others might not have that flexibility.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      “Depending how nasty they were in the conversation… well, let’s just say there are a lot of ways a person in my profession can make life difficult for a former employer if her system access isn’t cut off fast enough”

      … I hope (mostly for the sake of your reputation!) you wouldn’t actually go through with sabotage of your employer’s systems or steal their files – yes, even if they were ‘nasty’ when they told you they were lowering your salary!

      I don’t know what industry you are in but in my industry someone doing this would never work again if it was ever found out.

  24. Chris*

    OP1 – Sounds like she may still be on her probation period and she isn’t passing it. If she is still on probation, you should consider just letting her go. It would be for the best. Cutting her pay and keeping her would probably make the situation worse; her morale would drop and her quality of work will get even worse than it already is.

    So my advice? If it gets to the point where you can’t trust her work, just let her go. Cutting her salary will just make things difficult down the road.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      But her quality of work isn’t bad as such (implied by “even worse than it already is”). OP says report’s work is “only slightly better” than the typical level of people recruited into this role.

      1. Fishships*

        But “only slightly better” isn’t what they hired her for. My company would have let her go as soon as it was obvious she wasn’t a good fit. It’s not personal, it’s business.

  25. CanCan*

    OP1 – Instead of offering her a higher salary to start, you could have offered her the standard rate, with the possibility of a specific increase at a specific time if things go really well.

    A few years back, I was looking for a new job after moving to a different city and taking time off for a new baby. I wasn’t getting many interviews, so salary wasn’t on my mind much. When they asked me what my expectations were, I honestly told them that I had $X in my old job and that I expected about the same here. When I got the offer, for exactly $X, I was rather disappointed (my old salary was under-market, and I hadn’t had a raise in my old job), so I asked for $10k more. They offered to start me at $X and increase it by $10k after 3 months if things went well. They did, and I got the raise, without ever having to remind them.

    1. ACDC*

      I had a similar experience at a past job, but I think it’s naive to assume all employers will honor this type of agreement (even if it is in writing!)

  26. Anon here*

    OP1 – if she lied about experience then deal with her misrepresenting as an integrity issue, rather than a financial one.

    If you and she are each at fault (i.e. you wanted advanced Excel involving VBA programming etc and she said she had advanced Excel considering that to be a few VLOOKUP’s type of thing and you didn’t do enough checking to ensure you were on the same page) could you “meet in the middle” by splitting the difference on salary or waiting for market to catch up before any cost of living raises for example?

  27. stitchinthyme*

    OP5 – I did the “extend the interview trip” thing, though in my case it was less about vacation than about wanting to check out some apartments just in case I got the job. I did that and it saved me another trip — after I got the job offer, I ended up taking one of the apartments I looked at during the interview trip, so I didn’t have to go back up there to look for a place.

  28. Anon4this*

    OP1 – I can see where AAM is coming from in recommending feedback on specific changes that would need to be made for the employee to meet the expectations associated with their salary level…but here’s the thing, sometimes what you really need is the wisdom, confidence, judgement and abilities that come from experience, not a specific actionable set of tasks carried out.
    When hiring someone at an above entry-level salary, the expectations would be higher along the lines of ownership of work, knowing what to do in various situations that could arise, being able to move the team’s work forward and optimize it based on knowing what had worked due to previous experience. Gaining what comes from experience isn’t something this employee could work on over the course of a PIP and meet expectations on in a matter of months.
    If it were me, I’d lay it out honestly for the employee and let her know that the salary level we brought her in at would be for an employee further along in their career than she’s shown during her work with us. Not that her work hasn’t been good, but she’s meeting the expectations we’d have for an entry-level role and our options are to reclassify her as such with the salary appropriate for that role; or we could look to move her out of the role by X date.
    Also wanted to mention that this issue poses potential risks to the company’s salary bands. If they let this employee continue with a more senior level salary than her experience warrants, they’ll likely incur risk by paying similarly experienced candidates the usual entry-level salary for the same job moving forward. Not resetting this salary correctly could have the potential to benchmark the entry-level salary at $60K moving forward for other employees, making this position being paid essentially 33% over market value. That can come with serious repercussions to the rest of the salary bands in the organization and cause ripple effect budget issues.

  29. Leela*

    OP 1 – I’ve been the employee you’re mentioning here! They asked me if I was good at Excel. I said yes (believing it, because I was *the* Excel person at my previous job). They said great, we agreed on a salary, they gave me the job. Later they were like “whoah you don’t do macros??? You’ve only done one or two pivot tables? You’ve done VLOOKUP but have to look it up to refresh your memory? You LIED to us!” But I really hadn’t. They hadn’t asked me one thing about any of those tasks in the interview. And being “good at Excel” is extremely open to interpretation, I thought I was, and that they would test me or ask me more detailed questions if they had specific needs but they hadn’t. I really resented them for it, although they did keep me and my salary, but they were really sour about it and acted like I’d cheated them when really they didn’t do their due diligence and explicitly lay out the requirements, please don’t penalize the employee for this but maybe DO give her some time to build whatever skill is short, give her support, training, whatever would bring her to the level you need, it’s a much better reaction to this information than cutting her salary!

    I don’t know if the skill in question is one you could test for but if you can, I recommend you do, or lay out in your job requirements what specifically someone needs to be able to do (like under the requirements list Excel [pivot tables, macros, VLOOKUP]) for the specific skills you need. If she’s otherwise fitting in well and demonstrating a willingness to learn, you will most likely be better off keeping her at her salary and trying to bump her up to where your needs are!

    1. ACDC*

      There are definitely Excel proficiency tests you can give to candidates – I had to take one for my current job!

      1. Leela*

        There are certainly Excel tests, I just was using Excel as an example because that was my experience but I’m not sure what skills they were looking for or if there are proficiency tests for them. Hopefully as I think that would help them out in the future here!

    2. Dan*

      I’m more on the tech side so don’t use Excel much, but it’s the same. Asking someone “Are you good at X” and relying on the answer is just very poor interview technique. If you don’t want to give an onsite test, a decent way to interview is to ask more open ended questions: Are you comfortable with Excel? How often do you use it? What kinds of things do you do with it? Have you written any macros? How complex were they?

    3. Alan*

      This a great reply. I’m slightly appalled that so many people here are saying that am employee should be fired 2 months into their job because they don’t quite have all the skills the employer expected. What an terrible way to do business that would be!

  30. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (prospective employees who previously took a voluntary layoff).

    I have recruited people in the past as a manager, but haven’t come across a candidate in this specific situtation – but I have worked with many of them (in both situations – taken the money and run, then joined the company I worked at; or left the company I worked at via voluntary redundancy).

    They tend to fall into 3 groups.
    1) those who stick with a bad situation for too long hoping it will get better, but then take the offer when they finally see the writing on the wall (not very good at seeing things outside their ‘bubble’ generally). These are generally the people who would have been first out the door in a compulsory layoff down the line, probably with much more favourable terms, and finally have the self-awareness to realise it and get out while the going is good.
    2) those who see how things are going and are so confident of their own abilities they’ll take this opportunity of a “cash shower” confident in their knowledge that they will find a new position well before the money runs out.
    3) those who don’t need the money anyway (as they are supported by someone else, independently wealthy, stand to inherit money, or whatever). So they accept the money knowing they have options in the future and don’t need to immediately (in the next couple of months) jump to something else.

    None of those are a red flag in themselves since if someone is applying for a job they presumably have their reasons, but all of them are things that as an interviewer I’d have probably probed a bit more about.

    Then as a hiring manager you need to be a really good judge of character, as there are downsides of all of 1-3 above namely: 1) people with a lack of initiative who are driven by external forces only 2) people who are likely to move on again and 3) people who may decide to move on again once they get bored (etc) and have the safety cushion to do so.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      As a side note to this: the inverse of this is the candidate who was offered a handsome ‘retention package’ to stay at their company up to a certain date, after which their employment ‘may’ be ended with an unquantified but presumably legal minimum severance payout + retention amount.

      I was that candidate and if I had stayed at the company to be (compulsory) laid off with severance + retention I would have received a guaranteed amount at an uncertain date in the future. I would have received a fairly large sum, about $40,000 USD equivalent, to hang around, comply and help out with the handover to outsourcers, eventually be set free at a time of the company’s choosing (unspecified at the time of signing that contract).

      I voluntarily applied for and was successful & moved on to a new role at a different (unrelated) company with slightly higher salary on paper but it was probably a wash considering commuting costs, benefits, etc. I turned down a guaranteeed $40,000 payout and should have been confident in my own abilities to find a new role after but used the “bird in the hand” fallacy.

      I don’t regret it as such, but I wonder ‘what if’. I have a lot more life experience to talk about now, “making difficult decisions”, etc.

  31. ElizabethJane*

    At two months in any job, even in the same field, what exactly were your performance expectations? Even for in industry switches most people need 3-6 months to figure out how the new company works, what the resources available to them are, and memorize specific policies and procedures.

    I’m not saying the employee isn’t under performing but it also sounds like the manager may need to shift expectations a bit.

  32. Marie*

    How recently were the lower salaried employees hired? Given the unemployment rate at the moment and the LW’s difficulties finding qualified candidates in general, starting salaries are bound to be higher than at other times. Meanwhile, stellar economy or performance or not, I’ve never gotten more than a 2% COL increase in a job I already had. It’s possible LW’s other employees could make 10K/yr by getting new jobs, too.

  33. RebeccaNoraBunch*

    How very ironic.

    On Monday, after 4 months of job searching (and 4 months of being strung along and interviewing with 8(!) people for this role), I was given a written offer by a recruiting company placing me with a large, well-known tech company. The hiring manager had gone to bat for me and offered a $20k higher salary than the initial offer because of my extensive experience and skills. I was really excited about the role and the company, even though it’s technically not a permanent position but contract.

    Today (Wednesday), I woke up to a text message asking me to call the recruiting company. Apparently the team “can’t get approval” for the higher salary and are dropping it back down to $20k less. So I have to either accept at $20k less or not at all.

    I have another offer on the table which gives me different experience, skills, and ability (with commission, it’s a sales role) to earn double what they are offering.

    Guess which one I’m taking?

    PS I’m livid.

  34. Orange You Glad*

    OP1 – I don’t think you should reduce her salary, but definitely provide clear expectations of what she needs to accomplish and hold her to them. If she’s only producing 75% of what was expected, than that should come up in her reviews and affect future raises. It’s likely she wouldn’t receive a raise or a minimal raise this year since she is performing below satisfactory levels.

  35. Matt Nick*

    This must be really serious.

    To be honest, I don’t think her salary should be reduced, but definitely she ought to be provide clear expectations of what she needs to accomplish and hold her to them

    Just my 2 cents

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