We like to have our value validated by others. Feeling appreciated, being rewarded, feeling like our ideas have made a difference, all bring a sense of satisfaction. When we’ve done well and we’re not recognized, it’s like a punch in the gut. It can be hard to stand up for ourselves and do it firmly yet gracefully. Here's a story of one woman who did it well.
“It was a tough year in our business and bonuses would be slim. It was my first year working for this company. It was also the year of a big product launch for my new employer. I tackled the goal of getting the new product out and sold the first major deal for that product. I was recognized at the end of the year with a clock and an award for my work.
“At bonus time, my boss called me in to tell me about my bonus. I had believed him to be my advocate. After all he had just aggressively pursued hiring me. ‘You know that clock you received? Well, that’s your bonus this year.’ I knew things were tight that year but I had to ask, ‘Is everyone else in the same boat? No bonuses?’ ‘Well, not exactly. You know Jim [not his real name]. He has a wife and kids so we’re allocating most of the departmental bonus to him.’
“Yep. That’s what he said. Hard to believe, right? At the time I was the sole income provider in my family, too, but that seemed not to matter.”
Here's how she responded.
Stay Calm, Stand Firm: She did not lose control of her emotions. She was furious, hurt, shocked. It was so unfair! Yet she remained calm and stuffed her fury in her gut so she could reply rationally and clearly.
Make the Business Case: “I find that unacceptable. I was recognized for my work above that of others, you sought me out from another institution, I have delivered what you have asked, and you have awarded no bonus. What’s more, you have allocated bonuses on a basis unrelated to business results.” The facts were pretty compelling and the fact that she stated them so clearly put her boss on his heels.
Be Clear on Where to Ask: She knew she’d get nothing by relying on her boss to advocate for her. He didn’t advocate strong enough during the bonus process, why would he now? She chose to escalate the issue. She asked where in the organization the decision had been made, and asked to speak to each person in that decision process. She didn’t stop requesting upward audiences until she was satisfied. She received admissions of less than adequate decision making, stated regrets, and a written apology.
The decision didn't change, yet had she not pursued it she would have remained unknown and easily overlooked in the future. She did not want to start her career being a “doormat” with a new employer.
Don’t Use Inflammatory Language: In each case she held a firm, rational and respectful conversation stating her case and asking for an explanation of their decision. She did not mention bias, discrimination or legal action. At this point, those statements would not have served her well.
Know Where You Can Negotiate: Some decisions, once made, are extremely difficult to get changed. This was not a decision that would be overturned easily. To push it further would cause harm to her longer term objectives. Shortly thereafter she presented a proposal for financial support for her MBA, which was very important to her career objectives. It was approved without hesitation. Was it a direct result? We'll never know for sure, but it was a decision made by the same people in a budget category where they had more flexibility.
Know What It’s Worth To You: It’s important to know how much political capital you are willing to expend. In this case, my friend knew that establishing her reputation, receiving recognition and future support of the MBA were more important than the immediate bonus money.
If you'd like to enhance your ability to advocate for yourself, sign up for The Art of Recognition workshop on April 6 at Pink Petro's HQ. Click here to register: https://www.pinkpetro.com/events/the-art-of-recognition