Raises and promotions and offices, Oh My!

Dear Ken Keller,

I’m not sure what has precipitated this, but I am being constantly approached by my employees. About raises.

Now, if they wanted to share an idea offer up a suggestion that would be great, but instead I am being bombarded, almost hounded, with requests. What do these people want? A raise, more paid time off, a promotion with a bigger title and a private office.

Even if I wanted to I could not afford to give any of this, no matter how deserving or sincere their arguments are.

I need some help in answering these requests.

—Chuck G.

Dear Chuck:

When you were growing up, when the neighbors drove home in a brand new car, did you ever turn to your parents and ask when your family was going to get a new car too?

It appears that you have some “keeping up with the Jones family” in your company.

Did you recently give someone a raise, thinking it would be kept a secret, and now others have heard about it? Or, did you tell someone they could move into a vacant office? Did you recently promote someone and grumbling followed the announcement?

Some employees spend their days just keeping score. What they care about is keeping what they believe they are entitled to, including a constantly increasing paycheck, more benefits, more time off, a title screaming of authority, and an office at least as big as yours.

They watch to see what others have or get, and they want it too. And because they don’t have it, they constantly harp about everything.

That people are coming to you with their requests should be a wakeup call. Your people are far more interested in getting more out of you than they are in contributing to the success and growth of the company.

This is not to say that the wrong people are on the payroll. They could very well be the best possible people available to you. Because you have not managed the situation well it is now coming back to bite you. The biting will continue until you address the root causes.

Every business only has so many offices. What is the basis for deciding who gets an office and who does not? If it is anything less than totally objective, expect severe push back.

People want job titles that bring respect and worth. While you can’t give everyone the title of CEO, every company can do better than “receptionist” or “business associate.” Look outside your industry for ideas and ask your employees for their thoughts. Being a part of naming your own job helps people to buy into what they are doing and increases engagement.

When it comes to raises, either you can give them or you can’t. if you cannot give raises, say so.
This is not an easy task, but as an owner, you have done things far more trying.

But instead of just saying “There is no money for a raise at this time for your position” you can provide alternatives. You can do is try to tie back employees potentially earning more money to performance (results) and to taking on assignments that increase revenue, reduce costs or improve cash flow.

This will require you to think about what needs to be done to improve the business and to find suitable assignments for your employees.