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“I’m not paid enough!” (Part I)

As managers and HR Pros we have all been faced with this statement before. Whether it is a general statement by some staff (i.e. a ‘feeling’) or perhaps it is coming from someone who reports to you that has been stretched too far on an assignment or spread to thin in their current role, it is a situation that must be addressed because it is one of those sore spot issues that festers, causes resentment over time and ultimately leads to disengagement and turnover. So what to do?

First off, you need to determine whether or not the issue is one of situation or circumstance. This post is going to focus on when the issue is one of situation.  The good news when dealing with an issue of situation is that these issues are quite often within the organization’s (manager’s) control to address and resolve.  I will blog about circumstance-based compensation challenges in a post later this week.

Pay Increase 1If you are dealing with a compensation issue based on situation, than your focus needs to be on communication, understanding, coaching and support, with you ultimately getting to the root cause issue. That is, in situation based compensation issues, what your employee is probably saying is that they are not paid enough for what they are being asked to do. Often this is when your employee is doing the work of one or two other people. You often see this is in departments where there has been some turnover and staff haven’t been replaced. The workload is spread out amongst one or two stronger performers who “can handle it.” The weeks and months go by with the work continuing to get done and as the manager you start to think, “hmm, maybe I don’t need to replace/add any staff.” The problem is that this takes its toll on your employees and they start to feel taken advantage of, hence the reason you start to hear the “I am not paid enough” comments.

As the manager, you need to start to work with these employees and get them to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That could come in the form of a commitment to add headcount by a certain date, or take some of the workload off their plate and spread it around to others. At the very least, there needs to be a carrot – whether that is some paid time off (aside from their regularly earned vacation), a bonus or some other monetary reward.  At the end of the day, the compensation issue is coming from the situation that they have been thrust in and/or accepted up to this point.  This is also, primarily, an internal pay equity issue.  That is, it has almost nothing to do with outside factors, hence the reason it is within the organization’s control to address.

A similar issue also arises when it comes to role issues (as opposed to workload).  This is  another example of a situational based compensation complaint.  You see this is in cases where an employee is asked (or allowed) to step outside of their regular role and take on an assignment with greater responsibilities.  They are never given any formal title or compensation increase but the organization benefits from the employee performing in the higher paying position (without paying them to do it.)  It is incumbent on managers and HR staff to not allow these situations to persist long-term.  Again, staff will feel taken advantage of and will begin to resent their company.

You can’t look at this type of situation as “getting a deal” because any short-term salary savings you think you are getting will be gone the minute that employee attains.  Employees don’t have a problem with taking on roles to show what they can do – kind of like a “try before you buy” type of deal. However, once they have proven themselves to you, you need to put your money where your mouth is, organizationally speaking, and do the right thing by officially promoting and compensating them.

Bottom line, as a manager and/or as HR Pros, when you hear an employee or employees state, “I’m not paid enough” AND you can determine it is a situational based complaint/concern, it is well within your control to address things.  Talk to the employee, understand the situation that they have been placed in, take steps to alleviate workload issues and/or to address role enhancement issues.  Keep in mind, left unaddressed, situational based compensation issues are major drivers of disengagement and turnover.  Next post, I will address circumstance based compensation challenges.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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One Response

  1. […] my last post on this subject, I blogged about the two type of issues that generate this type of statement from an employee. I indicated that whenever a manager or an HR […]

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