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Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

The economy has made the job market so difficult, that many have taken positions they otherwise wouldn’t, and stayed longer in situations they previously would have deemed “intolerable.” Yetta* and Zeke* share their stories.

Yetta* couldn’t find anything in her chosen field after being laid off, so until something came along, she got a job working in a family style chain restaurant.  It wasn’t ideal, but it was a job, and she had quite a few hours, and the manager seemed to like her.

Interviews were few and far between, and Yetta was able to switch shifts when she needed to as interviews came up.  It seemed to be the best stop gap measure in the meantime, and it paid more than unemployment, which wasn’t going to last forever, anyway.

One afternoon, a man in a suit, carrying a portfolio, came up to the counter and asked for the manager.  Yetta went to get him from the back, and continued cleaning in the back, preparing for dinner rush.

Yetta figured that he was selling something: restaurant equipment or perhaps some line of food that the restaurant stocked, since vendors often came during the slow times of day when there were few customers.

Shortly after, the manager returned to the kitchen.  He had obviously turned the salesperson away – or so she thought.

When Yetta asked him about it, he told her that he was looking for a job, not selling something.

“But I thought you were looking to hire a couple more people,” Yetta replied, somewhat puzzled.

“Yes,” the manager responded, “But not one of them.  They aren’t good workers.”

Yetta was stunned to realize that the manager meant he wouldn’t even consider hiring an African-American applicant, and even more shocked that someone would blatantly say so.

The manager went on, elaborating about how unreliable “they” are, with a story of some past worker whose car broke down frequently, etc., etc.

“I’m not sure what I said, because I was so shocked,” Yetta recounted.  “I think that mostly, I just listened.  I wish I could have afforded to quit that night, but, of course, I couldn’t.  I started wondering if he liked me for my hard work, or simply because I was a white employee!”

Yetta made a point to be “busy” at work and have little time to chat after that encounter with the manager.  If she didn’t have work to do, she had a book to read, a call to make, or something else to do – but no time to talk with him!

Several more (long!) months passed, and she finally got a job offer in her field, and accepted it.

“I didn’t tell anyone about my boss for a few months, and when I finally did, a friend gave me some good advice: Report him to the EEOC!”  Yetta said.  “I had felt so bad for that young man who came into our restaurant that day.  Here I had been job hunting, too – just like him – and he was told that there was no job available, which was a lie!”

Before she turned in her two weeks’ notice at the restaurant, Yetta decided to Fix It! by notifying the EEOC with details on what her manager had done – and said – about refusing to hire African Americans.

“Now, we know he’ll have a vacancy to fill!” Yetta said.

Zeke* had been looking a while, when he got an offer, then made a counter-offer for the position he wanted.  After a series of shrewd negotiations, he and his new employer arrived at final terms.  His new Vice President even complimented him on his negotiation tactics.

It was clear that the employer hadn’t planned on ending with the terms as they did, but Zeke’s response was that he will work that hard when negotiating on behalf of the company in his new sales position.  His Vice President seemed pleased with this perspective.

At Zeke’s company, all positions are contracted on an annual basis and subject to renewal.  Although Zeke’s sales had been doing quite well in his first year, some of his co-workers were average or below average, falling victim to the tough economic times.

He watched one co-worker not get her contract renewed, shortly before his was due, and became somewhat nervous.  Although his sales were good, he and the Regional Manager didn’t always see eye to eye.  The Regional Manager seemed more interested in finding details to complain about, instead of noticing that Zeke’s overall sales were up.

When it came time to discuss Zeke’s contract renewal, his Regional Manager informed him that, while his contract was being renewed, it was going to be for less base pay – far less!  His quotas were being set higher, and if he exceeded those, his commissions could compensate.

“And the reason I was given for paying me less?”  Zeke was incensed.  “I was told that a new Marketing Assistant was being hired, and the company hadn’t budgeted for it, so they needed the funds!  How pathetic is that?!  What really happened was they looked for some excuse to pay me what they wanted to in the first place!”

In addition, Zeke’s office was taken away, and it was explained that since he was “on the road,” he could share with another sales rep, while the Marketing Department would be using his office.

“So, on the one hand, my commission bar has to be set higher, because I’m so successful, but on the other hand, I deserve a smaller office?” Zeke asked.  “I don’t think so!  I can see the writing on the wall.”

Zeke looked upon this as “one year’s notice,” and decided to Forget It!  He began looking for another job immediately.  Obviously, the Vice President and/or the Regional Manager didn’t really view Zeke’s salary negotiation tactics as a demonstration of what good he’d do for the company, but instead, decided to punish him for it – all the while, taking advantage of whatever sales talent they can get.

It didn’t take the full year, but within about eight months, Zeke had found a position with a company that truly appreciated his talents, instead of pretending to.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.
___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Olive’s* boss tells her she’ll hire a man for the job

Orson* finds out his initial salary offer has been altered

Vicki’s* religion is insulted in the workplace

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

It’s important to know the what and why about the company you’re interviewing with, but for your sanity, dig deeper. The more you can learn about an organization’s “personality,” the better. See what Orson* and Peggy * did.

Orson* interviewed for a sales rep position which would cover a several county area.  He was pleased with the salary he had negotiated, and learned that he would also be getting a company car to cover his territory.  This was in an area that was new to him, and moving expenses were included.  All in all, he was excited for his new challenge.

When his offer letter came, however, his excitement soon faded.  A provision had been inserted which said that he would be starting at 80% of his negotiated salary, on a 3 month probationary period!  This had never been discussed – not during any of his interviews, nor over the phone.

He called his manager for clarification, asking why this had been put in the offer letter.  Her only response was that it was “standard,” and she wouldn’t budge.

Orson had also met with his manager’s supervisor during the interview phase, so he then felt he had no recourse but to call the district manager.  It wasn’t the best way to start out a new job, he felt, but he had been offered his full salary, and told the district sales manager so.

The district manager agreed, and a new offer letter was sent to Orson, stating that he would start with the originally negotiated full starting salary!  Orson was proud that he had Fixed It! and signed the offer letter and returned it to his manager, hoping that there wouldn’t be repercussions.

Shortly after he began his new position, he asked his manager, “How do I take care of my moving expenses?  Does the company get billed, or do I get reimbursed?”

She responded, “Oh, you don’t get moving expenses.  Didn’t you read your offer letter?”

“I was so burned up!” Orson said.  “I actually called her boss again.”

This time, though, the district manager was less inclined to be supportive.  He asked, “Does this prevent you from taking the job?”

I said, “No,” Orson recalled, “But looking back, I wish I’d played hardball.”

Orson later learned that his territory had two reps before him in the past year, and his company’s sales reps for the entire state saw more than 100% turnover in one year!

“I, too, ended up leaving the position within the year,” Orson recounted.  “That organization was terribly unhealthy, and I wish I’d noticed the many, many warning bells that were going off around me!”

Peggy* had made it as a finalist for a job she felt would be a good step up in her career, and was interviewing with the woman who would be her supervisor, should she get the position.

Things had been going well, and Peggy began to ask some more direct questions about the history of the organization and specifically, the position itself, such as, “How long has this position been vacant?” and “Why did the last person leave?”

Typically, these answers are not only revealing about the position, but also about the person answering them, and whether or not they are forthcoming.  This is true especially if the previous staff person departed under difficult circumstances, such as getting fired.  Seeing how delicately (or not) a manger handles describing such a situation is very revealing.

On the other hand, if the organization promotes from within, it can be a good sign – and also a bonus to know that the staff member will be available to answer questions while learning a new job.

Peggy was relieved to learn that the answer was somewhat benign:  The former staff member left a month ago because she had a baby and decided to become a full time mother.

The director continued by saying what a loss it was to the organization when the staff member left, then added, “And it’s really so foolish of her, sabotaging her career like that!  I even offered to let her work part time, too!  What can she be thinking?”

Peggy was so startled, she didn’t know what to say.  It certainly seemed as though she was being given a directive that if she had children (or was planning to have them), she’d better not be considering staying home full time and leaving her job!

Before Peggy could think of what question to ask next, the director continued the conversation and changed the subject back to the job and organization, much to her relief.  Peggy finished the interview, all the while searching her memory, wondering if she had dropped any references to her family situation during the interview.

A couple of weeks later, Peggy got the job offer, but politely declined, saying she had accepted another offer (she hadn’t).  She decided to Forget It! and not work for someone who so obviously declared that she knew what was right for everyone else’s situation.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

 

            

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Lynn’s* micromanager boss had her ready to start interviewing, when she realized something: He wasn’t malicious. He had OCD.

After only being in her new position a few months, Lynn was so fed up with being overly-supervised that she had already approached me about starting her job search once again.  Her director seemed unable to let her accomplish any task on her own, without reviewing it, advising her on it, or having her explain something about it to him.

Lynn had hoped it would get better once she had been there long enough to show that she understood her job and wasn’t “new” anymore, and so forth, but now that she was entering her second quarter and his treatment hadn’t subsided in the least, she wanted out.

“I honestly feel that I am less condescending to my ten year old when providing instructions,” she explained.

Then, something happened to give her a different insight into her manager.  She attended a company potluck picnic and assisted with the setup, along with her manager and several others.

“We were opening several bags of rolls, to be placed on platters, when he insisted that I not touch any of them with my bare hands, but use napkins as a kind of ‘glove.’  Although my hands were clean, I can understand taking precautions when serving food to many people, and I complied.”

“This wasn’t enough, however, and he stood over me, demonstrating, and watching my placement of the rolls on my platter, while also placing rolls on another platter . . . and trying to supervise another person’s ‘food role’ at the same time.  By the time he returned, 90% of the rolls were on my platter, and the rest could have easily fit, but he had to have some of the rolls be placed on his platter as well.”

“This type of OCD behavior went on with several other types of food, as well as the placement of the napkins, silverware, and so on.  It became very apparent that the task at hand was irrelevant, or the worker.  Some of the staff volunteers weren’t even in his department, but this didn’t stop him from telling each of them the right way to do their assigned task!”

Once Lynn saw her manager in this perspective, she changed her mind about leaving, and we worked on a strategy for her to stay instead.  Clearly, he makes a second full time job out of solving things, so we made sure that Lynn always had more than too much for her manager to solve.

In the past, Lynn had provided her managers with a summary of her work, and was a cut-to-the-chase type of worker; however, I pointed out that if she was working for someone who showed an interest in the arrangement of bread, napkins and silverware, then she ought to write out absolutely everything that she is not only working on, but planning to do and even contemplating – in the greatest detail possible!

Lynn was able to Fix It! by doing just this.  She not only provided lengthy progress reports, but made certain to order them specifically so that less attention was paid (and less criticism, questions and nitpicking) to the items that she felt she could handle herself.

Eventually, Lynn’s manager asked her for less and less detail, which had its good and bad points.  On the one hand, she is micromanaged far less than his other staff members, so mission accomplished.  On the other hand, he ends up essentially avoiding her on many occasions and only engaging her when absolutely necessary, since she branded herself this way in his eyes.  Their preferred method of communication has become email.

“I suppose I wish we were on more amenable terms,” Lynn said, “But I honestly don’t see how I could have struck a medium with someone like him.  I’m just happy to be freed of how I started out, and not looking for another job so soon.  It’s better than it was.”

Murray* had been working in his position as a marketing assistant for some time, and by all accounts was very skilled at his position.  He had been asking his department head several times for the past year for an opportunity to take the lead on a project, and was told that he would get the opportunity “soon,” but “not this time – the account is too large,” and various other reasons why not.

Murray was beginning to get frustrated, but tried to be understanding.  He knew he didn’t have the experience to lead a team on a large account, but made it clear to the department head that he wanted more responsibility, and the answer was always favorable, yet “not now.”  At least he took comfort in knowing that his manager considered him to be talented.

Finally, Murray felt that he had an opportunity when two assistant marketing directors left the company at nearly the same time!  He went to the department head to seek counsel on which one would be more appropriate to apply for, since they each worked on different types of accounts.

Murray was shocked at the department head’s response.  She told him, “Oh, you don’t want to apply for those!  We need you here, in this job – you’re so good at it!  We’d never make it without you doing this!”

Murray was incensed and decided right then and there to Forget It!

“I couldn’t believe it!” Murray ranted, “Not only did she lead me on for more than a year, letting me believe that I had a shot at being promoted from within, but she can’t even be honest when an opportunity – no, TWO opportunities – comes up and tell me the truth.  She has to put on this plastic smile and pretend to compliment me with this ‘We can’t live without you’ routine.  It’s beyond insulting!”

Murray had another surprise once he and I composed his resume:  He had accomplished a great deal during his nearly two years while working at the company.  His resume boasted much more than a typical “marketing assistant” would do.

After searching for several months, Murray was hired at a smaller company as Marketing Director!  He would have been content to take either Assistant Marketing Director position at his previous company, which still had one of the positions vacant.

“When I gave my notice,” Murray said, “I didn’t get any of this ridiculous ‘What’ll we do without you?’ comment, although I did see a look of surprise on her face at my new title.”

Murray explained, “Of course, I’m pleased with the better pay and position, but mostly, I’m happy to be doing the type of work I’ve been asking for all along . . . and getting respected for my ability to do so.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Barney* and Courtney* react to working with micromanagers

Kristen* and Lionel* deal with inflexible managers

The 3 Types of Nonprofit Workers

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Smart job seekers know that a long term approach is best these days when scoping out that next new position.  It’s no longer a matter of skimming listings, sending out a few resumes, interviewing, then choosing which offer to accept.

Although there is no “magic number,” most people consider themselves quite fortunate if their job search produces an offer within the first six months to a year in this economy.  This can vary greatly, of course, depending on many factors.

First of all, there is an enormous discrepancy in how much time and effort each person sincerely puts into their search on a weekly basis, not to mention who stays with it consistently, week after week.  It can be difficult to maintain persistence in the face of constant rejection, but those who do will see a payoff sooner.  People who network with others in their field also reap the benefits of being put in touch with hiring managers more frequently.  It’s well established that many positions are hired through word of mouth and recommendations from others in the field, so becoming visible and connected is an endeavor worth pursuing.

Since it’s clear that your job search will most likely take several months to a year, it’s worth approaching with a more strategic stance, rather than waiting for job listings to appear and merely being reactive all the time.  Select a dozen – or two! – companies that you would most like to work for, and start keeping tabs on them.  What can you learn about the culture of these companies over time?  Not only will you be more prepared for an interview later on, but you may learn a better way to rank them by preference, in terms of a hospitable, professional or competent workplace.

Once she had a successful initial phone interview, I advised Eileen* to join the company’s Facebook page and also start following them on Twitter, so she could keep up with their latest news.  She was pleased when she got called in for a face-to-face interview soon after.

Eileen thought that everyone seemed to like her and her skills during the interview, and she was hopeful about getting an offer.  Although some aspects of the interview did seem to be a bit more informal than she was used to, she knew that every company is different, and this one was younger and smaller than the one she’d be coming from.

The HR manager told Eileen that they found her to be very qualified, but that they hired someone else for the position.  He then went on to say that they would be hiring some other positions in the near future, and asked if they could keep her resume on file, because they felt that she might be the right fit for one of those instead.

Eileen was disappointed, of course, but also flattered.  While she wasn’t going to hold her breath, this was a polite rejection.  Many other companies hadn’t even bothered to call and tell her she didn’t get the job. She had also seen other positions listed on the company’s social media channels, so she did feel that it was possible.

Over the next several months, however, Eileen noticed that there were actually many, many positions listed for hire with this company – some of them were the same position listed just a few months apart!

“It’s one thing for the company to be younger and smaller,” Eileen said, “But it’s quite another to see the kind of turnover they were obviously having!”

Several months later, the company did contact Eileen for a similar position to the one she’d previously interviewed for.  She decided to Forget It! “I told them, ‘Thanks, but I’ve already found another job,’ even though I hadn’t yet.  I didn’t want to burn any bridges, but there was no way I was going to work someplace that was so clearly unstable!”

Freida* worked in nonprofit marketing, and in addition to advising her to subscribe to the social media channels of the organizations that she most wanted to work for, I also suggested that she set up a designated email account.  This email account had the sole purpose of subscribing to various emails sent by the same organizations.  (I proposed that she use an email name completely different from hers for this account; she borrowed her deceased uncle’s name.)

Since Freida had experience in email marketing as well, she could gauge over time which organizations sent out poor, average or excellent e-newsletters, petitions, solicitations, etc.  She made three folders in her account and filed all correspondence accordingly.  Sorting each folder by sender also let her see the kind of volume and frequency each nonprofit was sending, which told her even more about the sophistication of a marketing position at each organization.

This type of background research allowed Freida to Fix It! when she was trying to pin down which specific organizations to target and pursue most aggressively.  Although it took her nearly a year to get the interview and job offer she sought, she found a good match with not only the position and salary she wanted, but also the organization, mission, size and culture.  Very little of it came as a surprise to her, due to her combined networking and immersion in their various communication channels prior to being hired.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Audrey* and Brian* don’t feel recognized for their full potential

Noah* and Odelia* learn the importance of networking

Lucy* and Mildred* find their workplace environments difficult

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

“I’m not recognized for my full potential” is a common problem that clients bring to me when trying to ascertain whether they should begin a job search or not.  How DO you get the boss to appreciate your talents?

Audrey* was hired as a temp, working for a nonprofit organization in a marketing assistant position. Even after a year of showing her talents, the organization maintained her employee status as “long-term temp” rather than hiring her as a permanent employee, which would have provided her with more benefits as well as a pay increase.

There was no denying that Audrey had skills and intelligence, however, and at the end of her second year, she was finally made a permanent employee at the organization.

Although Audrey was pleased with this “promotion,” by this time, she had begun doing the work of an Assistant Manager in Marketing, rather than a Marketing Assistant, and started asking for a promotion, to no avail.

In her third year, she brought an idea to management for what turned out to be a very successful mobile marketing app, and it took a lot of Audrey’s pushing to get it adopted.  Once it was, however, there was no denying that Audrey knew what she was doing!

Audrey felt that there would be no better time than to ride this wave of success and – once again – asked her director about a promotion.  This time when she was turned down, she decided to Forget It! and approached me about starting a job search elsewhere.

Audrey always felt especially close to the nonprofit world, but I pointed out that her marketing skills were also transferable to the corporate world as well, and asked her if she was open to interviewing there, too.  It hadn’t occurred to her, but knowing how tight the job market is, she didn’t want to rule out any possibilities.

After nearly a year of interviewing, Audrey got an offer with a corporation, which turned out to be double her nonprofit salary, including other perks and benefits that she didn’t have at her current position.

When she told her director that she was leaving for another position, he was stunned and responded with remorse, going on and on about how he couldn’t bear to lose her.  He asked her what the new position paid, because he would try to match it and give her a promotion!  “I couldn’t believe it when he said that!” Audrey was incredulous.  “That’s what I wanted in the first place!  Why couldn’t he have said that a year ago?”

In the end, when her director discovered that she had been offered double her salary, he confessed that he couldn’t go high enough to match that, but did try to counter with something much higher than her current salary.  In the end, he offered to contract with her as a consultant to develop more apps in the future, even though she was leaving.

“I don’t understand why he couldn’t have just demonstrated my worth to me while I was there,” Audrey says.  “It would have saved me almost a year’s worth of interviews, and them having to replace a person!  Still, I am pleased to be making more money, of course, but I never would have started looking if he’d just shown some effort to keep me!”

Brian* worked for a satellite office of a national nonprofit, and his director wasn’t interested in his career goals at all.  Brian had been with the organization for a couple of years, and although he demonstrated success with his assignments, he didn’t seem to be able to move beyond them into anything else.  The people at his regional office – including his director – had all been there for some time, and weren’t amenable to trying new things.  They were more likely to say, “This is the way we’ve always done it.”

Brian attended every training that national offered to the regional offices, and lobbied as hard as he could to be included in some additional optional events.  During the various events, he made a point to meet and network with as many national staff members as possible.  After, he would follow up with them, not only by connecting on LinkedIn, but joining in online discussion groups, sharing relevant articles via email, and so forth, throughout the year.

By monitoring the job listings at the national office, Brian was eventually was able to Fix It! when he applied for a similar position at headquarters.  Not only was he qualified, but he was connected enough with the people that he knew specifically who to send his resume and cover letter to, in addition to HR, when applying for the position(s) he wanted.

Brian discovered that in addition to being more forward thinking and appreciative of his creativity and initiative, the national office valued his perspective that he brought from the regional office.  This allowed them to better address the needs of the satellite staff members.

Relocating to national headquarters was not only beneficial to Brian in terms of a raise and promotion, but also helped with maintaining longevity with the same employer on his resume, which he preferred to do.  Most importantly, though, Brian wanted to work with people who would listen to his ideas and have some of their own, and he found this in his new location.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Does My Manager Believe In Me?

What Are You Learning?

April* and Benjamin* have managers at opposite ends of the attention spectrum

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