This month our regular contributor Ask A Manager's Alison Green does an "Ask Me Anything" session. We put out the call for any and all of your workplace questions and concerns, and asked Alison to share her expertise. Below is a summary of her answers.
How do I ask for a raise, when I've been in my position three years and am taking on more responsibilities, without seeming greedy or entitled?
It's perfectly appropriate to ask for your salary to be revisited. It's a very normal thing to do and it can be pretty straightforward. I think sometimes people think they'll have to do some big presentation with a PowerPoint and really make the case for it. Generally you don't have to do that. It can be pretty brief. You know, you can ask for a meeting with your boss, say that you've been taking on more responsibilities, the level of contributions that you make has been increasing, and you'd like to talk about adjusting your salary to reflect it. Your boss is not likely to think this is an outrageous request or to respond as if you're being greedy or entitled. To your boss, if your boss is even semi-reasonable, this is a pretty routine business conversation.
And then when is it appropriate to ask for another raise?
To some extent it depends on the salary practices in your office. But as a general default rule if it's been more than a year and you are contributing at a higher level than you were a year ago, you can go ahead and ask.
How do I convince the HR department of my firm — located in a different state — to let me offer potential hires in my state a better entry-level salary?
The fact that no one will agree to that wage should be a pretty convincing sign. But if that's not working, providing real data may help. Do wage surveys of what similar jobs in your area pay, ask candidates what pay they're looking for, and keep track of that. Track the number of your offers that get turned down. Some industry groups do nationwide salary surveys broken down by geography that you can buy. So if you have a trade group that you can consult, they may have data you can use, too. So I would say be really clear about all of these facts to your HR people. See if that gets you anywhere. And if it doesn't, ask what they suggest you do about the fact that no one will accept your offers.
What can someone who has been released from prison or is on parole do to increase the chances of getting a job, assuming they're qualified for a position and assuming that the reason for their incarceration is not related to the position for which they're applying?
This can be really tough. There are a lot of great nonprofit organizations that will work with people with criminal records and help them with job placement. It can also help to almost do a reset: to get into a vocational training program or do some sort of schooling which will help you develop a track record of good work. It'll give you something on your resume. And it'll help you build your network of references, which is really important because the more people you have who will vouch for you and give you personal recommendations, the easier this will be. And actually for that reason another thing to think about is volunteering. And I'd say when it comes to interviewing, the best thing to do is to be open and honest about the conviction and be able to talk about how you've changed, if that's something an employer is likely to be concerned about.
What can I do when a very religious co-worker prays at her desk and wants to talk about religion, and that makes me uncomfortable?
So this is tricky. The praying at her desk and the wanting to talk about her faith with others are two different issues. Employers don't have to allow someone to proselytize to someone who doesn't want to hear it, and in fact they might actually have a legal obligation to prevent it if people feel harassed by unwanted religious talk. So with that part of that you can start by telling the co-worker that you don't want to discuss religion at work. And if they continue to push it, at that point let your employer know what's going on and that it's unwelcome. With praying at her desk, in many cases the employer might need to allow that, unless it's creating a disruption. That's something you can bring up with the manager. If it's just that the subject matter is making you uncomfortable you can still bring that up, but it might be harder for the employer to intervene. So with that piece of it, it actually may be easier to ask about sitting elsewhere or even just consider headphones if the manager seems uneasy about intervening.
What do I do about a male co-worker who says "I love you" in a non-romantic but still disturbing way?
So the person who wrote in has a co-worker who she says is generally a nice guy, except that he keeps casually saying, "I love you" all the time. So she'll tell him that she's going to send him a report and he'll respond with, "Great! I love you!" or he'll come into her office and he'll say, "Hello, love of my life!" She says she's confident that there isn't a romantic undertone to it but that he's clearly doing it when he wants something from her, and she's uncomfortable in particular because he only says it to women, never to men. I think she can be pretty straightforward about [dealing with] it. The next time he says it she could say something like, "Hey, all the love talk is a bit much. Can you take it down a notch?" Or, you know, "I know it's not your intention but the love talk makes me uncomfortable. Thanks for understanding." He might think that she's taking it too seriously but that's OK as long as he stops saying it to her. Although if he does push back I think at that point it's worth saying, "You know, I've never heard you say it to a man, and that alone makes me not want you to say it to me."
What about when I accidentally say, "OK, love you, bye!" on professional phone calls or voicemails! What should I do?
You're not alone. I've heard other people report that. I've also heard from younger employees who accidentally call their boss "mom" or "dad," which is mortifying. I think in most cases, laugh it off! People understand that it's not a real declaration of love, that your voice is sort of on autopilot. Would I call back and leave a whole separate message addressing it? Maybe. If only to give yourself peace of mind so that you're not wondering and worrying what they might think.
Listen to the full interview by clicking the media player above.
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