What do you think you should hear when you do a better job than your peers of managing your budget and exceeding your goals? I did both and my boss told me that I was “cheap to keep.” That was the last straw. I knew I was a top performer and already knew that I was long being underpaid. I had not done anything about it. Hearing that insult made me finally take action.
I contacted Human Resources and asked how I could get my salary treatment addressed. At the time, I loved my job because I was working with some wonderful customers. My projects were interesting and I had a great deal of autonomy on my job. The Human Resources manager was very concerned that I was unhappy. Primarily it was because I was one of the few females and I was highly thought of. What she suggested was that I meet with a senior vice president of my company and he could address my concerns. I had enormous respect for him and looked forward to the meeting.
I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. Legal departments control most large organizations. In addition to the senior vice president, my boss also attended the meeting. We began a discussion of my salary treatment. I could see that this senior vice president was going to stick with the corporate line of “we value our employees and we pay fairly.” That sounded like the legal department, not him. I could see I wasn’t going to get anywhere. Then my manager added insult to injury. He said, “If you want to know how much you’re worth you can talk to a head hunter.” That hurt. I said, “I guess this meeting is over.” After the meeting, I was determined to do exactly that.
But, here’s where it got interesting. The senior vice president quickly followed me into the hallway. He was so shocked that one of his managers would say something so stupid. He said, “You know we have all these rules about salary treatment and I can’t address your situation because you got salary treatment within the last few months.” In fact I did. It was a paltry amount and it didn’t get me to where I needed to be. He acknowledged it privately. He asked me if I could just give him 6 months. He gave me his word that he would move mountains and get my situation resolved. He did.
Why am I writing about this now? I believe in the power of one. Even in large organizations, one person can change things. Just this week, I saw the power of one in action. I was outraged that President Obama didn’t pull his nomination of Timothy Geithner for Secretary of Treasury when he didn’t pay his taxes. I didn’t do anything about it. Then I was appalled that Tom Daschle didn’t pay his taxes either. I was angry that Obama didn’t pull his support. I was thinking that this would be business as usual in Washington. This time, I wrote an email to President Obama and expressed my outrage. The day after, it was announced that Daschle withdrew. Do you think it was my one email that made the difference? Maybe not, but that’s not the point.
This one letter that I wrote reminded me that in business there is also power in one. If you experience something that’s wrong, you can do something about it. It might not get resolved to your satisfaction. Then again, if you do nothing it definitely won’t. You have to stand up for yourself. I do believe there’s power in one. I hope you do, too.