it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1. “One of my favorite things about your site is that you not only provide realistic scripts, you often include insight into the most effective tone to use as well. For me, this translated into an $18K pay bump (!).

Backstory – while training a new male colleague I learned that he was making $6K more than me despite being a level below me. Before AAM, I wouldn’t have had any idea on how to handle this. Quietly seethe? Curse sexism? Confront leadership? Talk to a lawyer? My husband didn’t want me to make any waves since I have a great WFH job that pays extremely well. Yet it would’ve rankled me too much to stay silent so I reviewed your columns and gave HR a gift wrapped opportunity to do the right thing. Using a casual, positive, and “you couldn’t have known” email tone, I let HR know that I had recently become aware of the discrepancy and I assumed it wasn’t on anyone’s radar due to workloads and likely the caps on internal raises (I’ve been promoted a few times). I knew the company had a bucket of funds set aside for market adjustments, and would that possibly apply here? Not only did they give me triple what I initially flagged, my boss *commended* me for asking “exactly the right way” to make it easy for senior leadership to say yes! I’m dizzy with success and want to put this out there as an example of how to effectively advocate for yourself. Thank you for being such an incredible beacon of wisdom, encouragement, and hope and I promise to keep paying it forward!”

2. “Six and a half years ago we relocated while I was 6 months pregnant. At the time, my job, and most of the world, did not look kindly on remote work, so while they let me work remotely to transition out after our move, when I went on maternity leave, I also went out of a job. When it was time to go back to work, I wanted to work from home and so took a drastic pay cut and stepped back into a lower level role (from an Account Manager role to a Customer Service Rep role) since it allowed me a lot of flexibility and the ability to work remotely. Again, this was in 2015 so finding a fully remote job was like finding Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket and the low pay rate was worth the remote work set up.

Over the last six and a half years, as the small company grew from 8 people to about 60, I moved into a role where essentially my direct boss and I created our internal HR department. I was in charge of hiring, on and off boarding, internal process creation, employee systems management, and a bunch of other things. However, while my scope of work increased a lot, my pay rate did not. With small COL increases, I was making a bit less than $4 more an hour from the time I started.

Enter the pandemic, and remote work was no longer rare and hard to find. I started looking at what similar roles were paying in my area and realized just how underpaid I was. With a second child born in 2021 and mounting child care costs and other increased expenses, staying at my current rate was no longer realistic for our family, nor was I willing to be so underpaid anymore. I actually went to my company and asked for a raise to get me closer to market rate, but was told that the company had had a “flat year” and so nobody was getting raises. I understand the business side of this decision, but after six and a half years, I was frankly pretty offended and upset to see that there was no room and no consideration of all I had contributed to the company.

While I had not planned on making a change and was really just researching pay rates, being denied a raise made me apply to some jobs and was pleasantly surprised that I got a few interviews fairly quickly. I start my new job in a few weeks making almost $10k more a year than my previous role. This new role is narrower in scope but higher in volume – essentially doing one part of my previous job full time, for pretty much a 26% more a year. And I still get to work from home 3 days a week. No job is perfect, but I have learned from reading your blog to know your worth and fight for it. I am sad to leave a company and some team members that I really loved working with, and my direct boss is literally the best boss I have ever had. But, if the last few years have taught us anything about work, it is that no job is forever and no job is worth sacrificing your family and your financial future for.”

3. “My husband got laid off in August of 2020 due to COVID. He’s a champ, so he took whatever part-time work he could scrounge up to keep our family afloat while going back to school.

Meanwhile, on my recommendation, he read the advice on your site about cover letters. Thanks to your wisdom, he now has a full time job starting next Monday, making more than he ever has before.”

4. “I’m writing with a good news story that feels too good to be true. I just accepted an offer for my first full-time role in over 16 years! I have to keep reminding myself that they wouldn’t have notified their Board of my hire if they didn’t mean it.

On paper, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for many years. But that was something I did more out of necessity than desire, and I’ve always been restless in it. So while I was doing that I also did some writing, organized a few events, and sought out an informal “internship” that was during the few hours a week I could get childcare. For a couple years I had a very entry-level part-time job in my field of interest. I took a class that gave me some of the technical skills I needed. This was all spread out over several years, so it wasn’t as busy as it sounds.

Then – and this is the big thing – I volunteered to help launch a non-profit, and wound up leading that organization for several years. You know, in my spare time. But really, it WAS in my spare time. Sometimes that was at 5am, but it gave me meaningful work to do and complete control over my schedule. What I didn’t have was any kind of in-house mentorship, training – or a paycheck. It’s been time for me to move on for a while.

This is the 7th job I applied for, starting about 2-1/2 years ago. (COVID slowed me down quite a bit, and I’ve been picky in what I applied to.) Of those, I’ve had three interviews. This one I was asked to apply for by the hiring manager, who is one of the people I’ve been in meetings with over the years. I followed your resume and cover letter advice to a T, which was actually really hard. I had to spend a lot of time getting out of my own head and beating back feelings of inadequacy for having such a non-linear career path. I can’t prove it, but I really think the cover letters are what got me interviews – they let me explain why my trajectory made sense.

The role is adjacent to the field I’ve been working in, so there will be a learning curve – but I’ve done that before and am confident that I can take it on. I didn’t negotiate. The benefits are excellent and the pay is about 40% higher than the very best I thought I could realistically hope for, with plenty of room for growth. And I think I’m really going to enjoy it! This role will play to my strengths much better than what I’ve been doing, which is such a relief.

One thing I wanted to make sure to pass on to your readers is how absolutely crucial the people who I call door-openers have been in my journey. The opposite of gatekeepers, they’re the people who have said yes, who have invited me into the room, and who have passed opportunities on to me. Once I was there I had to represent myself well and do the work – but I couldn’t do that while shouting through the door. I’ve only had a few of those, but I can’t overstate how powerful their influence has been in my life.

Alison, I have a hard time believing that this is something I could have accomplished without the wisdom and guidance you’ve sent out into the world. I’m so grateful. Thank you.”

{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. AGD*

    So much wonderful news! Thanks to everyone and Alison for sharing.

    I also love “door-openers” as a term. Going to start using it myself!

    1. 30 Years in the Biz*

      I learned from the charity world the terms “doers, donors, and door-openers”. It seems like they apply to the business world too. All three can support the success of a charity, a business, or a person!

      1. LW#5*

        I wonder if I heard the term in that context at some point. It was powerful for me to realize that as often as we run into gatekeepers, there are people who are the opposite of that, too – and to aspire to be that person for others.

    1. SINE*

      Yes! LW1, would you be willing to share more about how you crafted your email? It seems like such a fine line to walk between “I’m wondering if this is something you can do” and “no, really, this is something you NEED to do” in terms of tone.

      1. lunchtime caller*

        Personally I think part of the key is that you can’t be doing the latter at all. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll respond well to “you need to do this” in any form–the LW instead provided more of a “you have no reason to say no (because we have X fund that can be allocated to it) and all the reason to say yes (because surely we would have done it already if only we had all realized)”. The “and I’ll leave if you don’t” is to be reserved for a later round if needed.

    2. Update #1*

      Hi! Yes happy to share a (lightly edited) version of the request:

      Hi [HR First Name],

      Hope you are feeling well – [insert an upbeat comment from a recent team meeting]! Do you have a moment coming up for a different question? I recently learned my Llama Groomer salary is around 6K lower than a Junior Llama Groomer male peer. Knowing Boss and Grandboss it’s probably:
      1) Not even remotely on their radar
      2) Related to the fact that I joined Company a few levels down and internal folks are usually capped in their annual increases

      I confess my ears perked up when you mentioned a budget for market adjustments and promotions. If that’s something you think would apply here, could you let me know the process? Alternatively, if I should inquire with Boss during our next 1:1, please just let me know. He knows I’m not the kind of flight risk that usually warrants a special salary adjustment (I love it here) but ‘tis the season and I’d be a terrible saleswoman to not at least make the ask!

      Hope you have a delightful weekend ahead .

      1. Sara without an H*

        Very well thought-out and worded. In my experience, if you give people the impression that you believe they’re good people who will do the right thing once they know what it is, you get better results than if you go in assuming they’re evil and out to get you. Congratulations!

        (Of course, if they really are evil and out to get you, that’s a completely different situation and requires a different script. Glad that wasn’t the case here.)

      2. Jean (just Jean)*

        Thank you! This is really helpful. As another commenter said, you give them all the reasons to say Yes–including being warm and friendly throughout (See: upbeat comment in opening sentence; “I love it here” in second paragraph; and cheerful signoff). It’s like assume positive intention, only better.

    3. Former Usher*

      This one was such a great update that I decided to skip the others for now and just enjoy the good feelings from reading the first update. What a fantastic outcome!

  2. AerospaceRedhead*

    #2, so by not giving you a raise, they will now most likely have to hire someone at a higher rate anyway.

    1. Sweet parakeet*

      I am hearing more and more about decisions like this in my network and it flabbergasts me. A friend supervises a small team of 4 very underpaid people (he coordinates their daily work and priorities but is not their manager and has no say in hiring/ firing/ pay decisions.) He’s been telling his boss for six months that they’re underpaid and they can go to Walmart and McDonald’s and earn $3/hr more, and that 1 particular team member was likely to leave if they didn’t increase wages. TWO of them quit over Christmas for better paying jobs. His boss is posting the openings at $2-4/hr more. My friend is internally SCREAMING at the fact that they passed up the chance to keep two experienced workers for the same rate.

      I’ve just gone through a change in my responsibilities that should bet me a promotion. I’m underpaid by $10-20k. My change was part of a big re-org and apparently all the execs pinkie swore that they wouldn’t give anyone an immediate promotion or raise as a result of the changes. I’ve been told they expect some turnover as part of the changes and they’ll evaluate raises and promotions eventually using the budget freed up by those departures. It was abundantly clear in the tone, that they did not care if I was part of the turnover or not. (The projects I’m taking on will determine our success post-reorg…my job is pretty f’ing crucial and I still have a first level manager title, I guess they like to gamble?)

      1. Sara without an H*

        Sweet parakeet, I hope you will update us soon with the news that you have a great new position and are giving your employer the absolute minimum notice.

    2. anonamama*

      Op #2 here. Knowing what I know about the company, chances are high that my workload will just be redistributed to my remaining teammates and nobody will be hired to replace me. Or, someone from another department will possibly be moved over, but probably not with any change in their pay.

      Being with the company as long as I was, I am pretty sure it was truly a budget decision. BUT. The truth is that most of the staff is immensely underpaid and while the “perk” of having a fully remote job made that an acceptable trade-off for years, the world has changed and I am pretty sure I am not the only one who will be moving on for higher-paying jobs in the near future.

  3. lunchtime caller*

    The first one is so useful! I know my partner spent the first few years of his career going “well if I’m right, people should just recognize it” without thinking that delivery mattered, and I feel like I see that POV a lot in situations like this regarding unequal treatment. That the workplace should make things right when you demand it, no matter how that demand comes. And while I agree that would be the ideal, one thing I always reminded him about and I think applies here is–what’s more important in this workplace situation? Having everyone recognize and acknowledge that you’re right? Or getting X result?

    1. Artemesia*

      Yes. No one cares about your baby needs. They care about the organization needs and their own needs — and it has to be framed that way.

      1. Alexander Graham Yell*

        Yes! I have wanted to move abroad for years and so when I saw the opportunity, I had a meeting with my boss – I went prepared with 2.5 pages of reasons it made *business sense* for this to happen. I didn’t need more than 1 (led with my strongest pitch), and I moved 4 weeks ago.

        Finding ways for your request to make business sense is the best tool in your toolkit for stuff like this. My boss still had to sell it to our CEO, and because I’d highlighted areas I felt it would help and a proven track record of doing exactly what I said I thought I could help with here made it much easier.

  4. Momma Bear*

    Love all these updates. I also took kind of a wander (though not for 16 years) and I agree with LW4 that all you need sometimes is one “door opener.” I hope that relaunch works out very well for you!

    1. Gingerbread Gnome*

      I love that phrase, and even more, all those who open doors! As someone with a very unconventional career path which included many moves for spouse’s career, over a decade as SAHM, and scads of volunteer work on top of post-graduate degrees it was so frustrating finding a full-time job. It was the great reference (who personally knew the owner) that encouraged them to give me a chance years ago. I’ve ended up rocking this job, and those I recommended for hire are doing great here also. I would like to encourage all hiring managers to take a close look at those who may not have followed traditional paths and give us a chance to shine.

      1. LW#4*

        Gingerbread Gnome, that’s a lot like my story too. And I agree completely, what’s on paper is such a small part of our stories.

  5. Colorado*

    Such great updates today! Alison – you have really shaped and changed lives of many people career-wise. You are a gem!

  6. Calvin B*

    Reading LW#1–I wonder how much money in raises Alison has been indirectly responsible for over the years. It’s got to be a ton, right? Hundreds of thousands? A million? More?

    Regardless, definitely something for Alison to be proud of.

    1. Sammy Keyes*

      This would be an amazing set of data to put together! I know that she’s responsible for at least $5k of my salary :)

      1. PhyllisB*

        I feel like she’s indirectly responsible for my daughter’s 50k raise. (Not at one job, by changing jobs.) She would ask me for advice on how to proceed, and I would channel my INNER ALISON and advice accordingly. Obviously it worked!!

        1. PhyllisB*

          Also, just think: if Alison got say a 1% commission from all the raises she’s been responsible for, she could retire to a tropical island somewhere!!

  7. Sammy Keyes*

    Love love love that first one! I was just thinking about how much I appreciate what I have learned about TONE from this site – it’s one thing to know what you need to ask for, but learning and teaching tone is so hard, and there are so few effective resources! That’s what makes AAM so special.

    1. Update #1*

      Exactly! People spend a lot of time looking for the right *words*, but the right *tone* is indistinguishable from magic!

  8. Artemesia*

    #1. Brilliant script. And such wise advice about HOW to frame a request. Years ago in a departmental re=org my unit got attached to another department and had to move. The chair didn’t re=org the department space to accommodate a new unit but just fit us into whatever little closet or crappy office was vacant. I went from a huge office with a conference table to a tiny nook of an office. and was seriously suffering a loss of esteem/dignity/status as well as space and was upset about it.

    My husband asks me if I had a solution before going to the chair. He told me that if a boss can’t easily meet a demand he has two choices: 1. feel bad or ‘2 hurt you. It is better to denigrate the unreasonable demander than have to fail at accommodating a reasonable request. This set me back as I was in full whiny ‘I’ve been cheated’ mode.

    I went to the chair with a focus on why I needed larger space to serve the needs he expected me to serve in the new set up. Total focus on productivity and the fact that I was doing work most people wanted done but didn’t want to do. He literally built me a new office by converted space allocated to other purposes. I ended up with a long skinny office with a ‘nest’ of computer, desk and files at one end and a small conference table at the other. It was perfect. I am sure if I had gone in complaining rather than framing it as a problem for us to solve for the good of the order, I would have just alienated him and not gotten what I wanted and needed.

    Always assume they of course want to meet your need and show them how they can. Your script is a perfect example of that.

  9. Rainy*

    What wonderful news, everyone. #5, what a lovely sentiment and term. I am hereby adopting it, with many thanks for such a perfect term.

  10. Falling Diphthong*

    I especially appreciate #1 on tone. It really helps to phrase things as “Hey, I figure you were unaware of this error, and would want to take Specific Step to rectify it” rather than “I call you out! Bad!”

    1. Really?*

      Textbook example on asking for what you want the right way. No accusations or unnecessary emotion brought into the discussion. Just a simple “Bringing this to your attention” works wonders.

  11. Up and Away*

    Alison, you’ve done so much to help so many people (myself included!). I hope you are feeling the love.

  12. Really?*

    For as much as I love the clueless bosses and co-workers from a bad sitcom cancelled mid season, these stories really make the work week worth it.

  13. SJ (they/them)*

    #1 I’m SO happy for you, and I hope you enjoy ribbing your husband about this for the rest of time.

  14. Bookworm*

    Always love to see the good news on Fridays. Thanks as usual to everyone for writing in and to Alison for posting these. :)

  15. Anon for this*

    Happy for all the LWs but #1 and #4 are so incredibly helpful and inspiring both! Thank you for sharing!

  16. Lynn*

    I had a mentor once tell me: “You can be right, or you can be effective.” I think about that ALL the time and it has been years!

    1. LPUK*

      I like this quote and will put it with my other favourite, from a long ago interview with a CEO whose name I can’t remember ‘its amazing how much you can get done if you don’t care about getting the credit for it’. I really found it to be true when I was working at a European role – encouraging my market contacts to take credit for what they achieved ( and talking them up to their bosses) allowed me to achieve far more of my agenda than I ever believed possible.

  17. allathian*

    I had my annual performance evaluation on Monday, and I got a raise! Yay! Only 1.5 percent, but I haven’t had a performance-based raise for years, for budgetary reasons. It’s a bit disheartening when you get lots of Exceeds Expectations, and everything at least Meets Expectations, and no raise because there’s no budget for it. So I’m happy.

    That said, I’m pretty sure everyone on my team got a raise, except maybe our most recent hires who’ve only been with us for a few months, because we’ve all done so well in spite of the panini.

    1. LPUK*

      I love the fact that even after 2 years of the Great Pandemic, autocorrect still thinks people want to say ‘panini’ instead!

  18. Mavis*

    Wonderful news all around!

    I appreciate LW1 sharing her email script. Concrete examples are so educational!

    In a similar vein, I was hoping LW4 could share some of her cover letters as well. So many people have „work“ histories like that, myself included. I’ve sort of come out of mine okay (thanks to some door openers and a substantial amount of privilege) but would love to see her examples and am betting others would, too.

  19. Sara without an H*

    The first two posts, I think, illustrate why organizations need to review their salary structures periodically. I spent my career in higher education, where “salary compression” is endemic and a real morale-killer. It is easy for a long-time employee, who was hired when the budget was meager, to be left behind unless somebody is paying attention.

  20. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    ” Using a casual, positive, and “you couldn’t have known” email tone, I let HR know that I had recently become aware of the discrepancy and I assumed it wasn’t on anyone’s radar due to workloads and likely the caps on internal raises (I’ve been promoted a few times). I knew the company had a bucket of funds set aside for market adjustments, and would that possibly apply here?”

    You did it the correct way – BUT – BUT – even though you knew of a slush fund to cover situations like yours, management might have turned tail and decided “let’s stick to our guns and not budge”. They did the right thing, to be sure, both from a moral and pragmatic stance.

    But those reading your happy event should know, not all managers are reasonable like OP#1’s crew, and they may end up forcing you to test your market value – and worse, they may STILL not negotiate when you resign.


    1. Update #1*

      Totally understand this perspective. It helped my case that I know both my Boss and Grandboss appreciate my work and don’t want to lose me. If they hadn’t budged at all (without a very very good explanation and a timeline for remedy) it would’ve been a real morale hit. If they’d shot me down immediately or been crappy about it that would’ve been very valuable information about their leadership or the broader organization…

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        You were both on the same page.

        You also both knew that something needed to be fised.

      2. LPUK*

        This happened to me at the start of my career. I found out that because I was an internal appointment – (graduate recruitment scheme on a path to buyer with training/coaching etc) I was getting paid less than the colleague in the next office who was two levels below me, but recruited from Marks and Spencers (store management, not buyer-trained) I raised this with my boss and her boss who agreed it was odd but didn’t seem inclined to do anything about it, so next time a recruiter called me I took their call and secured a role with a 40% pay rise. When I went in to see my boss’s boss in order to resign, she said that she had been working on getting me a pay rise of c10% ( which would not have covered the difference I originally brought to her attention) and I was able to reply that I’d actually found a company who believed I was worth significantly more – and I was.

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