Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 27 – the jobs and careers context 26

This is my 27th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-26.)

I began addressing a list of issues in Part 25 that all can and do arise at least occasionally throughout a work tenure with an employer, that I repeat here as a whole for purposes of smoother continuity of narrative in what is to follow:

1. Changes in tasks assigned, and resources that would at least nominally be available for them: timeline allowances and work hour requirements definitely included there,
2. Salary and overall compensation changes,
3. Overall longer-term workplace and job responsibility changes and constraints box issues as change might challenge or enable your reaching your goals there,
4. Promotions and lateral moves,
5. Dealing with difficult people,
6. And negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them. I add this example last on this list because navigating this type of challenge as effectively as possible, calls for skills in dealing with all of the other issues on this list and more, and with real emphasis on Plan B preparation and planning, and execution too, as touched upon in Part 23.

I have offered an at least a preliminary orienting response to Point 1 of that list, and its challenges in Part 25 and Part 26. My goal here is to turn to and address the above-repeated Point 2 now, separating out and separately addressing in it, a core aspect of a larger area of consideration that could perhaps fit just as easily into an overall Point 4 discussion, but that is Point 1-related too for what I would delve into here:

• Salaries and salary ranges as are more routinely set up and supported company-wide for specific jobs and specific job levels, as laid out according to the table of organization in place and as a matter of more standardized business-wide policy and practice.

Change, and certainly expansion of the set of work responsibilities that a hands-on employee or manager is now required to carry, can in fact quite arguably shift the job that they hold and are responsible for to what would arguably belong to a next level up job description-defined position there. That point most definitely applies where an employee of whatever level on the table of organization, is now required to take on and carry through on more extensive supervisory responsibilities for helping to manage less experienced “same level” colleagues, than their current job’s perhaps still-official description would call for. But this type of work shifting can also reach that point of change from increases in the diversity and complexity of new work required too. (Consider the possibility of a next level up, senior level position there, such as senior computer programmer, or senior accountant, if nothing else.)

Either way, these types of responsibilities shifts can at least in principle mean an employee facing them, now qualifying in principle for an officially recognized promotion and title advancement (as per Point 4’s issues.) But it is not at all uncommon for this type of work requirements shift to take place in businesses and business contexts where promotions per se, and the title and officially held position changes that they would involve, are not going to be allowed and as business-wide policy.

What I am setting up here in a Point 1 oriented, Point 2 context is a potential for real collision and disagreement, and a point of collision that is most likely to arise for the best hands-on employees and lower or mid-level managers at a business, who perform at the highest level at that place of employment, and who are more likely to see more work added, and more types of work added to their actual, day-to-day job description and regardless of whatever is on record for them more formally in the Personnel office as their job description in place. And that is where negotiations enter this Point 2 narrative, as I address it here.

First of all, what possibilities for accommodating change and for performance recognition could be available in this type of situation, at least in principle, even if some of them are not specifically going to be realistically possible for a given employer at least at a given time when this set of issues might come to a head? Think of that as a baseline starter question and think through the possibilities that it would raise through its answers, as inclusively and creatively as possible. And keep referring back to this starting point question, when and as a need for more inclusive consideration of the possibilities would prove to be of value.

Job title and position level changes comprise an obvious in-principle answer to that question, and one that would likely resolve this seeming impasse as that would open this high performer and their supervisor and theirs as well, to the possibilities of simply expanding salary-based compensation offered to match work actually required and performed. And this type of advancement would offer explicit recognition of what this business’ best performers specifically do professionally too, and in ways that would positively promote them both at their current job and as a career development step too. But as noted above, this type of resolution is not always going to be possible, so citing it as an option in a negotiations discussion can at times best be seen as raising a discardable negotiating point that would be set aside in order to gain more valuable for now – to the employee, concessions in return.

So what are some of the other points of negotiation that might be open to a hands-on employee or lower or mid-level manager if this one isn’t, that their supervisor and those higher up on the table of organization might be able to concede ground on? Addressing that question is where the real negotiations here will take place, provided that the employee seeking advancement along those alternative lines, understands the pressures and constraints that the people who they would negotiate with, face. And critically importantly here, that has to include their understanding something of the pressures imposed upon the people who they would directly negotiate with here, as created by the people who they report to who might not be at the negotiating table in person but whose decisions would shape what can happen there anyway.

Setting aside outright promotion per se, I begin addressing that second question and its possible answers, by noting that base salary and paycheck compensation comprises only one part of any employee’s overall compensation package, if they are eligible for essentially any non-salary benefits at all. This can mean negotiating for what are at least ostensibly just one time only performance bonuses for example, for reaching specific add-on work performance goals to at least some set and agreed to performance benchmark standards, and within specifically agreed to timeframes. It is not at all uncommon for bonus pay compensation to be handled on different lines of a business’ overall budget and completely separately from base pay considerations as such, so this can become an easy way out for avoiding the compensation range upper limits of a job title currently held, when promotion as such cannot be on the table and for whatever reason and when pushing past those upper allowed limits would force a promotion decision (e.g. when there is a business-wide freeze on title-based promotions until overall cash flow challenges faced by the business as a whole can be resolved, or because there is “no room at the next level up on the table of organization” for an advancement to it.)

• The primary point that I am raising here is one of flexibility and in both thinking through what you actually want and in how best to frame that when seeking to negotiate better terms for it, for yourself. Be flexible. Be creative. Know where the people who you would negotiate with can and cannot give ground. Know who they report to and who they have to gain agreement from for whatever they would agree to with you. And think and act in terms of what you can set aside and concede too, as desired goals (e.g. setting aside advancement to some specific new job title that you can argue in detail now fits your actual job held) so you can be in a stronger position to gain concessions and advancement in other directions that would hold value to you too.

And think through and understand both the short-term and longer-term consequences of the compromise agreements that you can arrive at here. Picking up again on my base pay versus bonus pay example as just noted above, if you seek out employment with a new business moving forward, they will primarily look to your base pay history in determining the salary range that they would offer you, and not to the fact that you might have been receiving bonus pay to supplement that, and even on what amounts to a regularly scheduled, frequent basis. Think of that fact as a longer-term career consideration that would or at least should accompany any more here and now job-level evaluation of consequences faced. I will return to the issues that I raise here, reframing them in a larger overall-life context when addressing Point 3 of the above list and make note of that here as further indication of how all of the points on that list interconnect.

Turning back yet again to the specific case in point negotiating option of base pay versus bonus pay, I am not arguing either for or against agreeing to a bonus approach for bypassing a business-wide imposition of base pay salary caps, and certainly as a matter of general principle. Increasing overall pay received through bonuses can in fact be a very good way to increase compensation, and certainly for outside consultants who come to face significant scope creep in what they would do on a job, as frequently happens. And it can offer real value to more standard in-house employees too. But think through and understand the issues here, setting aside more emotional considerations where possible.

I have already at least touched on a second possible resolution to the types of impasse that I raise here, in Part 26, when I mentioned support for further professional training as a means of increased overall compensation and performance recognition. And I add support for obtaining further licensure and certification to that too, that can be an outcome of that further training. This all has obvious longer-term career value as an option, as training and certification and licensure are all points of qualification that would explicitly go on any resume offered, and they would go towards meeting new work requirements as listed in a posted job description too. I add this negotiating option here as a single example of many possibilities that can be considered, for how these negotiations need not be limited to just direct consideration of title or cash compensation received.

I am going to continue this overall discussion as laid out in my above to-address list, in my next series installment where I will turn to consider Point 3 and its issues. And one of my core goals there will be to more explicitly expand out the range of issues that can and should be considered when negotiating overall compensation and recognition of work currently done, and I add when seeking opportunity from still higher level work opportunities and career step advancement too.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material.

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