Confessions of a benefits manager: Global domination

A new US colleague called Anastasia appears to be taking on the guise of a James Bond villain in her international assignments role, says Candid, and intrigue over company pay cuts calls for retaliatory action
I have a new enemy in the workplace. The old one, Creepy Caroline, is probably still out to get me, but I am not so paranoid these days. No, now I am fully occupied trying to thwart new forces of darkness in the form of Anastasia, International Assignments. Well, with a name like that, you are looking for trouble, aren’t you? The wretched woman has been hired in the US to look after all aspects of global mobility. Great, I thought. That is just what we need – someone to sort out the old, creaking assignment policy, someone to handle all those pesky international queries. Hurrah. Perhaps it will even be someone who knows what they are doing for a change.

How wrong could I be? Anastasia’s idea of managing global assignments is to sit in her office (or is it a secret island in the middle of the Pacific, I wonder?), barking out orders to the rest of us. It is clear she is going for full-blown global domination. Someone asks her about the car policy for expats in France: she sends it to me. Someone asks about holidays in China: she sends it to me. Someone asks about housing allowances in India and, yes, you have guessed it, she sends it to me. Well, I get plenty of this sort of tedium already; I do not need hers as well.

I ring her up. I have the sense she is sitting there, complacently stroking a fluffy cat. She has been expecting me. I have sent through a copy of the car policy and the benefits inventory, so she can be fully equipped to handle any queries related to international assignments. I ask her if she needs me to spend some time taking her through them. No, she says, she has all the information she needs for her master plan. The tension is palpable. No doubt her finger is poised over a button that will send me cascading into a pool full of sharks. I get off the call quickly, and wait to see what happens next.

The next day, she forwards yet another query. This time there is a list of questions she could have answered herself, so I am all ready to fire it straight back to her with links to the relevant policies but, annoyingly, tucked inside there is one question – just one – that is clearly down to me. I cannot grumble, though I do grumble; just quietly to myself between gritted teeth.

It does not stop there. As if making my life a misery with stupid queries is not enough, she keeps pointing the finger at pay in the UK. You see, in our US offices, they have made an arbitrary pay cut to help with the economic crisis. You can do that sort of thing over there. You can just say: “You know what? We feel like making a change to your terms and conditions, and hey look, we just did it already.”

But it does not work like that over here in Europe. We have this funky thing called employment legislation, which means you cannot just go around in cowboy boots docking pay willy nilly. Or at least not without asking staff first.

There is a plan to introduce the pay cuts in the UK headquarters, but naturally Big Bad Boss has been dragging his feet on that one. I suspect he is waiting until his mortgage reverts to a variable rate. Anastasia keeps asking if I have had a pay cut yet, and somehow I know she will not rest until I have. She asks me almost every day. It seems an unhealthy interest to me. Clearly, as someone responsible for compensation and benefits in the region, it is embarrassing for me to be located in the one site that is not adhering to policy. Evil seekers of world domination like Anastasia know how to spot a raw nerve.

I chat to an HR colleague in America. I ask if absolutely everyone in the US has had a pay cut. Yes, she tells me. The only exceptions are people hired in the past three months. Someone decided it would be unfair to hit them when they had only just agreed to join. I nip into our HR information system to check Anastasia’s start date. Yes, the worst is true – she was exempt from the cut herself, yet she is pointing the finger at everyone else. Something must be done.

I call around all the European offices, checking details of the pay cuts already sought. Nowhere else have new hires been exempt, I discover. Why should they be, when everyone knows we bring people in at inflated rates? Most new hires are paid more than long servers. I feed this back to one of our Higher Beings, let’s call him ‘M’. I give him an exaggerated tale of how staff in Europe are outraged that the US has not fully adopted its own pay cut plan. This could seriously affect morale, I tell him (well, it has affected mine). It is possible, I warn, that if word gets out certain groups are being excluded from the cut, people may be less inclined to sign up for the reduction themselves.

‘M’ moves in mysterious ways, but it is not long before Big Bad Boss gets me to create a letter asking UK head office employees to volunteer for a pay cut. Naturally, we are going to give this to all staff, in line with the newly-updated diktat from the US to include all new hires. I am not terribly happy writing my own pay cut letter, but these are difficult times. At least I know Anastasia has been hit by her own evil plans, so I am merely shaken, not stirred.

Next time…Candid deals with sales calls.