The Vine: January 28, 2009
I hope Agent Weiss is reading today — it's her birthday. Have a good one, lady (don't deface any forts with nail polish unless you call me first).
This past summer, I got laid off from my dream job.Thanks to the shitty economy, the only thing I could find in my field was a position in a small, family-owned business for less than my previous salary.When the offer came in, it was only $.50 less an hour than my hourly rate at the job I lost, so I counted myself lucky to have found something so quickly, negotiated a 90-day review with my new boss (VP of my department and the boss's daughter) to get that $0.50 back if I can prove I'm worth it, and went to work.
Now that I've been at this job for awhile, some things are coming to light that I didn't realize going in.This company does not pay annual bonuses, which my old job did, so that's an additional $2,000 a year I've lost on top of the small hourly difference.Also, since it's a small company, they only carry "catastrophe" health insurance for their employees — meaning that, because I don't want to pay everything out-of-pocket until I spend multiple thousands of dollars, I've had to join my husband's health insurance, which costs us $160 a month more than my HMO did at my previous job.So, if you factor in everything, it's quite the pay cut I've taken.
Finally (and most disturbing), I've heard rumours that the owners have been very stingy with raises over the past couple of years, although they have no trouble spending lavishly on themselves on business trips, which they then charge to the company.
But the thing is, I kind of love the job so far.My input and work product are praised relentlessly every day, and after only a short time, I feel like I've really proven myself to be an asset to their business.My last job had great people and terrific pay and benefits, but if I'm truly honest with myself, it had been professionally unfulfilling for awhile by the time I left.
So my question is this: how do I go back to my boss and say, "Look, I'm doing a great job for you, and I know we discussed that $0.50 raise, but now that I've thought about it, you really need to give me much more than that to be competitive with my previous salary"?Do I have any right to say that, seeing as how I did not leave that previous job voluntarily (although it was not for cause, as New Employer knows)?Do I go in armed with charts and graphs and politely say, "Pay me what I'm worth or I start looking for something else"?Do I just take my promised $0.50, wait until the annual review next year and keep hoping that those rumors I keep hearing about how no one has gotten a raise in years are lies?
Or do I just forget all the aggro and start looking again now (because it may well take me a damn long time to find something better than the current situation)?
I'm currently leaning more towards the charts-and-graphs solution, but I'm just not sure.The behavior I've observed from the owners doesn't fit the general stinginess accusation I've been hearing around the office, but I have literally heard it from EVERYONE else who works there. In light of that, I want to be prepared for the worst.
Sars, I know you have no trouble being up-front about expectations and are also really good at being diplomatic, so tell me — how would you handle this?Would you start setting expectations now, or wait until more time has passed and the review is a little closer?I just want to make sure I'm doing the right thing, and I can't think of anyone better equipped than you to tell me how to politely demand what I'm worth.
Thanks in advance for your input!
Praise is great, but it don't pay the bills
Dear No, It Sure Doesn't,
Before you call a meeting, figure out what you want from it — and what you are willing to do if you don't get what you want, because in this economy, renegotiating your salary before the scheduled review when you have less than a year with the company is not what I'd call a slam dunk.Will you quit?Will you threaten to?Will that work?Because if that bluff gets called, you'll have to walk.Can you justify quitting, over salary terms that you agreed to?
This is the thing: you took the job knowing the pay and knowing the benefits situation.Your boss is not unaware, I imagine, that s/he's paying you less than you used to make, but it's not really a boss's job to talk prospective employees out of taking a pay cut; that's a decision the employee has to make.And…you made it.
Here's the other thing: it seems like your primary motivation here is stuff you've heard secondhand about the size of the raises.I'm not saying the grapevine at work has bad information, but that doesn't automatically mean you'll get screwed, and in any case, if there's a system in place, with annual reviews at set times, your boss is going to wonder why you're wasting his/her time with a salary discussion if it's not time for your review…unless you go in there all "I'm told you screw us with the salary bumps," which for obvious reasons I wouldn't recommend
I'm not unsympathetic to you, here — you want more money (as we all do), you want to avoid getting walked on (ditto), you're just now realizing you may be getting less than you bargained for, and I feel you.But you like the job, you do it really well, you don't get that gritchy feeling in your stomach on Sunday nights knowing you have to go back to That Place, and it doesn't sound like you have to sit in the dark eating beans from the can; you have enough money to get by.So, I think you should reconsider trying to change the terms, at least right now.If the raise does turn out to be some dicky little thing, you should take a hard line; chart-'n'-graph it up.But for now, this is fine print your boss correctly assumed you'd take responsibility for reading.
Unless you're really willing to quit over it, hold your water 'til the annual review.
A consignment shop recently opened up in my town. It has become my new favorite store — before this, my options were super-pricy boutiques or K-mart.
However, the last time I was there, while I was in the dressing room, some of the employees started gossiping about another employee, the owner's daughter, taking stuff from the store but getting mad at one of them for doing so. The girl behind the cash register said, "The only reason I work here is because we get first pick when the stuff comes in, and first pick when the stuff goes out" (or something very close to that).
Now, I recently consigned some stuff to the store, and I remember thinking that the clause in the consigning contract that, if the clothes don't get sold in eight weeks they go to charity and you don't have the option of getting them back, was possibly sketchy because they could just tell you stuff went to charity when it was sold. Especially since you don't get any kind of receipt from the charity (which would be nice, if only for tax purposes). I know that's not how the consignment shop in my home town works.
Also, I had wondered about the stuff that was priced really high, since there was some stuff on the sale rack that was over $100 — I felt like it wasn't selling because it was priced too high, not because people didn't want it, and that it was unfortunate that the stuff going to charity would be some of the most expensive stuff in the store. However, the way the store employees were talking, it sounded like they were taking some of the stuff that didn't sell instead of giving it to charity. I didn't sign on for that — and I feel like when the employees are initially pricing stuff, they have an incentive for pricing it too high so that it won't sell and they'll get it for free. I don't mind them getting first pick of stuff in the store; I do mind not getting paid for my clothes.
I don't know what to do — I don't want to stop shopping there. I'm leaning towards continuing to shop there but not consigning anymore, but I feel bad for the other people consigning if I'm interpreting correctly what the employees said. I was also thinking of trying to get in touch with the owner and asking her if there was any kind of employee discount, and asking her about what I overheard if what she told me didn't jive with what the employees said. Any suggestions?
Consigned but not resigned
I don't think this is an uncommon ploy on the part of retail employees.It's not terribly ethical, but if you've ever worked retail, you'll remember that, between the sucky pay and the sucky customers, certain sucky behavior on your own part starts to seem justified after a while.In other words, if the staff is pricing clothing up so that nobody buys it and they can take it, that isn't right.Nor is it surprising.Nor is it going to stop.
I don't think you have a responsibility to your fellow consigners or anything, but you might want to call the owner up and say, "Look, I overheard this conversation, I've noticed a few things that seem a little sketchy, and I'm thinking about not consigning with you guys anymore because of them," and see what, if any, explanation is forthcoming.
But I doubt much will change at the store, frankly.Again, not saying it's right, but retail owners/managers often make their peace with the staff cherry-picking the merch, kind of, because otherwise they have to police it, blah blah.The charity set-up is a little bit hinky, in my opinion, and you should have a more explicit agreement and more transparency with that, but if the owner's all, "Well, you know, wah wah thanks for your comments," just stop consigning there, and advise any friends not to consign there either.
I have an internet etiquette question that may force me to come to grips with the fact that I just might be an insufferable snob, but if that's the case I'm ready to hear it.
I work in the craft industry, which is a tiny niche industry in the world at large, but one with quite a following. Years ago I was working on a fairly public project and developed a little bit of an internet celebrity. A very little bit. And exclusively within the crafting world. I was a medium-sized fish in a small eddy within a large pond and I never had any delusions that anything was different.
And yet even being a medium-sized fish in my small corner of the world, I had to deal with, well gosh, I just don't know of a way to say it without revealing my potential snobbishness, but, starfuckers. People who wanted to associate with someone they think is popular, people who were hoping to ride my non-existent coattails, people who wanted to go to their next Stitch and Bitch and say, "So and so just emailed me the other day…" I wasn't weirded out by the nice average commenter, but the commenter that really wanted a relationship based on what they thought they knew about me when I didn't know anything about them. It wasn't reciprocal.
Time goes by, I'm no longer so visible in that world, I'm now nobody anyone has ever heard of. I've been blogging half-heartedly for years, but over the past year I've really dedicated myself to it and I have a decent-sized readership. And there are a lot of other bloggers, some of whom happen to be really popular bloggers with big readerships, within my crafting community that I'd like to reach out to and be bloggy friends with. But those early experiences kind of skeeved me out and I don't want to be a starfucker.
I figured that you'd know better than anybody. Once you've reached a certain level of success on a blog, is it possible for someone to break through and be your friend, or past a certain point do you stick pretty close to the people you've known for a while, and commenters are more like fans? Does it help if the emailer trying to be your friend has a good blog with a decent readership to vouch for them? So that a record of them exists for you to read through to put you both at the same level of vulnerability?
Maybe I'm sensitive to my own snobbishness because I work in a hobby industry which, by definition, features a lot of hobby bloggers who don't take kindly to being looked down on, but there is a difference between blogs. How do you find your colleagues online? I'd really like to make some friends in this internet community since I don't have a lot of crafters that live close by, and while I enjoy emailing with people of all skill levels, I'd really like to make some friendships with people who are professionals in the industry like me.
Look Who Thinks She's So Big
You're talking about two different relationships, I think — friends, and colleagues — but let me answer your questions in order and then come back to that thought.
It's still possible for someone to "break through."A funny email or a good conversation at a con, whatever starts a friendship anyway, it's not like those things don't "work" on me anymore.The issue at this point is really more about the finite number of hours in a day, so if I don't make as many friends through TN, it's not about TN or that I consider myself above that now.I'm just overextended generally.
Whether a reader has his/her own blog really has nothing to do with whether I decide to become friends with them; again, it's largely a time issue.I think some readers do reach out hoping that we can form more of a relationship, and it doesn't always happen; I know what you mean, about how sometimes it feels like they know everything about you and then you have to sort of interview them to catch up, but that doesn't really bother me.Many many people know details about my pets that even I have forgotten, but you know, I've had a website since God was a child.
From the other side, I do admire some writers and bloggers, but I have a horror of being a pest, so if the shoe is on the other foot, I send an email that says I dig their stuff, and then it's up to them.I don't love feeling like I'm being courted for traffic or any of that, and I religiously avoid any perception that I'm doing that myself; sometimes the object and I become colleagues, or chat via Linked In, or what have you, but sometimes not, and that's okay.Everyone's different; some bloggers like to feel desirable in that way, others find it kind of cynically icky, and it's hard to read the room on the internet sometimes, but it depends on what you want from the relationship.
All of this is kind of abstract and vague, but I think you're asking how to reach out to prospective colleagues, so after all that blathering: why not email other crafters you'd like to have a relationship with?Introduce yourself, tell them you like their work, and maybe talk about some specifics you'd hoped to discuss with a like-minded artisan — something like that.
Don't overthink it; if you want to try to make a connection, try it, and if it doesn't happen, move on to the next thing.Let's put it this way: I wouldn't be overthinking it on the other end of the interaction.Either I'd feel a connection (…hee, it's like I'm on The Bachelor) and I'd write back in depth, or I wouldn't have time, or I wouldn't be into it and I'd dash off a short and cheery response, but don't worry about people sitting around thinking you're an ass for making the effort.Most people won't, and those who do, to hell with them.
One last thing: I hope you turn up in the comments and get specific about which area of hobbying you're in.Maybe a fellow reader is right on your wavelength.
Tags: etiquette grammar retail the fam workplace