what to do when a low performer asks for a massive raise

A reader writes:

One of my employees has handed me a letter asking for a promotion and a 30% pay raise, detailing their desired new job title and new job description! This letter has shocked me, to say the least, as this person is underperforming in his current role and only last week he and I agreed that we would give it six months for his performance to improve and get him back on track.

I believe this employee is feeling hard done by, as we recently hired a more senior position on the team. He did not express any interest in applying for this more senior position and has not taken any responsibility for his own development. Are you able to offer any advice as to how to deal with this situation without upsetting him?

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:

  • Employee dating drama
  • Should I tell an employer their offer is below industry standard?
  • My bosses spend early morning meetings on small talk
  • How do interim roles work?

{ 134 comments… read them below }

  1. Magenta Sky*

    LW #1: If you main goal is to avoid upsetting him, then his job is to not be upset. And he’s apparently doing that well.

    Is there a reason other than avoiding confrontation that’s so important to you?

    1. Jean*

      OMG, THIS. This guy has figured out that he can do and say whatever line-stepping, norm-violating thing that pops into his head, because no one checks him on it. A direct conversation needs to be had, today, about how his performance is not up to the standard it should be, and you need to see A B and C from him in order for him to stay in his current role, much less be promoted. If he’s upset he’s upset. It’s not your job to manage his feelings.

    2. EngineerMom*


      My first thought was “why are you worried about upsetting HIM? He’s clearly not concerned about returning the favor. Your job as a manager is to build a cohesive and effective team (coach employees, remove underperformers, retain/add good workers, etc.), not be their buddies.”

    1. Magenta Sky*

      Shredding it would be bad documentation policy.

      A giant, 8×10 red REJECTED!!! stamp, on the other hand, would be entirely appropriate.

  2. Kimmy Schmidt*

    #3: I’m a little confused about the point of saying something. I assume that the company knows their offer is low and can’t or won’t afford anything higher?

    #5: Some people in an interim role do want and aim for the permanent position, but in my experience I think it’s actually more common that the person is there as a stop-gap. They enjoy their current role and serve as interim to keep the organization going, but they don’t intend to stay there. Academia, FWIW.

    1. Chriama*

      It’s possible that they don’t know — maybe it’s a new HR person, maybe it’s a new manager, maybe the position was originally categorized as something else and it changed but they didn’t remember to update the salary… I don’t think OP loses anything by pointing it out.

      1. Kiki*

        Right, I also think some companies don’t really do their research when it comes to salary stuff, they’re going off really old or bad information, or they’re working off of expectations that are unreasonable. Hearing a candidate come back and say, “Whoa, hey, this is insultingly low– I made more straight out of college” could be the wake-up call someone needs to adjust their expectations. I’ve also seen this scenario happen where the last person in the role was being wildly underpaid, usually because they started as one thing and then expanded the role while they were in it (for example, someone who was hired to do basic book keeping who then overhauled the system as the business expanded and took on the duties of a full-fledged accountant). So the company doesn’t realize that they were paying book-keeping wages while getting a whole higher level of service than they were paying for.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          Yup. I applied for an internal role at my old company that was several steps up and in my phone screen (yeah I know) the recruiter asked a few weird questions and then told me the role would be a pay cut so why was I applying? My boss (also the hiring manager) sat directly in front of me so I simply stood up and asked what the heck? He got on the phone with the recruiter and ended up finding out that this newbie decided he knew better and did “market research” for the position and realized we highly overpaid so he adjusted the salary to his findings without telling anyone.
          Well he researched the wrong role. The job was Inventory Analyst (4-year accounting degree and 3+ years experience) and he found Inventory Clerk roles and assumed they were the same thing. He didn’t last long.

        2. Chriama*

          That’s another scenario I didn’t think of, but I find it highly probable! The previous person outgrew the role and the company doesn’t realize how much of a deal they were getting in the meantime.

        3. boo bot*

          “I also think some companies don’t really do their research when it comes to salary stuff, they’re going off really old or bad information, or they’re working off of expectations that are unreasonable. ”

          This. I think you also sometimes get people stuck on outdated principles – “I did this job for $X 20 years ago, why would I pay somebody $Y for the same job?”

          Ultimately, people who are hiring won’t know for sure why people are turning down their offers unless someone tells them. Maybe it’s because they’re not paying enough, maybe comparable jobs offer health insurance, or maybe having a bear roaming free in the office building is kind of a turn-off.

          It’s not the job-seeker’s responsibility to tell them, but it could do some good for someone down the line.

    2. DarthVelma*

      re: #5 – Yup. I’ve acted as the “interim” for the position above mine several times while we searched for me a supervisor. I’m pretty good at keeping the work going, especially the technical aspects, but I’d rather have dental surgery without anesthesia than have to manage people on a permanent basis. I like being an SME.

    3. Littorally*

      It can be an opening point for negotiations if the company can come back and offer something higher, or if they absolutely can’t, it’s good feedback for them that they’re going to have to adjust their expectations for the role accordingly for what they can afford.

    4. Hillary*

      Sometimes they know, sometimes they don’t. When I was interviewing two jobs ago I had screeners for very similar roles at two companies. The second one had a range extremely below market and we stopped talking after I learned what it was. The HR person knew how off they were but hadn’t been able to get it through the hiring manager’s head that they weren’t going to get an MBA with 10+ years of specialized experience for a new grad salary.

    5. Artemesia*

      I have served in interim roles where it was clear that the role would be filled by an outside search and was. I have observed interim roles similarly temporary and others where the interim did get hired. I dont think you can know the specifics of this role so treat it like a real opportunity.

    6. I should really pick a name*

      For #3, the point would be to provide context for when you negotiate salary. They may or may not be able to afford more, the only way to find out is to ask.

    7. MassMatt*

      #3 Many people that hire don’t seem to do any research on the market when they post for a new position and either use a figure they can easily spare from the budget or a salary they used a long time ago.

      Many employers/recruiters/HR screeners etc try to gloss this over by using words like “competitive” for salaries that aren’t, or try to make it seem as though the “great benefits” offered will counteract the lousy pay when they definitely do not. I had a recruiter call me for a job that was extremely reluctant to disclose the salary (warning sign #1), and the “great benefits” amounted to 100% employee-paid health insurance, no pension, and a 401k plan with zero match. This job’s offer was basically a 30%+ pay cut. Thank you very little!

      You can withdraw and tell them why you are not interested, but getting into how their pay scale is warped may not go over well. You may or may not care about burning a bridge but what is the plus for you in bringing it up vs: the potential minus?

    8. Cercis*

      My husband has done some hiring and anytime someone came back with “the offer is too low” he asks them to put that in an email so he can make the case to raise salaries. You’d think it wouldn’t take something like that, but his agency has been slow to change and they’ve lost some really good people because of the low salaries (they do have good benefits and rarely fire anyone, so it’s a “safe” job if you get it, which has also led to turnover as high performers get tired of picking up the slack). They had 2 failed hiring rounds last time because the top candidates wouldn’t accept the low pay.

  3. A Simple Narwhal*

    Now that’s some gumption!

    But seriously, you need to get them on the same page as you like, yesterday. Someone who asks for a massive raise right after essentially being put on a PIP is drastically misunderstanding the situation they’re in. Also, maybe officially put them on a PIP.

    1. EPLawyer*

      I can see his thinking “Well, I am not doing well in this role. It’s not right for me, therefore, I need another role. Give me a promotion and a raise and I will do great.”

      Reminds me of all the people who said “They don’t pay me enough to care about X.” I always responded with and they won’t pay you more until you show you care about the job you currently have.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Yea, I can totally see me thinking this way early in my career, I wonder if the employee is young/inexperienced. Either way, seriously misguided.

      2. Me*

        Agree. It really reads to me like he’s trying to negotiate his PIP status like one would negotiate a job offer.

      3. RC Rascal*

        Interesting thought.

        Reminds me of the lower school parent thinking: Junior isn’t doing well because he isn’t being challenged. Give Junior more challenging work.

        1. allathian*

          Hardly. No doubt some teachers could chime in on this, some students do poorly because they’re bored out of their skulls.

      4. goducks*

        I actually had an employee once who was filling a much-needed role, but decided she’d rather be in a role of her own creation that had a couple of elements of her current role, but was mainly stuff we didn’t need. Not only that, she wrote up a whole job description for it and told us she needed a raise immediately because of it. When asked about her experience doing this type of work (which we didn’t need, but also didn’t match what we understood her experience/background to be), she said she intended to take courses in six months to learn to do that stuff. She was legit angry when we declined to take her up on her plan, and pointed out that we actually needed her in her current role, and her current performance there wasn’t great, either. Gumption!

        1. allathian*

          Gumption indeed. How long did she last in that role? Did she leave because she got a better offer elsewhere or did you fire her for poor performance?

          1. goducks*

            She left in a huff about 2 months later, and tried to sow as much discontent as she could among other staff on her way out. She legitimately felt she’d been done wrong by not being allowed to craft her own job (that we didn’t need) and not being given a raise for the job we didn’t need with skills she didn’t have.

    2. TardyTardis*

      That’s also a thought, with a detailed laundry list of ‘here’s what you need to do just to stay working here’.

  4. KathyW*

    I had a (now retired) coworker that transitioned from one team in our department (where he performed poorly) to another team in our department (where he performed even more poorly). This person should never have been moved to the other team but he somehow convinced the boss that he would be able to handle the responsibility. He confided in me at one point that he thought his former boss hurt his career by not advocating for him enough and getting him the promotions and raises he deserved. He didn’t realize that his former boss constantly went to bat for him to prevent him from being fired, and was extremely glad when he went to the other team. Obviously he should have been fired but he was relatively close to retirement and friends with the director so that was off the table – but it was fascinating to see how far away from reality his perspective really was.

    1. Artemesia*

      I counseled an admin in our offices on how to make herself indispensable when the man she provided typing for left the organization and she had nothing to do. We had unmet need and a hiring freeze and I pointed out that if she did X and Y her job would be safe as we needed someone in that role and could not hire for it. She didn’t want to do those things but complained that she needed a raise because of all the changes in her job — she was let go in a month.

    2. Public Sector Manager*

      The perspective of an employee with performance problems is simply amazing.

      I had one employee I’ll never forget. I’m in the public sector, so firing someone involves a lot of conversations and documentation well before firing actually happened. About 2 years before he was let go, I told him he was going down a path where his job was in jeopardy. I explained to him in detail the process–informal counseling first, a written expectations memo next, then a written corrective action memo, then a formal recommendation for termination, then termination. He asked if our conversation was informal counseling and I told him, not yet, and he needed to improve.

      We had three informal counseling sessions on poor performance. Each time I told him this was step one towards termination. We agreed on a plan for him to improve. I told him if he didn’t approve, we’d be moving to a written expectations memo and his job was in jeopardy. When we had the first written memo, I told him this was step two towards termination, emphasized again the need to improve and that his job was in jeopardy. And when we met on the second written memo, I told him it was step three, again, the same conversation about his job being in jeopardy. With the formal recommendation towards termination and a meeting with our employment law attorney, he was taken aback and claimed he had no idea this was coming.

      I’m convinced if I rented a billboard outside his house with a countdown clock towards termination, he would still say he had no idea this was coming.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Yes, it is amazing what a huge gap there can be between perception and reality, even when the person concerned has been given really clear feedback/ warnings.

      I can think of a few examples (including one individual who actually put in writing to us that they were “outstanding” [in the management aspect of their role] and we would be lucky to get anyone half as good.

      They were, in fact, truly terrible in the role, to the extent that every single person they were supposed to manage had raised (legitimate) complaints and concerns about them, and they had managed to turn the best performing department to the worst, (it’s hard to sack people here, and takes time, so we couldn’t just get rid of them as we would have liked)

      I have no doubt at all that this individual still believes that they were good and were pushed out unfairly.

      1. Elle by the sea*

        Haha! Some people do have gumption! Or desperation! I did that once too – I put it in writing that I was outstanding and they wouldn’t be able to find someone of my calibre for the role in half a year’s time. I was young and foolish, but really good at my job, technically – just not a great culture fit, apparently. But I was right: they did indeed take really long to find my replacement.

    4. Richard*

      It’s nice to see such a clear combination of the Peter Principle and the Dunning-Kruger Effect. I’m sure a local psychologist would have loved to do a case study on him!

  5. Zach*

    For #3:
    I have no idea how many people work remotely/in different time zones, but if it’s a decent amount it might be worth asking as a group if they can push the meeting until a little later in the day. The company I currently work for on the East Coast recently reshuffled some of their business groups and my group picked up a team in California. Right around the same time, they also changed our policy to allow 100% remote work for all employees in our department (this was about 6 months before COVID). Though the California team didn’t request it, our biweekly department meeting got rescheduled to 10:30am EST instead of 9:00am EST so the California team didn’t have to log on at 6am.

    1. WellRed*

      This is so inherently reasonable. Even the folks on the east coast probably hate the 8am Monday meetings.

      1. Jean*

        Super early first-thing Monday meetings should be outlawed. That’s just… ugh. ESPECIALLY if the first 30-45 min are just chit chat. I’d rather get a glaucoma screening than start my week like that.

  6. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – not only is your employee underperforming right now, but they have quite a sense of entitlement. If you haven’t done so already, you need to put them on a formal PIP in writing, and make them acknowledge that their continued employment depends on meeting the PIP requirements.

    OP#2 – Neither you, nor the mentor should touch this with a 10 foot pole. That said, it wouldn’t hurt to put in some contingency plans to protect the business, in case things do blow up in this couple’s relationship, I’d keep it really high level and focused on general emergencies (after all, someone could get hit by a bus, right?), but having some processes and policies – eg. not having spouses /sig others reporting to each other, etc. – that might be a good idea to at least explore. I would ask the mentor to keep what she has found to herself, and I would do the same.

    1. Green*

      #2 breathlessly reporting on the intense gossip sesh she had with an employee about another employee’s personal life, instead of shutting it down hard… oh honey you’re the drama llama, and this workplace is so dysfunctional.

  7. selena*

    I wonder if OP1 said something like ‘you need to be way more assertive, to keep your current job or get promoted’.
    If he got bad career-advise and/or is on the spectrum he might have taken that way to literally.

    1. calonkat*

      My thought was that he’s setting up his story for the future. “I told them they needed to pay me what I was worth and then they fired me!” sounds much better than “I sucked at my job and couldn’t get better, so they fired me”

  8. Salad Daisy*

    I really hate clicking on the link to continue reading your column and being told I need to buy a PAID SUBSCRIPTION (to, for example, T*e C*t or I**c.) to read you column. So I guess I will never know what you said!

    1. Daffy Duck*

      This is how Alison makes a living. The site gives a viewers select number of free views each month. It is generally considered bad form on this board to complain about it.

      1. WellRed*

        Not to mention just plain tedious. In the whole history of paying for stuff has “So I guess I will never know what you said!” actually had the writer say “my bad! YOU can read for free!”

      2. Mademoiselle Sugar Lump*

        I actually didn’t realize there was a limit to free views, since I can get to Inc. nearly every time. The few times it happens, I figure something’s broken on the Internetz. Thanks for clarifying.

    2. BuildMeUp*

      The two responses above me already addressed the rudest part of this comment, so I’m just going to say that I’m extremely confused by your use of asterisks.

      1. JelloStapler*

        They may be trying to hide the names of the publications as to avoid them getting any more attention?

    3. Elenna*

      Someone makes a comment like this literally every single time Allison posts a paid thing. It has not and will not result in her posting these columns for free, because, y’know, we live in a capitalist society, money is needed to live…

    4. Littorally*

      This is how Alison gets paid.

      That, and come on — these are reprints anyway. Lift a finger and you can find the original posts in this site. Some of them are even linked already for you in the “you may also like” section!

      1. SpangleBob*

        The first one linked for me in that section is literally the “underperforming employee asked for a 30% raise” post.

    5. kittymommy*

      Every. Single. Freaking. Week it’s the same comment just different person. Writers deserve a salary too, y’all.

      1. Firecat*

        Yeah I read webtoons and it’s the same deal there. People threw a fit when completed works were no longer available for free.

        It’s hard for me to drum up sympathy. When I was in 15 years ago I was paying $15-$17 a book for manga that on the webtoons site you can get the same volume of content for about $7 now.

      2. L.H. Puttgrass*

        Why Alison doesn’t just declare these posts off-topic and moderate them into oblivion every time they appear, I don’t know. If we’re sick of them, I can’t imagine the primal screams she must be suppressing.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Probably so she only has to deal with it once. One person says it, they get dunked on, we all move on.

          If she removes it, then someone else will make the comment, and another person, etc. It’s a warning to others.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Why Alison doesn’t just declare these posts off-topic and moderate them into oblivion every time they appear, I don’t know.

          When she learns of them, she does.

    6. MassMatt*

      What a bizarre sense of entitlement, that you think everyone else’s work should be provided to you for free. Daisy, your salad had a $2.99 price tag, so I guess I’ll never know what it’s like!

      Boo hoo. This site has more content available for free and of greater quality than pretty much any I can think of.

      1. Pennyworth*

        Today’s Inc stories are also in the AAM archives, as Alison points out before the link. So I guess we can choose between paying to cross the paywall or burrowing into the archives.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Except that when you start burrowing into the archives you go down rabbit holes and read old stories from years ago and marvel at how an afternoon flew by.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Or just don’t read if you don’t want to pay. I just skip a lot of websites these days if I don’t love them enough to want to pay to read them daily.

      2. allathian*

        I only read Alison’s posts at Inc. anyway so I get to read them most weeks.

        For a regular reader, this is really getting a bit tiresome, someone complains about the paywall every single week. I sometimes wish that Alison’d put a post at the top to the effect that complaints about the paywall will be removed.

  9. Batgirl*

    For LW1, I’d be tempted to say: “Well, we had a discussion very recently about you underperforming and I’m concerned that you seem to have already forgotten that discussion.”

    1. MassMatt*

      I wonder whether the LW was as clear about it as she should have been, the “how do I not upset them” language makes me think that’s likely. On the other hand, we’ve seen many letters/comments from people who say they have been VERY clear that “if you do not do/continue to do ________ you will be fired” etc and people still claim they are blindsided by being fired or laid off.

      LW definitely needs to make things clear to the underperforming employee. If she’s done that and the employee persists with this out-of-touch attitude, well that’s not the LW’s problem.

      A 30% raise would be an enormous thing to ask for even for a really stellar employee unless there’s been a significant promotion or change in duties.

      1. Batgirl*

        I think even if OP has softened her language and the employee doesn’t know they could lose their job.. they’ve still got terrible judgement. If your boss says “you need to do x better” you don’t come back with “sure and can I get a huge raise?” It gives OP a really perfect way to shut it down. I’d be glad it happened after the sit down and not before, even if I saw that I now had to go over that again and toughen up on the language. Clearly this is not an employee with inference skills.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          Thankfully I’ve never been PIPd before, but I would assume there would be some sort of documentation that would clearly define the improvements that need to be made within the specified time frame in order to avoid the mutual parting of ways?
          If it’s there in black and white, I don’t know how it could not be clear and the employee would not know that asking for a promotion and a 30% raise were just way out of the question, much less him keeping his job.

          1. Caraway*

            You would think, but I promise you not every employee can, or wants to, see what is clearly stated in their PIP. As an example – I have been in many disciplinary meetings (as the employee’s union rep) where they are told they need to stop arguing with their supervisor. Those meetings almost always end up with the employee arguing that they’re not argumentative! No matter how clear the documentation is, some employees will find a way to misinterpret or disregard it.

    2. Elle by the sea*

      I think I would say this. Oftentimes the problem is that managers soften their language to the point that they themselves don’t realise how soft and vague their language becomes in these situations.

  10. Jennifer Thneed*

    OP #2: your employees aren’t dating, they are living together. These are very different things and you can’t use the phrases as synonyms. (And I agree with Alison’s comment, I just want to make this point.) Absent any other information, please regard their relationship as more like marriage than like dating.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I don’t think OP used the two phrases synonymously. They said “Two of them are dating each other and have been doing so for years. They live together.”

      I dated and lived with my now spouse for years before we got married, during that whole time we were dating. I think you might be assuming that OP does not think their relationship is serious because they are “dating” but I saw no mention of that in the letter. I don’t think OP or an employer needs to decide to treat someone as a married couple if they are dating and living together, unless the person specifically asks for it. They could be dating for 8 years and live separately, or be married and live separately and the OP should still treat them the same. At the end I don’t think the exact status of their relationship changes any of the advice. Even if they had only been dating for 3 months, or had been married for 50 years the advice is still the same.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        For me, dating is when you first meet and start seeing each other on dates. You then progress to being BF and GF (or other combos of course), then live-in BF/GF if you don’t get married first. A person you describe as “your date” is typically someone you’ve just been seeing for a while, no strings attached. When you get to BF/GF status, you will typically have had the conversation about being exclusive (or not), met each other’s family and you’re each other’s +1 for whatever occasions require one.

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          I think this is valid terminology, but by no means is it universal. There is no universal relationship terminology except at the level of married or not married. There are other specific terms but they often overlap, or have differing meanings for different people. The insistence on treating people living together as spouses instead of dating is, I think, both unnecessary and irrelevant in this context.

    2. Batgirl*

      I’m not sure that’s always true. There are people who have decided to live together as a lifetime commitment and others who are just trying the situation on for size much like dating. I usually take my cues and terms from the people concerned. In OPs position, I’m not sure that figuring out the distinction will help either way. I would not feel better about keeping this quiet because he’s fooling a committed partner who’s invested in a life long relationship, but I couldn’t say anything regardless.

    3. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      This seems overly pedantic. I didn’t see any indication in the letter that the OP wasn’t taking their dating relationship seriously. I think it’s appropriate to say dating and specify that they are living together – two coworkers could also be living together as platonic roommates, but because we have both descriptions, we know it’s not that situation.

    4. Metadata minion*

      That might be a regional difference? To me, “dating” and “living together” are two separate qualities and saying that a couple is dating implies nothing one way or the other about their living situation.

      1. Batgirl*

        I think it’s a personal one. There are people who would not live together without first making a commitment and people who would never make a commitment without first living together.

        1. The Other Katie*

          Then there are those for whom “living together” is a commitment. I’ve been living with my partner for more than a decade now. This is our commitment!

      2. Coenobita*

        Yeah, for me, “dating” just means “in a romantic relationship with” and it captures a wide range of scenarios, anything from “went out a couple times” all the way through “in a committed relationship for decades.” I wonder if it might be a language-changes-over-time-thing in addition to a regional thing – I know when my 94-year-old grandma talks about “dating,” she means something much closer to a literal “they are going on dates” meaning.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, that’s my understanding of the term as well. To be fair, this is because I live in an area where very few people live together as simple platonic roommates. It’s pretty much limited to students, and even most of them prefer studio apartments and are only driven to live with roommates if they can’t afford anything else or if there are no studios available. I’ve never heard of anyone of working age who is in stable employment who lives with a platonic roommate. So the assumption here is very much that if you share an address, you’re either related by blood or in a romantic relationship, pretty much regardless of gender. Here, the vast majority of couples live together before getting married and more than half of all firstborn children are born to unwed mothers/couples, many of whom never marry.

          That said, whatever the status of the relationship, it’s not up to the LW to interfere.

    5. Ele4phant*

      Put me down as this is too pedantic.

      There are two people on staff that have had a long standing personal relationship that so far has created no issue for the company.

      Someone uncovered some private info that maybe indicates something about their relationship, but so far there has been no impact on their conduct at work. Nor may it ever cause an issue.

      I think it would definitely be a violation to step into two employees personal life.

      If they break up and things get messy, address that. But otherwise it is not the job of an employer to involve them in their employees private relationships.

    6. Aggretsuko*

      I dunno, I know of two people at work who live together, but we have absolutely no idea if they are a romantic couple or not. Everyone is too afraid to ask.

      1. allathian*

        Just as well, it’s not anyone else’s business. As long as they get their work done and don’t involve outsiders in their relationship either by canoodling in the mailroom or by forcing others to listen to their arguments, who cares?

      2. 'Tis Me*

        I assume they aren’t in each other’s chain of command and if one of them were applying for a position that would see them managing the other, at that point the company’s policies re: relationships (including friendships) in that situation would be discussed with them?

  11. Bob*

    You need to change your mindset from being worried about upsetting him to he needs to shape up.
    Its always easier to not upset someone but as a manager you need to be in charge. You don’t treat people badly but you don’t baby them. He is performing poorly and you need to make the point that he needs to shape up just to keep his job. Be respectful but firm.
    If he gets upset don’t take it personally, and don’t try to console him or fix it, let him be upset until he works through it himself. And if he gets mad at you (which he might if upset doesn’t get him your sympathy) then he is showing you who he is and you should most certainly not be extra nice then. Remember, respectful but firm.

    1. 'Tis Me*

      Things like “I appreciate you are upset but I would be doing you a real disservice if I didn’t make it clear that you are underperforming in your current role to the point that your job is in jeopardy, and this is why we had the conversation that we did last week. Do you need a moment to compose yourself, or would you like me to go over your PIP with you again, to make sure you understand our expectations of you in this role?” aren’t unkind or unsympathetic, but they also don’t soften the message.

  12. Wintermute*

    First, I think you should make sure their request isn’t fair. Just being on a PIP doesn’t automatically mean you deserve to be underpaid, if you’re underpaying then maybe you need to look at the performance you’re getting in light of the pay you’re offering– you can’t expect 27.50 an hour worth of work from a 18/hour employee and if you do, well prepare to fire a whole lot of people and prepare for the ones you get to leave the moment they have a better offer.

    1. KHB*

      This employer does have other employees (as mentioned in the letter), so presumably they already have a decent idea of what people will or won’t work for.

    2. Ashley*

      To me if I was on a PIP or put an employee on a PIP they should be doing everything to keep their job not asking for a new position with a new title, job description, and raise.
      If the employee thought their duties were only worth $18 but they were being asked to do $27.50 work that should be a conversation by itself but it sounds like the person wants to change jobs altogether.

    3. Artemesia*

      I am doing a crappy job because you are only paying me X is not an argument for a raise; if it is too little then get another job OR do a good job and ask for a raise.

    4. PollyQ*

      He didn’t just ask for a raise, though, he asked for a promotion, which is very different from him saying that he feels he’s underpaid for his current role. Companies should generally be keeping an eye on whether their salaries are fair & consistent with the market, but I wouldn’t do any extra work based on this one employee’s actions.

      1. Tinker*

        The caveat I’d make about that is that doing what has the appearance of “asking for a promotion” can actually be making a more credible point than “asking for a raise”, depending on the context.

        I’ve seen it happen where people have fallen into roles that are a substantial underutilization of their skills and that they don’t necessarily have the aptitude for. The project manager I knew who spent a year digging holes where his manager told him to dig them happened to also be okay with a shovel, but it doesn’t always work that way — for me, the thing I ended up stuffed into was actually something I had previously joked about how bad I would be at it, which was a lot less funny when it proved to be accurate. In this case, there really is something to be said for prioritizing using the highly-desired skills the person has and you need over enacting just punishment for failure to adequately dig.

        I’d think that this isn’t likely to be the cause of LW’s problem because of the six months of performance discussions and the mention of the outrageous ask over any discussion of fit, but yet also I’ve been in the position of saying “look y’all, I ended up in this job by accident, it’s not something I’m good at, I’m trying to be a team player here but frankly I would really rather be doing the other, incidentally fancier but also different in nature, thing that I have a track record of not being depressingly bad at” and having that appear to register as “get a load of this Bad Worker, wants reward of fancy thing for doing bad job at not fancy”.

        Regardless, though, I think I can fairly well say that it’s a thing to be aware of — even if you can’t solve the person’s problem where they are, there’s at least the possibility of arranging an exit on a more constructive note.

  13. BarnacleGirl*

    OP2 there’s a saying ‘see me and don’t see me’. This is a perfect example – the mentor saw but she needs to forget about this one. Neither party will thank you for interfering.

    1. Dandy it is*

      Many years ago, I went out with multiple coworkers and there was way too much drinking. We ended up at one of the coworkers house. It ended with a co-worker and her boyfriend having sex on the couch and the other three coworkers having a threesome while I was sick in the bathroom. I saw the threesome, grabbed my shoes and got a cab. One of the threesome was dating (now married) to another co-worker who was not there (the other two are now married to each other). I went to work on Monday and. Kept. My. Mouth. Shut. I don’t know what any of them know or don’t know and it is none of my business. Not my circus, not my clowns.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        One of my first jobs was with an office that really liked their Friday night after work drinks. I saw and heard things that I chose to forget before I went back to the office on Monday.

  14. Hazelthyme*

    #2, maybe I’m just having a flashback to middle school, but I’d also be wondering about the employee who saw her colleague’s profile on the dating site *and then told people about it.* Does she have something to gain from reporting on someone else’s (possible) misbehavior? Does she tend to stir up or enjoy drama? I’m not saying this by itself is actionable, but I’d absolutely be on the lookout for other signs that the reporter was spreading gossip or otherwise contributing to a weird workplace dynamic.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      It doesn’t sound like she was spreading gossip, it sounds like she genuinely wasn’t sure what do do about the information she didn’t mean to have and was asking for advice

    2. PollyQ*

      As far as we know, she didn’t tell “people,” she told 1 person, the OP. I agree that she should’ve made the same call that Alison advised OP, which was to keep entirely out of it, but “Should I tell someone that their partner is cheating on them?” is an old chestnut of advice columns, and people make good arguments for both sides.

      1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        I just want to toss this in, since I didn’t see anyone addressing it, and I think it weighs on the advice. Not only should OP advise their employee that it is not the business of anyone at work (and follow that themselves), I think it’s worthwhile to at least hint that they should not jump to conclusions. There is certainly a difference between “We all know Jake is cheating now, but we can’t talk about it” and “The existence of a profile on a dating site is not evidence of anything, and could be many things other than cheating, so we should mind our business.” I’d even say it is unlikely that he’s using it to cheat, since apparently it was obviously him and a coworker recognized it immediately.

        Especially since this is an “entertainment company” I would honestly take the profile at its word that it’s for research. You can’t see a selection of profiles to learn what a dating site is like without making an account. I’m considering making an alt so I can look at other women’s profiles for research for a story.

        Most of this doesn’t matter as active advice, since the buck should stop at “mind our business.” But just to discourage toxic suspicions of their coworkers.

    3. Batgirl*

      I think if that was her personality there’d be no quandary. Although it’s important to maintain professional boundaries it’s not fun to wonder if you’ve just become a witness to a coworker being unknowingly humiliated and taken for a ride. When your hands are this tied, I’d take the route of assuming it was an open relationship, if only to improve my comfort levels.

  15. Phony Genius*

    On #2, I get very upset when a third party gives me information that is non of my business. If it was somebody who works for me, there will be consequences for invasion of privacy. (Not for finding the information, but for relaying it to me.) If you believe in Freud, there is no way to unhear this information, and it will always be in the back of my mind, no matter how hard I try. Don’t pull me in unless it directly affects work.

    1. allathian*

      I hope your reports if you have any and coworkers know how you feel, because I don’t think that defaulting to shooting the messenger is fair either.

      My reaction would entirely depend on the attitude of the coworker who told me. If they’re a person who thrives on drama and is known for stirring shit just to make a scene, I’d probably just tell them to stay out of it and to keep me out of it. But if they’re a younger, inexperienced employee who seems genuinely uncomfortable because they stumbled on this information by accident, which can happen easily enough when you’re browsing profiles in a dating app, I’d still tell them that it’s none of their or my business but I’d be kinder about it.

  16. Sleepy*

    #5 – I was an Interim Executive Director for a nonprofit. The board initially pushed me to take on the permanent role, but I realized I was not a good fit for that position. I do think the new ED was concerned that I might have hard feelings, and yeah, if I was bitter about not getting the job I could have made his life really hard. I think it’s something you could ask about if you get a formal offer–what role that current Interim will take on and how that might impact your work–but asking before then would come off as premature.

  17. Richard*

    It’s also possible that an interim position is there for a full-time person on some kind of leave (parental, medical, professional, sabbatical, etc.), and will be re-filled by that person on a schedule. It doesn’t seem to be the case with this letter, but it’s pretty common.

  18. Elle by the sea*

    About the low performer wanting a raise and a promotion: I’ve seen many people who claim the reason why their performance is poor because they feel underemployed and underpaid and therefore are not motivated. I don’t know if that’s the case with this guy.

    About the interim position: Does this company have a probation period? Many people who were let go after their probation period list their position with the company as “interim”.

    1. SpangleBob*

      Yeah, I’ve been that guy, but for some reason bosses just don’t want to give raises or promotions to employees who don’t pull their own weight in the first place. Weird.

    2. PollyQ*

      Many people who were let go after their probation period list their position with the company as “interim”.

      If I were hiring, and I found out an applicant did that, I’d immediately eliminate them for lying.

        1. Elle by the sea*

          For the people who I’ve seen do that was an agreement with the CEO: those were fast paced workplaces, usually startups, where the employee made a significant contribution. There was a clash between the employee and the CEO, but the CEO wanted the employee to be able to use that time on their CV and not have to omit that 3-4 months of work. If if it’s a mutual agreement, I wouldn’t consider it cheating.

  19. ele4phant*

    GG LW2 – stay out of the personal lives of your employees. Just because they both work for you does not mean you should insert yourselves into their lives outside of work.

    As long as they can come to work and be professional and productive, you do not need to concern yourself with what’s going on outside of work. If that changes, get involved only in-so-much as you focus on their ability to work together and not create dysfunction for the rest of the team.

    I do think maybe you should take a step back and look at how familial your culture has gotten. It sounds like you feel like you have an obligation to your female employee as though she was a girl friend of yours, but she’s not, she’s your employee. Have you created an environment where things are too chummy and people are forgetting boundaries?

  20. SpangleBob*

    I know this is four years old and the original LW may not be around anymore, but I’m really curious about the “desired new job title and new job description.” Was this a role that actually existed within the organization, or did he think that, on top of being entitled to a 30% raise, he was also entitled to make up his own job?

  21. Miss Muffet*

    #1 – I have found that often it’s the lowest performers who rate themselves the highest with perf reviews, so this is just a somewhat more extreme version of that I guess? Chutzpah indeed.
    I had a person who was essentially on a PIP and was starting to look elsewhere when I left that company. Before I left, they asked if I could provide a recommendation for them, as they were looking elsewhere (I’m sure they also thought they were underappreciated) … I don’t think I contained my surprise. I said, “the best I can do is be a neutral referral, but I can not provide a recommendation, under the circumstances, and I can’t even believe you are asking me to, as a recommendation by its very nature is a positive thing.” People can be so blind!

  22. TurtlesAllTheWayDown*

    Re: the early morning calls. We have an 8:45 AM team check-in each morning where we highlight what we did the previous day and what our major projects are for that day to give transparency to each of our roles, keep some level of accountability, and poke people if we need things from them to complete our own work. We decided that the meeting can start at 8:35 AM for water cooler chat, but the person who runs the SCRUM keeps us on task so we start at 8:45 with actual work talk and finish up just after 9. That might be a way to handle it. It might seem a little too formal to have scheduled “casual” talk, but it would help the LW by allowing her to skip the chit-chat.

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