Improvement Curve
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Improvement Curve

Salary: A Reflection of How You Communicate Your Value

I had a smirk on my face as my manager and I go over my annual review. Why? He gave me a ZERO on one of the criteria in my performance review. After that, I stopped listening. I didn’t want to take the review seriously anymore because it was pointless.

I didn’t understand why he was so harsh with my annual review. I didn’t understand how he couldn’t see that I’m busting my balls for the company. I spend an hour of overtime every day to keep up with production deadlines. Those overtime hours (I willingly spent because I cared about the company but I didn’t get paid for) SAVED the company a lot of money. He gave me less than 3% of wage increase (which is basically zero increase due to the economy’s deflation rate of 3%). And worse, I didn’t feel appreciated.

But there’s more to the story. I’m not writing this to vent out the anger I felt back then. I’m writing this to point out the fact that how I viewed myself as an employee was totally different to my manager’s view of me. There is that gap between my perception and reality.

Most of us have the perception that we are being taken advantage of by our employer. We tell ourselves, “I don’t deserve this!!” or “I deserve more”. But what if we are really bad at what we do, how are we gonna react then? Are we gonna argue our way back into getting the recognition we want? I see this a lot on reality TV shows where some contestants argue with the judges for receiving a negative but HONEST criticism.

Understanding the difference between ‘what I think I’m worth’ and ‘what others think I’m worth’ is essential to help us view life more accurately. We can reduce the gap between perception and reality by being very aware of ourselves and what’s around us. The closer the gap, the better we can manage our expectations. The better we can manage our expectations, the less the disappointments we have to go through — not only at work but life in general.

“Beggars Can’t Be Choosers”

This happened during the time when I just graduated college. I was ready to make money to pay off my student loan. I was ready to do the reason why I had to go through to elementary school, high-school and college. But I have zero experience in the industry. Finding a job was not easy. I was lucky to have a friend who was able to hook me up with a job. I applied. He got me an interview with the manager. Then I had a second interview — it was with my friend. The second interview was a joke — we didn’t take things seriously. I was offered the job (of course).

Back then I wasn’t sure how much I should get paid. I was new to the industry. All I wanted then was a job — any kind of job that relates to the program I finished in college. That lack of experience in the industry has reduced my negotiation power to zero. I just took whatever was offered.

I’m grateful that my manager (that time) took a gamble for hiring me but that definitely didn’t give him the right to treat me like I’m some low paid apprentice who couldn’t do anything right. Yes, I was the escape goat of the company. My job was to take care of almost ALL of the quality issues of the company — from inspecting shipments to production to company audits. And so when something messes up, they can always blame it on me because I either: didn’t inspect what was released or I didn’t give the staff the correct instruction to proceed. I was given a big responsibility for a fresh grad. Since I’m not exceptional at what I do, I was paid poorly. The responsibility didn’t match the pay. I moved on and found a better company to work for.

How Much EXTRA Money Are You Contributing To Your Company’s Revenue?

The next company I worked for offered a big jump to my salary, good benefits and a not-so-stressful working environment — I was happy, excited but a little puzzled. Why? I also didn’t have a previous work experience with the job I was hired to do. I still considered myself as a fresh grad even with 1.5 years of experience. The hiring process went pretty quickly. It took only two weeks from job interview to job offer. It was a VERY GOOD deal. This was my first office job — away from the smell of grease and loud machinery.

I liked that job. I lasted for almost 4 years. But during those years, there were days when people talked about their disappointment of the raise the company has given them. I found that to be weird. The job was easy. It’s not stressful. It’s repetitive. And because it’s repetitive, employees became experts at what they do. And because they are experts, the chances of having critical errors are slim. And since their errors were greatly reduced, it means they’re saving the company a lot of money. Is this the reason why they feel they deserve to get paid more? But how much more money are they making exactly? Does the amount of money they ‘saved’ the company justify the raise they expect?

I belong to the bottom part of the organization. I’m replaceable. I can quit right there and then but the company won’t be losing any money over it. And if that was the case, I don’t see a reason why I need to demand for a higher raise than what I was offered. The effort I put in does not significantly affect the company’s income. If I was then maybe I should demand for a higher raise.

But I’m not a critical part of the system. There’s no need to do more. Even if there was, I don’t know how else I could do “more”. The existing standard procedures are already good, so good that it makes it hard to implement improvement.

And so, if I can’t do ‘more’ for the company every year, why would I expect it to pay me more every year?

Bronze Coated with Gold

“Things are all fucked up because he couldn’t manage the projects properly. He doesn’t have an e-mail. He doesn’t know how to use it. Who in the world gets paid that much to do a job that REQUIRES e-mail to communicate properly but doesn’t know how to use it? We’re losing money. He didn’t come in today but didn’t tell the office why.

Those are the common complains I hear at this current company I work for. We always talk about this guy at work that couldn’t do his job properly and yet he’s getting paid a lot of money. I suppose it’s not our say to decide how much he should get paid — but it often makes us wonder what our boss sees in him.

I also complain about our sales guy. He was only able to close one deal last year. He gets paid a shit load of money too. I also wonder why he gets paid that much. But I suppose he is worth way more than I think. But that’s exactly it — I don’t see things the same way my boss does. He sees something about these people that most other employees don’t see.

But I don’t think they show their value through the quality of work they’ve done. Instead, they show it through their ability to SHOW confidence of accomplishing quality work combined with their ambitious/optimistic promises.

I was underpaid back then because I failed to show how valuable I was to my manager. Perhaps I lacked the confidence to show him I can do quality work. Christopher Columbus had very little experience in navigation and yet he was given the opportunity to lead an expensive/risky journey. Why? He was oozing with confidence.

I don’t hate these people. I actually admire the way they show their confidence — a lesson I have yet to learn.

Communicating Your Value

It’s pretty common for us to complain about the people in the Top Level of Organization because we believe that the only thing they care about are their bonuses. That may be true. We complain because we don’t fully understand the value they provide to the company. We complain because THEY don’t fully understand our value in the company. But my complaints will not be heard. I belong in the bottom of the food chain. So why waste time complaining? What can I do to change their view? The answer: Over deliver.

Go way beyond to what is expected. Be proud of my work as that will automatically show my confidence.

If management can’t hear our complaints and concerns, then perhaps the only way we can communicate to them is through our work. If we can over deliver, if we can WOW our superiors, if we can let our superiors take credit for the excellent work we’ve done — we will be recognized. This is how I plan to create and show my value.

But ‘value’ is a vague term. Our Office Manager once mentioned that her job doesn’t let her make more money for the company. Because of that, she can’t ask for a high raise. What is she going to do then? We explained to her that her way of making more money for the company is not through selling products but to optimize the systems we currently have in place for office management. The better the office functions, the less time we spend on looking for files/documents. The less time we spend on looking for files/documents, the more time we have to find ways to keep optimizing how we function as a company.

If you’re in sales then the value you provide may come from the number of things you sell.

If you’re in engineering then perhaps you can provide value by optimizing the current system.

If you’re a shop employee then perhaps you can suggest a more efficient way of producing things.

If you’re a receptionist then maybe you can provide value simply by making the company’s guest feel welcomed.

The people we look up to, our boss’s favorite employee are exceptional at what they do because they found a way to provide value. Nobody understands the value you bring to the company as much as you do. You are responsible for creating your value. You have to be creative at communicating your value. If you’re having a tough time finding your value and thought about asking others for an answer, then you pretty much gave them the power to tell you how much you’re really worth. And if that’s the case, don’t complain if you were worth less than you thought you were.

If you have a more efficient way to communicate your value, please comment or send an e-mail to start a discussion.


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[Podcast] Seth Godin — Change Your Mind, Choose Your World & More Genius Advice

[Podcast] Helping Joe — Episode 34

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[Podcast] Helping Joe — Episode 39



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