A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem
Working Without Pay
Dear Sue: I am a commissioned sales rep and I work for a company
that is going through some financial difficulties. They’ve recently
stopped paying my commissions and when I asked my supervisor about it, she
said that there is no money to pay me right now. She told me that they
were waiting to see whether the company would be sold or whether it would
have to file Chapter 11. However, I found out that the people on salary
are being paid. I don't know what to do.
Do I keep working or refuse to work until I get paid? If I refuse to
work and everything ends up just fine, then I'm afraid I'll look bad
because I didn't stand by the company. It doesn't seem right that the
salaried employees are being paid while I am not. I don't want to
jeopardize my job, but I can't work without getting paid for long. Do you
have any ideas on how to handle this?
--Not a volunteer worker
Sue Says: Without more information about the company, it is
difficult to advise you. Try to determine more about the company's status,
and why you are being told there is no money for you when others are being
If you believe your supervisor has a clear understanding of the
situation and that it is indeed temporary, then continue to work. You
don't want to involve your customers if you don't have to, so try to
conduct business as usual.
Tell your supervisor that you are willing to continue working in good
faith, but only for a certain amount of time. Determine a time frame you
can live with, perhaps a couple of months. If within a few months nothing
has changed, you might consider looking for another job.
Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She
is author of the newly released
101 Tips for Graduates and
How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at
email@example.com or visit her web site at
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