I was a bit hesitant to post this – for a few reasons. It has nothing to do with Coronavirus, which is probably welcome to many – but, of course, may sound a bit like ‘is she paying attention to the world?’ Yes, I am…I actually wrote this months ago and kept it in the drafts bank. I promised not to write about ‘today from isolation…’ every week. In order to do that, I’ve got to dig through that bank. That bank is mostly composed of ‘I need to get this off my chest’ items that I never, ever, post immediately in the heat of whatever. So, yes, when this came to being, it may have sounded a bit more ‘oh boy, she’s definitely getting fired,’ like. Oh – that’s another reason I was a bit hesistant to post this…there’s the possibility that enough dots will be connected to equal some sort of retaliation. On the flip side, I think it’s an important topic among, well, mostly women. Women in the workplace, specifically. And it should be important to men as well – if they happen to love a woman in the workplace. So, going back to Autumn…all the way back to pre-HOLY HELL-2020-IS-THE-CHEESE-GRATER-OF-SLIDES.
I was in a bit of crankiness at work due to some discovered compensation discrepancies – and I chose that time as the when I would fight for what was rightfully mine. My husband was super (sweetly) confused about why that would ever not be an option. The answer is pretty simple – bold women in the workplace tend to be labeled as bitches or hormonal or babies or off their meds or whiners or aggressive or out of line or it must be that time or…well, yeah, the list goes on. Unless they’re under, what, 25? – then they’re just entitled snowflakes (and that may be accurate in many cases) raised to believe if they wanted it, they should get it. Rich’s response was something along the lines of him not thinking any of that was true…and I’ve asked him to hold that thought until his vagina grows in.
Now, let me follow that up with, HOLY MOLY, he’s been incredibly supportive of my plight. Between a shared disbelief of the discovery that my paycheck sat at 20% lower than my lowest paid coworker’s to listening to me vent, talk it out, and have pretend conversations with my boss – he’s been behind me 100%. Not 80%, like my company, evidently. He’s also been shocked to see this side of me – leery about standing up for myself for fear of being labeled, beaten back into a corner or fired. Rich knows me as a total ball buster when it comes to getting my way – like the time I made a sales person cry while negotiating for his next car. Or anytime Mama Bear is activated due to an injustice affecting my kids. But, in the workplace, it’s different. It’s like all the worth I know I have flies out the window the second I sense something unfair (to me) is happening…I kind of just want to roll with the punches, smile and nod, move on.
The thing about employees is, if they are happy, compensation conversations typically never come up. But when things aren’t going great, especially for an extended period, dollars and bonuses often bubble to the surface as they try to figure out who is making out the best in a deteriorating situation and whether it is really worth it to stay. Truthfully, we should probably all be comparing notes – happy or not – all the time. I never really thought about why every company I’ve ever worked for has always had a firm ‘hey, don’t talk about your paycheck’ policy until recently. And maybe that makes me an idiot – or super naive – because if you’re not supposed to talk about it – the only possible reason is that someone is getting screwed. I just never thought it was me (naive). I really thought I was always hushed because I was at the top of the golden slope of money – just waiting for my turn to ski down. Turns out, I’m just running the chair lift at the bottom.
What I can’t figure out is how I ended up here – I’ve been at the same company for over a decade – a bit that literally everybody I’ve asked about this drops jaw and gasps at – ‘wait, you’ve been here how many years and you’re only at X!?!’ Did I come in underpaid from the start? Did three consecutive transferred-to-managers think they were just getting a steal as they formed their new teams? I’m actually working with essentially the same crew I started with 11 years ago – how’d everyone else keep moving up significantly? Were they stepping on my head?
I’m not typically a work whiner. I love a challenge, I love learning new things and I’m generally the one who volunteers for project – especially under a great manager. I have an ability to multi-task that even shocks me at times, the elephant of all memories and a potentially spectrum-like gift of organizing my brain’s filing room. For the workplace, total bonus. Not so much for home as, although useful, it is very hard to turn off. Just ask my family how many times I’ve switched from the Mother of Pitiful Quarantinians to “Hey, Cruise Director, here. Today’s activities include bingo in the library, fitness in the basement, arts & crafts, and a formal wear dinner menu.” I am currently limiting this by posting daily the day of the week, weather, dinner menu, sequest’o’meter and…ah, okay, right…maybe it’s not as under control as I thought. Dang it.
That all being said – I’m also not aiming to be the CEO. I’m happy in the trenches. I’ve done my time in life as a manager – loved 90% of my employees, but not the inevitable politics that come, first, with being a manager in any corporation and, second, being among the minority as a female manager. I’ve only ever worked in sales oriented businesses – which means I’ve only ever worked in businesses that were more interested in the money rolling in than whether or not their employees were being over-worked, underpaid or treated unfairly. And, as a female manager – I think, yes, I/we do have a tendency to be a bit ‘motherly’ and protective of our people. And, guess what? That’s hard. When I completely changed industries, and left my manager’s hat at the old place, I felt the wind under my wings again. ‘Yes,’ I remember thinking, ‘This is so much better – just having to think of me’.
I’ve always assumed that my managers have and do take the same care with my career as I did with my employees. So I was thrown back in my chair when I brought up the salary discrepancy to my current manager and found out that, oops, they knew all along – ever since I was brought to their team (yes, I’m intentionally using a generic pronoun…not because I’m hip with the teen lingo – because it seems like a little bit of a shield). Not only were they aware (were aware or was aware? It’s a single they. How the hell do the kids do it…), but they noted it so casually and matter of fact like ‘oh, yeah, I saw that when you came onto my team (oh, you mean the time you acquired my entire team? The one where everybody else starts at 20% higher?) – I’ve been meaning to investigate that (or something in that ballpark). I came under them two years ago. I guess the investigation never really got any speed.
Now that they know what I know, I’ve brought it up multiple times and have gotten multiple answers. ‘We can’t do out of cycle raises.’ Well, that’s not true…one of my co-workers got one just last year. ‘I wish you’d brought this up in August when we were working on people planning for the year.’ Oh, yeah, me too – I also 100% wish you’d brought it up. You know, to the folks that sign the checks and make the budgets and look at such a large difference in pay and think ‘oh man, that’s not right.’ What I got was an eventual solution come the start of this year. One of my colleagues was leaving – and if I could just apply for their job (I’d be a shoe in, wink, wink), I could likely get a healthy increase. Sweet – learning something knew, moving to a position with a nice future, and making my way to the pay scale I already belonged at.
The brakes were slammed on by the next statement.
“You’ll just have to keep doing what you’re already doing for a while until we see if there’s a need for a back fill.” I should bailed on 2020 at that point. My team used to consist of 13 people. We are down to seven. There has not been a back fill in three years. Wait now, what? Assuming there would be some monumental increase for taking on two jobs, I began the contemplation phase. I poked around … revisited my mafia friends. What I couldn’t get was a solid answer as to what that increase might be – without actually applying. So I did. And I got the job. Well, I got the additional job.
Quick math lesson here – I would be replacing one seasoned employee while keeping my current responsibilities. Two positions, one person equals saving the company a whole salary should definitively beef up my own. Sadly, no. I would still be sitting below my counterparts. This seems like an obvious ‘no.’ If anyone were telling me this story, I would spend my part of the conversation discouraging them. Yet, I stayed up night after night wondering what to do. I felt sick and panicky and sure that saying ‘thanks, but I’ll pass’ would put a big black mark on my folder. I’d be lumped in as difficult with Elaine.
But I had to. Taking the additional gig would not have given the company the opportunity to make things right – it would have given it the opportunity to show that it could still enlist me for just about anything for pennies. So I passed. And I felt a huge weight lifted. Within a month, all those responsibilities were lumped onto a co-worker (sorry, friend) with, I’m assuming, no extra granola bars. At the recommendation of a previous co-worker, I pushed for a Long Term Incentive to even things up – given out in February after managers submit for deserving employees. Never saw it. I’ve been told that I’ve also maxed out on another employee kudos program where we receive company faux bucks (with a ‘well, it comes out of my budget, so…’).
In return, I keep chugging along at exactly what I was hired for in this position. No more. I’m turning down any opportunities to cross train or take on additional responsibilities. I realize that may put me further into the ‘difficult’ category, but it also feels like it takes me out of the ‘please, dump your unwanted tasks here’ category. I’ve cut back on working after hours or on weekends just for the sake of catching up or getting ahead. I no longer run my days by a deadline, created by me usually, projects will get done at a steady pace – no sense rushing them. I’ve packed away any feelings of guilt for being away from my desk too long.
To be honest, it’s all very refreshing. I’d even go as far as saying I’m kind of happy I’ve found out what I’m worth to the company. It’s given me a great opportunity to allocate some of that time (20% maybe? Maybe. ;)) to those who know my true value.
Not bitchy. Not hormonal. Not off my meds.
Also not getting screwed anymore.