Alumni Answers: Asking Tough Questions

Alumni Answers: Asking Tough Questions

Dear Alumni, I was wondering how you handle hard conversations with employers. For example, when and how is it appropriate to ask for a pay raise? If you suffer from a chronic illness or disease, when should you let your employer know? Thank you!Jessica (Psychology 2020)

Chris G. (BA Business 2015), Corporate Trainer at Trintech, Inc.

Every (corporate) company should have some process for reviewing all their employees on an annual or semi-annual basis. These reviews should typically be based on your performance over that time period. You are usually eligible for a potential raise based on that performance. With this in mind, I would recommend during the interview process that you ask them what their formal process is for employee reviews and potential merit increase (pay raise). If they say they don’t have one, I would typically not recommend working for a company like that. The best employers regularly seek to reward and retain their best performers, and not having a process to do that is often an indicator that their employees on-the-job happiness is not one of their top priorities. I also want to point out that if you are applying for a start-up this advice may not be as applicable, since they are usually young and still formalizing their processes as they get their feet planted in the business world. You can still ask during the interview how regularly people receive raises or something along those lines. Ultimate point here: you should get this information during the interview process so you know when the appropriate times to have these conversations are. As for the second question, the answer varies based on the condition of the individual but in most cases, letting your employer/potential employer know that information upfront is critical. Most companies are accommodating of such things, but in order for them to accommodate they need to be aware. Again if you are truly qualified for the job and they are not willing to work with you based on an illness or disease, they probably aren’t the right fit for you anyway. Overall advice: the interview process goes both ways. You should be vetting if the company is right for you just as much as the company is seeing if you right for the role.

Victoria W. (BA Psychology 2013), Program Manager at Catalyst health Network

Hi Jessica, those conversations may not be easy, but they do not have to be uncomfortable. It does take practice. With regards to asking for a raise, each employer is different. Some discuss raises at your annual review, other at the end of the year. The standard raise is 5%, which covers cost of living increases. If you want a raise, research what the market average is for your position, education, and experience. Look at the work you do with an objective eye. Have you taken on more duties and responsibilities? Do you regularly do more than is expected of you? If so, take your research and number to your manager and have a conversation. Show what you’ve found, calmly state what you want and why you believe it’s justified. Ask if he/she believes it’s a fair number. If not, ask what you need to do to qualify for it and set a time to review your progress. With regards to your health, you are not obligated to tell your employer. If you have frequent doctor’s appointments or are out ill, you may give your employer the outline and arrange to work remotely (assuming you are able). You should look for companies with generous PTO and flexible working arrangements, they typically are the most receptive. Understand your rights as an employee (FMLA, etc). But also understand that your company has rights, too. If you are unable to perform your job due to an illness and working remotely is not an option, it is probably not the right job for you. Do NOT mention any illnesses in a job interview. It’s not their business and you want them to see you as a strong, qualified candidate, nothing else.

John P. (BA Politics 1987), Senior Analyst at Legislative Budget Board, State of Texas

I’m pretty cautious about asking for a raise. Instead of asking for a raise, I would ask what steps do I need to take to get promoted to the next level. Every employer knows everyone always wants a raise (including your boss!). By asking it this way, you’re saying, “How can I better help this organization?”It’s understood an increase in pay will usually go with it. As for suffering from a chronic illness, I would let your supervisor know early. It gives them time to plan to shift your workload to someone else, or make any necessary accommodations for you. The more lead time they have, the better the chances you and your employer will find a solution that works for you.

Todd S. (MBA Organization Development, 2012), Talent Development Consultant

Difficult conversations happen every day. I would recommend to treat your boss how you would like to be treated. How would you want someone to ask you for something, raise, etc.? It is likely best when you have proven your value, you are receiving accolades, etc. Based on the company, it may be best to wait until your performance discussion…but be prepared to justify why you deserve a raise. How are you compensated as it relates to others in the same role, experience, etc. Why should you get more? Are you under-paid? Etc… Talk to HR about the chronic illness or disease before you talk to your manager and do it ASAP so they do not think you are hiding something. Document so you can use in case of retaliatory actions.

Stephen L. (BA Political Philosophy), Chief Executive Officer at Dominus Commercial, Inc.

As an employer I would say you have those conversations when you have leverage – when you have accomplished something above and beyond and when the employer can’t replace you or it would cost them quite a bit to do so. Also start the conversation by asking how you are doing and if they are pleased with your work etc.

Dean C. (BA Mathematics 1994), Senior Consulting Actuary at Willis Towers Watson

eep in touch with your manager and establish a good relationship there. They should be your best advocate. Do not be pushy – I have several reports who constantly ask what do I have to do to get promoted. Do not be that guy! Having said that, as pat of annual or mid-year discussions about performance, it is quite appropriate to openly discuss pay and promotion opportunities with your manager who should be the one fighting for you with leadership.

Monica A. (BA History 2011), Account Supervisor, Retail, Commerce & Innovation, for Lexus at Team One

Hey Jessica. Nice to hear from you! The first question you raised relates directly to your professional growth and consequently, the value you provide to your employer. I would advise that in your first job, you wait at least a year to bring up a pay raise. Compensation and bonuses vary greatly by organization and you should ask what the standard process is during your interview process and again during the negotiation process. Your best chance at negotiating your salary will come before you accept an offer, and then after you’ve served some time and proven your value. Pay raises are generally in line with factors both within and outside of your control: your performance, profitability of the business or client you work on, etc. As for the second question, depending on the severity of your condition and the affect that it has on your day to day responsibilities, I’d have this conversation with your boss sooner rather than later.

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