The worst is when you really like your boss, coworkers and company but are still being grossly underpaid…
Discussing pay is awkward — at least when you’re talking about your pay with your boss.
That’s why most employees will never say the following:
1. “Take advantage of us at your own peril.”
Occasionally the job market is a seller’s market, but most new employees — evenpotential superstars — are just really happy to land a new job. And since businesspeople are born cost cutters, it’s natural to hire every new employee for as low a wage as possible.
Then the employment honeymoon wears off and the employee feels the boss took advantage. And that feeling never, ever goes away.
Never take advantage of a naive or desperate employee. The gain is never worth the pain.
Plus it’s just wrong.
2. “We think about our pay all the time.”
Unless the business is struggling, to a boss the issue of employee pay is a one-off market research activity or an item to consider when it’s time to prepare an expense budget. Otherwise checks get cut, people get paid, and it’s business as usual.
Employees, on the other hand, think about their pay all the time. Every time they deposit their check they think about their pay.
To a boss, an employee’s pay is a line item; to that employee, pay is the most important number in their family’s budget.
3. “We don’t care about pay scales.”
A pay scale is like a pacifier to a boss asked to justify the amount of a raise. Falling back on a pay scale is often the easiest way out of a difficult discussion. (“I’d love to pay you more but my hands are tied.”)
Pay scales and pay practices are largely irrelevant to an employee who, often with good reason, views them as arbitrary rules someone dreamed up.
If you can’t afford to pay an employee more, say so. If you think a certain percentage raise is fair, explain why. Use pay scales to build your budget, and use reason and logic—and empathy—to explain pay decisions to employees.
And then think twice about how much you should pay a genuine superstar… because that’s one case where too much really isn’t enough.
4. “Make us negotiate and we all lose.”
Why? Employees lose if only because they resent having to justify what they’re worth; in their view you should already know their value. And the boss loses because at some point she may have to say, in so many words, “I’m sorry, but you’re just not worth that much.”
Great employees are worth a lot more than their pay. You get what you pay for, so pay whatever you can to get and keep the best you can.
When you find a great candidate, forget all the effective rules of negotiating. Always make your best offer.
5. “Forget your policies. We talk.”
Many companies actively discourage employees from talking about their salaries. Some even require employees to sign agreements stipulating they won’t disclose pay, benefits, etc to other employees.
None of which matters. People talk. (Maybe not to you… but they definitely talk.) I did, both when I was labor and when I was management.
Never assume raises, bonuses, starting salaries, perks—basically anything related to compensation—will stay confidential. It won’t.
6. “No matter how much you pay us, it’s not enough.”
We all grow accustomed to what we have. A big new house eventually seems normal. The effect of a big raise eventually wears off; eventually, that raise is just pay as usual.
We all want more. It’s natural. Unfortunately you can’t always give more. And that’s okay, because…
7. “Even so, reasonable pay is okay.”
Employees are smart. They understand market conditions, financial constraints, revenue shortfalls, and increased competition. They understand when you can’t pay top-of-market salaries. What they don’t understand is when they don’t feel fairlycompensated compared to other employees in similar positions, both inside and outside the company.
Once pay is reasonable and fair, other things become important: recognition, respect, challenging work, opportunities for development… the feeling that their job is more than just a job.
The happiest and most engaged employees feel they work for something more than just money. It’s your job to provide that sense of belonging and meaning. Without meaning, your employees are stuck simply working for a paycheck.
Higher pay is great but the effects are fleeting.
Respect, recognition, and a sense of real purpose last forever. And so does gratitude.