I have been working for the same company for six years in a job that requires incredible attention to detail. If I make a mistake, it could not only cost my company money, it could put lives at risk. My work has been rated “outstanding” in my annual reviews, yet I have never received a raise or bonus. Last month, one of my younger colleagues, whose sloppy work I regularly correct, boasted to me that she is getting more money and an additional week of vacation.
I come from Britain, where it is considered vulgar to broach the subject of money, let alone ask for more of it. being seen to be a striver is also frowned upon. I am not what you would call ambitious – I am happy in my job and do not want a promotion, but is it unrealistic to expect management to recognize in some tangible way those of us who actually do the job well?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Founder, Made You Think Coaching, Toronto
In a perfect world, we would all be recognized and compensated for the exact value we provide. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen, in which case we need to stand up for ourselves and ask for more. The squeaky hinge gets the grease.
Asking for more money feels a bit vulgar to many people, but that’s just fear talking; fear that we’ll come across as being full of ourselves, fear that we’ll imply managers aren’t doing their job properly, fear that we’ll be rejected and told we don’t deserve more.
A raise is difficult to obtain if your responsibilities haven’t increased or if you’re not stepping up to some form of leadership. Is Ms. Sloppy doing something that you’re not? You say you’re not ambitious for a promotion, but some employers aren’t interested in rewarding people who don’t show enthusiasm for going above the call of duty or working their way up.
Have a conversation with your boss. It could go something like this: “I’ve always received outstanding reviews but I haven’t had a raise in six years. I’d like to understand why that is. Is there anything I could be doing differently?” This shows you’re willing to co-operate, you’re not pointing the finger, and it makes your boss define what you need to do to be recognized. Then you can decide if you’re willing to do it.
THE SECOND ANSWER
President and CEO, Spectrum Organizational Development, Toronto
Imagine being a parent with two children. One child is sitting on the sofa reading to herself, the other, crayon in hand, is scribbling on the wall. Most parents will spend their time with the scribbler, leaving the reader alone. After a while, the reader misses the attention, and realizes that what she is doing just isn’t working – it’s time to act up. Such is often the case with managers; they must heap attention and praise on their poor performers to keep them focused and engaged, while leaving their top employees alone, assuming they don’t need or want attention. It is the wrong approach by the manager, but it is second nature.
Your manager must understand that while you don’t need a carrot to keep moving, you do need some time and attention to maintain your relationship, receive acknowledgment for your dependability, and reaffirm your value to the organization. Your manager must understand the power of spending time with top employees. When that happens, underperformers will learn, in time, that good behaviour is what it takes to get noticed – not crayons.
Even if your colleague were as reliable as you, it is incumbent upon your boss to give you the sort of attention and reward you seek, and ultimately what you deserve, which may not be the same as what your colleague wants.
Great managers understand that people are different, and must be treated differently.
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