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More work, no raise? Strategies to come out ahead


Last week I wrote about how important it is to manage your stress level when you’re asked to take on significantly more responsibility for the same pay. Maintaining your energy is the first priority when you’re faced with this situation, closely followed by keeping your perspective.


It's always disappointing when you're asked to do more for the same (or even less). I'll share some strategies for how to use the experience to get ahead in the long term. First, I want to be clear on what I'm talking about... I'm not talking about being asked to stay late for a few days or even weeks as your organization works towards a critical deadline. That type of situation, while tiring and potentially frustrating, is temporary with a foreseeable end-date. That's really part of business as usual.


In a crisis, be aware of the danger - but recognize the opportunity.

What I'm referring to is when you're asked to take on significantly more responsibility with no promise of additional compensation or promotion, and with no foreseeable end-date. These situations typically arise when team members leave and their roles are either filled slowly or not at all, but the work does not stop or slow. Or perhaps a supervisor leaves and her second-in-command is expected to step and fill the former boss's shoes, but without the boss's title, compensation or clout.


The reasons that this happens can be due to difficulty finding a suitable replacement, being too busy to recruit a replacement, anticipating a restructuring which would make the former role obsolete, taking advantage of cost savings while not paying the departed employee's salary, or to be frank, it could be due to complete cluelessness.


If you are one of the remaining employees expected to take up the slack, it can sometimes be hard to maintain a positive outlook. You are working harder and may feel like no one notices which often results in feelings of helplessness and resentment.


Be clear about how you can leverage the new situation to get something that you want out of it.

Though those emotions are perfectly understandable, do whatever you can to maintain a positive attitude because, bottom line, opportunity is opportunity. John F. Kennedy once said, "The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.' One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger - but recognize the opportunity."


When rapid change takes place, if you're savvy, you can ride it to a better place and benefit from the change that you would not be able to do in a more stable environment. Be clear about how you can leverage the new situation to get something that you want out of it.


Get clear on your desired outcome, then approach your boss and let her know what you want.

First thing you need to do is give some thought to what it is that is. (It's often harder than it sounds to know what you really want…) Things to consider are:

  • Do you like what you’ve been asked to do?

  • Is this something that you’d like to do long-term?

  • If the answer is yes, what else would you like your go along with the additional responsibility? More money? An elevated title? More resources?

Get clear on your desired outcome, then approach your boss and let her know what you want and ask what you need to do in order to make that happen.


One of three things could happen:

1. You could be given what you ask for or be told that it’s something she’ll seriously consider.

2. You could be told the conditions under which you'll be granted your request.

3. You could be told that you cannot have what you want for any variety of reasons that could range from no budget, lack of willingness to go to bat for you or (ironically) not seeing you as qualified for the role or promotion (though you may already be doing the job by default.)


Each of these answers will be an impetus for your next step. If you get what you ask for, congrats! Now get clear on the expectations and deliver.


Use your experience to get what you want... at a different firm.

If you are given clarity on the steps you’ll need to take in order to earn the promotion and/or raise, congrats! You have clarity and can start developing a plan to get what you want. Once you’ve implemented your plan and met the conditions that were communicated to you, make your boss aware of it and ask her to follow through on the commitment she made. If she does, congrats! If she doesn’t then follow the instructions below.


If you are asked to take on significantly more responsibility on a permanent basis for the same rewards, you will have some decisions to make. You’ve already thought about what you want and you’ve asked for it and been told you will not get those. So now what?


Use your experience to get what you want... at a different firm. List all your additional responsibilities and the results you drove on your resume and LinkedIn profile. Also use a title that is descriptive of what you do even if it’s not your actual job or title. For example, if your boss left and all of his responsibilities have been given to you, list yourself as Interim or Acting Director or Manager of your department. If you don’t feel comfortable using that as a title, you can list it in the body of your resume.


Though you may be crazy-busy, make the time to keep track of all your accomplishments.

Though you may be crazy-busy, make the time to keep track of all your accomplishments. If due to your additional responsibilities, you have newly access to higher ups in the organization, take the opportunity to introduce yourself. If you have access to people from other areas of company use this time to build relationships. This is called leveraging your opportunities for future gain. It may be through exposure to these new co-workers that you discover new opportunities (that come with additional pay) and where they discover you.

In addition to looking at positions within your own company, look outside as well. You may find that other companies actually value your skills and experience more than your current company. If your current company won’t pay you for your additional contributions, see if other companies may be interested in talking with you. If you need help strategizing or brushing up on interview skills, hire a coach to help with you. And, make sure you’re prepared to put your best foot forward from a wardrobe and grooming standpoint. (Get a haircut and go shopping if needed!)


Consider other forms of compensation that you can request for going the extra mile.

Even if you don't want to leave your organization and aren't able to leverage taking on the additional responsibility for a raise and/or promotion, consider other forms of compensation that you can request for going the extra mile. Perhaps a spot in an executive or specialized training class, extra vacation days, tuition reimbursement, business travel, a car allowance, attendance at a conference, etc. Managers don't always have the flexibility to grant raises or promotions, but may be willing to provide other forms of compensation or recognition that they have more discretion over.


Be a strong advocate for yourself and the advancement of your career.

If you're asked to go above and beyond, make sure that you come out better off for it. Remind yourself (and your boss) of the value you've brought. Be a strong advocate for yourself and the advancement of your career. With the right attitude and career management strategy, you might actually get excited the next time there's a big disruption at work because you know how to manage it well for your advancement and that of your organization.

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© 2018 Terry B. McDougall