As a female professional, I am earning more than a female peer for the same work. What should I do?

NINE TO FIVE: SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL: JULY 8, 2018

THE QUESTION

As a female engineer I recently started with a company that matched my previous salary of $90,000. A co-worker with similar qualifications is doing the same work and making $60,000. She asked me what I was making; I lied and said $70,000. I had been asked by my boss not to disclose my salary because it “might make some people upset.” I feel terrible for lying to her because I think women should be sticking up for women and helping ensure they are getting compensated fairly. But I know that if I told her my real salary it would have created waves when the company is already going through a lot of turmoil. It was not a situation where I could have comfortably deflected the question. What should I have done?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Bruce Sandy, Principal, Pathfinder Coaching & Consulting, Vancouver

This has created an ethical dilemma for you. Do you keep your word to your boss about not disclosing your salary level or do you support a fellow female engineer who is not being appropriately compensated for her level and quality of work? You chose to speak about your salary and to lie about it to your work colleague. Thus, you betrayed your boss’s confidence and your work colleague’s trust in you.

What you should have done is be honest from the outset. You should have told your female work colleague that you were not at liberty to discuss your compensation level. You could have also added that her salary level sounds low and that she may want to do a salary review online through LinkedIn and other sites to compare her compensation level to that of engineers with her level of experience and education.

You can choose to do nothing more about this now but you risk alienating both your boss and work colleague if your colleague chooses to confront your boss with the erroneous information that you have shared. I suggest that you come clean and apologize to both of them. Say that you made an error in judgment and indicate to your boss and work colleague that you want to continue to build an open and trusting relationship with both of them and that you do not want to get caught in awkward three-way conversations about compensation inequities at the company.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Colleen Clarke, Corporate trainer, workplace coach, career specialist, Toronto

Sharing salary information can result in tension with colleagues, resentment toward management and a toxic workplace. Your salary is the business of you and your manager, period. It is unprecedented to ask a co-worker their salary, even in this age of oversharing. That being said, millennials don’t seem to mind being asked or answering. Your concern for women sticking together is commendable, but this is not a relevant gender issue – you were asked not to share your salary, with anyone.

When asked a highly personal, private and uncomfortable question, be polite and cordial; it is likely an awkward moment for both of you. But just because you have been asked a question doesn’t mean you have to answer it. Simply say, “Why do you ask?” People usually ask this question to feel better about themselves or to compare, and often the comparison is not apples to apples. Your colleague may have other perks you don’t have, less expertise or is not a good negotiator.

Be polite and courteous but firm, which may defuse some of the awkwardness of the situation, and say, “I do not discuss salary or political preferences with colleagues. “

If you believe that everyone at your company is underpaid, you and your co-workers may want to share information in preparation for collective action; that, however, does not seem to be the case here.

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The company is increasing my hours while offering no further pay. What are my options?

NINE TO FIVE: MAY 13, 2018

THE QUESTION

I am currently being paid hourly, amounting to $1,350 on a 37.5 hour week. I have worked for my current employer about 15 months. Following a buyout of our company, amalgamation has started and, last week, my manager told me that in January, 2019, the work week will increase to 40 hours and pay will stay the same. In other words, I believe they are reducing my hourly wage. Over the next couple of months, I am supposed to get a new job title and be transitioned to the parent company’s pay scale system. Is there anything I can do to keep my current hourly wage? Is it worth talking with a lawyer? I obviously intend to make my concerns known to my manager and not sign anything until he reviews my concern with his boss or human resources. Our vacation/personal-days entitlement and benefits are also changing, but these changes I can tolerate. You have to pick your battles.

THE FIRST ANSWER: Colleen Clarke: Corporate trainer, workplace coach and career specialist, Toronto

The number of winners that come out of an amalgamation can be few and far between. It is interesting to note that you are paid an hourly rate yet your weekly wage would remain the same at 40 hours as it is at 37.5 hours. Are you sure you interpreted this correctly? Could it be that your hourly wage stays the same times 40 hours? If this is not the case, this is exactly the sort of mandate that creates higher absenteeism and turnover, lower productivity and disgruntled employees.

Generally speaking, when a company changes hands, the existing employees are made an offer to stay or go, on the new company’s conditions. Whether it is a relocation, a new title or a pay adjustment, it is what is offered. That being said, negotiate. By all means ask for exactly what you want.
January is a long way off and a lot can change by then. Sit tight and work diligently to show your professionalism and demonstrate what you bring to the bottom line. When you speak to management later this year, you will have solid evidence and continuity of your accomplishments. To come out ahead, try negotiating perks or time in lieu that won’t cost the company any money. Stay away from taxable benefits − you want to walk away with more, not less, in your pocket.

THE SECOND ANSWER: Zuleika Sgro: VP, People at Saje Natural Wellness, Vancouver

An amalgamation is a change-driven process. You and your colleagues will certainly be affected by new aspects of leadership on your role.
Legally, this is a new employment agreement and your employer should give you appropriate notice of the change in accordance with employment standards legislation. You have the right to make a choice, to stay or leave based on what is offered, and you will have time to review and discuss your options.

My advice is to look at this as a new opportunity, look for an opportunity to negotiate as you would when joining any new employer and keep an open mind in the process. The resilience you will build surviving this change can be a real asset for your future.

Write a list of what you love about your role now (compensation and the work) and what you don’t. When you see the new offer, compare it to that list and see how it stacks up so you can really see what you are giving up and what you are getting.

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A more junior co-worker in the same role is earning more than me. What can I do?

NINE TO FIVE: SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL | Published March 4, 2018

THE QUESTION

I have been with a company for seven years, but an employee who has been there less than two years is making more money than I am. We both are classified under the same job. There are plenty of things that I know how to do within the company that the other individual does not, and, because I know how, I am expected to do them when others are not. This does not seem right to me, and I’m wondering if this is legal or is there anything that I can do about it?

THE FIRST ANSWER

 Colleen Clarke, Workplace coach, corporate trainer, Toronto

There is no legal ramification to this conundrum. It is not uncommon for long-term employees to receive less remuneration than new hires who are in the same job classification.

The starting salary for your job when you joined the company may have increased over the years, more than likely at a faster rate than your salary. Job descriptions may have changed since you were hired, and the individual who was hired only two years ago may possess different skills than you, ones you may not be required or qualified to perform, and vice versa.

So what do you do? Approach your boss in a non-emotional, pragmatic manner. Explain what you know to be true about the pay variance and ask what you can do to rise to the new hire’s level of pay. Do not blame or appear jealous.

Whether something can be done or not, strive to excel at what you know that others don’t, add new skills to your toolkit and build bridges and network significantly with employees outside of your department and the company.

Make sure that the powers that be know about your professional attributes, positive attitude and self leadership skills. You can always ask for added benefits if a pay increase is not possible. Whatever the outcome, take the high road!

THE SECOND ANSWER

Zuleika Sgro, VP Retail & People, Saje Natural Wellness, Vancouver

My advice in any conversation about compensation is to reach out to your human resources department or your manager to ask about pay ranges, merit increases, performance reviews and, if you are in a union, the agreement around compensation. Once you have that information, it’s important to ask yourself if you feel you are being discriminated against on protected grounds. If not, it’s important you speak to your manager or HR about your experience specifically.

Generally, employees in the same classification are paid within an equitable range, but pay may not be exactly the same and past experience at another company may be taken into account. The employee you are peers with may, in fact, have more experience based on past employment.

I always encourage compensation conversations with those in authority at your job (HR or your manager) rather than other people. You can gain information about yourself and also ask questions about how you could earn more. (It could be via merit, performance, professional development or something else). Focus the conversation on how this impacts you and your growth to make it as productive as possible and help you get the information and tools you want. All the best.

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I want to compete with my boss for a promotion. How should I handle it?

NINE TO FIVE: SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL | Published January 21, 2018

THE QUESTION

A position for an operations director has opened and I would like to apply for it. I currently report to an operations manager who reports to the now vacant operations director. The operations manager, my direct supervisor, is also applying for the role. He had applied for it in the past and been turned down. We have a good working relationship. I’d be satisfied if he were to move into that role and I moved into his current role.

My questions:

How should I best inform my manager that I’m applying for a role that he is also applying for – which would place me in charge of him if I earn the promotion?
How can I best communicate that if I am passed over for this role, I’m open to promotion to his vacated position?
How can I do this while maintaining my relationship with him?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Colleen Clarke, Workplace coach and corporate trainer, Toronto

Your first consideration is whether you have the skill set to be a director without having been a manager.

Check with the hiring manager or HR to ensure your experience and skill set meets their criteria for the director position. If you qualify, ask how you should handle the situation with your manager. Then do due diligence with your boss. Be candid and collaborate with him. Ask him whether he thinks you are qualified for his position, then strategize how you should both go about moving into new roles, you as manager, him as director. In the meantime, start taking courses in management, leadership and project management. In that this position has come up before and your boss missed getting the posting, do not assume he will get it this time around. To be successful, you will have to up your management skill set to move into a director role. There is no going behind anyone’s back in this situation. Be honest, true to yourself and forthright with your boss. It will all unfold as it is meant to be.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Bruce Sandy, Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting, Vancouver

Before speaking to your direct supervisor (boss), you many want to do some exploration and reflection about the director position. Check to see that you have the necessary qualifications and experience to apply for the operations director position. Consider the education requirements – both requested and ideal – as well as the types and years of experience required.

Speak to the hiring executive and/or human resources about your interest in the director position and ask if they feel you are ready. If “yes” or “you are welcome to apply,” then you are a viable candidate. If “no” or “we do not encourage you to apply,” then express your interest in the manager position.

Consider, if you were in your bosses’ position, how you would like to hear from one of your staff that he or she planned to apply for the same position that you wanted. Or, if they wanted your current position. Be honest and open with your boss about your interest in moving up in the organization. Arrange an in-person meeting. Indicate that you appreciate working with him and that you look forward to continuing to develop your working relationship. Depending on what you hear from the hiring executive and HR, share with him if you are planning on applying for the director position or if you would like to apply for his manager position if he is the successful candidate for the director position.

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After a restructuring, I was denied the chance to move to a new position. Is management sending me a signal?

SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL: NINE TO FIVE: DECEMBER 10, 2017

THE QUESTION

When the company named me a team lead 1 1/2 years ago, I was told that when the number of direct reports justify it, I would receive a promotion to a higher role as operations manager. But following a recent restructuring that consolidated two groups and eliminated the team lead position, the company transferred in an operations manager from another province. I am now reporting to him – essentially in my prior job. They said the decision had nothing to do with performance. Is senior management sending me a signal?

THE ANSWER

Restructuring, mergers and downsizing situations are usually an advantage to the few rather than the masses, and they should never be taken personally. Employees are merely pawns in the game when there is corporate change. Imagine a chess board and each chessman is an employee: now, reconfigure the board from square to triangular with more or less squares and try to put everyone back in place where they were before or might be anew – it’s crazy. Employers think that if as many people as possible can still be on the board, life is good – for them maybe, often not for the employees.

You have to reassess your new/regressive place in the company and ascertain whether there is a future for you here. Whatever you decide, continue to be a star performer in case the new operations manager doesn’t work out, so you can be ready to take the lead. And if he does work out, you can offer a new company your professional services with pride and confidence. Always be prepared for change; it isn’t always fair or may not seem right, but it is always going to be imminent in all aspects of our lives.

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