Unfair Commission Paid

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about commission:

I made a sale and then my employer continues to add expenses to reduce the profit of the job. I get paid commission on the profit of the job. I do understand business and know that the expenses are above true expenses to the job. How do I approach this?

Signed, Losing Money

Dear Losing Money:

You say you “understand business and know that the expenses are above true expenses to the job.” If you know business, you should have a clear understanding of how your commission is calculated. And if you know for a fact that your commission is diluted, either intentionally or unintentionally by a false calculation, you have some choices before you. How you approach this hinges on whether this is the first time you made a sale or you have been employed with this firm for some time and figure your employer has short-changed you on past sales? What might you do?

The three steps you usually should follow are: First, review what are the written contract and/or verbal agreement upon which your sales are based.

Second, review the data you have that expenses charged against the job that lessened the money you are paid.

Third, meet with your employer and ask if a mistake has been made. If you purchased groceries and a clerk charged wrongly, what would you do? You would speak up and if necessary would go to the service desk to get that corrected. Your relationship with an employer is not that simple; however, assuming you have a working agreement on commission, is it not understood that you can inquire how it is figured when something appears to be incorrect? It should be.

Now is the time to seek clarification about how this job was figured and to learn how expenses will be figured on your next sales. It is not a time to laugh it off, to meekly inquire, or to argue. Rather it is time to have a meeting of minds. If this problem has never come up before, now is the time to make explicit a policy that you should be given a statement of expenses and be free to question them if they appear out of line.

The success of your workplace depends on sales and a fair and clear understanding on how commission is figured. Your employer doesn’t want her/his sales people to be sour about commission. Can you see this incident as an opportunity to affirm your commitment to your workplace? Can you see this as a time to talk about how sales are going and what the employer might do to improve its product/services? This advice should not be seen as a quick fix or the only way to approach this matter. But hopefully it will cause you to think through what might be a mistake, misunderstanding or wrongdoing. Your frustration is not something to gossip about or to allow fester. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Is not that what you and your employer really want; to enjoy the profits from doing well while also doing good?

William Gorden