Workplace Mistakes that are Robbing You of a Higher Salary
2020-09-11 12:34:20 | | Part 2 of 3
As you may already know, moving up in your career doesn't always hinge on your ability to produce good work. No matter how skilled you are, you could be handicapping yourself if you don't have a fundamental understanding of workplace dynamics. How can you convince a business to invest in you if you don't understand what drives businesses? How do you convince your boss to help you if you don't understand what helps them? Let me answer these questions for you, right now.
Businesses are driven to maximize profits. Understanding that, you can see why asking for a raise is like pulling teeth — increasing your salary every year cuts into a business' profits. The ideal scenario for a business is to pay everyone the same or less, while somehow producing more revenue, in order to invest more into growing the business. Your boss' job is to ensure that scenario plays out. This is all by design. How then, do you get the business and your boss to go against their own best interests? Read on to find out.
"You are valuable as long as the dollars you produce are greater than the dollars it cost to employ you."
Quantifying Your Productivity
First, realize that your time and effort is precious. It's so precious, in fact, that your employer has a dollar amount to measure how precious. Think about that for a second. You are valuable as long as the dollars you produce are greater than the dollars it cost to employ you. It really is that simple.
Start quantifying your productivity. You cannot objectively communicate the value of that which you cannot measure. Realize that every hour is a series of inputs (effort) and outputs (results). And really think hard about how much work you can produce with each hour so you can maximize your value. Let's try illustrating with an example.
With most salaried jobs, you probably have a variable amount of work that's expected of you in any given hour. You might have some emails to catch up on, meetings to attend, reports to produce, designs or code to be created, etc. What if you found a way to establish a baseline for what you could produce in an hour, so that you could be more strategic with your remaining time whenever you got ahead?
If you could get that same hour of work done in 45 minutes, you'd have the remaining 15 minutes where you could either get ahead or optimize your workflow. Because your boss' expectations have already been met, there is zero pressure to deliver anything extra.
A mistake many employees make is to impulsively broadcast their achievements to their employers, compelled by a craving for validation, not realizing the transaction is complete — extra effort given, validation received. Raise not guaranteed. Every time the employee sets a higher standard, their employer quickly reassesses the employee's value against that new standard. The employer now has a new set of parameters for which to maximize company profits. Now the higher standard has become the new normal that the employee needs to reach.
"Your boss is not incentivized to make fair exchanges, only profitable exchanges."
The employee's approach is sloppy, unmeasured, and will not return consistent, predictable compensation. Impulsively voicing your accomplishments to your boss, hoping that the universe will reward you - that your boss will appreciate your efforts with some sort of fair exchange is futile. Your boss is not incentivized to make fair exchanges, only profitable exchanges. Your boss works for the company, not for you, and they must constantly walk the tightrope of keeping employees happy with as little compensation as possible. This is the role they are meant to play and what they are rewarded for.
Learn to Negotiate Or Learn to Automate... Or Do Both
If you want to realize the value of your time and efforts, don't exchange them so frivolously for cheap validation. Be systematic in your approach the way your company would. Be businesslike in your methods and quantify your productivity. Demonstrate that you could produce a measurable increase in value if your boss would just be willing to invest in you. Negotiate for a 25% increase in salary (in writing) of the 50% value you're willing to produce.
Set quarterly targets to aim for with your boss, so that when you hit your targets and your raise is due at the end of that quarter, they can't rob you of it. Whereas in a purely verbal agreement, there is no documentation any such promises. They could restructure and your new boss could set new terms. Or sales could underperform and be the excuse as to why you don't get your raise. Or they could conveniently forget. So again, negotiate in writing.
If you simply can't negotiate, spend those extra 15 minutes making your day-to-day more liveable. Improve the quality of your work so that there are fewer fires to put out, down the road. Spend that time thinking of creative ways to automate your daily tasks. If you find yourself swamped with emails all the time, use those 15 minutes to create email filters that automatically sort or delete unimportant emails based on sender, subject, body, etc. Reconfigure your alerts so that you only get notified of critical issues, while most get suppressed to a list you can check twice a day.
Do you have some sort of curation or research that you need to carry out every day to stay ahead of your competition? Set up RSS feeds and filter those, as well. Start using spreadsheets to keep your data organized. Plug formulas into cells that will perform the calculations for you. Do more with larger data sets by streamlining them into concise, easy to understand summaries.
If you're in a profession that involves tasks that have to be performed on a computer, there's a high chance you can write a script to perform those tasks for you. Start writing simple scripts and let the machines do the work for you. Isolate the repetitive steps, break the process down into a series of simple functions, and have a program carry them out on a schedule, 24 hours a day.
To summarize, be methodical in your approach to a higher salary. Set clear, written, quarterly expectations and compensation with your employer that you can revisit during your performance reviews. Written agreements are binding. Disregard any verbal promises, appreciation or agreements. Appreciation doesn't pay the bills. Do not trade extra effort for cheap validation.
If your employer is not open to salary negotiations at this time, find ways to optimize your workflow and use the extra time to reduce pressure. This makes your day-to-day more manageable and allows you to produce more consistent results. Keep track of your output, and demonstrate them during your next performance review.