Happy Thanksgiving 2014

25 Nov

Letterbalm Autumn TreesToo much attention is often paid to turkey and all the trimmings on Thanksgiving. Ms. L.B. will try to keep the celebration in perspective on Thursday, giving thanks for family, friends and the freedoms she enjoys in this imperfect world. Of course, humility is contemplated more easily when accompanied by mashed potatoes and gravy and pumpkin pie. LetterBalm will return, humbled, on Monday.

Money Chat

24 Nov

Letterbalm Woman Asking for RaiseDear LetterBalm: I’ve been working in the accounting office of a large regional energy company for close to two years. I love my job, and it turns out I’m good at it and a good team member. I’ve made several suggestions that resulted in better procedures that saved money and successfully finished a couple of projects that nobody wanted to do. My boss is impressed. It’s time to ask for a raise. What’s the best way to approach this?

–Solid Employee

Congratulations on turning your job into a profession, especially in this challenging economy. It’s clear you’re an asset to your employer and a raise is in order. Be aware that money discussions make people uncomfortable. Ask for a formal sit-down progress evaluation with your boss. You want to plan your agenda – you can’t expect your boss to remember everything you’ve done, so you must remind him/her. First, have a grateful statement of how much you like the company, your job, your work environment and the opportunity to grow. Second, list the qualities you bring to the company that make you valuable – skills, training, energy, proven ideas – and reflect more than your paycheck. Then, refresh your bosses on your projects and ideas that saved money and/or improved processes. Cite dollars and cents, if you can. Then, ask your boss to reconsider your compensation based on all these reasons. You may want to present research of comparable salaries of people at your level in your profession at companies comparable in size. This will help establish that what you’re asking for is fair. Ms. L.B. urges you to remember to be confident, speak slowly and rehearse your pitch to keep it short – you don’t want to hem and haw. If your boss asks to postpone your review for six months, see if he’ll agree to three months and approach him close to the date to put your sit-down on the calendar. Send him a reminder e-mail along the lines of: “My evaluation meeting is coming up, as we agreed, and I’m following through to see what works best on your calendar. Please let me know. Thanks.” A sample evaluation discussion on your part might go like this:

Mr. Smith, thank you for giving me the opportunity to review my work at Acme. I’m so grateful for working at such a good company with excellent opportunities and smart, motivated co-workers. In this economy, when many companies are not paying attention to their workforce, Acme creates a culture that welcomes a person’s best work and ideas. This means my skills and experience as an accountant, my optimism and my track record of ideas and suggestions get recognized and bring value to Acme beyond my paycheck. This is a win all around. I’ve been working here almost two years, and I’d like to know what you think are my strengths and areas where I can improve. [Listen carefully to what your boss says and respond accordingly.] In the past year, I’ve put some ideas into action. I introduced three key ideas in the monthly accounting reporting division that saved more than $200,000. And, I’ve taken on two projects that people were reluctant to do: I streamlined the spreadsheet for the pipeline repair unit in Denver, and I reorganized the procurement process for our Midwest office. Please consider increasing my compensation based on these factors. For your review, I’ve prepared a brief list of salaries of those at my level in comparable companies in our region.

Earning Power

21 Nov

Letterbalm Woman with BriefcaseDear LetterBalm: I have significantly more education and a job that pays much more than my boyfriend’s does. My man and I have been together for three years, and I’ve never been happier. He’s kind, honest and intelligent, and he works hard as a specialized master welder. He’s well-read and funny, and he treats me wonderfully. My family is crazy about him. But when we get together with some of my friends, they are judgmental. They’re barely civil to him. We’re about to buy a condo together, and they say he’s using me and that we shouldn’t get married because he only wants my money. How can I make them see what I see?

–Professional Lady

Before we start, Ms. L.B. would like to interject a note about welding. In general, the job is being replaced by automation. But specialized welders who keep up with changing technologies are quite sought after. So, your guy is on the cutting edge of his profession, so to speak. Now, about your relationship. There are many happy couplings today between those unequal in salary and education levels. Your snobbish friends need a dose of humanity and graciousness. You certainly don’t want to bring an evening to a screeching halt every time one of them acts like an ass; for one thing, it would be embarrassing to your boyfriend. But you do need to shut down their ill-mannered behavior. Have a brief one-on-one conversation with the ringleaders. Take each one out for coffee (knowing that they’ll talk about the meetings with one another) and read the riot act:

Listen, my friend, it hasn’t escaped me that you think Ron and I are ill-matched. You’ve been quite liberal with your opinion. You think he’s some kind of gold digger who will rob me and leave me. Please stop the insults immediately because they’re cruel and hurtful. They make me think you don’t have confidence in my ability to run my life. Ron is the best thing ever to happen to me. We’ve been together for three years, plenty of time for him to show his true colors. My family adores him. If the only reason you don’t like Ron is because you think he’s low-class, then you can’t be my friend, even after all we’ve been to each other. I don’t want to know someone who judges people so superficially – especially a person I love. Can we move beyond this? Can I count on your maturity and genuine goodwill here?

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