Sunday, January 20, 2008


Thank goodness for lobbyists. They're the only group keeping car salesmen from the bottom of the most recent Gallup survey on honesty in the professions, which was released last month. Of those surveyed, 58 percent ranked lobbyists low or very low on the honesty spectrum, while only 53 percent held car salesmen in similarly low regard.

Eking out a second-to-last-place finish is nothing to crow about, of course. But simply because people perceive car salesmen as teetering on the brink of lobbying doesn't mean that there isn't honor among them, or at least an attempt to find honor.

I received an e-mail from a used-car salesman at a dealership in Ontario. He wasn't trying to sell me on anything other than his story.

Another salesman at the dealership had been working on the sale of a used truck. Before he completed the sale, however, he had a disagreement with management, threw "a big temper tantrum" and quit, my reader reports. The sales manager turned over the sale to my reader.

Within two weeks the other salesman apologized to management and got his job back. In the meantime, however, my reader had completed the sale of the truck, done the paperwork with the customer, seen to the licensing of the vehicle and even topped off the fuel tank.

But the sales manager gave the credit for the sale, and the resulting commission, to the prodigal salesman. He told him that, if he wanted to, he could give my reader half the commission.

"I disagreed with the sales manager," my reader writes, adding that apparently there are "no consequences for quitting your job."

He believes that the sales manager should have consulted with him before giving the sale back to his colleague. He wouldn't mind sharing the commission, he says, given that the other salesman did lay the groundwork, but he believes that the choice should have been his to make. It galls him that something that he perceived to be his -- not only the money, but also credit for the sale -- was taken away from him through no fault of his own.

"Sales volume counts a lot in this business," my reader says.

The sales manager could do whatever he wanted to do, and he did. The question is, was his decision fair?

No. This decision is, well, off the lot.

After his colleague's "big temper tantrum" and abrupt departure, my reader took over the sale and saw it through to completion. It was his sale, and the credit should have gone to him. If anyone got to decide whether or not the commission should be shared, it should have been my reader, not the other salesman.

Giving credit for the sale to the returning salesman is unfair, pure and simple. In taking it away from him, the sales manager sends a message that fair play doesn't produce a fair reward.

Even if the sales manager ultimately arrived at the same decision, the right thing for him to do would have been to discuss the issue with my reader. As it is, he left a productive employee resentful, while letting a volatile employee get away with counterproductive behavior. If he wanted to send the message that employees who pick up the slack when others quit are unappreciated, the sales manager succeeded.

If that's not what he wanted to say, he might have given credit for the sale to the guy who actually completed it, and asked him to split the commission with his returning colleague. That would have sent a message that, while prodigals can be welcomed back into the fold, actions still have consequences and credit will be given where credit is deserved.

c.2008 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're right, of course, Jeffry. Seems like there should be an authority above the sales manager where an appeal could be filed by the wronged employee.