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Readers’ Forum: How to make more money

Discussion: March 2, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

The Q&A in today’s newsletter is a biggie: What are the hot spots in your job and your career that present opportunities for you to goose up your compensation? And, when you encounter such an opportunity, what should you do?

This is the topic of a new book I’m writing, and I’d like your help.

In the newsletter I discuss two hot spots where you can influence how a company will pay you: when you approach a company for a job and when you have a performance review. Note that, before you can ask to be paid more, you’ve got to do lots of advance work and be ready to demonstrate how you will make more money for a company.

Now I’ll tell you about the book I’m working on. I’m outlining a lot of hot spots where I believe there are distinct opportunities for talented people to boost what they get paid. No single one is going to make or break your compensation level, but if you recognize these hot spots and capitalize on them, then you should see an overall boost in your earnings.

Why am I telling you this? Because I need your advice and insight. I think many of these hot spots are revealed when you tell me about obstacles and hurdles you face as you work toward greater success in your work.

  • What situations have you encountered where you think you could have boosted your pay, but you blew it (or didn’t exploit the opportunity as fully as possible)?
  • What obstacles do employers create that you believe limit your pay artificially or unreasonably?
  • In what ways have you gotten stuck in salary negotiations?
  • Which compensation topics mess with your mind, leaving you feeling like you have no control over the outcome?
  • Is there an experience that keeps nagging at you, where you think you might have influenced the outcome for the better but didn’t?
  • What do you want to know about making more money?

This is a big topic. I don’t pretend to have my hands around it, but since it comes up a lot on Ask The Headhunter, I’m determined to tackle it in a more organized way. I want to know, What do you want to know?

Most people pick their jobs for reasons other than money. They want to work with a certain product or technology or they want to work in a certain culture. But let’s face it: We all work to make money so we can take care of those we love and to enjoy a good quality of life. If you want to stand out in your field, one of they key measures is how you get paid for the work you do. Knowing how to make as much money as you can is an important skill that should pay off for you and for your employer.

Please read today’s newsletter, then tell me what kinds of hot spots you’ve encountered—and how you handled them. How can I help you boost your compensation?

[Update: Reader Svetla posed an interesting challenge in the comments section below. It’s so provocative that I think it merits a reply in a new posting. Here it is: 6 scenarios about making more money.]

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36 Comments
  1. There is much discusssion on the so-called “new normal” in salary ranges. Half of what I was making before I was severed is considered the new normal. I’ve seen outlines of job requirements of what could be considered decriptions of my former senior mid-manager position for eight dollars an hour; seen ads begging for people with turn-around skills for ten dollars an hour. My favorite is a live and in person comment made by a member of my work-search roundtable (these people are way more educated and capable than my former role) “I saw a posting offering 12 dollars an hour for a supervisory position–I wouldn’t supervise 12 12-year-olds for 12 bucks an hour!”
    You really do get what you pay for, and the profit sector would do well to re-read decades-old well-established sociological studies on the relationship between IQ and income.
    Smart people will accept improper compensation only for only a very short short time, basically for only as long as it takes to market their true value, regardless of how the economy sucks.
    Curiously, a non-profit organization is offering my exact former position for what I call the “acceptable new normal”, way below what I was making, but dead-on for what I considere fair, livable compensation for my skills and experience. I’m confident that their review process is similar.

  2. Two situations I have encountered that left me updating my resume: The first was a job taken in the last third of a year. The company was very upfront about pro-rating the annual bonus and I had no issues with that. However, when the annual reviews came they also pro-rated the raise. That was completely unexpected and to be honest, offensive. Somehow they were okay with that even though I had the highest possible evaluations.
    The second situation also deals with reviews: The company grading scale went from one to five. Our manager told us that no one ever gets fives and not to ever put them in for our self-appraisal grades. When the departments were reorganized it turns out that fives WERE acceptable and expected and our entire team got penalized because we now had a documented history of not even thinking that we had “significantly exceeded expectations”. Our raises and bonuses had been affected because the evaluation numbers were used in calculating the percentages, which our group never knew. Basically, because of a lack of knowledge about how the employee evaluations worked and how each company handled compensation a lot of compensation was left on the table.

  3. I have faced two issues which have prevented me from getting as much of a raise (or promotion) as I believe I deserved:

    1. Budget Limits — Oftentimes the quoted reason for the level of salaries or raises is the budget limit for the department.

    2. Working in a Cost Center — There are some positions that are revenue generating positions, there are other positions or entire departments that are so called “cost centers,” i.e they do not directly contribute to the generation of revenues or reduction of costs — they are fixed costs for the business. For example, in my previous position I was working as a Market Intelligence Manager, researching the buy market, the supply market, the competition and its best practices, and the technology and macroeconomic environment that affects how we do our business. Based on this information, I generated ideas and suggestions about how the company could be better at what it does, provide different products and services, or go into new lines of business or markets. I was providing decision support. Other people (the C suite) made decisions based on info provided by me and other sources/advice/opinions. Yet a third group of people implemented these decisions and created revenue for the organization. I see a direct link between the ideas and suggestions I give and the implemented solutions, new products/services, new markets entered, competitive moves made, etc. My boss, the CEO himself, did not see my position this way. For him I was a fixed cost, not a innovator who generates ideas that benefit the company’s business and bottom line (that’s how I saw my role and that’s how I acted). No amount of persuasion and making links between ideas I came up with and implemented projects that generate revenue made it through to my boss. He and the C suite took credit for all the ideas and all the successes. May be I sold the ideas too well and they accepted them as their own :) May be his idea of my role and job description was a lot more restricted than how I saw it and preformed it (I subscribe to the idea that the person makes the position, not vice versa). May be my boss was a jerk for failing to recognize the great work I did, far and beyond what the position calls for and what was expected of me — and as a result lost one of his best people. May be he was just stingy (the person they hired to replace me was paid $10,000 less than me). Either way it was always so painful to talk about a raise. I always felt like I was entering a boxing ring. And at the end of the round, I was bruised (emotionally) and unsatisfied.

    So if you have any ideas on how to justify a raise in the following situations, I would be internally grateful:
    1. A set budget for your position or department
    2. There is no direct link between your work and the bottom line
    3. Your boss is unable to make the link between your work and the bottom line
    4. You are giving more than the organization asks you to
    5. Your boss refuses to give you credit for the work you have done
    6. Your boss is stingy (happens often with entrepreneurial businesses)

    Thank you! Looking forward to your ideas in your newsletter and your book!

    Best wishes,

    Svetla

  4. I’ve shared my story with you before in an email, so I won’t bore you with all the details again, but in my situation it depended on the philosophy of the company. In a nutshell, I did as you suggested. I went directly to my boss, the CIO, and told him I wanted a new job. I outlined what I thought this job should entail, how it would work, how it would benefit the company, my team and myself (and him), and why I was the guy for the job. Everyone agreed from the CEO to HR to him. My failure in this process was to assume that they would do what they said they would do, an error that I will not make again. Ultimately, I ended up with all the work and no promotion and no increase in salary.

    Although in this particular situation I blame myself for not pushing all the way and my boss for some personal agendas, overall this is the philosophy of the company. They are too short-sighted and are very inflexible and not very creative when it comes to HR issues. An example would be: “Well, you’ve reached the top of your salary scale and although you’ve been a boon to the company this year I can’t give you a raise and although you probably deserve a bonus, you’re not getting one…sorry”.

    In our state we have a state-wide “award” for “best places to work”. Our HR director has been trying to get us on this list for the past couple of years. I’m sure she is totally amazed and surprised that each year we don’t make it. I’m not.

  5. @Walter

    I am staggered by the advertisements I see for jobs paying $10.00 to $14.00 an hour with lists of attributes, experience, abilities, tasks and expectations worth a minimum of $50,000 a year. I actually reply to some of these ads and ask them if they are kidding.

    I pay attention to them, because one of my interests is improving communities by paying living wages (by upgrading the minimum-wage positions). For those who haven’t heard of Richard Florida, check his work out.

  6. @dcawvive

    It is long past due for performance reviews to be banned forever.

    How on earth did this archaic, dysfunctional, school-room practice ever make its way into the workplace? It is an extremely costly process that keeps HR personnel in unnecessary jobs and causes untold and long-term damage to organizations, including bitterness, distrust, an end to co-operation, and turnover.

    Whatever variation they take: two-way reviews, self-reviews, goal reviews (never followed up), etc., the negative aftermath is the same.

    Reviews are most often conducted by managers who have absolutely no training in how to conduct them and who are often incompetent themselves. In view of their subjective nature, excellent employees often get less-than-satisfactory reviews, while their 9 to 5 counterparts get excellent reviews.

    Organizations that prioritize on-going communication and positive feedback, briefing and debriefing, working to individual strengths, and co-operation do not have to resort to this unfortunate and ugly process.

    In the background of performance reviews are two more ugly processes: salary grids and political correctness, so it becomes impossible for the person who has gone the extra mile to be rewarded with any salary increase that might jump the grid level of his/her shortest-distance counterparts.

  7. @Svetla

    Revenue-producing employees always make more money than cost-centre employees. That makes business sense, and I believe it is fair. The answer: become a revenue-producing employee.

  8. @Jon

    Your experience is a real bummer. Difficult situation. Suggesting hugely beneficial projects, but refusing to do them until your company has signed on the increased salary dotted line.

  9. How do you handle those unquantifiable aspects to compensation? For example, where I work allows for a great deal of flexibility in the work schedule which I’m not sure how that should translate into compensation. Or is that perk really rather common and not worth giving so much weight?

    I’m curious to know how much do you disclose of how hard you are working. For example, if you are doing just enough to get by but by no means throwing yourself in your work, how do you communicate that? Saying that you have poor performance seems like a recipe for disaster, but shouldn’t there be a way to ask for how well do others see your work and what they think?

  10. this is how not to ask for a review and raise. do not assume the boss is a mensch like you are when he says he can’t get around to it until september. this is a red flag. either he’s a poor manager, tone-deaf on the human side or plain cheap.

    like in the world of other business transactions, time is the big killer of deals. don’t let these things drag on. insist on the review within a reasonable time,say,two weeks of your anniversary. if the jerk says he can’t get around to it, tell him that is unsatisfactory and you have to go with the inference that he’s just not that into you. tell him you’re not into unrequited love and dedication and that you have no choice but to act on your distress.

    this may not work on a real jerk, but it will help in most situations. proactiveness without being obnoxious about it signals you’re a winner. never be defensive or apologetic. you have a right to this, morally if not legally.

    another thing, learned the hard way. never accept an employer’s excuse that he’s hitting hard times so he has to defer a raise or needs you to forgo salary for a few weeks. this is a neon red flag. cost me $35k and a lawsuit against a bankrupt company.

  11. The organization I work for has a standard pay rate and schedule for pay increases, we all get a raise in pay at the same time and it is based on the financial performance of the oranizational (I think it is capped around 3%) and because salary caps are adjusted to reflect industry rates, sometimes this pay increase includes a percentage of that adjustment. This works fine except that every year there is uncertainty and it is hard to increase individual performance in this kind of structure.

    But to answer your question, for me earning more money has meant changing jobs, usually within the same organization. I scan the job listings to see what various jobs pay and I compare that to my skills and experience and if I don’t have those skills, I try to get them.

    In other words, whatever job I am in, I try to stay informed about salary and workforce trends and I try to build my resume accordingly. This serves to keep employment options open and also helps to enrich my current job so my employer tends to want to keep me around.

    I would add that it isn’t only about the employer. I’ve been unemployed and underemployed so I try to save money when I can, reduce debt, work a second job, etc. It’s good to not be completely dependent on a job.

  12. Affecting the ability to make more money is competition from cheap labor.

    Two flavors I see this in California include:
    1. The computer industry — you’ll see this from outsourcing to H-1B’s being paid the lowest acceptable salary within a range

    2. The construction industry — immigrants from other countries (most notably Mexico) are willing to work for considerably less.

    No, I’m not anti-immigrant, I’m actually the offspring of 2 immigrants who came to this country with the mindset of improving one’s lot in life. That also includes not selling oneself short, compensation-wise, especially so you can weather the downturns.

  13. When I came into the civilian sector from the military, the first thing that struck me was how friggin’ poorly run the companies were that I worked for. “The Market” eventually agreed, and 5 out of 6 of the biotechnology companies I worked for disappeared.

    Turning around the “budget issues” objection is a good idea (turning around all objections is a good idea, overall). If they say, “No raises. Our budget is limited,” possible responses are:

    Really? Do we have enough money to keep going through the end of the year? Should I start negotiating for a severance package instead?

    What are the other priorities and how did they get decided upon? If I could show that by doing this work that I propose for the raise I request I can bring in even more money for the company than these other ideas, would you be ready and willing ot advocate for me?

    No? Then why am I here? or

    Yes? Then let’s get started.

    If you haven’t been in sales, I suggest you find a few successful salespeople to take to lunch and grill extensively about their opinions of high quality compensation schemes. An example is sales quota prizes, such as trips. Those trips obviously pay for themselves and much, much more, through the increased production the salesforce churns out pursuing the prize.

    If you are trying to show the link between your performance and profits for the company, you might learn some things from how salespeople are compensated that can help you show the connection. However, I include the caveat that most sales commission plans are total b.s. and leave the salesepeople themselves wondering about the link between their results and their pay.

    Another benefit of talking with salespeople is to find out how a company is doing. If the salesforce feels like the products have to be shoved down the clients’ throat, then stay away from that company – they may not last long, and they may be unethical anyway. If it’s your own sales team that feels poorly about the products, you will know either to move on, or to expand your role into more specifically providing products the sales team can be proud of. IMO.

    As for Svetla’s situation – that is exactly what I mean about poorly managed companies. What the heck is a “cost center”? As Nick points out (at least the way I read his work) and the way I interpret free-market capitalism – nothing should be a “cost center.” If a business leader cannot show exactly how every dollar going out is going to yield at least 10% coming back – they are wasting their time in business. They should just stay home and put the money into an index fund.

  14. @dcawvive: How the heck does a company prorate a RAISE?? If you’re worth $X during the next year based on your performance (that’s what a review and raise are about), and they give you 1/3 of the raise for next year because you were there for only 1/3 of last year, should you perform 1/3 as well as the review suggested?? Gimme a break. This sounds like advice the company bought from an HR consultant gone berserk. Or maybe it’s one who got fired from HR and has returned for revenge…

  15. @Svetla: Sorry to offer a reductionist analysis, but your boss is a jerk and an idiot and not worth working for.

    I’ll try to offer some short suggestions for your list. But this is too long for a comment… check my new post on the blog, right after this one, for my suggestions. Your list makes a good new post!

  16. The tooting of horns is costly. Recording ones contributions doesn’t add value – it steals focus from core business needs. Time is lost recording, while critical needs of the company languish. Good management knows how their employees are performing and their employees are not forced to excessively manage themselves. Trading job security for personal remuneration is a poor strategy, in the long run. It may make you personally rich, but it’s blood money, stolen at the expense of co-workers and customers.

  17. Well managed companies with good communications understand that payroll/compensation standards are for the guidance of management. A payroll range determined by HR ‘studies’ for a particular job is for the guidance of management; it should never be a strait jacket.
    Somehow otherwise well managed companies have let themselves become convinced that the HR department should manage compensation – nonsense – they should administer compensation.Their ranges for a particular job should be a guide. The intelligent line manager should decide on the compensation. It’s like hiring and firing; HR administers hiring and firing – they do not manage it.

  18. @Jon: Your story prompts me to think that if I were a hiring manager trying to hire, I’d scour the people in these comments for candidates…

  19. @Neva: Are personnel jockeys out there wetting their pants? They should be.

    **Organizations that prioritize on-going communication and positive feedback, briefing and debriefing, working to individual strengths, and co-operation do not have to resort to this unfortunate and ugly process.

    In the background of performance reviews are two more ugly processes: salary grids and political correctness, so it becomes impossible for the person who has gone the extra mile to be rewarded with any salary increase that might jump the grid level of his/her shortest-distance counterparts.**

    In an economy like this, we talk about discontinuous change. Companies will do anything to survive. Some will pay little to hire desperate job hunters. Others will break with convention and start paying people for the profit they produce, and profits will leap as a result. Watch. You’ll know it’s happening when the HR experts start screaming bloody murder…

  20. @JB King: I refer to that as “funny money.” Forms of compensation that don’t involve cash. Like flex time. Being around good people. Getting assignments you like. Enjoying being at work. Being treated with respect. Count your funny money and add it up. It may not be worth a higher salary elsewhere.

    As for finding out how others view your work, I think Neva hits the nail on the head. Good bosses don’t need to do reviews because they’re in constant communication with their employees. And the employees are encouraged to talk with one another. A simple roundtable once a week – order pizza for everyone – where all can talk about the work, ask advice, share ideas, is worth all the performance reviews known to man.

  21. @John H. Steinberg: I hope bosses realize there are more like you on the way. Treating people badly worked while companies provided a guarantee of a job… people tolerated it because they valued the job security. But with that security gone, crappy treatment of employees yields GOODBYE. Do companies get what has happened now that “loyalty” is history in many places?

  22. @Michael E: Is that what they taught you in the military? Then bring all the troops back home NOW because business needs them more than any war does… You GET it, Buddy. Your whole post is chock full of wake-up calls and great tips. Thanks for posting!

    Half the solution to the compensation problem is an honest assessment of a company. As you point out, in general these outfits are not run very well. That’s a tip-off about how to deal with them (or stay away from them).

    Your tips about talking to salespeople: Good headhunters find candidates by talking to salespeople at the company they are trying to recruit FROM, for exactly the reasons you cite. Salespeople are the canaries in the coal mine. They’ll show you where the bad air is, and the good air, too.

  23. Nick,

    Thank you for the kind words.

    Employers really do need to pay more attention to veterans when looking for good talent. Not only for the technical training, but for the experience in having to think quickly to, sometimes literally, survive. Even so, warfighting takes up such a minor part of our lives (if ever). The rest of our duty covers the same things as in civilian business, such as defining objectives and achieving them without knowing exactly how much of what resources will be available, evaluating performance in the real world as well has having to figure out how to implement an arcane evaluation formula, and dealing with people above and below you in the chain of command who range from completely inept to being the best people on the planet you could ever work with.

  24. Two things I come up against when trying to hire or promote:

    1. Radford indexes: These things are killers when HR uses them. They determine the job range (well, sometimes the hiring manager has some influence but sometimes not) and then the salary range is set. And they won’t go to the top of the range because it “caps” the employee so that they can’t get a raise in that job scale. Interesting tool when used perhaps as a guide but completely detrimental when used as the law.

    2. Capping salary increases. HR says that there are arbitrary limits on the maximum salary. This is particularly *useful* when dealing with internal transfers. Let’s say you have a star you want to move into your team. They make $80k, the position range is $100k-$120k. HR says you can only give them a 10% raise so the maximum you can offer this star is $88k when you know they could make $110k on the street and any outside candidate you hire would cost $110 not to mention recruiting costs and time. STOOOOPID.

    Kevin

  25. This question is part of a much bigger picture, beyond even the ken of
    The Headhunter.

    Where is US labor in an era of mass globalization, information technology that drives productivity but vacuums jobs away, Wall St. pushing relentlessly for higher profits/minimizing costs and no unions?. Answer: up the creek.

    In my former life as a lawyer, we had a receptionist and a bevy of secretaries who worked on the early wordprocessors that were a big jump over the old typewriters but nothing compared to today’s computers. So there were many more secretaries We had messengers who delivered documents.

    Where are these people now? Working at Target? Given up on looking for employment so not officially unemployed but idle nonetheless.

    I find it astounding that working people aren’t demonstrating in the streets. This is a sea change and I can’t imagine how we will have full employment again, at best massive under-employment in retail stores for those lucky enough to score that.

    It is tragic and, yes, the media now focusses on it, but nobody that I know of is addressing it with a big vision. Yes, there are visions of green jobs but I think the problem is bigger than that.

    It raises social issues (bogeyman of the Right) about whether all that corporate value created by technology needs to be redistributed (horrors!) in part to salve the pain of those of us who are brushed aside by these huge transformations. This might mean higher taxes (horrors!).

    Then again, it implies a lot of talent that could be employed for the common good in social enterprises, non-profits etc. if the govt. could somehow subsidize those independent sector actors to employ more of us.

    We’re talking about a kind of revolution here. My belief is that if these economic conditions prevailed in most European countries, there’d be a political upheaval. (There, at least, there is a bigger safety net and it is not uncommon to retire a 55-year old with more than 26 weeks of unemployment comp.) But we are a pretty passive people.

    I’m not aware of any political movement to address this radical proposition. Are you?

  26. @Michael

    Coming from the military you have probably read “Flawless Execution” by James D. Murphy, previously an American F-15 fighter pilot, whose organization, Afterburner, teaches companies to manage their businesses the way fighter pilots run their missions by strategizing, planning, briefing, executing, debriefing and following up. One of the best how-to business books I have ever read.

    @Nick

    Thanks for your comment. Love your newsletter and blog.

  27. I’d like to comment on external or offshore competition. I have two scenarios.
    My husband has been hired as a contractor and he has trained his replacements in India to write the software he writes. The company hired the Indian software developers because the are cheaper. In three cases, they built the software so badly that the managers had to rehire my husband to re-write the software and have it tested and delivered on time. Yet they finally released him from his contract and put the product back to the Indians, because they are cheaper. I think they should hire my husband because he has demonstrated that he is the only person in the WORLD who can deliver this software with quality on time.

    In my own case, my company has hired 4 senior people to write the software. We architected the software so that the volume of transactions quintupled in two years time. Yet, when I go on interviews, everyone asks me if we follow an agile process. Are you kidding? There are 4 of us, we’ve been here for years, we know the job cold and we talk and ask questions when we need to.

  28. As a consultant in the past, I was asked if I would work for shares in a new company my work was halping to launch. I said yes, but only once; it was an expensive learning process. If anyone asks the the same arrangement again, I might say yes IF I have the option at any time to cash in the shares for cash at the value of my work, to be set before I begin work, and of course in writing.

  29. @Neva

    Sounds great. I’ll go find it. Thank you.

  30. Wow, quite a bit of enlightening stuff. You mentioned “process” and Kevin hit on it a bit. And you could write a chapter on this alone so an answer in a blog is hard.
    Keying off the way you addressed it hot spots, and addressing worst case here’s some things to consider.
    In Hot Spot/scenario #1 you’re right to suggest a networking detour. If the person is serious about the company and doing that detective work, a key piece of info they should try to devine, is the salary structure and related processes. As you noted the networking route isn’t easy, and it isn’t always easy to find this out as in some companies it’s treated like Top Secret stuff. What you’d like to know is what the company’s process is. Someone mentioned pay ranges. You will want to know that if you can find out along with the related job structures. e.g. Manager of X I, Manager of X II Director of X etc. With that you can see what your targeted Hiring Manager has to work with. You can see where you fall. If there are ranges there are quartiles which is how Managers/HR manages your comp, your raises, your promos relative to what Quartile you sit in. You are right about calling it a Hot Spot..as it’s critically important to know where you will fall entering the system. You don’t want to come in under the range, or in the 4th Quartile. (you should assume the deeper you penetrate into the range, the less of a raise your boss can give you. Once you are in the system, again assuming worse case, it may be very hard for your boss to properly position you even when he/she wants to. So in Nick’s example, the hiring manager’s buddies are likely to be managers as well & know how the system works, the ranges etc. and what you want is them to recommend you to the hiring manager for a particular spot, a job level that effects a promo, placing you in a favorable quartile. Of course there are exceptions, but frankly managers want to avoid them, it brings attention to them their department, and exceptions are silver bullet favors, you use them wisely. Without this homework when you get to a comp discussion what the manager is doing is seeing if it workable..where will you fall? We like to hire people in below the half point of the range as we know we’re likely to have the best wiggle room for your subsequent salary actions. Above half means I’m creating a problem…unless I can bring you in at a higher level job and justify it. So again in sum, if you’re a manager you likely know this, if not, you need to understand how pay systems work so you can develop a game plan, that’s workable. Hold this thought
    Scenario #2. As Nick said, the performance review is not a hot spot. With exceptions it’s generally all over but the shouting. It’s that budget thing people mentioned a # of time. Part of the above process that’s relevant here and you should also know..is when the company gives raises. Worse case are the F1000 type companies. They either effect appraisals and raises for EVERYONE once a year on some quarter, or they do it on one’s anniversary date (of last salary action..e.g. new hire, promo). that’s when it’s doled out. What you need to understand is that part of the budgeting process. salary actions are budgeted, right down to the individual, with foreknowledge of where one sits in the quartile PREDICTING performance. Companies often start budgeting in Q3 and finish in Q4 of the previous year. Once done, worse case the salary plan is cast in concrete. If your boss predicted you’d do what is expected (i.e. average) not outstanding etc. when review time comes around, that’s what you’re getting. What if you do better than predicted? Can it be changed? Yes but with tradeoffs. The Manager is working to a total for his/her department. If he/she changes you to a higher than budgeted pay…someone is going to get less than budgeted pay. Also if he/she doesn’t want to do that & wants to support you, they can go to their boss for an exception/deviation to the plan…but their boss would have to make the aforementioned tradeoff somewhere else, No one likes to do this…which is why someone tells you sorry…budget issue etc.
    So a part of the process it is wise to know is the budget process, particularly when does the boss have to turn in the budget, and what fiscal year is used. Generally it’s calendar year. but not always, a company’s financial year can run from Jul 1 through Jun. When you know when that budget has to be done…your hot spot is 3 months prior to that. That’s when you take Nick’s advise and lay out your plan. If you are convincing, the boss will build your pitch into the budget. In short, don’t put your boss in the position of trying to change a budget, get what you want into the budget, your promo, your raise etc. Then you have to deliver. If you don’t, what is easy is to do less than budgeted. then the Review becomes your cold spot, where you get less and someone gets more.
    This is an over simplification, as there are all kinds of scenarios but this is close enough to address the topic. A good manager will explain the system to you. But as I said sometimes it’s secretive. But in my experience it’s just more simple, people are interested, and hence haven’t a clue.

  31. A few thoughts on this. The first is that if you buy the idea that employees should no longer think of themselves as employees … they should consider themselves businesses selling services to their employers … then there are lessons to be learned from how to run a business (more on this subject here: http://www.weblog.keepthejointrunning.com/?p=3369):

    1. Don’t focus on your bottom line (the compensation you want). Focus on your business model — the buttons you push and levers you pull that turn into your bottom line when you do them well.

    Businesses that focus too hard on the bottom line end up manipulating the numbers instead of earning them. Employees face a similar challenge, only it’s psychological — by placing too much attention on what they earn they pay too little attention to the value they should be creating, and to the other factors that make a job worth having.

    2. The more an employee earns, and the harder the employee negotiates to get it, the bigger the lens is on the microscope now focused on the employee’s performance. Push real hard and your employer will demand superstar performance every day.

    3. Don’t nickel-and-dime your “customer.” Businesses work on relationships. Relationships trade on favors — not everything is a nickel charged for a nickel’s worth of value. In my consulting firm we perform favors for clients as often as we can, because we want them to think of us first for the next piece of real work they need.

    Similarly, employees should want their employers to think of them first for the next big opportunity.

  32. @Kevin Payne: Thanks for the manager’s perspective on this. Is there a member of a board of directors out there reading what Kevin is saying?? Companies routinely (and by policy) hamper managers from hiring and keeping the best people. Why? If you’re gonna claim “people are our most important asset,” then why devalue that asset? It’s nuts. The compensation model ain’t working, folks.

  33. @Michael E: Check the cover story of the current Newsweek – it’s all about how key US corporations are scarfing up the best people in the military. Haven’t read the article yet, but a skim suggests there are some useful nuggets you can probably use.

  34. @My buddy Bob Lewis over at Keep the Joint Running: All great points from a guy who advises companies on putting good talent to work. But I’d be happy to get most people just THINKING about how the work they do contributes to the bottom line… THEN they can finesse how they present it to their employer. ;-) To everyone else, if you “get it” and understand how what you do contributes to a company’s success, Bob’s suggestions about where to go from there are excellent.

  35. @Michael E: Check the current Fortune mag (Mar 22 cover date). Cover story is about corporations that have glommed onto vets for management jobs. Pretty good article!

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