Bait and Switch Compensation?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about commission pay:

I have worked for a fairly large corporation for about 10 years as a sales person. We were given a detailed compensation plan involving our commission pay that I signed and agreed to. Part of the contract stated that I would receive “merit points” as the form of commission pay when I sell a particular product. “Merit Points” can be used to purchase various merchandise from a third party company.

I began selling over millions of dollars worth of that one solution to only receive a large sum of “merit points” in return. As the company benefited from the millions of dollars that I sold, I grew more and more frustrated to only receive “merits points” in return for the hard work I put into my job. I addressed this to my leadership who agreed that it wasn’t fair for me to sell millions of dollars worth of product to be only given payment in a form that I could NOT use in my day-to-day livelihood. We both agreed that I would be given a certain percentage in real cash regarding my sales going forth. However, to avoid double dipping in my pay, I would not receive “merit points” if I accepted the cash. I immediately jumped on the offer and agreed.

I was given this special exception because I outperformed every other sales person on the floor and they felt that my situation was a unique one that deserved to be paid out in real money. This offer, to my knowledge, was not given to anyone else at the time.I received real money as a form of commission for three months. However, I was recently informed that I would no longer be receiving cash commissions going forth. To add to that, I would also not receive any “merit points” going forth as well for any sales of the specific product. The reason given was because the cash offered to me was considered a “special favor” or “exception” that was provided to me as a bonus; but in turn after an undisclosed amount of months of receiving my pay in cash, they would no longer be obligated to pay me anything at all.

This part of our agreement was not communicated to me when I agreed to accept the cash. My pay continues to be in question but I have to continue supporting the millions of dollars that the company will benefit from. I am no longer incentivated to continue selling this particular product but the expectation is that I do so as the sales of this item is an ongoing project that requires extremely tedious attention that I only know how to support. I have continued to voice my concerns as I feel that I have been wrongfully treated.I have asked to be paid out in “merit points” just like everybody else but have been denied. I will now be the only one on the sales team who not receive any credit at all for selling this solution. I am also the only one who sells millions of dollars worth of it. I am looking for clarity on how this is even possible. I also seek why a company would do this to one of their most successful employees. Am I wrong for feeling cheated? Is this a form of bait and switch with my pay? What can I do to make this right?

Signed, No Cash No Merit

Dear No Cash No Merit:

Yours is too complicated to understand from a distance. The compensation agreements you reached need to be examined to learn if they have been broken. From here, it would seem they either were not clear, had loopholes, or were not worth the paper on which they should have been written. We are not attorneys and don’t give legal advice, other than to suggest when it seems it should be sought.

Without that, you still should have cards in your favor because you say you, “I am also the only one who sells millions of dollars worth of it” and “I do so as the sales of this item is an ongoing project that requires extremely tedious attention that I only know how to support.” Apparently you have earned your right to be paid well and this company is changing the rules, as it will.

Have you formally requested that the corporate compensation committee investigate this matter? You have been with this large company for a long time and should not be expendable; one that should be treated cavalierly or cheated. You should not have to fight in your own behalf because changes are mandated rather than negotiated. I apologize for not being able to understand the why of all this. Probably there is more going on with the success or survival of your company than you know. Please let us know how whatever you decide to do evolves. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and now is a time to do what it takes to get clarity on where you stand in the company.

William Gorden