I am an area manager for a mid-sized company. About a year ago, after substantially improving profit in the office I managed, I accepted a promotion to a significantly larger territory, which had also been struggling. Recently, I found out that the person who took over my previous territory is not only being paid more than I was , but is also getting more than my current salary. This person has less experience and fewer academic credentials. Also, this person has essentially destroyed my old territory, as 90 per cent of the profit I added last year has disappeared. I brought this to management’s attention and they have decided to not do anything about it. What do you suggest I do?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Corporate trainer and career specialist, Toronto
I feel your angst. It must be heartbreaking to see your work destroyed by an inferior-performing colleague! You need to look at the big picture, and weigh whether you want to stay with this company. It is hard to leave a position, especially when you have made an indelible mark. At the same time, it is wise to leave a job when you are at your peak, so as to command a deserving salary and to be attractive to companies that require and will appreciate your talents.
If you decide to stay, go to bat for yourself on the salary issue. Prepare some numbers reflecting the industry standard, what the other person is making compared with you, and what you believe you deserve. Be careful how you react to management’s response to your request for a salary increase. If you don’t hear what you want to hear, put on a stoic front, get your résumé fine-tuned and start looking.
THE SECOND ANSWER
The Integrity Group, Vancouver
Based on what you have related, you are very good at what you do and are a valuable asset . Equally important is that your accomplishments did not go unnoticed, since you received a merit-based promotion to a larger territory.
Even with that kind of stellar employment history, it is still easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to co-workers, especially those who are supposedly getting more but appear to be less deserving. Not feeling appreciated at work is one of the most common employee complaints.
We don’t know what led to your replacement obtaining such favourable terms (or whether this is even, in fact, true). I can appreciate that it is upsetting to see the territory you built up now showing such losses, and it is certainly troubling if the company has not acted on your input about your replacement’s poor performance. However, it is possible that the information you received isn’t accurate, or that the company has taken action that you are not aware of.
Trying to get your company to change its attitude about the other employee is unlikely to go anywhere, and may be risky if the company interprets that as an attempt to sabotage a potential rival. Moreover, you cannot use the discrepancy in salary as a bargaining chip to leverage better terms since you are not supposed to have access to that kind of confidential information in the first place (and you may face uncomfortable questions on how you obtained it), and the company can simply deny it, leaving you with nothing to go on.
The key is to approach the company, perhaps at the next salary/employee review cycle, highlighting your merits and achievements with a view to negotiating improved salary and other terms (vacation, incentive income/bonuses). Take time to develop a good business case for increasing your compensation; perhaps include some market research. If that doesn’t yield success, then that may be the signal for you to start looking for another employer who will better appreciate your talents and abilities. But keep your current job unless and until that new opportunity solidifies.
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