should extra duties equal more pay?

by Ask a Manager on May 11, 2009

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A reader writes:

I am currently a secretary, with a degree in computer engineering. My employer now wants me to be the back-up I.T. person in the office, which is not a part of a support staff position. Is it unprofessional to expect or to ask to be compensated for this addition of extra duties? Can you please tell me the best way to ask for compensation and the appropriate time to ask?

Yes to the first, no to the second.

My longer answer to this is over at U.S. News & World Report today. Please check it out here.

{ 24 comments }

HRD May 11, 2009 at 8:20 pm

This is called recession proofing. Take it on, use it going forward, but for now don’t ask for a pay rise.

Anonymous May 11, 2009 at 10:13 pm

I have to completely disagree. Alison Green is completely off-base here.

People get hired to do a specific job. This person was hired to do secretarial work. Her pay is based on her role as secretary, regardless of the type of degree she possesses.

Sure, it is expected that she may be asked to occasionally perform tasks somewhat outside the role of secretary. However, those should be infrequent. And, they should not be too far from the skillset required for a secretary.

To hire her for secretarial work and then ask her to perform IT duties without the corresponding IT pay is unfairly taking advantage of her skills and her situation. Heck, if they’re going to do that, what’s to stop them from replacing all their IT workers with “secretaries”? Absolutely nothing. Just because we are in a recession, that does not give companies the right to mistreat employees.

If her company wants her to perform the duties of backup IT person, then they need to acknowledge that by officially changing her duties, her title, and her pay.

George Guajardo May 11, 2009 at 10:47 pm

Looks like you got some resistance on this one. I think the disagreement comes from what should happen, rather than what is permissible.

I can’t speak to employment law, but I suspect there may be some collective bargaining issues here. If support staff is classified as exempt and is doing non-exempt stuff, Houston might have a problem.

No mistake, having someone do work that would otherwise cost them more is pretty shady. However, the employee is not obliged to do the work. She is probably an at will employee. She can leave whenever she wants.

The employee could really see this as a growth opportunity. It seldom knocks twice!

Mary-Ann Andrews January 4, 2014 at 4:03 am

Growth opportunity? Sure, your stress grows, but your wallet doesn’t. Say it with cash! I would not throw around words like “at will employee”. Obviously, this person does not want to leave their employment that’s why they are seeking your advice. It’s easy enough to say “leave whenever she wants”. Of course she knows that, and you’re not being helpful at all. I would say, depending on the percentage of IT work she does, she should consider a reclassification with pay for the work that she does.

HRD May 12, 2009 at 7:06 am

I think GG makes a good point, there is a difference between what should happen and what does happen.

The reality is though that unemployment is increasing and there are many people out there who would probably do the job for the same pay. Thats the economics of the situation.

I’m not saying its right, just that its reality.

BB May 12, 2009 at 4:58 pm

I have to completely disagree with the Anonymous poster who said, “I have to completely disagree.”

I can attest to this being a growth opportunity as several people have mentioned – I was an Analyst for a small consulting firm while also going to grad school for an MBA and when our Finance person left, I was asked if I wanted to help fill that gap.

I gladly accepted, but I wasn’t offered more pay and didn’t ask for it. Turns out I was better at that job than what I was originally hired for, and although I had to leave (on good terms) to “move up”, I couldn’t have done that without the experience I gained.

Most companies want to hire a person to do for them what the person is already doing for someone else. In the case of the “administrative/technical” original poster, if he or she takes on the new responsibilities, they’ll be much more likely to be eventually get a new position as the higher-paid technical role (whether internally or externally), and they’d be able to count the additional months/years as experience on their resume.

Anonymous May 12, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Someone with a Computer Engineering degree is overqualified for a Backup IT and, in fact, most IT positions. This is not a “growth” opportunity for this employee because of that fact.

No, this is simply one example of a company taking advantage of an employee.

BB May 12, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Guessing the two Anonymous comments are from the same person, but either way…

~ If the company IS taking advantage of the employee and the employee doesn’t like it, the employee is free to leave.

~ Merely HAVING a Computer Engineering degree does not automatically make ANYONE qualified for an IT position, much less OVERQUALIFIED. Few companies will hire someone with a degree and no experience except possibly to an ENTRY-LEVEL position.

If the OP’s current job isn’t something that was taken to get by, either they couldn’t get a job in IT yet (perhaps due to lack of experience!) or the Admin job paid more…

Susan May 12, 2009 at 7:53 pm

I would go ahead and take care of the IT requests without asking for compensation. How do you know that at some time in the future your employer or manager will not consider offering you a chance to switch into IT instead of secretarial work? Maybe your employer’s current IT employee isn’t up to the task, and this is a chance to expand your opportunities.

My suggestion is to continue helping with the extra IT items and let it go for awhile. After your manager/employer is comfortable with you doing IT or you’ve taken over more responsibilities in IT, maybe you could even suggest a possible switch. You could present it as an opportunity for your employer, not just yourself. At the very worst, your employer will never pay you more or expand your career opportunities, and you’ll move on either when the economic situation is better or you are ready. You’ll be able to list these extra IT jobs on your resume and show what a valuable and awesome employee you are by being able to simultaneously solve IT problems and serve well as a secretary.

Anonymous May 12, 2009 at 10:10 pm

I have to agree with Alison. To me this doesn’t sound like anything more than a request to pitch in once in a while when the usual IT person is out. So it wouldn’t be appropriate to request additional compensation at the outset. It should go on the self-evaluation for the next performance review and then, if it does turn out to be taking up a lot of time/effort, it might be worth asking for a raise and/or change in title.

If the person is taking over someone else’s job responsibility completely, though (say, due to s/he leaving) then it may be worth addressing this outside the normal review cycle if it is a large additional burden.

Amy May 13, 2009 at 12:26 am

If I were given more pay each time I was given an additional duty, I’d be a millionaire! Organizations change, technology changes, and job duties regularly evolve. Although my job title hasn’t changed in 19 years, my duties have. Employees(hopefully) get annual merit increases to reflect that they’ve become more efficient at their jobs and are taking on more responsibilities and duties. Now if the job is REALLY changing (as opposed to “evolving”) that’s a different scenario. In my opinion, being asked to be a backup IT person doesn’t fall within that category. In my office, we have a several admin people who do “backup” IT work; they have good skills in the area, and are enthusiastic about helping out where needed (and find it to be a good break from some of their more mundane tasks). None have asked for a raise over and above their regular annual increases (which, due to the economy, have become pretty darn small, unfortunately).

Anonymous May 13, 2009 at 2:23 am

“Employees(hopefully) get annual merit increases to reflect that they’ve become more efficient at their jobs and are taking on more responsibilities and duties.”

Yes to the first, no to the second. Merit increases are intended to reward good performance within one’s existing job responsibilities.

To the extent the job responsibilities change, at the next review those should be reflected in a modified job description and the employee should be moved to a higher title and pay grade when the added responsibilities justify it.

Dan McCarthy May 13, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Having read all the comments, Im still with Alison. One of the things I like about this blog is it doesnt recite HR policy and the way things should work it reflects the way things really work.
As a manager, Id find it obnoxious if my employee asked for a raise for doing something outside of their job description.
I also tired to put myself in the secretarys shoes:
Im a mid-level manager. Im asked to be back-up VP (fill in for my manager at meetings, take on a few on his responsibilities). Its higher grade work, I think I can do it, would enjoy it, and it would be a heck of a development opportunity. Id be flattered and jump at that opportunity. If Im being asked to do these kinds of things on a regular basis, and I perform well and learn, then the rewards will come.

Anonymous May 14, 2009 at 4:58 pm

I definitely agree that extra duties should equal more pay, but that’s what *should* happen.

In this economy, the employers hold the cards and they know it. This is basic economics. You might as well see this as an opportunity to increase your job skill set, and then use that as a springboard to something else when the time arrives.

Also, most CE/EE folks aren’t even remotely qualified for IT. Why you might ask? Working in IT utilizes a completely different skill set. This requires mostly working with upgrades, maintenance, system administration, databases, and of course dealing with people. That’s a far cry from designing circuits and microchips.

Matt Turner July 2, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I took on the additional IT work, looking at it as an opportunity to increase my value. I regularly run around fixing and helping people who are having related issues. I was hired as the engineering drafting designer at this company, and now do it by myself, as well as do it for the sister company in the UK, according to both company’s production schedules.
What taking on the additional role of IT support did for me, was provide constant interruption, constant struggle, the realization of how little anyone else knew of computers or how to fix issues, and I have been doing it for about six years. Since mgmt is happy receiving free work, they are completely adverse to acknowledgement for it. They play the “ignorant” role, to maintain their obviously cheap fiscal policy.

So, in short, I took on the added duties, performed very well at it, provided additional value, and yet, as expected, mgmt completely negates its thru ignorance of its value.
It has become a complete waste of my time.

Jamie July 2, 2012 at 4:16 pm

I can see why you’re frustrated – but those are skills you can parlay into a larger salary somewhere else.

Ask a Manager July 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Agreed with Jamie. It’s about building your reputation so that you have options — including going somewhere else that will pay you better.

Mike October 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm

If these duties are now going to be expected then your job has changed and you should receive compenstion for this. I work for a Law Firm and I see that clients are charged for everything (printing, copying, faxing, etc), why would they expect their employees not to ask for more pay for more work? BB your statement “If the company IS taking advantage of the employee and the employee doesn’t like it, the employee is free to leave” is not true they are not free to leave if they have no other job available. This sounds a lot like “let them eat cake”

Ann2013 July 12, 2013 at 1:32 pm

I agree..

Matt Turner April 23, 2013 at 2:55 pm

The way the system at this company is set up seems archaic. The whole concept of a yearly evaluation or review has been stopped. There has not been a review at this company for any employee in fifteen years. When you think you need a raise, it is completely up to you to go ask this sole proprietor. He knows nothing about your job, its function, its market value, and if he “did” you would never be able to count in the integrity to play into the assessment. He knows it would deman more money so playing the ignorant card is cheaper. I just saw another shop guy threaten to quit. He was making more money on side jobs doing construction stuff. The owner of the company gave him a promotion to shop supervisor, and is now paying him around 11K more per year than I earn.
This guy has never touched a computer in any capacity for the company.

I dont know what I am doing here. I am 41 and feel like just ending it. The pressures of working like this, to keep a roof over my head and “maintain bills” has become no life at all. It seems that it would be such a relief to just give up, and not be around to have to worry about it. I cant fight these guys. Although their intellect and capacity maxes out at the level of “oat farmer”, they are arrogant, and consider every word out of their mouths golden. They might as well have saved themselves the behind the doors meetings, and just helped themselves to what is in my pantry.

Ann2013 July 12, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I understand your pain…

Matt Turner April 23, 2013 at 3:06 pm

A few points to add to the above post:
1.) Owner of company selects his favorite out of the company. To qualify for “favorite” you had to be able to restore classic cars. It has nothing to do with business, but the owner has several classic cars he wants to restore, so he picked the guy in the shop who could do it. Now that guy has gone from shop supervisor, to production manager, to operations manager, and his salary has gone up 60%.

The extra roles I took on, and in ten years my salary has gone up POINT ONE SIX percent.

This “Favorite” of the owner, who is now operations manager, now assumes his role endows him with the same years of experience at what I do to be able to sit behind closed doors with the owner and minimize and dismiss the value of what I do. Having never performed any of the tasks at my job himself, somehow, his position grants him the arrogance and authority to support the negative and dismissive responses from the owner, behind closed doors, without me there to support my assertion.

The story for no more money, went from there being nothing to doing what I do, to there not being enough to do, of what I do… so how can you argue with that?
I am trying to expect integrity and professionalism, and all I get is back handed smear tactics and dismissive acknowledgment..

On top of everything… to be considered so stupid of a person, as to not recognize the treachery going on… just grinds my fking flint..

Ann2013 July 12, 2013 at 1:29 pm

So..what if you are a low paying employee who at will take on extra work with the mindframe of cross training, but keep getting duties added to you and no pay..I even put together a Career Ladder proposal, which got turned down. A lot of people retired in my department and of course job duties was handed down to 3 other employess. Took that on with arms wide-open…Already being overworked and not even making 30,000 annually..We got a new boss we hate, one out of the remaining 3 employees left which the employee loved the job..but still in the company, .So the employee who left -duties got divided between the 2 remaining employees…So much freaking work…What I am trying to say I guess is when will it stop? How can an employee stand up for themselves without the option to always leave..even though that may be the only option. so much invested in this company..it was like my home away from home. I am not asking for much, who really does right..but for real, just to be compensted fairly for the work that I am doing, which the person before me who retired got paid pretty dam good..How can one be good enough to do the job that a Master degree holder have, but can’t get the pay…sorry for ranting..

Matt Turner November 4, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Our company just bought a small mfr company in canada. They hired a young 20 something to so some design work up there.
They are paying him 14 dollars more per hour.
So it turns out that there is no rhyme or reason to the owners’ issuance of value to a job. I hate my life, I hate my work, I hate that I am now 42 and going NO WHERE. Going NO WHERE because people here lack integrity and act like crooks. I dont know what to do now…. Keep on showing up I guess. As of now, I dont have a future. I currently realize what a loser I am, having trusted others.

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