Can’t Make Any Money!

Question:

Hello, This website is so helpful! I’ve learned a lot from the questions of others.

I work in sales in a small office–four other salespeople and me. We work on commission, some sales are over the phone and some customers order in person. We have been told many times that we are supposed to answer the phones in turn and to do the same with walk in customers.

This works fine if everyone does it but, lately I can’t get any calls or customers because two of the others grab all the calls out of turn. When I do manage to get a call, one of my co-workers, Mike, who has appointed himself boss, listens to me on the phone, butts in with his opinion,keeps track of everything I do and reports on me to the real boss.

Mike has always acted like this but the unfair distribution of calls is a recent thing. My sales are usually the highest of everyone, I think they are just jealous…but I could be wrong. Maybe I’ve done something to offend them but I don’t know what.

The boss is present every day and sees what is going on yet refuses to intervene on my behalf. Her policy on things like this always seems to be if she ignores it eventually everything will straighten out. Most of the time it does but this time I feel as though the stress is not worth the pay at all. I worry about it at home, and at work I take frequent breaks because I feel as though I might lose my temper, especially with the obnoxious Mike.

Should I insist on a meeting with the boss so I can tell her exactly what I think or should I just fight aggressivly for sales and make dealing with me so unpleasant for Mike that he leaves me alone? (normally I make a point of being nice to him.) It might make me feel better to tell the boss what I think (politely of course) but I doubt it would change anything. I just want my fair share of customers and to be left alone to wait on them, but I feel like it’s an uphill battle not worth the effort. Thank you in advance for any thoughts on this.

Signed,

Losing Sales And Patience


Answer:

Dear Losing Sales And Patience:

I’m glad you’ve found this site to be helpful, thanks for letting us know! Perhaps we can assist you this time with some perspectives that will help you develop a plan of action for your current work frustrations. Your situation is particularly crucial because you’re not only concerned with negative feelings–your income is at stake!

There are three aspects to your situation that might benefit from some focus on your part. Your actions will depend on the culture of the workplace, the level of interactions you normally have with your boss and others, and the general work environment. You know those best, so these thoughts may have to be adapted.

1. Develop a plan for working with and through the one person who really could make a difference–your boss. She apparently is not strong in the area of intervention when problems occur. This may be an indicator of lack of confidence, lack of training, lack of support from those above her, unpleasant results in the past, lack of personal motivation–or a combination of those things. It is also true that many workplace issues do tend to work out with time, and often employees complain to supervisors but don’t really want to do more than vent about the matter. She may not be taking this seriously because it doesn’t seem serious to HER.

However, it is her responsibility to ensure that work is performed at a high level and that the work schedule and distribution of work is done correctly. She should have an active part in the workplace and should support employees who are being kept from achieving their appropriate work goals. You can bet the boss above her would expect her to be taking care of business in that way. If you have been a strong, steady producer, your organization will certainly not want to see you leave or to see your work diminish.

You suggested talking to your boss about this situation, and I think that would be effective. The key is not only how you talk to her, but what you say and what you ask for. Consider, before you talk to her, putting your thoughts in writing and giving that to her, so she can think about it without the pressure of having you right there.

Putting it in writing will also send the message that you are not just venting–you really want to do something. In your letter, include: –Your past history of success and your desire to continue to make sales for the company, be a positive member of the sales staff and contribute in any other way possible.

–What has been happening, and the negative results. Explain the two major problems–Mike’s behavior when you have a call or sales interview, and the actions by Mike and one other employee in taking calls out of order.

If others have not been involved, be specific about which employees have not behaved in that way. If all have, at one time or another, note that as well. If specific times stand out, mention those as a way to show you are not just talking in general, you have specific concerns.

–What you have tried to do to improve the situation, and the results. If you haven’t tried anything yet, say so and explain that you have wanted to avoid conflict, but now your feelings about working there, and your ability to make sales, is being affected so much that you feel you have to say something if you intend to stay with the company.

Also state what you intend to start doing to try to improve things. You are going to ask to meet with your boss and Mike every time he goes to her with a complaint about your work, since you should have the opportunity to explain your view of the situation. You are also going to start telling Mike to leave you alone when he begins to criticize you unfairly. And, you will start making notes about the times when calls and sales are PURPOSELY handled out of sequence and will forward those to your boss. (If it is true that every time a call or customer is diverted from you, you potentially lose money, I don’t think it’s too strong a reaction to bring it to your supervisor’s attention until the matter is resolved.)

–Your request that she assist you and others by investigating this situation and helping you and others find a way to return to a more fair and equal way of working. It may be that the other two sales employees, who you don’t mention as problems, would welcome a change in the situation I don’t think you should suggest HOW that is achieved, but I think you should end with a sentence that makes it clear you expect her help.

“I am asking that you help me and our entire group work in a way that lets all of us have our fair share of sales opportunities. I also think it is important that no employee be allowed to treat others with disrespect, or in a way that hurts work effectiveness. I am available to talk about this at any time. Thank you for your assistance.” You would use your own words of course, but I think you should be clear that you want and expect her help.

When you give that letter to her tell her that you want to talk to her, but felt it would be good for her to have your concerns in writing, so you could express your thoughts in an organized way. She may ask you to wait while she reads it, or may say she’ll get back to you.

When she talks to you she may have perspectives of the situation that don’t seem correct to you. Try to avoid arguing with her about them unless you have clear evidence or if you feel she has been misled about the situation. She may have ideas for things you could do to help improve the situation. Or, she may have suggestions that don’t seem to you to be very helpful. Let her do her part and try to make her ideas work.

You might want to suggest group meetings to discuss these kind of situations before they become major problems. That assumes people will be honest in the meetings. But, at least you know you would be! I do believe you should link strongly with your boss to find solutions. She knows you and Mike and the others. She knows how things were before and should be aware of how they are now. She also has the ultimate responsibility. Show her that you rely on her for help in making the workplace better. Then, if things improve, thank her for her help and let her see how much better things are as a result of her intervention.

2. The second aspect of your situation involves Mike, the apparent source of most of the problems. You say he is not a boss, and yet he listens to conversations and criticizes you as well as reports you to your boss. Apparently you have done nothing wrong, and his reporting hasn’t resulted in any problems for you. That is the first area you should confront, it seems to me.

Consider, the next time he starts to criticize, putting up your hand to stop him and saying, in an unemotional way, “Mike, if you have a criticism, let’s go talk to the boss right now.” Then get up and move toward the boss’s area. If Mike comes along, you will either find out he has a valid complaint, or the boss will correct him. At least she will be involved. If he doesn’t, you have the opportunity to say, “OK, if it isn’t something so important the boss needs to know, please don’t criticize me about it. I don’t do that to you and neither does anyone else. So, stop it, please.”

You might find it helpful to talk to Mike before a bad situation like that occurs and openly admit that you are perplexed about why he has been acting this way. Ask him if something has occurred between you two that has created bad feelings. I don’t think that will change his heart any at all–but it might let him see that you aren’t going to take it any more.

My experience has been that people who are rude, obnoxious or hurtful to others, don’t need reasons and shouldn’t be given excuses by others. Nice people are willing to say, “Maybe I did something to cause this.” Mean people will jump on that every time as a way out of explaining why they are being jerks!

Nevertheless, at least you could show that you have tried every approach. And, it may be that something DID happen. Or, it may be he genuinely believes you are doing your work wrongly. The boss may have even told him to correct you, or at least may have indicated she thought you were wrong, too. So he feels he has support for his actions. That is something you need to find out when you discuss the matter with your boss.

As far as grabbing customers go, your work environment will indicate the best way to deal with that. However, I don’t think it would be wise to get into a daily fight over it. Sure, you could grab someone else’s customer, or have an angry confrontation, but then that would make you part of the problem.

Could you ask for a group meeting without the boss being present–just a group get-together in the office–and cite the times when calls and customers haven’t been handled fairly? You could get the support of the two other employees who haven’t been guilty of grabbing customers. Or you could go to both Mike and the other employee and ask if they realized they had taken a customer out of turn.

No good comes of trying to ignore it and hoping it will get better, as you have already found out! They know they unfairly took a call or customer. They just hope you will let it go. But if that happens twice a week, look at how much less money you would make in a year–and how much more money THEY would make!

Clearly, this situation needs to improve. I still think the boss is the one to make it happen, but perhaps you can communicate openly with others in a way that is seeking help, not making accusations.

3. The third area to consider is the overall workplace. In a work setting where people show respect, these kind of situations don’t occur often. When they do, they are more easily handled. Take a long look at anything you or others are doing that detract from that good setting. Take a leadership role in having a good work environment. Think about how you could be different than the problem co-workers: They unfairly take calls and customers. You can ensure that you never do that. And if you inadvertently do it, make it right by immediately going to the person who should have had the sale and apologizing. Then, give your contact to them the next time it’s your turn.

They criticize. You can compliment. If you overhear someone doing a good job, say so. You may feel strange about that at first, but it is nearly always appreciated. Something as simple as a smile and a thumbs up gesture, will be enough to let a co-worker know they’re doing a good job.

The problem co-workers don’t add to the team, they take away from it. You can add to it. If someone is doing something that requires assistance, you can provide it. You can be the one who says please and thank you. You can straighten up the work area now and then, or help someone else. You can be the one who occasionally has a personal, cheerful conversation with each person–even Mike. You don’t have to become his friend, but you can reach out and show by your actions that you are open to his support and friendship if he wants to give it.

Those are all the marks of a mature, effective person and employee in any workplace. Your boss will notice it, and you’ll feel better for it.

I hope these thoughts will help you develop a plan that works for you. It sounds as though you have been happy and successful in this job, so it would be a shame to let the actions of one or two people drive you away from it. I’m confident you will find a way to stay strong and be a contributor to a better work environment for everyone.

Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.