A raise often trails new responsibilities

Dear Joan:
I have worked at a small manufacturer for five years as a secretary. Over the last six months, I have taken over most of the accounting duties and recently began doing purchasing also. I started these duties because the person who is supposed to do them is incompetent. She was moved to other duties because she kept making errors. I received a 9% raise for taking over the purchasing duties at my annual performance review a few weeks ago. I expressed my disappointment but got nowhere.

Since then, I have also taken over some of her other responsibilities but have not received an increase. The person who had these duties had a title, an expense account and made much more than I do. I asked my boss for more money but he was unresponsive. I then talked to the President (it's a small office and everyone talks to him-so I wasn't stepping out of bounds) but he said, "I'm surprised you're asking for more money."

I am working very long hours and I find that I am reaching the point of frustration. I am the only woman who has stepped out of the secretarial role and I feel that I am being taken advantage of. However, I don't want to be perceived as pushy or a whiner.

My boss has not been very helpful. A plant manager was hired recently and he has taken over most of my boss's duties. My former boss has moved to a technical area, which is where his background is. Now I don't know how to approach this new situation. I'm beginning to think I should look elsewhere but I'd rather not leave if I don't have to. What do you think?

Like you, I used to think that when you started new duties you should automatically get a raise. I have since learned that in many cases, you find yourself doing extra work for many months-sometimes even years-before you are rewarded appropriately. What's more, the higher you are on the ladder the tougher it is to measure your tasks and quantify them for proper compensation.

Although this may seem unfair, it actually makes some sense. If everyone were to get an immediate raise every time they did something above and beyond their jobs, there would be a bureaucratic blizzard of paper documenting every task. Instead, some new responsibilities require time to settle in before they can be measured and assigned a monetary value. Often, when job duties shift between people, it takes a while to see if the person is able to handle the extra responsibilities and if the new mix of tasks is appropriate.

I think that is what the president was trying to tell you. You need to back off and let the job duties settle in a bit before you push for more money. What's more, he may be planning on replacing the incompetent person but is waiting to see if you can fill that position first.

The person to get to know is the new plant manager. Since he is taking over many of the duties of your former boss, there is a good chance you will end up reporting to him, if you don't already. His job was probably created because the president needed someone who could take over the day-to-day operations and get a handle on some of the problems. You can be sure one of his duties is to figure out how to make the best use of the staff.

He will need bright, ambitious people to help him. If he's smart, he will probably view you as a rising star, since he sees you doing much more than a traditional secretary. The president already knows you're competent or he wouldn't have allowed you to take over such important functions.

Although you may not be able to get an immediate raise for the extra work you are taking on, you need to find ways to delegate your routine work. If you continue to try to do it all-your old job plus growing responsibilities- you could sabotage yourself by making careless errors or missing deadlines. You will also burn yourself out or become angry and frustrated.

If this is a problem for you, make a list of the things other people could do or that you could stop doing altogether. If necessary, take this list to your boss and explain that you need some relief on the routine work so that you can handle your new responsibilities without making costly or embarrassing errors.

Six to nine months from now, reassess your level of responsibility and how well you are performing your new responsibilities. If you find you have sole accountability for major functions, you will be in an excellent position to talk to your boss. Be sure you are calm and professional and come armed with statistics such as how much money you are responsible for and the level of decisions you are making. Be ready to spell out problem situations you have handled and improvements you have made in the system. If you don't have a significant raise on or before your next annual review period, start looking around for other opportunities. But first, give this job a chance to grow.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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