Dissatisfied Because Another Department Interrupts

Ask the Workplace Doctors about dissatisfied with work interrupted by an adjoining department that has employees who lack knowledge and are paid better:

I would like to ask what a wise approach would be in this situation. I am working in a department with certain interdependencies with another department. People in the other department are inexperienced and do not take responsibility for their mistakes or ownership of tasks. They constantly come to me and my boss to review their work and ask questions that they should know how to answer at their level or repeated questions that were previously explained. There are Glassdoor reviews attesting to the lack of knowledge persistent in that department.

Recently, 2 things happened that increased my dissatisfaction at work. Firstly, I have been working harder to cover what the other department does not do (that we need to do our job). It has become customary for them to say that they do not know how something works and delegate to us, rather than learn how to do it. When they need help, they constantly follow up as if we have nothing else to do, while my questions for them go ignored. Secondly, I was given a raise that was much less than I expected, although my boss said that my performance was excellent and that I have been a great help to the team. As I have access to sensitive information as part of my job, I became aware that everyone in the other department was given higher raises than everyone in our department, and both departments are administrative in nature.

My boss and I talk like friends. She is aware of the mismatch in compensation and efforts at the other department and points to politics as the culprit. She agrees that we are doing things the other department should do and has complained to her manager to no avail. In a recent meeting, my boss’s boss said that she wants our department to be supportive and be the other department’s go-to resource. Between the 2 of us, my boss also complains about the other department’s lack of knowledge and how it becomes our burden. However, on the surface, she always acts nice to them and accepts all of their requests for help without pushing back. She says that there’s nothing that can be done about this, that it’s the same or even worse elsewhere, and that we just need to cover the other department for the good of the company.

I have browsed similar questions on the site on unfairness at work before posting mine. The advice given has been to go above and beyond one’s duty, as those who complain will suffer and those who excel will flourish. Is the only way forward to accept the inherent unfairness and continue to give more than 100% to the company, even though I do not feel that my compensation matches with my efforts, and that I have to help others who do less but are rewarded more? I am sure this situation is as old as tales, but do those who put their heads down ultimately receive a fair reward? Does going above and beyond mean that one should accept to be taken advantage of until that day comes when their efforts are recognized?


Dear Reasons For Feeling Dissatisfied: You describe three overlapping problems:

1. People in another department you repeatedly seek your help with matters they should know. Individuals in that department lack knowledge needed.

2. Yourboss, fails to stop that other department.

3. Pay to that other department is higher than yours that does superior work.

Yes, departments in many companies are interdependent. Some are paid better despite that they do less. There are several reasons why pay is not equal e.g. candidate’s available, a department’s leadership and perceived value, work load, etc.

Correcting such unfairness is as difficult as stopping political gerrymandering, but it should be corrected. Individuals who feel like you do–overwork and paid less– generally will continue to be that way as long as they give more than 100%. That unfairness will continue unless an individual makes a case that argues if there are no changes made and made soon, she/he will seek work elsewhere. You may need to explore work elsewhere and to candidly speak with your boss about what you see should be done. You say you know there’re “Glassdoor reviews attesting to the lack of knowledge” persists in that department.”

You say your boss’ boss answer is “that she wants our department to be supportive and be the other department’s go-to resource.” That kind of answer is typical of managers. They want things to run smoothly and their answer generally is to cooperate–to be supportive. Pay is kept secret because when it is known dissatisfaction surfaces. Workload remains the same unless and until someone hears the squeaking wheel. I assume you don’t have a union to which you might seek help. You spoke to your boss to resolve the problem, to no avail. You are now left to consider your options. From what you have described, I see these:

Persuade your boss to arrange a joint collaborative meeting with the head of the other department and then with a joint meeting with all employees of both departments. The purpose of such a meeting would be to spell what are the problems and who should do what.

Speak up for yourself.

A collaborative meeting. A joint meeting (possibly it will take more than one meeting) can be arranged by the head of each department. The meeting would entail each department, in turn, explaining to the other department what it does and the problems that frustrate its performance. This would be the time you could present what you have logged interruptions within a week. A question and answer clarification probably will naturally follow. Then proposals might be enlisted from all present. The goal would be to correct and prevent problems that surfaced. Some might be easily given a go ahead trial; others would require further study, such as lack of ability revealed by the Glassdoor review. To make this happen, your boss’s boss probably would be enlisted.

Speak up for yourself. You on your own would need to collect data of problems and of fairness of pay. You should not disclose what you know. Instead you had best request an investigation. Such an investigation might be requested in a regular performance evaluation, but need not be disclosed until later. In short you can ask informally how you are doing and you could disclose what you want if you are with this firm for the next five years. It’s wise to communicate in writing and in person.

You might be interested that I mailed your question and the personal information you sent (that will not be posted) to Dr. Mark Mindell, Ph.D who has 35 years of experience with several major corporations, much of it heading up H R departments. He said he strongly believes such problems as yours have a lot to do with how employees’ perceptions of each other. He also said it seems to him it is futilite “trying to resolve problems among and between people through correspondence.” Should you be willing to discuss your situation with him via a phone call, I will ask him if he is willing to do that.

This is sent after you told me you reached out to Dr. Mindell.

Please know that what we send is not a sure-fire prescription for you to follow. Rather it is meant to add to your careful concern that motivated your question. Work frustrations arise over time and so does some resolution. Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is more than a maxim. It suggests an interactive process. Please feel free to update us after a while letting us know what if anything you chose to do and if it worked or fails. –William Gorden