Another "how to get a raise" question.. with a twist!
August 6, 2007 2:52 AM   Subscribe

I applied for a promotion that I did not get, but my company still wants to keep me in that position's "training program," which has the same responsibilities as the position, but without the pay raise.

I work for a small company (about 30 employees), and while there have been ups and downs, I generally like my job and my work environment quite a lot. However, take the small size of the workplace, and the fact that it is dominated by women (there are two men in the office), and that leads to an, at best, tight-knit, and at worst, backstabbing and gossipy place to be. What I'm getting at is that it's very informal, and everyone knows everyone's business, for lack of better phrasing.

About a month ago, a space opened up for a supervisory position, which I applied for. Myself and three others were accepted into the "supervisor training program," and basically went through a bunch of rigamarole such as strange homework assignments and awkward group interviews, and today the new supervisor was announced.

It wasn't me, and I am ok with that; I thought the whole promotion process at this company was really strange to begin with, and to be honest, a lot of me was just relieved that it was over. But I was wrong. Our ops manager informed the three of us that were not selected that we were still going to be considered supervisors-in-training, and would be called on to supervise on days when the regular supervisors needed days off. And also that we would be required to be on call at all times in case someone called out. And also that we are required to chair meetings like the other supervisors. And also that we will have the responsibility of monitoring the other employees and writing their evaluations. And also that anytime we are on a shift that DOES have a supervisor, and the supervisor needs to delegate work, it will fall on us. And so forth and so on and so forth. (Basically a whole lot of "and also"s, I'm sure you noticed.)

Basically, we will have exactly the same responsibilities as a supervisor, but without the job title or the raise that comes along with it. I do really like the company I work for, but it is by FAR the worst paying job I have ever had -- I work there only because I like it so much, not for the money. Now, I am being asked to take on a whole lot of new responsibilities and be available at all times, and not being given anything in return.

This brings me back to my first paragraph; my work place is very informal and very gossipy. There is a lot of joking, sometimes to the point where it is hard to be taken seriously, and some of the higher ups joke around in ways that are hard to read and can sometimes even be hurtful (I have not had that problem personally but I've seen it many times in the office). I'm really not sure how to say to my ops manager that I would like a raise commensurate with my new responsibilities, and have her take me seriously. I hesitate to call her intimidating, as she isn't malicious in any way, but like I said above, she is a jokester, with a very sarcastic and dry sense of humor to an extreme -- it often overpowers the other parts of her personality. I am generally an extremely straightforward person, but saying to her, "I'd really like you to take me seriously about this," before I spoke to her about it would lead to the brush off and then her laughing about it with the other managers/supervisors, and things always get around.

Sorry for being so long-winded, I'm just trying as hard as I can not to leave out any pertinent info. I don't work Monday, but I will be seeing her Tuesday, and I would like to talk to her then rather than let this sit. I look forward to any advice you guys can give me about how to best approach this, and if I left out anything or you have any questions, please let me know. Thanks in advance!
posted by srrh to Work & Money (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What do the other people who didn't get the position think? If you all feel that you're being given new responsibilities and should really get a pay rise commensurate with that...well, maybe go to your boss together? Strength in numbers?
posted by cardamine at 3:19 AM on August 6, 2007

Keeping you in "training program" limbo sounds like very bad planning. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I'll say that they didn't really know or plan out what else to do with you guys. They might not know that doing that to you and the others is very bad for morale and eventually productivity. I recommend that you at least mention how awkward it feels to be in that position when you speak to your boss. Hopefully they can come up with some kind of face-saving or at least less-annoying title - or even a better supervisor program.

Now, if putting you in that role wasn't a mistake and was actually planned that way, it sounds like a really bad idea and a kind of cruel move. If you really, really, really are happy there, I recommend that you at least realize that the situation they put you in is crappy. If crappy things start piling up, I highly recommend looking for a new job. Hell, look now anyway. It is totally possible that somewhere out there is a nice place to work that pays you what you deserve.
posted by redteam at 3:52 AM on August 6, 2007

The company wants you to have the same responsibilities as the position, but without the pay raise? I bet they do!

Do you love it so much you'd take the new position if they want you to do it every day without a pay raise?
posted by cmiller at 4:10 AM on August 6, 2007

Response by poster: Do you love it so much you'd take the new position if they want you to do it every day without a pay raise?

Absolutely not! Maybe my question was unclear, but that's the point entirely: how can I make this clear to my manager, who takes absolutely nothing seriously and gossips behind people's backs like a schoolgirl?
posted by srrh at 4:43 AM on August 6, 2007

You got turned down for the raise; it's not going to happen now unless you threaten to leave and you're valuable enough that the company will admit to itself it made the wrong decision (very unlikely). Your options are to either return to your previous position (and reject all supervisory tasks, which makes you one of those ever-so-popular "that's not in my job description" drones) or to set a clear time limit (six months seems reasonable) to the trainee role with your boss, at which point the company must either promote you or let you return to your own role. Strongly suggest but don't out-and-out say that you'll be looking seriously at other options if the promotion is not forthcoming.

I've found that being unusally grave is the best way to address serious topics with jokey managers. It doesn't guarantee that they'll take you seriously, but it's usually a strong signal that you should be taken seriously. (Plus, people are usually grave when they resign, so there may be some relief that you're giving them the opportunity to keep you around.)
posted by backupjesus at 5:15 AM on August 6, 2007

Best answer: Sorry about the sucky situation and a wordy response.

If you want to keep working there, then tread carefully. As you said, there's a good chance of word getting around and small businesses (regardless of gender balance) can be incredibly incestuous popularity contests.

My advice would be to wait and see. A lot of the "and alsos" seemed to be potential responsibilities; things you'll have to do only if the regular supervisor can't. Given the informality of the situation, it's entirely possible that management is just hedging their bets and your day-to-day job is going to be practically the same.

If you actually do start getting calls in the middle of the night, or you're having to assume full supervisor responsibilities on a regular basis, or more specifically that you fundamentally feel that you're doing a different job rather than a little more work at the same job, then you should definitely bring it up.

But if it turns out that your actual added work is minimal, then I'd suggest just doing it without complaint (although gently push for a change of job title). You'll be a prime candidate the next time they start looking to promote someone.

If you end up having "the talk," I agree that you shouldn't start it "I'd like you to take me seriously." It puts her on the defensive right from the outset and sets an antagonistic tone for the whole conversation. Her job is to take you seriously, and since she's your manager and not the other way around, you have no authority to make her do her job better.

If she starts kidding around when you're having a serious discussion, here's a tip: don't laugh. Most people feel a neurotic compulsion to politely laugh or smile rather than risk conflict, and this only fuels the jokey behavior. That might be okay for getting by in day-to-day office interactions, but your "I want a raise" conversation is not part of the normal relationship calculus and shouldn't follow the same rules.

This doesn't mean "don't smile," because you also want to keep the meeting amicable. What it means is "don't keep smiling or laugh" if she tries to deflect your concerns.

In the worst-case scenario, if you feel she inappropriately dismissed you, you have a decision to make. If you have a clear and unassailable case -- for example, if your manager became hostile or profane in response or generally acted contrary to a good-will relationship with continuing employees -- then you may try going over her head. Do this only if you honestly think it will be successful and impactful, because it will almost definitely screw your relationship with that manager, and in a small office one ruined relationship can be very poisonous.

Keep all meetings discreet. You're a lot less likely to get your way if management thinks they'll have to promote two other "supervisors-in-training" with you. Your salary is none of their business and you don't want to appear to be the leader of a minimutiny to the higher-ups.

The best thing about your situation is that you've already accepted the hardline: if you don't get your way, you'll leave the job. That means that you don't have to worry about the gossip mill if you end up rebuffed; you won't be dealing with them for much longer.

Stand strong, make it clear that you like working there and that your interests are the company's interests. And good luck.

Disclaimer: I am not an HR representative or manager or anything, just someone sharing his observations and opinions.
posted by Riki tiki at 5:56 AM on August 6, 2007

On the other hand...

The organization may not have been overly impressed with any of the candidates and just picked one, but want to have a backup plan in case that doesn't work out. Or perhaps they feel the need to get better about preparing employees for future advancement.

So... you may look at this as a chance to "invest" in the company a little. If the extra duties are not going to break you without the extra pay, you may try them for a while and show how well you can perform. The way I see it, there is now a three-way race for the next supervisory position. If that is something you're interested in, this is your opportunity to audition.

Another way to look at it is that perhaps with your new duties will come a new level of authority that will give you the credibility you seem to be looking for.

I realize these are just rationalizations of becoming a management toadie, but being a toadie for a while may open up opportunities in the future.

Where I work, the absolutely worst level for someone with any kind of experience is the first level of supervision. They take away any ability to get paid for your overtime, load you up with about 60 hours a week of responsibility, and you don't qualify for bonuses until you get your next promotion. It's kind of an apprenticeship to management. You have to suck it up and excel at it to get to that next level.

This could be a similar situation. Regardless of your reaction, you may not have any chance of getting paid more right now. You could refuse to do it which would turn into a career-limiting event at your current company, or you could embrace the new duties and show how eager you are for more.... a "more" that next time, hopefully, will mean more pay.
posted by Doohickie at 6:19 AM on August 6, 2007

I would start looking for a new job so you have some options if they refuse to give you a raise or change these new expectations.
posted by electroboy at 6:29 AM on August 6, 2007

Easy enough. It should take you about 45 seconds to accomplish this. First, in a very somber voice let the woman know that you are burned out from the manager in training activities and whereas you appreciate being considered for the substitute position it is not something you are going to be able to handle right now. Say this sincerely, looking her dead in the eye.

***Be aware that this statement purposefully does not give the opportunity for the other party to say Yes or No. You are merely telling them how it is going to be in a nice way.***

With out missing a breath between the first line and this one, move your face into a bright smile, put a gleam to your eye and state... "Besides I am going to need some time to look for a second job. I was banking on getting a raise when I got all the new responsibilities."

Exit the conversation with a happy, playful smile on your face and return to your old duties. If she wants a sit down later on you can explain the case but stay up beat and friendly.
posted by bkeene12 at 6:31 AM on August 6, 2007

Two of the things you list jump out at me. If you're not a supervisor you should absolutely not be writting employee evaluations. It's also bizarre to say you have to be "on call" at all times. Those are responsibilities that should only go with an official promotion and raise in my mind. The rest sounds like good practice to get you some supervisory experience. But I don't get a good vibe off those first two at all, small business or no.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:35 AM on August 6, 2007

bkeene12, I may need to recalibrate my sarcasm detector, but I strongly disagree with you.

If the OP does that, and the manager "buys" it, here's how I think it plays: "I am easily overwhelmed and couldn't even handle training. You sure made the right choice passing me over for the job. Oh, and by the way, did I mention that I manage my personal finances poorly and am looking for another job so that I'll probably be fatigued and less capable of my existing responsibilities?"

And if she recognizes it as a tactic, it says "I'm not going to do the work you're asking of me, and I'm going to refuse in a coy and manipulative way. I handle conflict in a passive-aggressive manner so it's probably a good thing you didn't make me a supervisor."
posted by Riki tiki at 6:44 AM on August 6, 2007

Wow, why do you tolerate this shit? Your bosses just gave you a message - they are more interested in mind games than career development. Get out now. Get a new job. Stop worrying about giving a speech that you don't think will be heard and start worrying about your resume.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:48 AM on August 6, 2007

To me it sounds like they are "playing company" and the people in charge are making bad decisions. How much hierarchy can there be in a company of 30 people? Perhaps they are introducing more hierarchy (in the form of this sub-supervisor level) to make up for their obvious lack of management skills. I know you like working there, but, trust me, somewhere out there are better people to work for. Go and find them -- you will recognize them because you know everything you *aren't* looking for. In the meantime, just play their silly game. Or do what bkeene12 said.
posted by Eringatang at 6:53 AM on August 6, 2007

Best answer: Thought of something else. Because of the outcome of this decision, and the length of time and amount of effort put into it, I bet it was a difficult decision for management. It is a natural human tendency to look for reasons that the decision made was the "right" one, especially with difficult decisions. This leads to confirmation bias -- collecting facts that bolster the decision and ignoring ones that don't. That means that, subconsciously, they could be looking for reasons that they didn't promote you. Coming to them with any sort of complaint would fall into this category. This doesn't mean you *shouldn't* complain, but just be aware of the potential impact. And, you know, just another reason to find a better job at a better place.
posted by Eringatang at 7:12 AM on August 6, 2007

My boss has a tendency to do things like this - have a brainstorm that I or one of my colleagues should get exposure to "more senior responsibility X" even though we're collapsing under our existing responsibilities. But he genuinely (and I'm not naive) thinks he's giving valuable training to us and ensuring we have constant challenges blah blah so we won't leave. He really does. So from my experience, I would take on everything they're suggesting (except on call crap if it becomes too onerous, should at least try to get comp time or something) and at annual review time have a good case put together for a raise. And see how things play out, too, the powers-that-be may lose their enthusiasm for this new program after a few weeks.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:53 AM on August 6, 2007

Okay, I'd like to give an alternative possible explanation: not because I actively disbelieve the "bosses are conniving to get you to do more work for the same money" line, but because there is a second possibility. That is, that when the bosses had to choose one of the four people to make into a supervisor, they were worried that the other three people would rapidly leave for another company. The ongoing "supervisor training programme" was a quick fix to suggest that your aspirations to become a supervisor are not misplaced, and to give you the opportunity to evidence that you would make a decent supervisor the next time a vacancy comes around. One way to test this (not without consequences) is to turn down the ongoing training, and see whether the bosses are relieved, or whether they try to talk you round. One person's "they are making me do more work without the commensurate pay" is another person's "they are giving me the opportunity to try out some tasks that wouldn't normally be given to someone at my level of responsibility".
posted by Jabberwocky at 7:56 AM on August 6, 2007

Providing a slightly different viewpoint: it might be nice to gain management experience, without all of the responsibility that comes with it. Yes, there is responsibility in terms of tasks and people, but it's not the end of the world if you screw up, since you're "in training." People make a lot of mis-steps in their first years as managers (there are entire professional workshops devoted to being a new supervisor, for example) and this gives you the opportunity to gain a new skill set while having a safety net in place.

I also think the program is not quite flushed out, like rikitiki says. That is, they came up with all these ideas, but it remains to be seen how it will actually work on a daily basis. You may only be doing one "supervisor" thing per week. If you do find that you're being taken advantage of, then maybe you will need to look at leaving or having that discussion with your supervisor.

bunch of rigamarole such as strange homework assignments and awkward group interviews...
I think you'll find this more common as you progress "up the ladder" in your career. I've sat in on multiple group interviews, many that had given candidates "homework assignments." I've even had to do a few myself in interviews. That was probably good practice for you.

Like eringatang said though, how much supervising does there really need to be in a company of just 30 people?
posted by ml98tu at 8:26 AM on August 6, 2007

I'd reply along the lines of "I'm really excited about this opportunity to grow within XYZ, Inc. At what level with the additional hours and responsibilities will be compensated?"
posted by theora55 at 10:39 AM on August 6, 2007

Any kind of conversation wherein you ask for more money now, however much earned, is going to become confrontational and end with lingering unease.

I agree with the others who have said that in a 30-person company, this smells strongly of leadership who doesn't have their act together, and my concern would be that "wait and see" turns into "wait and wait". I'd advise you to take the bull by the horns and use this an opportunity to set real goals with them.

Sit down with your manager and try to work out a timeframe for promotion, with real milestones- you take on X responsibilities for Y months to everyone's satisfaction, you get the promotion. The important thing is that there is a DATE set for your review. I've seen too many scenarios play out where people talk around these things and they never happen because of "unforseen" stuff.

Be aware that doing this will create some tension between you and the others who didn't get the raise; they'll see you as a threat, and rightly so. Remember- they may be your friends, but they're also your competition. It's up to you to decide which side is more important to you.
posted by mkultra at 11:01 AM on August 6, 2007

Best answer: You mentioned that, before this semi-promotion, you loved your job. Loved it enough to let it be "by FAR the worst paying job I have ever had".

That job is over for you, and it wont be coming back. You can either learn to love this new job and let it be tied for the title of "worst paying job ever", or go find a new one to love.

I vote for "go find a new one"

Good luck!
posted by sandra_s at 6:36 PM on August 6, 2007

I vote that you give it some time, see how these extra responsibilities pan out... If you really are doing the supervisor job all the time, then it's not good, and I'd either front up and ask for a raise (not necessarily to supervisor, but maybe a 2nd-in-charge type raise?) or bail on the whole thing.

On the other hand, if you are just pitching in occasionally, I'd see it as an opportunity to prove that you are able to work above your level, so that next time a supervisor jobs opens up, you are the obvious choice...

I think 3 - 6 months would give you the chance to see what the landscape looks like and whether you are beating a dead horse or whether you are actually "management-material", but there was someone better in this particular case..
posted by ranglin at 7:09 PM on August 6, 2007

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