Is it time for overburdened, undercompensated worker to check in with the boss? And how best to prepare for that talk?
Q: The project I was working on at my job was shelved because of budget constraints. Rather than lay me off, my company asked me to take on a higher-level role.
The catch: This new opportunity wasn’t going to come with a formal promotion. In other words, I was asked to do more challenging work, with no title or compensation change. I made it clear to my boss that a formal promotion was important to me, but he told me nothing could be done for at least “a few more months.” When should I go back to him and ask again? I’ve only been in this new role for two months, but already have tangible accomplishments to show. — New York City
A: “A few more months” is an irritatingly vague timeline. The most important thing to do is try to get that clarified — and I’d do so soon.
To prepare, give some thought to what you really want, and why. Of course, you’d prefer a whopping raise and impressive new title immediately. But those “budget constraints” may truly limit what your boss can do. Would a slight salary increase, or a new title alone, satisfy you? The answer is personal, but sort it out before you start this discussion.
Then set up a meeting, and be straightforward about the agenda: You’ve embraced the challenge of taking on new responsibilities, and now that some time has gone by you’d like to get a clearer sense of what might happen next, and when.
Point to specific achievements, and benchmark them against particular markers within your organization or profession. As in: “I did X, which I believe normally would qualify me for Y.” (Leave room for feedback, so you’re sure that your boss sees your work the same way you do.)
Rather than make explicit demands, see how the boss responds. An on-the-spot promotion may not be realistic, but pin down next steps. If the answers (or nonanswers) remain vague, suggest a timetable yourself. And if the process drags on, explore whether your new experience might help you land a better gig elsewhere.
It’s better to start this dialogue than to stew about it. Your boss may not feel any motivation to bring up the subject while you’re making life easier for him. And if you wait until you’re really frustrated, you’re more likely to march into a negotiation with a collection of hard-set demands that may be driven as much by resentment as logic — a recipe for more frustration.
Peer review: Office gossip
Dear Workologist: In your response to Renee — the worker who may have gotten a colleague in trouble by repeating her vacation plans in front of a manager and accidentally revealing that she may have faked a sick day — you missed some opportunities that might have been helpful to an employee in a corporate structure.
Sorry, but Renee is at fault. Over-interest in a colleague’s travel details aside, Renee shouldn’t have been blabbing about someone else’s vacation to an indiscriminate group of co-workers in the first place. It’s fine to have an enjoyable conversation directly with the vacationer. But that should’ve been the end of the story.
Renee even acknowledged that company management is known for retribution and retaliation — even more reason to stay quiet. Maybe the manager involved was simply calling the bluff of the office gossip. — New York City
A: A few other readers blamed Renee for this entire episode.
Frankly, I am surprised by that critique. In general, this column takes the position that being “friends” with your colleagues is overrated: The point of work is work, not making new pals.
But I’m still in favor of basic civility — and small talk about vacation plans struck me as thoroughly innocuous. “Isn’t it cool that X is going to Asia? She’s taking a midnight flight!” seems less fraught as water-cooler chatter than, say, divulging a “Handmaid’s Tale” plot development that someone else may not have seen yet.
But your Workologist is open-minded — and, now, highly curious: Do you have a personal rule of thumb for what one can or should share with, or about, a co-worker?
In the earlier item, Renee and her friend had a casual chat about an approaching vacation. It seems to me the friend should not have said anything she didn’t want repeated. But perhaps we should just never talk about any colleague’s nonwork life in her absence. Or perhaps the answer depends on who is listening.
Clearly there’s a line between the basic banter that makes daily coexistence possible, and gossip that could reasonably have negative, or even corrosive, consequences. Drawing that line depends on the actual information being shared — but possibly the context of the sharing is even more important.