Pardon Me, but Your Salary is Showing

Oh, Anita,

I was out with my coworkers for drinks, and found out one of my male peers makes more than I do for basically the same position. Since I’m not supposed to know his salary, how can I approach my supervisor about the inequity?

Secret_Salaries_000013891088Dear, Shhhhharin’ Salaries,

A recent Glassdoor Pay Gap Survey notes that 7 out of 10 people in the U.S. think men and women are paid equally for equal work at their company. Were you one of the optimists? I’m sorry your bubble was burst. While the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, over 50 years later, pay discrimination still exists. The AAUW reports that women make 79 cents for every $1 men earn, a 21% gap.

One solution suggested by the Glassdoor survey was pay transparency. The Obama administration recently proposed collecting gender pay data from larger employers starting in 2017, allowing the EEOC to crack down on companies paying women less than their male counterparts. Until then, and in smaller businesses not affected by this rule, few companies willingly disclose salary information.

Social media company Buffer is one completely open company. For salaries, Buffer uses a salary calculation formula based on job role, location, and experience level.

Piggy_Bank_000000162742There are detractors to salary transparency. Critics say it’s a privacy issue and that highly rewarded employees don’t need to justify the salaries they’ve earned. This policy could certainly backfire on companies with a chasm between the upper management’s salary and bonus structure and the rank and file’s wages.

Payscale found the main predictor of both “satisfaction” and “intent to leave” is whether employees feel they are paid fairly. Most often, people who discover coworkers’ salaries in a hush-hush culture leave the company without discussing the situation with their manager.

So, how do you bring up the subject? Even though you were not snooping in classified files, your knowledge of your coworker’s salary is awkward. Before you make a big fuss with your boss, take and deep breath and observe the following steps:

  • Analyze. Does your co-worker have a higher level of education? More years of experience in the role, even at a former job? Do some research on salary.com or payscale.com to see what others make in the same position outside your company.
  • Ask for a raise. Avoid mentioning your co-worker’s salary and use market pay rates and your value to the company as ammunition instead.
  • Consider your options if refused. If this newfound knowledge will eat away at you and your own performance and ultimately the team’s, looking for a fresh start may be wise. After all, as I noted in my blog Quitters Never Win… Or Do They?, sometimes the best way to get a raise is to command a higher base salary from a new employer.
  • If verifiable, file a complaint. If you have proof of gender pay inequality, start with your company’s HR department. If that course of action doesn’t produce satisfactory results, file a claim with your local EEOC office. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 resets the statute of limitations on discrimination complaints each time new paychecks are issued. It’s never easy to be a whistle-blower, so be sure you have the emotional fortitude before you open the Pandora’s box of gender pay discrimination.

Readers: What are your thoughts on pay transparency? Would you like to know what your coworkers make – and have them know your salary?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Your Next Best Career

Hey Anita,

I’m a computer programmer and I am thinking about changing careers. Years of sitting in front of a PC for 10-12 hours a day is taking its toll, and my New Year’s resolution of getting healthy and in better physical shape has fallen by the wayside. Any advice?

Geek_1915240_smallDear, Geek Physique,

You are not alone; 21% of employees plan to leave their jobs this year, according to CareerBuilder. (I have no statistics on how many people have already given up on their New Year’s resolution!) But are you sure you want to leave your current position? Tech salaries rose 7.7% in 2015, averaging $96,370. Think carefully before making a dramatic job transition. Oftentimes, a career change means a sharp decrease in salary, at least temporarily until you can move up the ladder in your newly chosen industry.

If you’re serious about a major change, CareerBuilder just released a list of the 25 Best Jobs in America for 2016. While many are management positions, there are several on the list to which you could transfer your existing IT skills which makes for an easier career change. But a new Solutions Architect or Mobile Developer position may not address your health and fitness goals. Check out my blog post, Work Toward 10,000 Steps, to see if you could make some tweaks in your current daily job life to stay where you are. If not, check out Glassdoor’s list of 10 Jobs That Can Keep You Fit for inspiration, ranging from dance instructor to firefighter.

Here are some points to ponder when considering a career change:

  • Know thyself. With a little help from an online career quiz or two, really think about what your dream job would be, based on your preferences and personality traits. Do you honestly think you could transition to the dance instructor suggested by Glassdoor?
  • Research job possibilities. Based on the assessments’ recommendations and your own free association list, check out interesting job titles (indeed.com) to see what tasks the positions entail and the average salaries (salary.com). Don’t forget to look within your current company for opportunities to make a lateral move.
  • No transferable skills? You’ll need training. Determine new competencies you’ll need, then find learning resources. It could be as little as an online Excel course, or a full-blown master’s degree program.
  • Can your network help? Who do you know who can help you get a foot in the door in your newly chosen field? A mentor in your target profession could be helpful, as well.

Readers: Have you ever considered changing careers? What’s holding you back?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Sharing the Pain

Dear Anita,

My job is the biggest royal pain. Can you help me get a better one?

Woman in painDear, Complaint Queen,

According to research conducted by SERMO, yours truly actually has one of the top 10 most painful jobs. Yes, that’s right. Writers and journalists rank up there with construction workers, truck drivers, and those on the production line. (Mechanics, gardeners/landscapers, athletes, firefighters, lawyers, and IT professionals round out the top 10.)

But instead of focusing on our pain on the job, try targeting a hiring manager’s daily discomforts – and how you, above all others, can help relieve his or her troubles. A few years ago, Liz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, trademarked the idea of a Pain Letter. This is the opposite of the generic cover letter (no more “Dear HR, I saw your ad and am applying for the open position. Blah, blah, blah.”).

The first step in writing a Pain Letter is to research the company. Use LinkedIn to find the hiring manager’s name.

Secondly, congratulate the manager and/or the company for a recent accomplishment (which may also be gleaned from LinkedIn or Google research). Ryan calls this the “Hook.”

Next, determine what keeps this manager up at night, and outline the “Pain Hypothesis.” Ryan gave this example for an imaginary Payroll Specialist in Forbes:

I can imagine that hiring as many people as you are, keeping tabs on payroll issues might be a constant challenge. With regulations constantly changing, it’s not easy to keep everyone paid correctly and well-informed in a growing company.

Then, include your “Dragon-Slaying Story,” describing specifically how you handled similar pain in your current or previous position.

When I ran the payroll system at Angry Chocolates, I kept the payroll accurate and in compliance and answered dozens of employee questions every day while we grew from 15 to 650 staff members.

Keep the letter brief, closing simply:

If payroll accuracy and advice to your team is on your radar screen, I’d love to chat when it’s convenient. All the best, Nancy Drew

Readers: How do you focus on alleviating the hiring manager’s business pains in your cover letter?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Best of 2015

Dear Readers,

We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience. ― George Washington

Let’s take a look back to see what lessons we have been able to put to use in the past year. Here are the most popular articles of 2015, in order of views:Two business people

#1: Asking for Vacation Time Do you ASK your supervisor or TELL her when you are taking vacation? What’s the best strategy?

#2: Crimes & Misdemeanors It’s no surprise that this post about finding a job with a criminal record made the top of the list, since nearly one-third of Americans have been arrested by age 23.

#Hiding_the_Gray_0000122551363: Hiding the Gray on Your Résumé (and Beyond) Tips for graying triathletes (and the rest of us mere mortals) on how to compete with younger job seekers.

#4: Functional Format for Résumés Not just for the greybeards the functional résumé can work for people with gaps in employment, caregivers returning to the workforce, or recent grads with little experience.

#5: How Long to Find a Job? I am often asked by discouraged job seekers of all ages some variation of the question, “How long does it really take to get a new job?” After reviewing the statistics, see what you can do shorten your search.

On_the_Fence_iStock_000009524325_Small#6: Stay or Quit? Follow this advice if you are asking yourself on the job, “Should I stay or should I go?”

#7: Bypassing Human Resources When to try an end-run around HR, and how to cooperate with the human resources department as a job seeker.

#8: Texting on the Job In this day and age, is texting on the job OK? Check out the data on cell phone distractions in the workplace and see if the facts change your mind.

Woman_Cell_Phone_iStock_000000292386_Small#9: How to Get Past the Phone Interview Learn how to put your best virtual foot forward during the initial telephone screening.

#10: Overcoming Negative References Steps to take when you think a former boss is giving you a bad reference.

Readers: What Anita Clew article was most helpful to you this past year and why?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita. Your question might make next year’s Top 10 list!

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Happy Holidays

Happy_Holidays

Thanksgiving Joys

Readers,

Whether you choose to spend the day with family and not darken the door of a single store (see the list of chains closed on Thanksgiving Day) or rush through the traditional turkey dinner to line up outside of the stores opening on T-day for early Black Friday specials, I encourage you to pause to count your many blessings.

Happy ThanksgivingWith a grateful heart for your continued readership,
Anita Clew

Readers: Will you, or won’t you, shop on Thanksgiving Day?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Exit Strategy

Anita,

I have finally made the decision to leave my job of 8 years, but have not sent out résumés or contacted any potential employers yet. My decision is not based on anything negative – I love my bosses, co-workers, etc., but want a career change. I work at a fairly small (25 employees), family owned business and lead one of their four departments, though the dept. only consists of myself and a newly hired assistant (who won’t be able to take over). I want to leave on good terms with the company and I know they will have an extremely hard time finding a replacement. I do not want to commit to staying until said replacement is found, but planned on offering 1 month notice and staying until I have completed those clients that have already booked (I am a dog trainer). Additionally, the gal who does the sales for me is leaving in less than a week and I will now be expected to take on these appointments. My question is: knowing that I will be leaving, is it appropriate for me to not give notice to my employer until I have secured a new job and complete my sales appointments as if I AM staying, or should I notify them of my intent to start looking for alternate employment so they are not then having to cancel clients who may book farther out than 1 month and run the risk of them excusing me before I find new employment. Thanks in advance!

Exit_000017488442_smallDear, On Short Notice,

Searching, applying, interviewing, and finally landing the right job may take a while. By the time you are ready to give your standard two weeks notice, it could be months and the salesperson may already be replaced. But since you have worked with this small company eight years, you may wish to inform your bosses of your career goals to allow them the extra time to find a replacement for you and the salesperson.

While you may not harbor ill feelings, when leaving a less than satisfactory job, some people may be tempted to quote country music singer Johnny Paycheck and tell the boss to “Take this job and shove it; I ain’t working here no more.” Here are tips to create an exit strategy that won’t have repercussions down the road.

  1. Update your résumé, including career highlights from your current position. Review my post, “Importance of Annual Résumé Updates.”
  2. Start networking – discreetly and on your own time. Put out feelers to find open positions and companies in which you may be interested.
  3. Stash away an adequate emergency fund. You never know when your boss may catch wind of your plans to leave and fast forward your decision. There may also be a period of time between your old job end date and your new position start date, and bills still need to be paid.
  4. Use Paid Time Off (PTO) or vacation time judiciously to save enough for interviews. Be sure you know your company’s policy for unused sick time or vacation time. You don’t want to lose any time that you’ve worked hard to earn.
  5. Once you have a firm job offer (preferably in writing), tender your letter of resignation. Two weeks’ notice is the professional minimum. However, if you have a management or key position, consider staying a while longer to train your replacement. Some companies don’t like “lame ducks,” however, and may whisk you out the door that very day. See why #3 is important?
  6. During your last weeks on the job, maintain your work ethic. Organize and delegate your projects and workload with adequate instructions and documentation.
  7. If your company does an exit interview, keep your comments positive. There is a better chance that your criticisms will negatively impact you than bring about any lasting changes in your company.

Readers: How many weeks notice did you give your last employer when you quit?

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Family Leave Options

Anita,

My dad who lives in Florida just had a massive stroke. I need to help my parents arrange for long-term healthcare and sell their house to pay for it. Is there a way I can assist them temporarily without quitting my job in California and moving across the country?

Dear, Worried Daughter,

I’m sorry your family is going through this difficult time.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted to assist in situations such as yours. The FMLA allows eligible employees at companies with 50 employees or more to take unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons without losing their jobs or health coverage. Covered employees who have worked at least one year and have accumulated 1,250 hours within that year are entitled to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:

  • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
  • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
  • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
  • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty” (military caregiver leave allows servicemembers themselves 26 workweeks of leave)

California also has a similar California Family Rights Act. The CFRA would run concurrently with the FMLA, but there are some differences (for instance, pregnancy is not covered as a serious health condition by CFRA, but is under FMLA). View the California Department of Human Resources’ chart for a comparison.

Your employer may require you to use any paid time off (PTO) before taking FMLA leave. And just like the requirement to get out of gym class back in school, you’ll need the customary doctor’s note to be excused from work under FMLA.

Note also that if you make a contribution toward your group health insurance premiums that is normally deducted from your paycheck, you will have to pay for this out of pocket while on leave. In fact, if you don’t have an emergency fund, 12 weeks of unpaid leave may not be feasible. Unemployment is generally not an option, as you voluntarily went on unpaid leave and you must be available to work to qualify. (Tip: Some utilities such as cable providers may allow a “seasonal hold” while you are away from home, which can be less costly than turning off and then having to pay to reconnect when you return from your leave. Mortgage lenders and landlords may or may not be as willing to defer payments.) If your parents are financially able, they may be able to compensate you for your caregiving time with a personal care agreement. For elderly parents with few assets other than their home, Medicaid’s Cash and Counseling program (available in about 30 states) may help them pay for home health care services – including cleaning, meal preparation, or transportation – from whomever they choose.

Four states have approved paid family leave programs – California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington (whose program has been deferred due to budget shortfalls). If you are eligible, you may receive a percentage of your base wages for a period of time. Here’s a handy chart showing eligibility and coverage by state.

Readers: When and how has the Family Medical Leave Act benefitted you?

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Earthquake Preparedness

Anita,

I recently moved from the Midwest to Los Angeles to take a great management job. As part of my initiation, my new team took me to see that movie “San Andreas.”  I have to admit, it made me nervous! Do you have any earthquake safety tips that will soothe my fears?

Dear, Shaking in Your Boots,

Seismic_Building
Every region has its natural disasters. If you’re from the Midwest, tornadoes were probably your biggest threat. The southeast has hurricanes (the “best” of all natural disasters, in my opinion, because you get plenty of advance notice.) Wherever you live, learn how to prepare for a natural disaster, and then try to stop worrying. As the saying goes, “Most of the stuff people worry about never happens.”

Building_EarthquakeMillions of people worldwide will participate in the Great Shakeout Earthquake Drill on October 15 at 10:15 AM. You can register your company to, as the website says, “have peace of mind that you, your family, your co-workers and millions of others will be better prepared to survive and recover quickly from our next big earthquake.” Go directly to the Resources page to peruse the appropriate manuals, posters and flyers for an earthquake drill.

The most important thing to remember is Drop, Cover, and Hold On if you are indoors during an earthquake.

  • DROP to your hands and knees.
  • COVER your head and neck under a sturdy table or desk.
  • HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops.

In a high-rise building, stay away from windows, and don’t use the elevator. To avoid collapsing windows or building facades, remain inside if you are inside. If you are outdoors, find a safe area clear of buildings, power lines, trees, and signs.

To prepare for any disaster, keep an emergency supply kit on hand. Visit Ready.gov for a list of recommended items.

Readers: Will you be participating in The Great Shakeout?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

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Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

Police officer on radioReaders,

In light of the recent Umpqua Community College shootings in Oregon, I wish to express my heartfelt sympathy for the victims and their families.

Sadly, active shooter incidents are becoming more frequent. Having a preparedness plan for workplace violence could help save lives.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notes that there is typically no pattern in the selection of victims in an active shooter incident. There are three basics to remember if a coworker or stranger opens fire in your building:

  1. Run: If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises. Call 911 when you are safe.
  2. Hide: If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you. Lock and blockade the door, hide behind or under large items like file cabinets or desks, and remain quiet (mute your cell phone). If possible, call 911 to alert police to the shooter’s location.
  3. Fight: As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter.

It’s just as important to react appropriately to law enforcement when they arrive, so they know you are not the threat.

This 3.5-minute video, while dated, is a succinct visual reference for an active shooter situation:

For further resources, consult the extensive DHS Active Shooter preparedness list. The U.S. Department of Labor plan covers the broader scope of workplace violence, including early warning signs of violence from an employee.

Readers: Does your company include Active Shooter Response in its Emergency Action Plan?

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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