Dear J.T. & Dale: I got hired right out of college, just before the pandemic, and have worked remotely. During that time, I was never given a raise. I felt grateful for a job. Now that things are opening back up, and we’re going back to the office, the company hired three entry-level people for my role. We went to lunch, and I found out they’re all making more than me! I am furious. I want to walk in and scream at my boss and quit. How do I go and demand more money and back pay? I worked so hard through the pandemic, how can he not even think to give me more money? – Connor
DALE: No, no, don’t be angry. This is a moment to rejoice. The labor economics have shifted, and your job is now worth more than it used to be. This is like hearing the condo next to yours just sold for $20K more than you paid a year ago. While there’s no chance of getting “back pay” – in our condo example, that would be like the people who sold you a condo a year ago coming back to you and saying they now want the $20K you didn’t give them – you can help your employer readjust your salary. Thanks to your newbie co-workers, you know that the company knows that things have changed.
J.T.: First, I’m glad that you realize that being angry won’t solve the situation. What I would do is put together a list of the things you’ve accomplished for the company. Map out the additional activities that you took on beyond what the original job description entailed. Try to quantify how you have saved or made the company money. Then set a meeting with your boss and go over this list, making it clear that you have provided a lot of value. At which point you can ask what it is going to take for you to receive a raise, because you understand that the new hires are making more than you. This gives the employer the chance to clarify what’s going on and keep the conversation about your earning potential. The key is to calmly and objectively talk about the facts and discuss what it’s going to take for you to get a raise. If they can’t justify giving you one, then you know that they don’t value your work as much as you thought, and it might be time to move on.
Dear J.T. & Dale: We just got back into the office after the pandemic. Apparently in that time, my boss has become a vegan and is completely against meat of any kind. Yesterday, I was microwaving my lunch, and she came out and said she could smell meat and that it was disgusting, and then she sent out an email telling everyone that they can no longer cook meat in the microwave. She owns the company so I guess she can do what she wants, but is there anything I could say? How absolutely ridiculous is this? – Andrea
DALE: What can you say? Nothing. That’s right: Here we have another shut-your-piehole situation. Clearly your boss has the fervor of a new convert, and she’s unlikely to be yielding in any way, at least for now.
J.T.: Yes, as you said, she owns the company so she can set the rules. But that doesn’t mean doing nothing. Do you have a lunch break? I would start taking your lunch outside the office. Go someplace every time. Eventually, when she realizes you don’t eat in the office anymore and asks why, you can explain that you were following her policy and didn’t want to offend her. If everyone is leaving at lunch, perhaps she’ll start to realize new policy wasn’t the best idea.
DALE: Eating out sounds expensive, and reducing your productivity rarely works out well. Instead, just adjust. What if the office didn’t have a microwave? Could you make it through the day with a ham sammy and an apple? Sure. Don’t make it hard.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2021 by King Features Syndicate Inc.