A crappy job is better than no job at all….right? How low would you go?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION A crappy job is better than no job at all….right? How low would you go?

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    BZ Girl

    Full disclosure: indignant disgruntled employee in need of a vent. Must get this out of my system before i explode.


    So about a year ago all us employees were told ‘times are tough, money is short, we have no choice but to reduce your salary.’ Grumble grumble economy grumble grumble. But we bucked up, accepted our fate, and carried on. If this is what it takes to help the company survive, so be it. (Might i interject here that i have heard several colleagues in firms across the country that have also had to accept salary cuts. Although, in every other case i heard about, the reduction in salary came with a corresponding cut in hours, i.e. a 25% salary reduction came with a 25% decrease in work hours. This seems like a reasonable compromise. Not so in my case. We were still expected to put in fulltime hours. In fact we even got a lengthy lecture about how we should be expected to put in MORE hours, MORE time at the office, in the interest of ‘bucking up and going the extra mile’, which would supposedly pull our office out of this slump. 


    [insert sarcasm font here] [ NEWSFLASH: where i come from, cutting people’s pay does NOT inspire and motivate them to ‘go the extra mile’]


    Fast forward to January this year. Despite my best efforts, my going the extra mile, my multitude of overtime hours, my giving it 110%, i was informed that the salary cut will continue for this year as well. Needless to say, office morale among my coworkers is in the toilet. We haven’t gotten a raise in 3 years. We haven’t gotten a bonus in 3 years. We haven’t gotten a single token of gratitude or appreciation for our hard-working efforts, not even a ‘hey why don’t you take Friday off since you stayed late every night this week’ or ‘take an extra 2 days of vacation this year since we can’t give you a raise.’  SOMETHING, ANYTHING would be greatly appreciated. But no.


    And finally, the icing on the cake. Earlier this week i was informed that they have decided to HIRE ANOTHER PERSON. While the rest of us are all still on salary reduction. I’M RAISING THE BULL@#@##$ FLAG on this one. In one breath they tell us, ‘times are tough, money is tight, we can’t afford to pay you full salary’ and in the other breath they turn around and add another person to the payroll???? This is the biggest piss-in-your-face gesture i have ever seen a firm pull. It blatantly says to the employees, i don’t give a rat’s a!@! about your wellbeing, we’re going to do whatever we want to do with absolutely no regard to the employees. It’s the ultimate slap in the face to someone who has been trying so hard to help the company get ahead.


    So where do you draw the line of dignity? At what point do you say, NO i will not be a doormat and allow myself to be blatantly trampled on all for the sake of the sacred cow, the ever-coveted ‘at least you have a job’? At what point do you stand up for yourself and your self respect? Or should i just lay down like a good little doormat and take it, because after all, at least i have a job?

    Trace One

    Is the new person not getting benefits?

    I have quit MANY jobs, and let me tell you, a job is WAY better than no job, and sometimes another job can be pretty hard to find..

    seems like you should at least be able to verbalize your complaints to the boss, if you can. Sometimes bosses are actually waiting for the push-back (and look down on the doormats as not as committed  or lacking in self-esteem..)

    working sucks, no matter how you cut it, IMHO – if it’s not one thing, it is something else..

    ps., I LOVE your icon, or whatever it is called, the seashells..very nice..

    Tanya Olson

    For starters, when I’m fired up a reasonable discussion isn’t what I really want, but it sounds like you have plenty of disgruntled company at your firm already, so I won’t add to it…..It doesn’t sound like the morale is very good either among the people running the company….nor does it sound like your firm has very good avenues of communication or got the buy-in from its employees for the continuring salary reduction. I think it will probably make you feel better to look at the big picture or at least find out what that is.

    What have you done to open communication with the partner(s)? Do they know that everyone is disgruntled? Has anyone asked them if they have a specific goal for carrying the company out of the pits and how the new person is going to help achieve that goal? Have the partner(s) taken the same pay cut as the rest of you? Are they working as much as you? Is there any way for employees to contribute to new hiring decisions / pay reduction decisions? Does your firm have or post milestones after which the pay reduction will cease? What was it about the company in the first place that made you so committed to sticking around after the first pay cut? Was it just whatever job you could get or the job of your dreams?


    Thomas J. Johnson

    Tough call…

    It’s hard to know the real motives behind business decisions. There is a lot going on behind the scenes that people on the production side are unaware of… It could be a couple of things:

    1. With everybody on reduced salary they can afford to hire somebody which will increase productivity and profits while lightening your load. 6 people making $5,000 less = $30,000 for new hire. New hire has $120,000 in billable hours for the year. New hire earns the company $90,000 in profits. Everybody get’s their $5,000 bonus/pay raise next year. Company still makes $60,000 thanks to new hire… These are not big figures but can make or break small firms… adjust the numbers accordingly…

    2. Maybe they are bringing in somebody new because they intend to lay somebody off… don’t be that person. You are in charge of your destiny, not them. Don’t let them make the decision for you.

    If you’re not happy and feel like you’re being taken advantage of, where do you draw the line? Hard to say… but if you’re not happy, you should be looking for other work now, not after you quit or get laid off. It’s a lot easier to get hired when you’re working than it is when you’re unemployed. It’s also a lot harder to look for work when you’re working… one of the great catch 22’s of capitalism that is no coincidence. It is that dichotomy that creates a sense of helplessness and subservience… “I want a different job but I don’t have time to look because I’m overworked in my current position. I can’t quit because then I won’t have an income. If I look for another job while I’m at work they’ll know and I’ll get fired.” It’s a very clever mind-job… designed to keep you where you are.

    So that leaves you with another option. Talk to your boss. If you’re unhappy and feel that you’re worth more, let him/her know. Do it in a very level headed, even keeled way in the privacy of their office. Bring in supporting evidence (projects completed, hours worked over billable hours, achievements, etc.) Create a strong case but don’t give them an ultimatum. Let them know that you enjoy working there and that you want to do everything you can to make the company succeed and that in order to be most effective you need something from them also, in the form of time or money. Paint the picture of your ideal scenario…

    It’s rough out there though… It seems that people are more disposable now than ever… If you know AutoCAD and are not a total space cadet (like, totally) you can do the job of a mid-level LA. It’s not rocket surgery 😉 There are a million unemployed LAs waiting in line for your job (myself included)… your demands sound reasonable to me but make sure you approach it with tact. And start looking for work on the weekends… if it’s safe…


    I feel your pain, been there.  However, after working for several high profile firms, I have to say they are all alike.  It’s the golden rule.  Those with the gold make the rules.  7 of 10 la firms are lead by designers who become owners, who then find out how profits are ‘really’ made.  They are made by trimming the bottom line, taking advantage of staff and cutting corners.  If you are not a principal or partner, you are a cog in the wheel.  If you think it is different anywhere else, you are mistaken.  Especially in this economy.  Productivity is up, profits are up, hiring is down.  How do you think this is happening?  Every company right now is doing more with less.  That’s why we are having a jobless ‘recovery’. 

    My old firm laid off 75% of their staff of 70.  They said they would hire us back if/when things picked up.  Last month I saw they hired an unlicensed landscape designer with only a few years experience.  On top of that, they made him an associate right off the bat. They never called a single former employee to come at least interview for this position. My point is companies have zero loyalty to you.  You are a number that equals billable hours that equals profits for them. That’s all you are.

    The alternative is having no job.  Let me tell you the depression when you have a job is nothing compared to the depression of not having one.  I pray for any job, no matter how miserable, that will allow me to pay mortgage and buy baby formula.  In case you haven’t heard, our job market is the worst it has ever been not only for us but architects and engineers.  Half of them are looking for work too.  I would say your situation sucks but the alternative is much much worse.  If you left your job it may be well over a year before you could work in this field again. 

    BZ Girl

    Tanya- you ask some very reasonable, very good questions. Questions i too have pondered. Questions i wondered why your management is not held accountable to answer.

    What have you done to open communication with the partner(s)? Do they know that everyone is disgruntled?  Our office has 4 principals/partners. I talked to one of them and shared my frustrations. He agreed and was totally adamantly against hiring anyone. He brought these concerns to the other 4 principals. In the end it was 2 vs. 2 – and apparently the 2 principals in favor of hiring won. 


    Have the partner(s) taken the same pay cut as the rest of you?  They of course do not want to share that info with the underlings.


    Are they working as much as you?  2 principals yes, they actually do some billable work. The other 2 are practically wothless. They stroll in and out of the  office at various hours, completely unaccounted for, and held accountable by no one. If they don’t show up in the office for days at a time, whereabouts unknown, no one even bats a lash.


    Is there any way for employees to contribute to new hiring decisions / pay reduction decisions? Hahhahhaha. They don’t ask for our opinion on anything. Ultimatums are just handed down. They ‘claim’ to want to support an open, communicative office but they way they run things goes directly against that. When employees voice concerns or offer suggestions about doing things differently, it pretty much goes in one ear and out the other.


    Does your firm have or post milestones after which the pay reduction will cease? But why on earth would they want to do that? it’s much more fun to keep everyone in the dark, and working for less! If they actually had a logical plan, with actual milestones, i would gladly work towards that. But it seems like we’re just wandering off into the unpaid unknown without a plan.


    What was it about the company in the first place that made you so committed to sticking around after the first pay cut? Honestly, forums like this. The fear of the economy. The mantra i keep everyone on hear saying, ‘a crap job is better than no job at all.’


    I wish i had more managers like you Tanya. People who actually thought about strategic business plans and implemented a course of action to achieve those plans. But i don’t think this office will ever achieve that. 

    mark foster

    Your bosses have figured what they can get away with, and they are evidently the kind of people who will continue to do so until they can”t.  Your “temporary” salary and job conditions are now long term.  If you cannot stomach this, my advice is to keep this job but begin looking for another one immediately.  

    Reasoning, demanding one’s rights, and hysterical declarations will do nothing.  They know exactly what they’re doing. 


    Nick Miller

    There is nothing worse than working in an office where you feel like you are putting your heart and soul into dumping the water out of a sinking ship.  I remember back in school when we had various professionals speak to us about how even in bad times they did their best to keep their best.  Even if this required taking a personal pay cut.  If this was true, I can only say that I respect them for their honor.  You as an employee signed a contract (I hope this is the case) that you negotiated a salary.  In that contract did it say that you would take a pay cut during the hard times?  I doubt it.  It is very honorable for you to stick around and take a pay cut but in all honesty this was not your best decision unless you are renogotiating your contract and or updating your resume.  I know that times are tough but there is work out there and many times, raises are only gained by finding a new job that is willing to offer more.  You could always get creative….ask to go to part time and work hourly (this is fun since you actually get paid for the time your work……find another company looking for extra help and work part time there.  This will allow you to test out new places that you might not have thought of before without the full commitment.  Not every owner treats their employees poorly.  Know your worth, know your stengths and go out there and promote, promote, promote.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    The time to look for a better job is when you don’t need one. … make sure you don’t get in the position of needing one.


    Sounds like your employer is undercutting and/or overpromising by mistreating their employees. I’m sure this is fairly common. It will not last and is a truly an unsustainable way to run a business.


    I would consider having a talk with your boss or manager. If you sont get the answers your hoping for I wouldnt be afraid to look elsewhere for work, whether it be in LA or not.


    We’re really devaluing ourselves and our profession by offering to work for free (or even ‘less’). It’s not the end of the world if we cant all work in landscape.


    Tanya Olson

    Sorry to hear it. Sounds like a frustrating place to work. Too bad most LAs don’t apply their creativity to their business plans and just follow the financial framework, organizational development platform and corporate culture used and abused by miriad non-creative businesses.


    Jennifer de Graaf

    Having read most of what people are saying in this thread, my gut feeling is that you should start looking for a new job and only when you have one you want to take, “vote with your feet” and leave.   IF for some reason you want to stay there, use the new job offer as leverage in your current job to negotiate going back to regular salary or getting bonus, whatever.  Although I am not sure why you’d stay given what I’ve read here.


    Morale is an important part of working.  I have had some lousy experiences, and some great ones – it isn’t worth the stress to stay where you don’t want to be.


    Insert plug for: Employment Storytelling group

    Pat S. Rosend


    That is a tough story.

    My current situation is also no raises for the past three years, with the potential of two more w/o. We had some furlough days, but not extra hours for sure. My job is stable , just the pay is going the wrong way. In the late 80’s when the industry crashed, I was in a similar situation to yours except: the 20% reduction in pay corresponded to a reduction in hours. It was better then being part of the staff reductions at the time. B/c we were down one work day a week, I picked up a part time job for Fridays, Sat. and Sundays to make up the difference. My boss was very supportive and understood. After a year of working 7 days a week I finally looked for and got another job. 15 years later that company never grew back to it’s original size and never hired another LA. The engineers do the stuff out of the code book.


    It is unfortunate that your management staff/partners seem to have such poor management skills. I have always thought the LA degree should include several semesters of business since so many LA’s run their own practices. Don’t know where to fit it in.


    I think you should vent away here and then look around for something else. Focus on a more stable part of the profession. Municipal work, highway contracts, gov’t work, Minority owned business that pick up sub contracts etc. It is not sexy but it is steady. Mostly.


    I feel for everyone these days. It is pretty tough when having a job is almost as bad as not having one.


    Ah yes…the dilemma of having a crappy job or no job at all…I’ve pondered the exact same question for the past 1.5 yr. coming very close to quitting multiple times.  In the end, the pros of staying at a crappy job outweighed the cons.  The logic goes something like this:

    1. Crappy pay is better than no pay.  I would never quit a job unless I have another one lined up.  If I quit, I’m just letting the crappy employer get away scot-free.  If I stay, they still have to have pay me and my benefits.
    2. The longer I stay, the more projects I work on, the more I can add to my resume.  I’m doing it for myself, not them.
    3. Giving 110% is a thing of the past, you get what you pay for.
    4. I work not because I enjoy working or what I do, but because it funds my expensive hobbies.

    Think of it this way, you are using them as much as they are using you, makes things easier to swallow. 

    BZ Girl

    Mandy, I think your logic is spot on. I needed some good reasons to hang in there. This helps. Wish i could print out your list and tape it to my computer monitor…


    thanks everyone for all the comments. Hearing all the different perspectives is what makes this forum valuable.

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