How often have you asked your spouse, significant other, or friend, “do I look fat in these jeans?” The fact that you are asking the question means the answer is most likely … YES. The answer you want to hear and will get is a resounding…. NO. Whoever is asked the question just wants to get out of the conversation without hurting anyone’s feelings. No is the quickest and most effective means to accomplish this.
Questions about your paycheck are the work version of this. The mere fact that you are concerned enough to ask should tell you most of what you need to know. The answers are designed more to end the conversation than to enlighten you.
“Am I paid equally to the guys doing the same work?” “Yes.”
“Is this raise on par with the bump in pay the others got?” “Yes.”
“Did everyone’s end-of-year bonus get cut this year?” “Yes.”
“Is this offer negotiable?” “No.”
“Does everyone get a pay cut for an increase in flexibility?” “Yes.”
“Have others gotten a promotion but no increase in pay?” “Yes.”
These are just a sampling of some of the questions clients have shared with me. Then I have to burst their bubble. I feel a bit like a nicer version of my then 7-year old brother announcing, “there is no Santa!” as he showed 5-year-old me where Mum hid the Christmas presents. Thanks, Johnny. I’ve been cynical every since.
I’m not dinging you or your boss in these scenarios. Just like I’m not dinging your friend for bold facedly telling you how amazing you look in those jeans when you really don’t. Instead of asking your boss, research the situation. Research what is happening in the market. Research the company’s financials.
Then try having the conversation with some data in hand and without a Yes or No question.
“In the past when we discussed raises, I’ve been told the company can’t afford it. I was surprised to see net profits increased a minimum of 10% over the past three years. Can you explain how that translates into cannot afford a raise?”
“I’m very interested in the promotion and delighted that you thought of me for it. The problem is taking a new job without the appropriate pay for it seems more like a punishment than a pat on the back. Here’s some information I researched on the current market value for that job. What can you do to get the pay inline with the market?”
“Thank you for the great performance review and the accompanying raise. Unfortunately, the modest raises these past few years means I actually lost purchasing power. Just to keep up with inflation, I need to get an x% raise. It seems as though I should get more than just staying even based on these great reviews. What can be done to address this issue?”
So let’s make a pact to stop asking if we look fat in these jeans. We know we do. And let’s make a pact to stop asking if our pay is good. We know it’s not.