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Show Me The Money!

Jerry Maguire brought this line into our lives and I am not grateful. While the scene in the movie brings a smile to my face just remembering it, this is also what employees today are thinking. For managers, it is a scary motto when you are sharing annual increase, promotion, and bonus decisions with your employees. For employees, saying this motto is fine, and you should understand how you are compensated at your organization (not just demand more money).

So what do you do?

Let's start with our managers... these managers are likely the ones on the cusp of having a money discussion with your employee(s)...

4 Things Managers Should Do:

  • Do not shy away from these conversations! Yes, you may have some anxiety about them (especially if you think your employee(s) will be unhappy), but trust me, if you delay the conversation, your employees will start to wonder what you are avoiding. This is your moment to ensure that your employee feels recognized, appreciated, and rewarded for the work they have done - don't delay!

  • Be prepared! Prior to the conversation, it is your responsibility to understand what went into the compensation decision for each employee you are going to be talking with (even if that decision was made above your head). If you are unsure, ask! Tactically, set up a meeting with your employee. Be deliberate about this discussion, and do not "drive by" their workstation and let them know. Think about the experience you want to provide your employee with and then deliver!

  • During the conversation: be specific and provide context! Remember the previous bullet point - provide the contextual details to your employees. You may think it is too much information, but believe me, they will want to know. I am not implying that you compare them to their peers, but if the recent market analysis shows them at the top of their range, say that. Then talk to them about how to create developmental opportunities for them, or about the additional benefits your company provides. If they received a less than average bonus because their performance wasn't as good as you needed it to be, tell them that, and then set an actionable or goal orientated plan to improve performance.

  • Listen! After you share the details with your employee, listen to them... are they happy, frustrated, disappointed, relieved, thrilled...??? If appropriate, celebrate with your employee and if they are disappointed or frustrated, listen to the why. Chances are that there is something else going on... maybe they didn't realize they were underperforming, that they had some significant holiday expenditures, that they are looking for additional flexibility, or that they are comparing themselves to their peers. This is your moment to hear those fears, and start to do something about it. Otherwise, they will insinuate that you do not care and they will find a manager that does (spoiler alert: that is likely going to be with a different organization).

OK, employees, your turn... (keep in mind managers, you are an employee too)...

4 Things Employees Should Do:

  • Listen! Your manager should be coming prepared to the discussion with the details and context for you. Listen to what they have to say. Understand that they are likely nervous, because talking about money can be tricky, and listen to what they have to say, even if you disagree (which is 100% ok by the way... no one said that you had to agree).

  • Ask Questions! If there is something that you don't understand, that your manager is glossing over, that you don't agree with, make sure to ask questions. My favorite question to ask ever is: "help me understand why...?" While you may be feeling defensive, undervalued, or underpaid, this question can frame the conversation to one of curiosity rather than of defensiveness.

  • Try not to compare! It is really easy to fall into the trap of wondering what your friends are making, or how your compensation is better / worse than someone else's. But I ask you this: to what end? What is comparing salaries actually going to get you? Your compensation is yours alone. [Please note that I am assuming that your company is doing its due diligence to be within the appropriate market range and has conducted a pay equity analysis. If you are unsure, ask about what your company has done in these two areas!]

  • Follow up! Two minutes after you walk out of your manager's office, typically more questions come to mind. This is normal and to be expected. No problem - follow up. Set up some more time with your manager to get your questions answered... to share your frustrations... or your gratitude. You own how you act in the initial conversation as well as after. If you are disappointed and want more from your manager, think through those talking points and set up more time with them to discuss.

Not sure how to handle a specific conversation that you are going to have, or how to talk with your manager about your frustrations? No problem, click here and set up a time to chat!


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