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Getting a fair deal

Q. In a summer surprise, everyone in your department received a salary increase. Upon chatting with colleagues, however, you learn that your raise was significantly more modest than the rest. What do you do'

A.If you feel you’ve been shortchanged, speak up, said Ron McMillan, co-founder and executive vice-president of VitalSmarts, a consulting firm in Provo, Utah. “Without some sort of release, the resentment you’re carrying will surface in a variety of ways, often without you realising,” McMillan said. “That kind of anger certainly doesn’t increase the likelihood of getting what you want, and it dramatically increases the likelihood of damaging the relationship with your boss altogether.”

Q.How do you confront your boss about the discrepancy'

A.Dr Tim Ursiny, an executive coach and author of The Confidence Plan: How to Build a Stronger You (Sourcebooks, 2005), says that it’s a good idea to research average salaries for your position on websites like salary.com and payscale.com. This information will not just put your raise into perspective, it will also provide you with data you can use to request more money, Dr Ursiny said. Once you’ve done your homework, politely ask your boss to meet with you at his convenience. If he can’t, wait. If he presses you to reveal what you want to discuss, tell him it pertains to a salary issue and leave it at that until you have the chance to sit down privately, face to face. You want to avoid having an ad hoc discussion in the hallway.

Q.How should you conduct yourself in the meeting'

A.Be curious. Susan Hackley, managing director of the Programme on Negotiation at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, says it is always better to ask and listen than complain and tell. Ask whether your raise was in line with what others got, and confirm that the boss feels that you’re doing a good job. “Even if you are convinced he was wrong, you want to ask questions, test assumptions and get more information,” she said. “There could be many reasons why the boss made the decisions he did.”

Q.Should you reveal that you know how much money your colleagues received'

A.Just because Marvin Gaye crooned about what he heard through the grapevine doesn’t mean you should too. John Lyncheski, a partner at Cohen & Grigsby, a Pittsburgh law firm, said employees should stick to generalities when referring to the salaries of co-workers, because many companies have policies that prohibit employees from discussing salary issues with each other. Mentioning specifics about others’ raises may identify you (and your co-workers) as violators of company policy. Those who openly discuss the salaries of co-workers run another risk: alienating the boss. Evan Shapiro, general manager of the Independent Film Channel in New York, said he never responded positively to this tactic. “My response to the old ‘I know I’m not making as much as so-and-so’ complaint is, ‘What someone else at this company earns is none of your business’,” he said. “I don’t care what industry you’re in, it’s a terrible negotiating strategy, and it gets you nowhere.”

Q.Is it wise to solicit forms of compensation other than cash'

A.When managers simply are not allowed to give more money, a good alternative is to ask for extra time off or similar benefits. Alexandra Levit, author of They Don’t Teach Corporate in College (Career Press, 2004), learned this firsthand. In 2002, when Levit was hired as a public relations representative for a software company on Long Island, she didn’t realise at first that she had been brought in at the top of the salary range for her position. At raise time, though, her manager said that her salary wouldn’t increase unless she was promoted to another position. Undaunted, Levit proposed that she receive stock options and a one-time bonus instead. The manager complied. “In the end, the bonus and the stock options ended up being as much as it would have been if I’d got a raise in the first place,” Levit said.

Q.If the boss doesn’t loosen his purse strings, what are your options'

A.At the very least, an honest conversation should clear the air and restore some of your pride. If you’re still smarting after the meeting, you always can make your case to someone else ' through your employer’s formal grievance process or to the human resources department. But you might also consider the possibility that you didn’t get as large a raise as your colleagues because your work was less exemplary. In that case, a frank talk with the boss could demonstrate your interest in improving your performance ' and put you on the right track for future rewards.

'NYTNS

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