'Thank You' Doesn't Replace More Money or Time

Lindsey Novak on

Q: I have not received a raise after two years at my company. At my interview, I was told I'd receive a year-end review and bonus based on performance. I worked my butt off and was complimented throughout the year on what an amazing job I've done. I exceeded company goals and received compliments even from my customers. I see now we are underpaid for the job, even if we had received bonuses. Instead of a raise or bonus, we were given additional responsibilities, and a group vacation. Great! Just how I wanted to spend my only time off!

I work 12-hour days, seven days a week. I am wiped out at the end of each day, and nearly brain-dead by the weekend, so I have no time to update my resume or network. All those compliments are worthless to me. I have no life and no time to improve it or take my own vacation.

The industry is tightly knit, so I can't rely on confidentiality if I apply for another job. I learned that the hard way years ago. I can't talk to my boss because the no-raise/no-bonus situation was announced to all of us. I also really like my boss and the employees, which is a first for me. What does a person do when there's no way out?

A: Contrary to committing yourself to a no-win situation, there is always a way out, but a way-out doesn't come risk-free. Your situation is difficult; most decision-making is when it involves negotiating or a possible job change. And yes, it would be easier to leave if your boss was an abusive jerk, but he or she isn't, and liking your boss isn't the only consideration.

To ease your decision-making process, list every pro and con to working in that job at that company. Then weight each pro and con, which is not easy but must be done if you are to understand your values. You think "thank you means nothing to you, but you're wrong. Staying in your job means that working for a boss who thanks you is worth more than more money and free time to enjoy a personal life. That's quite a trade-off, which is OK as long as you realize what you are deciding.

Talking to your boss, however much it worries you, would be a wise move if you approach the conversation with a plan. When you meet, you are not going to demand or beg for more money. You are not even going to mention the money. Focus on a different topic such as the time you spend working each day.

Start by telling your boss everything you like about the company, the job, the employees, and the industry. Explain these positives have led you to your success there. Then switch gears. Say you accept the company being tight right now and not able to give raises or bonuses. This shows you can understand company's goals in addition to your own. This will disarm your boss since most employees present the "me first" approach only. The final topic of your talk is the most important -- your time.

Explain your daily activities, the approximate time you spend on each, and ask if he or she has suggestions for better time management. If none are given, your boss now has a detailed and realistic view of what it takes for a person in your job to succeed. This should open the door of potential solutions now that the boss knows the job demands exceed the salary. It may also open the door to say you would have benefited by a personal vacation had there been time.

It's important to show the job's time commitment goes far beyond the offered salary. A sharp boss will hear the message without thinking you're a complainer. If nothing changes for the better in the next several months, you can feel more comfortable networking because you have been forthright about your concerns.

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