No Raise Now?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a verbal warning:

Can a supervisor hold a raise if you were given a verbal warning?

Signed Wondering

Dear Wondering:

I’m sure you don’t want an “it depends” answer. You’d like someone to say, “No, that can’t be done!”

Even labor attorneys, that we are not, most likely will hedge saying it depends on state and federal labor laws, the size of your company, if you are unionized, and how raises are determined by your employer. If you had a union, you’d probably know the answer to your question, so I assume you don’t work under a union contract. We provide communication advice, not legal, but here are some thoughts to consider.

Why wonder? Did this warning just happen or was it sometime past and you’ve been wondering if it will affect a raise you expect? Your question implies uncertainty and worry. Are you wondering if your supervisor has blocked your expected raise? If so, you can speak with her/him about this or you can brood about it. And that’s not a happy camper. Isn’t it better to ask for information than to wonder and worry? That is a first option—to talk about what a warning means—its why, its consequence, and its correction.

Something I don’t recommend is a second resource for learning the consequence of a verbal warning is to bypass your supervisor and to go to your Human Resources department. Bypassing will likely be interpreted as making a big deal over something and wanting to question your supervisor’s authority.

Obviously a verbal warning is a preliminary step before a written warning. Yet it means something isn’t going smoothly in your performance. You might see a verbal warning as a signal that you are not on the same page as your supervisor. Why? There are many possible reasons, and it’s common, but unwise, to assume your supervisor is your enemy. Even if that is so, it’s better to help her/him to see you as wanting to succeed—to do well and to earn your raise.

If you feel the warning is unjust, the next step is to be clear as to why. Not coming to work on time or to leaving early is simple to correct. Defective work might be caused by many things: by inadequate training, overload, communication breakdown or inattention to details. No one intends to do poor work.

I don’t know whether you or your supervisor understands the communication rule of thumb: expect to be misunderstood and to misunderstand. Once we understand this rule, we are more tolerant of one another–We know that communication is slippery because words mean different things to different people—so we take the time to repeat, to ask questions, to paraphrase, and to clarify before assuming we understand.

These thoughts may be more than you expect or want, but in sum, this is to suggest that your raise and happiness hinge on singing from the same page in your workplace songbook. Singing your part in harmony with the choir and under the direction of your supervisor doesn’t come naturally. It takes talk about directions and talk about how it is going and practice, practice, guided practice.

One question you might need to ask is: “How well am I doing most of my work and what is my future here? What do I need to do to have a career here or elsewhere?” Seeing your supervisor as a coach rather than as a law officer is something to work for—something that can result from a cooperative attitude and conversation about what needs to be done to make your work contribute to high performance of your work group—and, in short of making supervising easier and her/his job look good.

Feel free to weigh these thoughts and compare them with a coworker you trust. And please update me on what happens. Another source you might consult is I would be interested in the answer you might get from her.

Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.