Not Paid For What I’m Doing

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about Overworked and Underpaid:

Dear Workplace Doctors,I have a job that I love at a company I respect and find exciting. I have great benefits and have been given stock options, leaving is not really an option. The problem is that I was hired for a particular job at a particular price and now I am doing much more than I was hired to do with no increase in pay. Here are details to try to assess the situation better.

*I’ve been at the company only 16 weeks.
*At my 60 day review I was basically promoted without a new title and offered stock options. Rather than get a new title or make it known to my coworkers that I had new responsibilities, I now straddle the old job as well as the new and have taken on a defacto management and administrative position without actually getting to have any sort of authority over the people whose quality of work I am expected to improve.
*The company is a start-up and we just started selling our product (three months earlier than anticipated and a lot of that has to do with work that I have done) so I know that we don’t have a lot of money floating around… yet.*Our fiscal year begins on Jan. 1st, thus making factoring in a raise for me a pretty time sensitive issue.
*I consistently stay 1-2 hours late every day and do some work from home on weekends.
*According to salary calculators for my area, I am being paid 50% less than the bottom 10% of people in my position and with my education. Will I be out of line to request a future raise this early on? I am sure that I will be told the money isn’t available, yet, but I want to make sure that when it is that I am getting paid what I’m worth. I absolutely do not want to quit this job because I love it and am so proud of what we do, so threatening to leave or looking for a new job isn’t something I will do.Thanks, 200% effort, 50% pay

Signed, Overworked and Underpaid

Dear Overworked and Underpaid:

How fortunate for you that you have a job that you enjoy and that uses your skills and talents! Likely it is also helping you DEVELOP your skills and talents. But, there is also both the reality and principle of needing to be paid at least somewhere close to what is appropriate.It seems to me you have several issues affecting you: Your salary; the heavy work load; and having responsiblity for others but no authority.If you are in a small company it would seem your most important step is to talk to a manager–probably someone you know and are comfortable with already, given your history there–and express what you have written to us: You love the job, you want to stay, you want to contribute even more to the company’s success. However, you would like an assurance, even if only verbally, that your pay check will be increased enough to make you feel your extra work and increase in responsibilities is valued tangibly. You may have a figure in mind for that.I think a key issue about that discussion is to decide for yourself what you could live with and what you will accept–not just in money, but in attitude. For example, if they were to say, “Gee, we’d hate to lose you, but there just isn’t going to be any money for several years yet,” what would you want to do about that? Or if they said, “Sorry. Hope you don’t leave over it, but if you do, well, that’s your choice,” then what?On the other hand, if they were to say, “Absolutely, you’re right, next year we want to plan for that”, what would you be willing to do to make that more formal? Maybe just following up with an email about it would be sufficient, or you might want them to write a more formal letter to you with some sort of indicator.If this is a well run business, those at the top know that employees who contribute to success will only do it for love, for so long. They are likely expecting you to say something one day.Another issue involves your workload. If everyone else is doing the same amount of work as you are, that’s maybe just the price everyone is going to have to pay to get the company going. But if you are being used in that way because you will do it and not complain, perhaps it’s time to set some limits. If you’re doing it on your own and no one expects it or asks it, you can deal with yourself about it. I’ve found over my lifetime that I worked many more hours than anyone else in my work settings. Frankly, I can’t say anyone ever put me on their shoulders and shouted huzzahs because of it. You may find you will want to invent a responsiblity that will simply not allow you to work in the evening. And you will need to invent it for your OWN thought processes, not for others. If you had something that required you to be busy every night and weekend, you wouldn’t be able to work extra. Would you be fired over that? Has it taken those extra hours to accompliish what has made you successful, or could you have done it in a slightly shortened day? If you were to leave tomorrow, or be hurt or ill and not there, what would stop because of that? If what would stop would immediately have to be picked up by someone else, you know it’s a key activity. If what would stop would just be let go, you may decide you can let it go too.Perhaps talking about your workload and whether or not you can share some of it, is also something you might want to discuss with your manager.

But a very, very important issue involves what you are expected to do, and whether or not that has been acknowledged. I think much less of managers who will use someone to keep an eye on others or train others, but don’t want to admit to the “others” that it’s happening. The person trying to fulfill this secret role is incredibly mistreated in those cases! Other people often think of that employee as being bossy and arrogant about their knowlege–but they wouldn’t think that if they knew the boss had given the employee a role that requires their intervention and involvement in everyone’s work to some extent.I think your push should be toward a title that represents what you do, whether or not you get the money right now for it. Having the title may seem picky to some people, but it clarifies your role to everyone, and provides you with a basis for how your salary might be adjusted in the future. In addition, that can help your resume down the line.There tends to be a smirk about people wanting titles, but I think that only applies when the title is a hollow one. For example, being a file clerk and wanting to be called, “Information Technician.” (I know of that happening.) It’s quite another thing to be called a file clerk, when you are in charge of training the other clerks, ordering supplies, reporting to management about the status of files and developing new file sytems.

THEN you are perhaps a Records and Data Supervisor or some such thing that fits.Whatever you decide to place as your priority, talking openly with the people who can make a difference seems to be the right place to start.Clearly you are well-written and likely well-spoken, confident and assertive. You know you have a lot ot offer, and they know it too. If you can convey your love and support for the company, asking only to share in the rewards that you have helped create, that may at least open their thinking. I recall the old adage, if you want to hold the heart of a parent, hold the hand of the child. I think it’s also true that if you want the owner of a business to show a lot of gratitude, show a lot of gratitude for the business. If you can convey you have the same concern for it and its great future as they do, they may see you more and more as one with them, rather than an employee for them.It sounds as though you’ve done a lot of that already–perhaps they just need to be reminded again.Best wishes! If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how things progress.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.