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Dear Workforce How Do We Deal With An Autocratic Manager And A Frustrating Pay System

Our organization, while growing, faces several problems. Chief among them are a manager who is autocratic and uses a piece-rate pay system. Our workers are threatening to resign over these situations, even though the job environment is very tight. How can we resolve these difficulties? Where should we begin?
February 5, 2004
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Related Topics: Compensation Design and Communication, Dear Workforce, Compensation
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Dear Tension:

Your question deals with two different kinds of issues, both which can be approached in several ways. Let's deal with the piece-rate pay system first.
There is nothing inherently wrong or unfair about a piece-rate system--one in which employee performance and pay is based on the number of items produced in a given period of time. Problems do arise when the production quota is set unnecessarily high, or when meeting the quota results in a decrease in quality or attention to safety, or when the pay for reaching each production standard changes without reason.
I would ask for a meeting with HR and with management to understand 1) what are the production standards and how were they set, and 2) why a piece-rate system is preferred over other methods of pay. Provided you can give management some level of comfort that productivity would not suffer (and may in fact improve) under a different pay system, you should be able to discuss alternatives to the existing pay system.
As for the autocratic manager, it's unclear from your question whether he or she is your workgroup's direct supervisor or someone higher in the organization. If you do not want to confront this manager directly, the best thing to do is approach your HR representative, one of the manager's peers, or else the manager's boss. Do it in as constructive a manner possible. Gather your facts, including specific descriptions of this person's autocratic behavior. Be prepared to explain why that behavior is both demoralizing and a threat to the success of the organization. Most organizations have manager-development resources, including ways to assess and train managers in leadership. I would keep the pay and the autocratic manager discussions separate--the two don't go hand in hand, even if this particular manager instituted or defends the pay system.
SOURCE: Frederick D. Smith, Buck Consultants, Detroit, Michigan, Feb. 12, 2003.
LEARN MORE: ReadWhen Fear Strikes the Workplace.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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