Told To Lower My Performance

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about taking business from coworkers: My business has tripled, while the other colleagues are losing business to a trickle.

I work with a half dozen women in the same position as me. Our business comes from sales associates in our industry who choose us to complete their transactions for their clients via an hour long meeting in which we present legal docs for explanation,signature, etc. When someone is out for sick days, vacation, etc., that person’s clients are assigned to another colleague.

The sales associates can choose whomever they want to use and over the past couple of years my following has grown immensely. After substituting for other colleagues, their clients are now requesting me to do their transactions. My business has tripled, while the other colleagues are losing business to a trickle. They have complained to our boss that it isn’t fair, so my boss told me to “lower my performance standard to the others’ levels so as not to outshine them” so they can get back some of their business! I have never been told to do this at a job and I am flabbergasted! What do I do, and more importantly, how does one lower performance standards when it goes against my work ethic?

Signed, High Performer

Dear High Performer:

It appears there is little management oversight of how the work is done, if other employees are performing so poorly they are losing out on business. On the other hand, perhaps sales associates are choosing you for reasons other than good quality work, or rejecting the others for reasons other than poor quality work. So, perhaps management needs to ensure work is distributed equitably, if that is the goal.The solution is certainly not just to have you start doing bad work so the sales associates don’t want you to work with them anymore! I think this is a matter that should be discussed in more detail with your manager and with more useful feedback from him.If it would work within your office culture, it would be best to have this in writing. But, if that would seem strange for the usual way of communicating, at least write and ask for the interview and state enough in that email that it makes your position clear. Something along the line of….. “I’ve thought about what we talked about last week, and honestly can’t see any way I can ethically start doing bad work so sales associates will take files away from me and give them to someone else.I don’t know what providing bad service and lowering my standards would look like in practice, and I don’t want to learn to work that way!It seems to me that the solution is for the others to provide higher levels of service and convince the sales associates that they can provide what is needed.I think this issue is a matter between the employees, you and the sales associates. I didn’t solicit the work, but we have no policy that says I must turn it down if offered. So, I have simply been doing what I was hired to do, in the best way possible. If you want to discuss this further, I’m willing to do so, but it seems to me I’m not the one who can provide the solution.”

You would probably not write in that way, but that’s the general idea.Think about it this way: Is it likely you would be fired for doing good work? I don’t think those at levels higher than your manager would like that! So, really, there is no reason to take his suggestion seriously. He is likely just trying to relieve some of the pressure he’s feeling.Instead, perhaps you can suggest increased training for the others so they can get work too.

All I know for sure is that it would be ludicrous to ask you to give up money to make others happy, if they have had the same chances you have had to get clients. If that isn’t the case and you have received favored treatment, that is another matter. But, if you all started at the same level and you have excelled, I think there is little chance that your manager will really expect you to do less effective work and it would be worth going over his head about it, if he did.If he asks you to do that and he is serious about it, ask him if you can talk to someone higher to find out if there are better solutions. Or, go on your own. But don’t give up your reputation to keep others happy.Best wishes with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe