I accidentally promised someone a pay rise

I was only trying to cheer up an overworked member of our events team, but pay rises aren't due until the end of the year.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 26 Feb 2016

Q: While on an overseas work trip, I ‘accidentally’ promised someone in our events team a pay rise. I could tell she was overworked and I said it to keep her happy – but it was the wrong move. Pay rises aren’t due until the end of the year and she’s already on a better salary than her colleagues. Can I go back on my word?

Jeremy says: Oh dear. I bet you didn’t make this rash promise just to cheer her up, I bet you made it, over a couple of drinks, to impress her with your power and importance.

In doing your best to clamber out of this self-dug hole, you need to accept that there’s no way in which you can save your own face. It will be a painful process. You need to tell her, as soon and as straightforwardly as you can, that you had no right to make that promise and that you certainly can’t deliver on it.

Please don’t pretend that it was all going through perfectly smoothly until you were thwarted by some bureaucratic intervention: she won’t believe it and you’ll look even more feeble. If she has genuinely earned a bonus, by all means put her in for one – but not if it’s simply to ease your own discomfort. Your company shouldn’t be expected to pick up the bill for your foolishness.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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