My Boss Gave Me Unfair Increment

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about raise:

Recently I had performance review with my boss. He agreed that I have performed well in my job. However, he did not give me the salary increment that I deserve. All my other colleagues had far better increment than me. In fact, I am the one getting the lowest pay. This upsets and demotivates me. I feel my work and effort is not recognized. I also found out that my boss bears some personal grudges against me. He is frequently not in the office, and he expects me to cover for him. He has warned that if I don’t watch out for his back, my job may not last. How do I handle him and ask for the increment that I deserve?

Signed, Totally Frustrated

Dear Totally Frustrated:

You mention two problems: 1. Low pay and not getting a raise. 2. You think your boss has a personal grudge against you. You ask–How do I handle him and ask for the increment that I deserve? And you signed your query as Totally Frustrated. The first step in addressing the how question, I suggest is to begin with your own attitude modification. You have written the Workplace Doctors and this Workplace Doctor’s cursory examination sees you as an individual who needs an attitude adjustment. You say that you are “demotivated” and that you are “totally frustrated.” If that is your attitude, it cannot help but sour your disposition. And no boss wants to give a raise to a sour employee.

In fact, I predict that while reading this paragraph your have a furrowed brow and are frowning. Right? Or Wrong? Therefore, my first prescription for you is to look in the mirror before you leave for work until you can see the happy person you want to be. If that reflection is not really happy, for the next few days, pretend to be smiling and cheerful. Even faking it can make it come true part of the time. No longer complain to your family and friends about not getting an increment and feeling your boss has it against you. Don’t play that record over and over in your mind. Rather talk to your self and others about the blessings you have. Surely there must be some good things in your life and if you cannot think of any, pretend there are while eating a piece of chocolate and taking a walk. Hum and sing a tune you like.

While exercising or driving to work, memorize a positive verse such as the closing lines written by Max Ehrmann in the Desiderata” . . . be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. . . Strive to be happy.”How will following my first prescription affect you? You will not work grudgingly obsessing about not being paid as well as your coworkers. You will be happy that you have a job in these hard times when too many unemployed are lining up at job fairs or at food banks. The word “thank you” will come easily. Praise for others will also. In short, you will be a cheerleader in your workplace. After a week following this first prescription, I expect that you will look different to yourself and your boss, and you will be ready to take my second prescription. That prescription states you are now ready to think rationally about being paid less than others and to reflect on why you did not get an increment after getting a good performance review. And it says you should speak to your boss if you find no good reason for being paid less, such as you have not been employed as long as others or that your written or spoken communication is not as good as others, or that your job description is different than others.

You will also realize that it is common for employers to hire people for what they can and not to want those they employ to know that they are underpaid. You say you are paid the lowest. How do you know that? Is it fact or did you hear a rumor of that while gossiping with one or more coworkers? Whether it is fact or rumor, you can schedule a time with your boss to discuss you salary and also the feeling you have that he has a grudge about you. How might your go about that? Assuming that you have been extraordinarily positive over the past few days, you might begin with a word of appreciation for the good performance review he gave you. You might say something like, “Mr. George I am pleased my performance was positive and I want you to know that I am continuing to do my best. If you have suggestions of how I might be of more value, please feel free to give them. I asked for this meeting for two reasons: One, because the rumor going around is that I am not paid as well as my coworkers? Is that true?” Wait for his answer. Then respond accordingly, “I think I am doing virtually the same work as my coworkers and I think I should get pay that is in keeping with theirs. Do you understand how I could be demotivated by not getting an increment comparable to theirs?” If your boss does not say that he will recommend the pay you feel you deserve, do not argue the matter, but rather ask that he think more about it over the next week.

Second, frankly tell him you have the feeling that he has a grudge against you. For example you might say, “Maybe I am wrong, but Mr. George, I have the feeling that you are holding something against me and if that is so, please tell me what and why. I think I got this feeling partly because you said something like I had better watch out for your back or my job might not last. Perhaps I misunderstood, but that sounded like a threat.” Wait for his answer and again I suggest that you do not labor the matter, but conclude your meeting by saying that you asked for this meeting to clear the air and to resolve any lingering misunderstanding that there might be between you.This second prescription suggests some words you might use, but of course you should put these thoughts into your own words. This second prescription calls for you to have the courage to confront. You are an adult, an adult with a mind, an adult with feelings, an adult with a voice.

You should not work sour nor should you work scared. Work is hard enough without the frustration of being unappreciated and frightened. So voice your concerns maturely and professionally. Your workplace may be far from perfect; most of them are. But you can help shape that place to be a good, or at least a better, place in which to work. Think about what I mean when I end these two prescriptions with the words “big WEGOS.” As my signature line goes: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden