Disgruntled Accounting Clerk

We have a probationary, Accounting Clerk who has asked for an increase in her salary, twice. The Acct. Manager has gradually given the clerk some of her job duties. The Clerk now feels she should be making more money and has become disgruntled.

The Acct. Clerk's position administers payroll. We have other administrative employees making more money than the Acct. Clerk's with comparable educational level but their time of service is longer. There has been no corrective action given to the Acct. Clerk but there have been discussions with her explaining why she is not making equal salary. What opinions would you have in regards to us terminating her for performance?


  • 11 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • What is the problem with her job performance?

    "Disgruntled" is a vague term - how does her disgruntledness actually manifest itself in the performance of her job duties or work attitude? Maybe it has interfered with her or others' ability to do their work, but that's not clear from the information in your post.

    My point is, if there's not actually any problem with her job performance, don't terminate her for poor performance. It doesn't mean you can't terminate, just don't do it for an invalid reason.
  • Why do you have a probationary period?

    (semi-rhetorical question)

  • Not sure whether there is a specific state reg in MO; you might check there for guidelines on acceptable practice. I'm in Florida, and in Florida there are few--so my recommendation would be the following:
    1. Counsel the worker formally and document the counseling session; include discussion about her wages and why they are where they are; keep the topic on her own wages, what she brings to the mix, and the value of her position to your organization; and keep the focus less on other folks' wages. It is true that she sees other folks' wages, but her wages are not based on the other folks' wages and should not be part of the discussion with her, just as any other worker's discussion would be limited to his/her own wages, skill, value, etc.
    2. Include in the counseling discussion about work performance and customer service. Payroll positions are customer service positions, just as all other support operations' positions; customers are coworkers. There should be little to no difference in the customer performance aspect of the job vs. any other customer service position. If she is deficient in this area, put her on a plan of action, unless there has been training/guidance in this area with her in the past.
    3. Include discussion about 'negative influence' by her toward coworkers. Consider that while you have a responsibility to maintain a work atmosphere conducive of acceptable productivity and performance for her, you have the same responsibility for her coworkers. If her negativity is an obstacle for others, let her know and let her go.

    In Florida, we would likely pay unemployment without documented plan of action, but might be relieved of the burden with documentation supporting that adequate warning & training were offered. You might try suspension, but disgruntlement is usually not 'cured' with a suspension. You also must consider the sensitivity of the information accessible by the payroll position. A disgruntled employee can easily sabatoge your organization overtly or discretely, so my suggestion is to be firm, fair, and leave no room for doubt.

    Best wishes.
  • It is not clear from your posting as to how her "disgruntlement" has manifested itself into performance. Has she become abrupt and abrasive, is she missing deadlines, etc.? I think you need to focus on the performance and behavior, not the fact that she has asked for a raise.

    My experience is that when it comes to behavior and attitude, what you see during a probationary period is what you will see one year, two years, seven years from now. So, if she is exhibiting an inability to cope with decisions with which she doesn't agree, I don't see a positive future. Terminating her may be in your best interest, but terminate her for performance/behavior not for the fact that she asked for a raise.
  • It is not unusual for PR types to be upset with wage scales and the differences between their pay and certain other positions.

    When this comes up (and it seems to do so with every new pr clerk), I always counsel them to not be impacted by the confidential information they are privy to. It may be human nature to compare the pr position to others and think they are on par, but it is not for them to make this call.
  • I'm having a hard time relating "Disgruntled" to "Performance" in this case. Not saying it doesn't happen, but not in this case with the facts presented. I would say this would be more of a "Conduct" issue. I would counsel the ee on their conduct and how they must present theirself as an ee of your company. Set a measurable standard for the ee and stick to it. If the ee is truly stuck on this issue, they will basically walk theirself out the door. Good Luck.
  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 04-13-07 AT 12:26PM (CST)[/font][br][br]My apologies, but this raised an issue that is a pet peeve of mine. The pet peeve is supervisors who come to me with stories of misbehavior/conduct by an employee, but then say the employee is performing well, so there's probably nothing the supervisor can do.

    To me behavior/conduct/attitude are part of performance. No matter how talented an employee may be relative to the technical aspects of the job, if the employee's behavior is causing disruption in the work environment, or is otherwise inappropriate, then the employee is not performing up to our expectations.

    So, back to the original question posted, if the employee's disgruntlement is impacting the work or work environment, it is a "performance" issue.
  • I separate the two (conduct and performance), but I discipline much more often and severely for conduct.

    Poor performance impacts productivity, profitability and morale. Poor conduct impacts productivity, profitability and morale... and is much more likely to put me in front of a jury.

    I manage them both, but I'm a lot more willing to coach performance issues if I see a real effort on the employee's part. I don't have a lot of tolerance for conduct issues.
  • I happen to agree with DavidS that a well performing employee is doing more than completing the physical tasks of the job. Practically every job should include some level of accountability to support the company's mission/culture, safety objectives, customer service objectives, presentation of self, etc. That doesn't mean that employers want social butterflies whose focus might be 'fitting in' to the social context, but employers do want skillful, well rounded individuals. Payroll positions are no different.

    And it's not a pet peave, it's just a fact. My pet peave is people driving the wrong direction in parking lots.
  • I agree with that sentiment, but the problem here is that the original poster didn't actually say *anything* about how the disgruntledness was affecting the workplace at all, so, in the absence of any indication otherwise, there was nothing to suggest it was.

    Also, because when most people hear "performance," they think of the actual ability to get their job done in a more objective sense, there's a danger in terminating "for performance" without explaining that the problem really is attitude. If you have an employee who is doing just fine if you look at the actual results of her work, and you merely tell her you're letting her go for poor performance, she might think you're not being honest with her and hiding some illegitimate, unlawful reason for terminating. Whereas if you say, 'You know, you're work product is fine, we just can't have this kind of negative attitude in our work environment,' you're less likely to run that risk.

  • Couple of thoughts. I am assuming this person is a fairly new employee and is already asking for a raise? I'd reiterate our policy on salary increases and when she could expect one provided her performance warrants it.

    This behavior is typical of individuals who see others' salaries. Unless the payroll person is a professional individual who doesn't measure their own worth by someone else's salary, you will have issues. I'd reinforce the fact that she is in a position of trust and you expect that all salary information will be kept confidential. As I tell my direct reports before they come on board with me .. "If you can't keep HR issues confidential, then you can't work for me".

    If the person continues to complain and cause issues, I'd advise her she would probably be happier working in another environment.
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