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Are You Unhappy At Work? Make A Change!

30 May

I was recently talking to a good friend about how her job was going when she told me that she pretty much does her boss’s job without her boss’s pay. When her husband suggested that she go into the office the following day and ask for a promotion I totally agreed. Here is a woman who has been busting her ass at work for a very long time without being properly recognized. So we all waited for her to say “Yes, I will go ask for that promotion,” but she didn’t. Instead she seemed uneasy with the idea and said that while she did do things outside of her pay and skill level, she was afraid of having to learn something new. She was also uncomfortable with the idea of managing people who were at least five years her senior.

While I understand that asking for a promotion and a pay raise can be extremely nerve-racking, I am of the opinion that if you are unhappy you need to make a change. If you continue to go above and beyond everyone’s expectations without asking for more your company may never give you more. This is what we call taking advantage of the little man. All of us do it, and if you don’t do something about it you will find yourself looking back ten years from now wondering why you didn’t just ask.

That’s it. All you have to do is ask. And as you have heard your entire life, all they can say is No. If you think about it that way it makes the whole process a little less scary.  So, if you feel that you are working harder than your co-workers but are in a lower level position or are not being paid well enough, JUST ASK.

But how do you know when it is appropriate to ask for a promotion or pay increase? The truth is that there is no “appropriate” time to ask. The “best” opportunity to ask will probably be at your annual review, but if that has already come and gone then you need to think of other options. Try scheduling a meeting with your boss and say that you would like to discuss how you are doing at work. If you feel that is too formal for your work environment then simply walk into your boss’s office when he/she seems the least busy and ask if you can talk to him/her. Yes I know it is scary, but you can do it!

Before going in to speak to your boss think about how your company is growing and changing. For example, are people from your team being moved to different positions? Is your company merging with another? Are there openings in a position that you are interested in? When companies are changing and growing it presents a great opportunity for you to go in there and ask for a promotion.

But the economy sucks right now so they probably won’t give me what I want, right? WRONG! Yes I know that the economy is not at its greatest, but you have to understand that if you are a valuable employee (and if they are smart) they will do what they can to please you and keep you at the company. Obviously if your company is going under it may not be the best time to ask for a promotion, but if that is the case I would suggest looking for a backup job.

Make sure you can tell your boss exactly what you have brought to the table. Asking for a promotion is one thing if you are actually making the company grow or better off, but it is an entirely different thing if you aren’t bringing your company any benefit. Make sure that you are prepared to defend your promotion by showing your boss how valuable you are to the company. At my last job I had a meeting with my boss about the pay increase I was promised. At that meeting I went in prepared to tell him that I had saved the company X amount of dollars in legal fees that year and had accomplished things that no one else had accomplished at the company. In the end my boss was more than happy to give me the pay increase, and so will yours if you can show him/her why you deserve it.

Make sure you know what you want before you go speak to your boss. A lot of times we assume that our bosses have these big plans for us and know which direction we are going within the company. The truth is that a lot of times your boss doesn’t know what you really want out of the company and whether you are truly happy. So when you go to ask for a promotion be prepared for your boss to ask you what it is you want. Do you want more responsibility? Do you want to manage others? How much of a salary increase do you think is appropriate? Be prepared to show that people working in your field and performing your responsibilities make X amount of dollars before you ask for an increase in salary.

If you get the promotion or pay increase good for you! Be happy and celebrate, but make sure that you understand your boss’s expectations. Your best bet will probably be to have another meeting with your boss in which you go over everything that your new position entails and make a list of exactly what your boss expects from someone in your new position.

At the end of the day asking for a promotion or a pay increase is NOT easy, but it is necessary if you find yourself completely unhappy at work. Remember, we all have the power to change our own lives, so if you are unhappy go out and do something about it.

Have you ever asked for a promotion or pay increase? How did you go about asking and how did your boss respond?

Asking For What You Want and Getting It

19 Apr

I was recently catching up on an episode of Mad Men. In the episode Roger asks Peggy to work through the weekend to finish a project for a client. In exchange for doing this, and doing it fast, he offers her $10. Rather than saying yes and agreeing to what her boss has asked, Peggy takes the opportunity to ask for what she wants – more money. $400 to be exact.

Here is what happened:

Peggy: Hold on a second. You want me to work up an entire corporate image campaign for 10 bucks?

Roger:  I can make you do it for nothing. I’m the boss.

Peggy:  You’re right. The work is $10. The lie is extra.

Roger: Incredible. What do you make a week, sweetheart?

Peggy: Oh, you don’t know. That’s helpful…

Roger; You know, I could fire you.

Peggy: Great. There are some portfolios in Joan’s office. You could find someone tonight.

Roger: Why are you doing this to me?

Peggy: Because you’re being very demanding for someone who has no other choice. Dazzle me.

Roger: Fine. How much do you want?

Peggy: How much you got?

Roger: $400.

Peggy: Give me all of it.

Roger: Jesus. (Hands $$ to her) This better be good.

Peggy: You want me to take your watch?

The entire time I was watching this exchange the only thing I could think is Go Peggy! Boy has she come a long way from not knowing how to interact with the boys and not asking for what she wanted and deserved. Sure, some may see Peggy’s actions as unprofessional, but I see them as a step in the right direction for her and women in general.

Too often women are afraid to ask for what they want and are less likely than men to use negotiation to further their own ambitions and goals. While I have often assumed that women in their 20’s and 30’s are able to ask for, and get, what they want through negotiation more than women in their 40’s and 50’s, this fact just simply isn’t true. While younger women feel that they act the same as their male counterparts, they don’t.

The result of women failing to negotiate is less pay. Apparently a woman’s failure to negotiate for just her first salary results in her sacrificing more than half a million dollars over the course of her career. YIKES! Not only is this staggering, but this number strikes home for me. At my first job interview my husband told me to be prepared to negotiate my salary. Rather than taking his advice, I listened to the best woman I know, my mom, who told me that they likely wouldn’t ask me what I wanted to make. So, I went into the interview not expecting them to ask me what I wanted to be paid. When that question came up I submissively sat there and allowed my future boss to set my salary at a number far lower than I would have suggested. I guess I sat there because I was just so grateful to have the opportunity in such a bad economy. Could this have cost me half a million dollars? Who knows, but the thought is scary.

In addition to the financial losses, women who don’t ask for what they want often advance more slowly in their career than equally qualified men. Why is this? Because men are the ones who are not afraid to ask for a big, prestigious assignment. Men are the ones to raise their hand when no one else will. Men are the ones that are more likely to put themselves out there. According to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, authors of Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, women expect that their hard work will be recognized and rewarded without having to ask. The truth is that this just isn’t how it works.

So what are women to do? Behave more like men? The answer is no. We all know that an overly aggressive women who asks for what she wants is often perceived as pushy and bitchy, while a man who does the same thing is seen as tough. While I don’t like it, society places a double standard on this behavior and doesn’t really allow women the opportunity to be the same as men when it comes to asking for what they want and moving ahead in their careers. Rather than being upfront and aggressive, Babcock and Laschever suggest asking for what you want in a more friendly and social way. Don’t play hardball, simply ask.

How do we know when it is ok to negotiate? Rather than thinking about what time is the most appropriate time, women should assume that most things in the work environment are negotiable. You want an office and not a cubicle, ask. You want a printer in your office so you don’t have to get up every time you print something, ask. You think you deserve a raise, tell them why you think this. The worst thing that could happen is whomever you are asking says no. It is also important to try to use your intuitive skills. Women generally have great intuitive skills and often know when something is wrong, so use this to your advantage when deciding when is the appropriate time.

But our economy is in a recession, is my boss really likely to give me a raise? Again, the worst thing he could say is no. Would you rather sit around wondering? I hope not. If you are uncomfortable asking flat-out for a raise then do some investigation to determine what other people in your situation are making. Talk to your friends and work and see what they have asked for and received. If someone with the same experience is making more than you, use that to your advantage when asking for a raise (of course be careful not to name-drop as that may get the other employee in trouble).

There are multiple things I want, should I ask for them at the same time? No. The idea is not to overload whomever it is you are talking to. Rather than putting it all out there, it is better to do incremental negotiating. One step at a time. Do not overload the person with your wants and desires.

Remember, asking for what you want is not bad. If you are worried that your wants are inappropriate, ask others what they think. It is always good to get a second opinion to determine whether your wants and needs are realistic. Finally, you cannot expect your boss to be a mind reader. Too often my husband and I get in an argument and at the end he says, “well why didn’t you tell me that’s what you wanted?” The truth is that men and women communicate differently, so you cannot expect a male boss to understand things from your perspective and to know exactly what you want. Stop expecting people to be mind-readers and get out there and ask for what you want!

Have you asked for something that you wanted at work? How were you perceived? How did you feel afterwards?