When a clerk’s salary is bigger than his boss’s

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Rey Elbo

In The Workplace

I have been out of job for one year after I resigned my human resource (HR) job to put up a goto (rice porridge) business with my girlfriend. Now that the business is going on smoothly, I applied and was hired as an HR supervisor at a small hotel. I was given P30,000 monthly pay during my probationary period. My task is to be the alter ego of the Vice-President for HR which includes supervising four clerical assistants, including “A” who has been with the hotel for more than four years now. My “problem” started when I discovered that “A” is receiving P40,000 a month due to his seniority, many responsibilities and annual merit increases. Is this something that I should be constantly worried about? What can I do now? — Young Wine.

A young salesman walked up to the receptionist and asked to see the company’s sales manager. The receptionist asked the manager if he was willing to talk to the young salesman and was given the go-signal. Ushered into the office, the salesman said: “Sir, with your current economic status, I suppose you don’t want to buy any life insurance from me? Is that correct?”

“You’re right! I’m not interested and not impressed,” the sales manager replied.

As the salesman began to leave the manager’s office, he was called to stay. “Wait a minute. I want to talk to you.” The salesman sat down again, obviously nervous and confused. “I train salesmen like you,” said the manager. “You’re the worst I’ve seen in my career. You can’t sell like that unless you show a little confidence by accentuating the positive. Now that you’re new at this, I’ll help you out by signing up for a P3-million policy.”

After the manager had signed the contract, he said helpfully: “Young man, there’s one thing you’ll have to do to develop a few standard organized sales talks.” The young salesman smiled, then replied: “Thank you, Sir. But really, that’s my standard organized sales talk for sales managers like you.”

Having a “standard” policy when applied to salary issues will always become a touchy subject matter to talk about. In general, when salary issues like this are raised, people will give all kinds of reasons why they deserve more money than the rest. In your case, it becomes doubly necessary to evaluate how you can minimize, if not remove the salary difference.

Discussing the salary issue with your boss, in this case, the Vice-President for HR, requires good timing and a lot of diplomacy, combined with a good mix of technical competence and above-average work performance to back you up. In doing this, there are several tactics that you can resort to justify your quest for justice. These are:

One, do your best as if money is not important. Hit the ground running by giving your best shot in every situation, every step of the way. Don’t rock the boat. At least, not yet. Remember that whoever complains about salary is always in the weakest position. If you can prove your worth in less than three months, there’s a big chance you can get the right amount of pay before your six-month period is up. In the meantime, you must go beyond money matters. If you can do that, your desired salary will surely follow.

Two, review current salary standards to make pay competitive. This becomes necessary if and when you have a double-digit turnover rate. Hiring and replacing people are expensive. Therefore, your strategic move is to participate in, if not buy a salary survey that focuses on your industry — hotel and restaurant. This is an objective approach necessary to come up with an updated pay and perks package for everyone. Without an industry survey, it would be difficult for you to justify any review.

Three, update salary differences between job grade levels. This is related to number two above. As soon as you can get the latest facts and figures on salaries, you can devise a way to place the right price tag for the right job, while taking into consideration the average percentage difference between job levels, which could be as high of 25% to a low of 15%.

Erick Reyes, Vice-President for HR at Roxas Holdings says it could be 25%, while rewards management expert Oliver Requilman recommends 20%. On the other hand, newly-retired Jun Mendoza, former Senior Vice-President for HR at CTBC Bank, prescribes 15% between grade levels. This price range hopes to protect seniority, internal equity and other factors.

Four, establish a firm policy on “red circle” salaries. (bold ends) This means strict monitoring of the workers’ salary to flag those who have reached the maximum level of their pay bracket. Devise a way to correct this to avoid salary distortions. One approach is to “promote” these workers to the next job grade by giving them additional tasks, if not transfer them to other work assignments that could justify their pay.

Corollary to this, strengthen your “promotion from within” policy so that your case is never repeated. If there is one important strategy in people management, “promotion from within” can’t be ignored. But, just like other policies, there are certain exceptions to the general rule. Be careful of promoting people to their level of incompetence.

Last, ask your boss about his plan to correct the situation. As I’ve said earlier, timing is very important. At times, it could happen when you’ve hit a milestone that was not witnessed by your company. The average boss who knows how to recognize extraordinary performance would not hesitate to give the right amount of pay for the talent. Sometimes, it is the boss who would initiate the talk.

If that happens, grab the chance right away. Just be sure that you don’t act like Mister Greedy. Be thankful for what’s given to you even if you’re not happy. In due time, you’ll receive the right amount of money that you deserve.

ELBONOMICS: Whoever raises the issue of salary is always in a weak position.


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