Scheduled Pay Raises?
Suzannah of the Square Periods — you know the editor, who didn’t play the banjo but should have — was one of three editors who had started work on the same day. I started work as their Executive Editor a few months after. Sheila and Kris had been teachers. Suzannah’s husband was a teacher still.
What all three editors knew about pay raises looked like the scheduled increases of teacher salaries.
That, unfortunately, turned out to be a problem.
When the time came for their first-year performance appraisals, I met with each of them individually. We went through the process of how the self-appraisal part worked, what I would do after that, and what we would talk about together.
Sheila, the star of the three, was already being considered for the next promotion. In the meeting with Sheila something unusual came up. She might have been looking to short-circuit what she didn’t want to happen.
Only Fair or Is It?
Sheila told me about an agreement the three editors had made.
“The three of us are having lunch to celebrate our first anniversary.” Sheila mentioned that they had agreed to reveal the amount of their salary increases. She said they wanted to be sure everyone was treated fairly.
“Oooh. That’s not a good idea.” I said. “I don’t think you want everyone to make the same.”
“Why’s that?Ã¢â¬Â she asked. Remember that teachers don’t go to business school. They think in terms of grades and whole class rules. We spoke about company no tell policy, but I was focused on getting her personal investment in not wanting to share. Understanding that the no tell policy is a support and a protection is important.
“Imagine I hire a guy named Frank with a resume just like yours on the very same day as I hire you. One year later, you’ve done great work. You have managed three projects on your own. Whereas Frank has been confused at every turn and managed to screw up two projects so badly, they will miss their release dates by months. Same raises for both of you?”
Sheila had just figured it out.
Money is paid for what the work is worth — and for management of that work in the company’s interest.
The more I wake up in the middle of the night, the more I have to think about the goals of the company, the more I’m responsible for the work of others, the more money I should make. Money = stress, execution, productivity, responsibility. End of story.
I then had the same conversation with the other two. The lunch happened. The salary revealing discussion did not.
Business Rule 9 may sound simplistic, if you already know it.
It’s key to ANY negotiation. When I learned it, suddenly I knew I understood how to buy a new car and how to purchase a house. The mysteries of talking money started to demystify before me. The value of money isn’t just important at work.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Business Rule 8: What Are Your Square Periods?
Business Rule 7: Sound Bytes, Stories, and Analogies
Business Rule 6: Who Dropped the Paddle?
Business Rule 5: Never Underestimate the Power of a Voice on the Telephone
Dave Starr --- ROI Guy says
Great illustration, Liz. The principal of value given for value delivered is not only poorly understood by junior employees, but by whole regiments of managers as well.
I worked in US the government Civil Service for many years. There is a two-tier system of pay increases. After certain periods of service automatic raises (step increases) come automatically. There’s been talk for 30 years of changing this “fogey increase” program for years but it largely remains in place. Nice for the employee to know that an increase is coming just for staying alive but has no benefit in improving productivity or rewarding outstanding performance.
Congress felt they handled that aspect of raises by allowing local supervisors to grant yearly “merit” increases to be determined locally. Should have been an excellent tool but in principle whatever money amount happened to be allocated for that year was always spread like peanut butter … as thin as need be to cover exactly the same depth over every employee eligible. Defeated the whole purpose.
I worked one year for an outstanding officer (let’s call her Mary … because that was her name, Hi Mary ;-)) who had been tasked to administer the annual “peanut butter” exercise for our organization of several thousand employees. I helped her work the numbers so that we could give out a dozen “big” raises, one within each of our dozen main branches. We asked the various local group leaders to nominate their best … our senior leadership “bought off” on the idea, and Wow! there were some smiling faces, some Holy Cows!, a lot of very favorable comments … and of course a few dissatisfied grouches who perceived their butter was spread way too thin. I personally saw many improvements over the next year. Big success.
When time for the following year’s merit raises rolled around, Mary had been promoted into a new job, far away. Her successor called be in to help him do the mechanics of the program again. His first instruction?
“Mary was a great person with some super ideas, but we aren’t going to do these raises ‘her’ way again. You start treating ‘these’ people like individuals and you wind up with a lot of prima donnas.”
Back to the peanut butter ….
Just send frank home. If he is not up to standards. No scratch that, if he is not top-notch, send him home and hire another Sheila. It’ll work much better than differential salaries.
ME Strauss says
You state the case really well and I’m right with you. Ideas unfortunately are considered threatening. That’s because they cause a shift in power. I know too many people who have lost their job because they had 1 too many grea ideas.
ME Strauss says
Would that it were so easy to find another Sheila. It’s not. There are 20 Franks at least for every Sheila . . . and Susssanah is still looking for that darn banjo. 🙂
Brad K. says
It seems you make an unsupported assumption: That employees trust management to be honest about raises. Suspicions of unfounded (not work based) favoritism, skimming the pool or just unwillingness to reward subordinates, and just plain shady manipulation (discrimination, harassment, etc.) can all undermine the work atmosphere. When salary is an open issue, employees lose privacy (peers become aware of salary adjustments for cause), but may gain security, in the knowledge that financial relationships are above-board.
I think you have to establish and acknowledge that belief, that salary adjustments are done honorably, when you describe the advantages of ‘no tell’ policies about earnings. Otherwise the secrecy appears to only prevent having to explain (possibly irregular or market-contrary) salary policies, and to discourage union organization.
ME Strauss says
I hear what you’re saying about keeping information “under the rug.” I’m not proposing that in any way. I’m sorry if that was implied, because I agree it’s the organization’s responsibility to be as forthcoming as possible to state the qualities upon which people are rewarded and are not. A policy/metric of how, when, and on what kinds of criteria with a formal process in which the employee takes part is usual and in the hands of people-centered management works really well.
That does not include revealing the place where employees sit with reference to each other on the payscale.
My story is totally about why employees don’t want to be talking to each other about such private things. Adjustments can be done honorably without you knowing how much money I make.
Brad K. says
But where is the feedback, to the employee? Once a suspicion exists of a pattern of abuse or violation of law or stated company policy either corporate wide or in a local work group (not an individual problem), the no tell policy unfairly obstructs the employee’s rights of redress. The employee has to violate company policy, and conspire with other employees to violate policy, in order to gain information to establish a pattern of abuse — thereby earning dismissal, reprimand, or other demotion whether the pattern exists or not.
Such concealing protection for the company invites opportunities for abuse in isolated cases. In my opinion. There is a reason that equal opportunity violations are still prosecuted — they still happen. Sorry we seem to disagree on this one.
ME Strauss says
I don’t think we disagree. The companies that I’ve worked for have made it clear through their appraisal form, the metric grid that included performance and years worked — which put every raise in a range of acceptability, and the people involved in signing off on a merit increase which included the employee, the manager, the manager’s manager and the head of HR.
So, for example, if you worked for 3 years in that position, and your appraisal was top-notch you would be in the top-notch row and I would move across the grid to how long you’ve been in your job/where you sat on the range of salaries compared to others. If you were mid-range, you might get 4-6%. If, however, you were already making more than others at the same job performing as well the grid would only allow you 2-5%.
The grid itself was explained thoroughly to employees so that they understood how the company was working toward achieving parity in how people were paid for equal work.
Every company I’ve been at I’ve inherited someone who by nature of just being there for 10 years was making more than the job was worth. Over the next three years, it was my quest to bring others up to what was fair and usually it was achievable — through promotions etc.
There was never any reason for folks to need to talk to each other about what they made.
In fact, if I worked for a company where that was the case, I would quit and go somewhere else, because if the company doesn’t have ethics there, they don’t have ethics anywhere.