The Annual Performance Review

Ryan, my boss, walked into my office with a serious look on his face. I looked up from my monitor as he closed the door behind him. “We need to talk about your behavior!” he said, wagging his finger.

“My behavior?” I was trying to sound calm.

He started laughing. “I’m just kiddin’,” he said. I stretched my face into the most credible smile I could manage. “We’re doing your review tomorrow.” I stopped smiling.

Everybody in my company has a review once a year, around the time of when each employee was hired. Because my department has always been behind on reviews, mine usually happened in May or June (I was hired in early March). Ryan’s been with the company for just over a year now and he’s really diligent about company policy. When he saw my review’s due date approaching at the end of February, he kept reminding me that we needed to schedule a date for it. I kept telling him I’d get to it later because I knew I’d be asking for a raise this year and I wanted time to research similar salaries and prepare a statement that I would present to him during my review. For a couple of weeks, his words were, “We need to schedule your review soon.” On this day, he said, “We’re doing your review tomorrow.”—not, “Can we do your review tomorrow?”—”We’re doing your review tomorrow.” 

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get out of it, but I tried anyway.

“Can’t we do it next week?” I asked. “I’m still working on January’s reconciliations and I haven’t even had time to do the self-evaluation.”

“Nope.” he said. “I’ve already got Laura and Candace done and I want to get these out of the way.” I was going to have to do all my preparations overnight.

“I’d really rather do it next week.”

“What’s the big deal? All you have to do is the self-eval. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.”

“Yeah.” I said, “I have some other stuff I have to do also…” He looked at me like I’d just spoken in another language. “… we’ll talk about it tomorrow.”

“OK! Great!” he said. He opened the door and walked out of my office.

I’m an accountant for a non-profit in Portland (the only Portland that matters). I’ve been with this company for four years. Because I’m one of only two accountants there, I see almost all of the financials, including payroll, which means I know exactly how much everyone makes. I know that my boss makes about 50 percent more than I do, and that his boss makes almost double that. I know that the CEO makes more than anybody, but not that much more than the CFO. I know that the “executive assistant” (secretary for the executives) makes more than me and she’s only been here for two years. I know that my co-worker who spends all day on Facebook but is buddies with all the executives also makes more than me. And I know that the medical billing staff makes peanuts.

This was basically my first job out of college. I was working for an accounting firm for about three months until the owner couldn’t afford to pay us any longer, and then I got this job. It’s pretty low-stress and the benefits are decent, but that also means I have to make sacrifices in my salary. I understand that, and it’s a fair trade. I’d rather make a few dollars less and have some decent vacation time than have to work 80-hour weeks. I had to keep my expectations reasonable. It wasn’t about money. I have all that I need, and if I had any more money, it would just go into savings or I would spend it on clothes. It was about respect—respect for my place within the company and my value to the company.

Also, maybe it had something to do with other parts of my life not working out so well and wanting to make a move so that at least one thing in my life would be going ok. When you lose a lot, it’s easier to risk losing a little more because, really, what difference does it make at this point?

I went home and stayed up late writing my statement. It said that I enjoyed working for the company and getting to know all the great people there over the last few years. Then it went into what kind of a mess all of the accounting department was in when I started in 2009, and how much I’ve contributed to getting everything on track and keeping it there. Then it asked for a 30 percent raise. It said I knew it was a lot, but that I was taking into consideration what other people with my skills and qualifications are making in the area as well as what other people within the organization are making. It thanked my boss for his time and mentioned something about “looking forward to many more years with the company.” Simple enough, but professional and direct, right? I was careful not to use the word “raise” in this letter. I called it a request for a “salary increase.” I guess that was my way of just slipping it in there. (Subliminal messages or something.)

I saved that document and my self-evaluation (pretty boilerplate stuff about what you struggled with during the year, what you achieved, and what you can work on next year—you know the drill) and emailed them to myself so I could print them at work in the morning before my review at 9:30 a.m.

Let’s talk real numbers for a second. At the beginning of this story, I was making $41,616 per year. I’m on salary, so it’s that number divided by 52 weeks and then again by 40 hours and I’m paid at an hourly rate for 40 hours every week. I don’t have to clock in or out or anything, but that’s how it works. I was hired at $35K in 2009. That was more than I had been making at the accounting firm and more than I’d ever made in my whole life, so I didn’t balk when it was offered, and was really just happy I was going to be able to make rent again.

During my first review in 2010, I was offered a raise—without having to ask—to $40K. Then I had the standard 2 percent raise each of the last two years. Everybody gets that 2 percent, unless they really fuck up. I was going to ask for $55K in my review this year. I knew that was a big jump, but I wanted to shoot a little bit high in case of negotiation. I figured if I started at $55K, even if they talked me down, I’d still be getting a pretty decent raise. They always say that when it comes to asking for money, you can’t get what you don’t ask for. That said, even if I were making $55K, I’d still be the lowest-paid employee in my department by almost $10,000.

I arrived at work at my usual time of 9 a.m. and logged in to print out my paperwork from the night before. My Internet was down, and, apparently, it was only my problem. So when Ryan came to my office at 9:35 a.m. to ask me why we weren’t getting started, I was frantically trying to get online and had to try to sound like I wasn’t just making it all up. He let me sign into his computer and print out my papers from there, but I had forgotten to email myself the self-evaluation. I’d only sent the statement asking for a raise. I assured him I’d definitely filled it out and remembered what I’d written down so we could just go through it verbally and he was nice enough about that part. Then we got started.

Ryan said lots of really positive things about how my work is really good and much better than what’s expected from someone my age and with my kind of experience. He said that I needed to work on my communication skills with the other departments (I hate answering my phone and sometimes can’t hide my disdain when the person I’m talking to is dumb—what do you want from me?). “Ok, this is good!” I thought. Then it was my turn.

I handed him my statement and then basically re-told the same story, but without all the professional language in it. Ryan said he agreed that I should be making more but we were in a tight financial spot lately so he’d have to talk to his boss and the CFO before he could give me an answer. Nevermind that both of them are getting paid enough to drive a BMW SUV—we have to look out for my 30 percent.

“Well, why don’t you send me an email with some bullet points that summarize this letter for me?” he asked. “I’ll take that to Jack [the Director of Finance] and see what we can do.”

He wrapped up the review, and I went back to my office and waited.

And here’s where I started getting upset. I understand a fairly substantial raise has to be cleared with management before it can be approved. But I know all of these guys. I work with them. I talk to the CFO and the Director of Finance every single day. For a long time, before Ryan’s position was created, the Director of Finance was my boss. Why did they all have to discuss my future in a room that didn’t have me in it? This is a non-profit after all. Surely, they wouldn’t so easily fall back on the corporate structure.

That was a Friday. Ryan came into my office on Monday and closed the door behind him again (I hate when he does that).

“So I talked to everybody else,” he said. “Jack says you’re not getting 55. And I agree with him. I did some preliminary research [on the same site I'd used] and it looks like other people in the area with your experience are making around 47 or 48. So I’m going to push for that with everyone. We just have to wait to hear an answer from the CFO and HR. It should take about a week.”

“Ok,” I said, smiling. “Let me know how that goes!”

What was I supposed to say? This wasn’t a flea market deal. I couldn’t come back like, “Ehhh, how ‘bout you give me $50K?” It wasn’t an actual answer, anyway. I couldn’t be upset for something that, so far, was just an idea. I decided to wait. Still, I wasn’t getting what I asked for, and I felt stupid for not only thinking I could get $55K but for going far enough to ask for it. Who did I think I was, anyway? So, I mentioned these problems I’d been having with the entire process.

“I don’t know, I just feel… weird about this being decided in a room I don’t get to be in,” I said. “Especially when I know all of the people in that room.”

Ryan looked me directly in the eye. “Well, that’s just how it works.”

A week later, Ryan came to talk to me again. He closed the door.

“Alright, I got with some people at a company I’ve consulted with before and did some research on your position and similar salaries in the area,” he said. “And … you’re right at the median.”

He handed me some papers with graphs that said the same thing.

“I think we need to get you cross training with Laura [the other accountant] and then we’ll be able to revisit your salary,” he said. “But you two will have to work that process out. I’m a little busy with my responsibilities at the moment. K?”

“Ok,” I said. I didn’t smile. Ryan switched into his higher-pitched voice.

“How’s everything else goin’!?”

“Fine. Just fine.”

Look, I understand. This is what some people would call a “first world problem”. Lots of people get denied for a raise every single day, and most of them deserve it much more than I do. Most of them work really hard and don’t comment on blogs all day. And I still have the exact same job I had three weeks ago. But now I have to move. You don’t just tell someone you’re going to shoot and then not shoot. Now I have to start interviewing again and see if I can get a better offer. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a better offer and be able to use that as leverage to get my current employer to actually give me a raise. Or I’ll just have to go work somewhere else. I don’t want to do that, though. Who knows what kind of mess I’d be walking into? The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.

The whole thing kept bothering me, though. I had this nagging suspicion that I wasn’t fairly represented with the management when Ryan presented my case. I know Jack. He’s always been a nice guy. He’s gotta agree with me that I deserve more money. Ryan couldn’t have fought for me enough. I never liked him anyway.

This past Friday, Ryan was out of the office. I walked into Jack’s office (which is directly across from mine).

“Hey! Do you have a second to talk?” I asked. I closed the door behind me.

“Sure, what’s up!?” he said.

“I just wanted to ask you about my review,” I said. “I’m sure Ryan told you that I asked for a raise. And I just wanted to make sure you agreed with his decision.”

“Ahhhh, what was his decision again?” Jack asked.

“He decided not to give me a raise.”

“Oh, alright. I didn’t know that much,” he said. “Well… I don’t know. I think for your age and level of experience, you’re doing pret-ty well. If we get some more cross-training in ya, I’m sure we can see about getting you some more money. Besides, you know what our financial situation is like. We can’t really afford any raises right now.”

On his desk, between us, were the keys to his X5.

“Alright,” I said. “I just… wanted to make sure everybody is on the same page. Thanks!” I smiled, opened the door, and walked out.


Reginal T. Squirge is a man for all seasons. He has a podcast.


70 Comments / Post A Comment

PaprikaPants (#3,430)

This is the most gripping story I’ve read all day, and I read that Times story about the Professor, the Bikini Model, and the Suitcase Full of Trouble this morning.

EM (#1,012)

Aghhh this sounds awful and uncomfortable but it sounds like you handled it really well.

dudeascending (#1,921)

I’m in the exact same position as the writer, except that discussion around my raise is still pending and my boss doesn’t come across as a frat bro.

Writer, three things:

1) I hope everything works out for you.
2) If you think your research was right, then most likely, you’re getting dinged because of your communication skills.
3) Don’t use another offer to get a raise here; it’s not fair, but it’ll be held against you, and you’ll be the first to be let go if layoffs ever happen.

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

To be honest, I think there were a few things that you could have done differently in order to improve your chances.

1. When asking for a raise, the standard approach is to compare salaries to others in their industry. If you are in position X, you’re going to be compared to position X. If your manager is in position Y, that doesn’t really affect position X.

2. If you’re going to ask for a big raise, you need to show that you deserve it. In this instance, you literally were forced to participate in the review because you weren’t prepared. And on the day itself, you weren’t prepared either. It’s a very poor position to demonstrate that you deserve a 30 percent raise.

3. How people perceive you on a personal level plays a significant part. If you’re planning to work in an office environment, then you need to be able to talk on the phone and treat everyone with respect, whether or not you think that you’re smarter than them. If people are uncomfortable dealing with you on a daily basis, that hurts you at the review.

4. What kind of car someone drives or whether your manager makes more than you doesn’t matter. The review is about you, not them. In the post, you said that money isn’t important to you, but it certainly seems that it is. You need to make a choice. If it’s important, then start making people think that you deserve it. If it’s not, then don’t complain about the cars which other people drive.

5. If you get a different job and don’t learn from this experience, you’re probably going to repeat this experience on a regular basis. Based on your description, getting a raise this year was a difficult task.

ellabella (#1,480)

@WayDownSouth Yes to all of this. Definitely a well-written and compelling piece to read, but honestly I wasn’t rooting for the author by the time we got to the conversation. You should be eager to do a review, ESPECIALLY if you want a raise. This seems obvious to me. Also, communicating well with people on the phone (or in person) is essential. Also, you’re working for a small company; I’d imagine in this situation especially it’s important to develop a strong rapport.

Also, I think feeling and then SAYING that you “feel weird” that your bosses are meeting without you to talk about your salary is strange/veering into inappropriate. a) This is how businesses work; it’s not unusual and sometimes (often) your superiors are going to make decisions that greatly impact your work without asking you. b) It’s not very professional to tell your boss that’s how you feel; unless you have a real, strong reason for why you should been in a meeting/contributing to a decision that contributes to the company as a whole, you probably shouldn’t complain. At least if you want a raise.

Finally, I don’t think you need to go on a job hunt. I think if you go through your actual review by pointing out some places where you’d like to improve (communications), some projects you’d like to spearhead, etc., do those things, and meet again in a more on-top-of-it and professional way, it’s possible you will get a raise here. I don’t think anybody assumes that if you ask for a raise, you will leave if you don’t get it (unless you left out that you did in fact say that).

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

I don’t know, $41k sounds like good money for Portland, Maine…

Seriously, I empathize, I’ve been debating whether to go this route myself, though have temporarily opted for a secret job search. A few things I would have done differently:

- asking for 30% without an increase in responsibilities probably hurt you, I can’t imagine that ever getting approved. If I go this route at my position I’d ask for 10-15%, which would probably be immediately shot down until I get my 2-3% at review time.
- as dudeascending wrote, don’t use another offer as negotiation, it will bite you in the ass down the line.
- don’t judge people based on the vehicles they drive. You can buy a used X5 for less than the cost of a new Honda Civic. It’s easy to do, but clouds the issue.

Good luck, it’s a lousy situation to be in, and it highlights the importance of negotiating a fair salary when starting a new position (which is it’s own tough kettle of fish).

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@Worker Parasite Oooooorrrr, just everything WayDownSouth posted as I was typing my comment….

waitforthat (#3,432)

What’s with the scare-quotes around executive assistant?

Also, you’d be better off doing your salary research in actual job postings and by talking to people in the industry. Comparison websites often aren’t that accurate because one title can cover a lot of different job functions, and the actual job functions determine salary more than just the title.

-An Executive Assitant

sintaxis (#2,363)

@waitforthat Ah, you beat me to it! I mean, the executive assistant has a lot of sway over the execs, so if you want the execs to like you and give you more money, you need to not patronize the executive assistant by assuming she/he is just a “secretary”…

I used quotes because it’s often treated as a far superior position to that of a secretary and the executive assistant even explicitly tells people “I’m not a secretary” but, from everything I’ve seen, she does the work of a secretary.

I didn’t mean to demean anyone in that position. It was just a qualifier for why someone in that position (with less experience with the company and overall as well as with an unrelated degree) shouldn’t be paid more than me.

ellabella (#1,480)

@Reginal T. Squirge Secretary as a term is associated with degrading and undervaluing the work of the people who often keep everything moving in the company. There shouldn’t be an assumption that an executive assistant/secretary does any less/more valuable work than an accountant.

Yes, often this is the case. But in this particular case, she schedules meetings for 5 people and buys food for those meetings. I don’t consider this kind of work terribly valuable to the company.

@ellabella Just look at Hillary Clinton. She wanted a top post in the Obama administration and they made her a Secretary.

ilovetobudget (#913)

@Reginal T. Squirge The more you talk about this “executive assistant,” the more like a jerk you’re making yourself sound. You kind of lost me with that in your story, and your attempts to clarify in the comments have made it worst. Best of luck to you.

ellabella (#1,480)

@stuffisthings <3


Ha. You’re always good for lightening the mood.

@Reginal T. Squirge Also, I mean, our Director’s EA is a vital lynch-pin in the organization and handles lots of crucial stuff I’d be terrified to even touch, so I’d be pretty upset if she made less money than me (I’m certain she doesn’t). So I kinda see where you are going with this.

Word. I totally understand people’s initial reactions here. In most cases, this position is much more vital and involves a lot more work.

Safari (#3,209)

@Reginal T. Squirge You are really coming off like an asshole with the executive assistant stuff and the being too good to answer the phone or be polite to people. I get the impression that if I worked in your office I would dread interacting with you. As a department head I would never approve a substantial raise for someone with serious interpersonal issues like that. To be honest, the guy who talks down to support staff and makes himself a chore to contact or meet with is the first name I bring up if staff reductions are being considered.

Safari (#3,209)

@Reginal T. Squirge Yeahhhhh keep talking about how “non-vital” other employees are, buddy. That’s the way to success. I’m pretty sure executives find both not missing meetings and having food to eat to be actually pretty important?

@Reginal T. Squirge Also the part about how you murder babies and drink their blood in your smoothies made me wonder whether you even actually deserve a raise, you pretty much sound like Hitler.

“serious interpersonal issues” ” serious interpersonal issues”

“serious interpersonal issues”

Safari (#3,209)

@Reginal T. Squirge Yes, having a condescending, sexism-tinged attitude towards an important employee is a serious interpersonal issue. Not one you’re ever planning to work on, clearly, but serious nonetheless.

fantod (#1,929)

@waitforthat My non-profit job title is “Executive Assistant” and I do the work of a secretary, annual fund manager, office manager, and I pick up food for meetings. I make less than half what you do, and I’m a damn delight to work with. Such is life, I suppose.

jr (#3,151)

In this day and age you rarely stay at the same place your entire career. Basically your first “real” job is going to be a stepping stone to something a lot better while you gain the experience. It seems like you are at that point or getting close to that point to where you should explore some other options and see what is out there. (Obviously this isn’t always the case but for the majority of people it is) You raised your concerns and said you what you felt you deserved and backed it up. They came back with nothing so that basically tells you where they stand. They will try and get as much out of you for as little as possible.

sintaxis (#2,363)

RE: the way you described your coworkers salaries and jobs- you might want to check out Ask a manager‘s column about assistants. There’s a lot of really good comments about what an executive assistant actually does, so maybe part of the problem is your condescending attitude towards your coworkers’ positions and titles…? I know that in my workplace it gets back to the execs when people treat the executive’s assistant as a glorified secretary.

All of the above said, all judgments are kept to myself except in the case of anonymous internet articles and discussions with close friends. I do my best to try to treat everyone in the workplace as an equal.

Safari (#3,209)

@Reginal T. Squirge Except you clearly don’t, because you’re aware that your habit of being rude to people on the phone has influenced the perception of you in your performance review, and also executive assistants aren’t morons and can tell when someone has a low opinion of them even if he thinks he’s hiding it.

Why do I get the feeling all the people you think of as stupid and worthless in your company are all a certain gender…

Jinxie (#2,987)

@sintaxis This may be my own personal bias speaking (Legal Secretary here, holllla!) but usually the EA’s/Secretaries know everything/everyone. They are the gatekeepers. Ideally, we all use our knowledge for good but I’ve encountered plenty who are happy to use their influence on the Boss to screw over anyone who’s treated them poorly. I like to think I’m one of the good ones, but I certainly remember who has treated me like an actual human being with an important function in my office, and who treats me like a piece of furniture.

sintaxis (#2,363)

@Safari Right? I wasn’t definitely getting that feeling at first, but after the comments I am, too. If someone is really trying to “treat everyone in the workplace as an equal”, then they wouldn’t be too self-involved to be polite on the phone or assume they know what the executive assistant’s contributions are worth less money than his own.

sintaxis (#2,363)

@Jinxie Agreed, Jinxie! I’ve also been a legal secretary and people would often treat me like shit, but what, oh, I’m the only person who knows where the files are kept and the only person in the office who is bilingual when 75% of our clients are ESL speakers? Haha, yep, all I do is organize meetings in outlook and order pizza. I was clearly not worth much to the organization because I was just a “secretary”. I’m just glad the guy in accounting could see right through me!

there is also the vanishingly slight possibility that he has no animus against Executive Assistants in principle, but that the particular EA who works in his office is actually pretty useless?

Important distinction.

sintaxis (#2,363)

@stuffisthings that’s true! I think I would have accepted that as a decent response until he commented: “I didn’t mean to demean anyone in that position. It was just a qualifier for why someone in that position (with less experience with the company and overall as well as with an unrelated degree) shouldn’t be paid more than me.
So… there’s that :/

fantod (#1,929)

@sintaxis I think it was the quotes around “Executive Assistant” that bothered me. That, and the idea that scheduling 5 people’s calendars and making meeting run smoothly is somehow super easy. Especially when everyone in the office treats you like a secretary and you are constantly being interrupted all day every day while you are trying to get actual work done. I don’t know this guy’s particular Executive Assistant, but I really do feel that it’s safe to say there’s a lot more going on than he is observing. And that, on a personal level, it kinda stings.

Runawaytwin (#2,693)

That your boss makes 50% more than you…and that you asked for 30% …might also be an issue. He may not want you too close to his salary range.

LightSideUp (#2,934)

sounds like you’re in a marginalized position. Unless your boss or his boss leaves the company, don’t expect to make anywhere near 55k. I would suggest you look for other jobs and negotiate a better starting salary. In future interviews, say you’re currently working outside your description and looking to make the next step in your career.

aeroaeroaero (#1,422)

I feel like we’re all being a little hard on Reginal T Squirge, here. I also see payroll and know how much everyone makes, and it’s…frustrating.

The other day when Logan’s friend accidentally asked for a 25% raise and received it, we were all like “yaaaaay!”, and here is our dear Reginal who did something similar, got turned down, and everyone’s picking him apart for like, scare quotes and being a little bit mean on the phone (I am also impatient with people I perceive as stupid, so I can relate).

Good luck in your job search!

Thank you! To clarify, I am not mean on the phone! I am not mean to anyone at work! I just prefer email so I don’t answer maybe… 25% of the time. When I do answer, I am always professional and polite. And when I don’t answer and someone leaves a message, I always call back promptly.

What am I, a monster?

E$ (#1,636)

@aeroaeroaero This. He had the cojones to ask for it and did the research to back it up. I’ve never asked for a 30% raise and I would be petrified to, so my hat is off to you, Reginal.

I feel like (and have been told) that I’m in the same boat as you as far as communication issues. I am working on my patience and acting as if I am a warm sunny team player person, even when I don’t feel like it, so I relate. As far as being bothered by what other people make… it’s ugly but it’s human. (One of my former managers complained about how poor she was while making at least twice as much as I did, living alone and taking cabs every day. Cabs! Every day!) Just try to put it out of your head as much as you can and focus on how you can improve yourself for your next job.

Safari (#3,209)

@Reginal T. Squirge Here’s the thing, dude. People who call your work line aren’t looking for a chat, they need information from you. Ignoring their requests makes their jobs harder. That is the very definition of not a team player. You aren’t a monster but boy howdy are you ever not somebody I’d want in my office.

aeroaeroaero (#1,422)

@E$ Well said. I sort of resent the fact that a person has to put like, a thousand exclamation points in an email lest you be accused of being a serial killer, and that being direct and brief with your coworkers marks you as “not team oriented”. However, I too am doing what I can to be more approachable and patient. Good luck to you!

aeroaeroaero (#1,422)

@Safari Here’s the thing, dude. People who write personal essays for the Billfold aren’t looking for a lecture, they need constructive feedback from you. Insulting the author and judging his “intepersonal issues” makes you seem like a jerk. That is the very definition of not a team player. You aren’t a monster but boy howdy are you ever not somebody I’d want in my comment thread.

fantod (#1,929)

@aeroaeroaero That’s a good point, and I agree this is not the necessarily the place to quibble over job titles. BUT! Not answering the phone is a big problem, and when no one can be bothered to answer my calls it winds up making me look bad. I guess I’m just paranoid that everyone in MY office thinks of me the way this guy does.

Also, at the nonprofit where I work, the max raise bosses can give is capped at 3%. Big bumps only come with a change of job title or when new people are hired. That’s why everyone at the larger, much better funded nonprofit we are affiliated with has a title like “Senior Assistant Managing Director of Scheduling” or whatever at working there for six months.

Jinxie (#2,987)

This is certainly easier said than done, BUT: since this is essentially your first Grown Up Person Job, I think your best shot at making the money you want to be making is getting a new job. I encountered something similar at my first Grown Up Person Job – I started at peanuts, pretty much, then after a few years I was given more responsibilities and transferred to main office in the city (from the very small satellite office I’d been in) and was given a relatively large bump in salary. But even though I was making considerably more than my starting salary from 2 years earlier I was still way below the average for my field/experience/education in that area. When I brought it up to HR, I was told that they’d given me as much as they could/would and I should be grateful for what I got given how low I started. So I left for a new firm where I was offered a more appropriate wage.
Again, I know it’s easier said than done, and this was in a much different field from yours and blah blah blah. But I get the sense that you’ve gone as far, financially, in your company as you can go at this point, so I think it’d be worth your while to look around and see what else is out there.

@Jinxie I so agree (see my comment below).

Haters gonna hate! The internet is weird and mean sometimes. People just want to be mad about stuff. The executive assistant part was not anywhere near the point of the story. And well yes, it probably could have been contextualized a little more to prevent the author (who is probably a real nice dude) from coming off like a dick. Everyone’s job is important, but I think everyone can relate to working for a company where there are superfluous roles that carry undue weight, and how unfair that can feel. For some companies, it could be the accountant! It has nothing to do with the person themself, or the role.

Point being, this was very well written, compelling, and indicative of a problem a lot of people face in the workplace. I think it was very relatable and honest. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you!

@Heather Sundell@twitter Yeah, the person in our office whom everyone complains about being useless (I rarely deal with her and she seems fine) is indeed in finance. Also she has the same name as my wife which is all kinds of awkward.

@Reginal T. Squirge Also on a totally unrelated note: I like that you’re obscuring your face in your author photo but wearing The World’s Most Identifiable Argyle Sweater Vest.

Haha. Thanks. I do what I can.

DISCLAIMER: That photo was taken pre-Santorum and I no longer wear sweater vests nor do I condone their existence (for the most part).

@stuffisthings I love the idea of someone recognizing him from that vest. I identified a commenter on The Hairpin recently due to her description of her job and location, so such things can happen.

“Dude, do you write for the Billfold? I swear I saw your sweater vest on there…”

It was destroyed in The Great Sweater Vest Bonfire Of The 2012 Elections.

I’m in pretty much the same situation you were, getting paid a reasonable amount that is still significantly less than the new, unexperienced hires I’m assigned to train and supervise. My performance review is coming up, and I’m going to ask for a large raise and I’m terrified. I hadn’t thought of a letter, which I’m definitely going to write now, since my raise will be determined in a room in which me and my boss will not be present, and neither of us will ever know which management folks will be making the decision.

I’m definitely reading every comment on this post, too, for tips.

@MilesofMountains I’ll sum it up for you: don’t ever say anything that could even possibly be construed as demeaning executive assistants. (I’m not being glib, this is genuine good advice.)

@stuffisthings No worries on that front. One of the very few useful things grad school taught me was to always be on the good side of the support staff.

honey cowl (#1,510)

Am I a horrible person because I almost always identify with the people the Billfold commentariat loves to hate?

I aspire to be The Billfold’s Ice Cube (or anyone’s Ice Cube).

@Reginal T. Squirge Unsolicted advice:
Based on what you write here it sounds like you’re in your early to mid twenties? So, I have found the whole ‘not concealing disdain for dummies’ thing pretty common in that age group professionally. It is something that just really rankles people and is definitely something to work on. I think people are dumb too…but you gotta conceal it. Most older people I’ve worked with have managed this, so this makes you seem young/inexperienced/not worthy of a raise or promotion. A huge part of doing well at a company is politics and likeability. Like my last boss was a total a-hole, but I still pretended I was having fun at company outings with him.

It’s admirable you’ve gotten the department organized, but when you mentioned that to your boss, did you note how it increased efficiency? Saved the company money? Allowed them to get more work from fewer people? Companies are always going to try to get you to do the least amount of work for the most amount of money. Especially in this economy. Showing them it’s cheaper to give you a rasie than hire someone to replace you is the best way to justify a raise.

Also, you say that you reasearched salaries for similar positions in your area. It’s important to know that salaries usually go up much higher elsewhere than when you stick with a job for a while. So chances are extremely high you can get the salary you want more easily elsewhere than at your current company. Despite the ‘devil you know’ argument, it’s generally in your best interests to look/re-evaluate every 18-24 months. Is your job fulfilling and or paying you what you feel you deserve? Obviously not…so you should probably be looking. Also, your company probably still thinks of you in the ‘just out of college’ role. Going somewhere else will allow you to be given credibility in your field and treated as though you know what you’re doing, therefore opening you up to a better salary and more opportunities for advancement.

Don’t worry about what anyone else makes at your company. It has literally nothing to do with your salary. If they could hire someone to do your job for less than they pay you, they would. Companies will ALWAYS pay the least amount possible. The people who make more have better negotiating skills, even if they ‘deserve it’ less than you do. Not to mention people who got hired more recently got hired when market rates were higher (as they are always going up disproportionately as mentioned previously to staying in one job for a long time). It sounds like they know you won’t leave, so they have no incentive to give you more money. Get a new job if you want more money.

guenna77 (#856)

i’m getting ready to ask for a title change and i’m having similar butterflies. i’ve gotten several excellent monetary raises in a row, due to increases in responsibility, which IS awesome… but none of them came with a title promotion. and i appreciate the money, but it’s not visible- it’s not something i can put on a resume- so it’s starting to hold me back, both in not having enough authority to get done what’s expected of me and because it looks like i’ve been stuck when my role has expanded significantly.

so all of that was a long way of saying: thank you. you’ve reassured me and inspired me that whatever happens is on them, and i shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it.

Winfield (#3,368)

Not sure what your bosses’ cars have to with you making a case for a raise. I can see why you didn’t get a raise.

@Winfield “Besides, you know what our financial situation is like. We can’t really afford any raises right now.”

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

I’ve thought a bit more about your post. I hope that you don’t mind a follow-up with suggestions. Let me stress that I’m not trying to criticise you. You can take or leave these suggestions as you see fit.

1. There can be a significant difference between a person’s job title and their degree of influence. It’s quite possible that the executive assistant may not be as efficient as you at work. However, given her personal and professional proximity to senior management, her influence significantly exceeds yours.

There’s a standard date evaluation technique which a lot of people use. If you’re on a date, check to see how your date treats the service staff. If your date is condescending or rude, then that’s a very bad sign. Equally, in a workplace, management regularly evaluates a person’s character by how they treat others in the company. In this case, it sounds like you had some issues in the past with the executive assistant, which may have been observed or passed on to senior management.

Remember that people don’t always display intelligence in the way you recognise. I know very little about accounting, but know quite a bit about other things. As you have specialist skills, it’s important to avoid judging people by their knowledge of those skills.

2. You work for the company. You are not there for a hobby or personal enjoyment. You are there for a paycheque. In return for that paycheque, you should perform the professional tasks which are expected of you. For example, when the phone rings, answer it and do your best to help. It doesn’t matter if you prefer e-mail to voice communications. You are there to help people in exchange for your paycheque. You aren’t in a position to demand how people should request your attention.

You sneered at a co-worker for looking at Facebook, but I think I saw a reference to you writing blog posts or commenting on blogs during the working day. I strongly suggest that you immediately cease any non-work activity at work -if- you want to get a raise. Managers notice these things. Even if they choose not to discipline you for them, they recall this non-work activity during working hours (using their equipment presumably).

3. If your manager asks you to do something which is part of your professional responsibility, the correct answer is yes. If you can’t start it immediately, identify the time when you will start it. The more you delay and give excuses, the more your manager will start to micro-manage you (or just get rid of you). It’s better to be seen as reliable and fast.

4. Don’t jump over your manager’s head unless you have a very, very good reason. By discussing your raise directly with your manager’s boss, you are likely to be seen as disloyal by your manager (if he finds out about it). Sometimes it’s worth taking this risk, but you need to evaluate the consequences of doing so.

I’m sorry if this comes across as a lecture. I’m trying to provide helpful advice, but am limited by the space and format. I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t get the raise you wanted, but I think there are reasons for this. You have quite a bit to learn from this if you want to. You’ll be better prepared next time.

TDF@twitter (#3,336)

@fantod People, stop reading your own life stories into this offhanded observation. Executive Assistant (I love it when “Assistant” is misspelled by someone who is one, by the way…) is a broad title with a variety of functions. I was one and highly enjoyed the role, which provided far more interpersonal abilities than other, more analytical positions.

fantod (#1,929)

@TDF@twitter Did I misspell? I hope not. I didn’t mean to come off as bitter either. It’s a tough job, with many varied responsibilities, that I do take pretty seriously. I freely admit that I worry about people looking at me as some kind of Girl Friday, offhand or otherwise. My apologies. I actually quite liked the article otherwise.

tegrr (#3,285)

I think the reason I and other executive assistants took offense to your comments is because, like you, we don’t want to be undervalued by our superiors, coworkers, or potential employers. Basically, everyone wants respect for their efforts and what they’re doing, and undervaluing or understating the roles of everyone else on the lower rungs of the company ladder does nothing to move us towards more just and equitable labor practices.

Post a Comment