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Get The Know How To Get Ahead

By Carrie Bebermeyer, Columbian Missourian – 04/11/2000 – 12:00am

Communicating with your boss about job performance, asking for a raise, or bringing up a complaint can be uncomfortable prospects. If you approach each situation as a thoughtful, planned career move, however, you can have confidence when you present your case, experts say.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you think you deserve. Some employees, especially women, don’t want to appear too aggressive. Sue Fox, the author of “Etiquette for Dummies and Business Etiquette For Dummies,” said that you are not being rude by asking for a raise.

“It’s okay to hear no,” Fox said. “At least you find out the reason.” It’s not egotistic or rude to praise your accomplishments in a work evaluation, she said.

Fox also said to avoid undermining your comments and questions.

“Always feel like you deserve an answer,” Fox said. “Don’t say, ‘I know this is a stupid question,’ or ‘I’m sorry to have to ask you this.'”


Many people don’t know how to go about asking for a raise. The best time to approach your boss is during an annual review. Some companies provide
feedback to employees every year. This is the best opportunity to discuss a raise, Greg Bier, a human resources instructor at Stephens College, said.

If you are not evaluated on a regular basis, take the initiative yourself and set up a meeting to discuss your job performance.

In some companies, what you produce has little impact on whether you get a raise or not. The first thing to do is to determine your company’s policy, Bier
said. Raises might be given out across the board based on how many years you’ve been working there. Many government employers or unionized companies follow this model. If this is the case, your job performance won’t make much difference.

Most private companies, however, give out raises based on performance. In some companies, a certain percentage of profits are set aside for raises at the end of the year.

For example, there may be a certain amount of money available, and it is up to your boss to distribute it among employees. If you do well, you might get a 5 percent raise, or if you perform below average you might get 2 percent, said Dave Benish of Gerke and Associates.

“Build a case to make it easy for your employer to give you a raise,” Benish said.

Prepare for a meeting with your boss by making notes about how you’ve contributed to your company. For example, if you’re working 50 or 60 hours a week on salary, you’ve got leverage for a raise. Also mention new clients you’ve brought in, a good attendance record, or how you’ve helped cut overhead.

Benish suggests thinking about what your employer values. Your boss might emphasize being on time, contributing in meetings, bringing in new business, or coming up with new ideas.

The higher the skill level and particular expertise an employee has, especially technological skills, the more leverage there is when talking to your boss.

In many companies, employees get around a third of the revenue they create for the firm. The other two-thirds goes to overhead and into the company, Benish said. If you can show how much you are actually contributing to company revenue, you might show you are being underpaid.

Bier recommends that you give your boss advance notice of what you will be talking about at a meeting.

“It’s common courtesy. If you let them know what you’ll be talking about you won’t surprise them,” Bier said. “It lets them do their homework,”

Stay away from ultimatums or threats, Bier said. “I would not back yourself into a corner,” Bier said. “Don’t say, ‘I have to leave if I don’t get this.’ Your
credibility is on the line.”

If most employees receive raises and you are passed over or get a substantially lower amount than your co-workers, that might be a signal that your work performance is below average.

“If you are turned down, it’s important to find out specifically why and correct it,” Benish said.

The worst thing to do in this case is to become disgruntled.

Benish suggests keeping your attitude professional instead of personal. “The key thing is not to take things that happen on the job personally,” Benish said. “If things happen, there’s usually a business reason.”

BRK: Other Benefits

Sometimes there might simply not be any money available for a raise. In this case, you might be able to bargain for other rewards. Your boss might not
care what hours you keep as long as the work is finished. Flextime and telecommuting are often options.

If you plan to ask for extra vacation time, it helps if you can offer something back to the company. For example, if you can tell your boss you’ll finish a
project two weeks ahead of schedule, ask for one week off. Both you and the company will benefit.

Bier said that the process is a long-term one. You can increase your value to the company from the time you start. Don’t be afraid to ask what you need to work on. “A lot of times employees don’t really know where to improve,” Benish said.


More money might not be your only goal. A promotion can mean more responsibility, status, and autonomy. “Getting a promotion is more difficult and more political than getting a raise, ” Fox wrote in her column for the business web site

Check out your promotion options with your manager and get advice from the human resources department at your company. Fox also recommends taking care to avoid showing too much competition with other employees over an open position.

“Be graceful as winner or loser, and if you feel you’re being refused too many times, take your skills to a company that will reward and promote you,” Fox

Overall Job Satisfaction

Bier stresses that an employee should not focus only on money, but should look at every aspect of a job. The people you work with, your hours,
responsibilities, opportunities for advancement, commuting distance, and flexibility all combine with pay as a total package.

For example, you may find a job that pays more, but that has such strict hours you can’t spend time with your kids.

Many people now switch careers five or six times during their lives, Bier said.

Before you decide to switch jobs for better pay, consider the total package. “It’s a personal thing. You must look at the whole picture,” Bier said. “If it’s just salary, it’s not worth leaving.

“You spend a large portion of your waking hours at work.” Bier said. “Be sure you’re happy.”


Sometimes you might need to bring a problem to your boss’s attention. Complaints can be difficult to present diplomatically. The first thing to consider is whether your problem really requires your boss’s input. If possible, employees should work out problems between themselves. Your boss needs to be your next to last resort, Benish said.

If you do have a legitimate complaint, pick a time of day when your boss will have time to deal with the issue.

Also, be sure you go through the proper channels. Do not go over your boss’s head to complain about her without talking to her first.

Casual Workplace

While communicating with your boss is generally helpful, there are some topics you should not talk to your boss about. Though the workplace has become more casual in many ways, there is still a need to keep relationships between bosses and employees professional. Benish recommends avoiding conversation that is too personal, unless it is related to a work issue.

“It’s not good to talk about interpersonal relationships between two other employees or what’s done after work,” Benish said.

Benish believes there is a genuine desire for more informal relationships at work, but that many employers are afraid of lawsuits. For example, some
companies have felt the need to create policies about dating in the workplace.

It is important to look at your job as a long-term relationship. Keep your attitude professional and show your commitment to the company, and your
chances of success will increase.


Modern dilemmas of e-mail, cell phone and table manners complicate business

Etiquette might seem time-consuming or unimportant, but it is more than just a collection of arbitrary rules.

Your manners at a business meal can make or break your job chances, said Crystal Thomas, general manager for the University Club and Catering.

“Though it feels like a social situation, it’s an extension of the interview process,” Thomas said. “You can easily get carried away thinking I’ll just have
another glass of wine but that’s not what it’s all about. You’re being watched the entire time.”

Although people might worry about the tricky details of table manners, the rules are really about balance and harmony at mealtime. Don’t rush through
courses, or lag behind. Keep pace with everyone else. Try to include everyone in small talk.

Etiquette is really about making people feel comfortable, said Sue Fox, author of “Etiquette for Dummies” and “Business Etiquette For Dummies”

She said while most people mean well, they are overworked, stressed out, and sometimes fall short of perfect manners.

Many people have become lax about punctuality, Fox said. It is not acceptable to be 20 or 30 minutes late. If you are 15 minutes late for a meeting with 20 people, you have wasted a total of five hours of time.

The biggest faux pas people make, Fox said, is talking on a cell phone in a restaurant or other public place.

It has become such a problem that some restaurants are now banning their use.

You might do more than just offend the person you’re with. One man was embarrassed when his cell phone went off in the middle of a concert at the New York Philharmonic, Fox said. The conductor stopped the concert and walked off stage. The audience gave the conductor a standing ovation.

Like cell phones, e-mail has provided a new set of etiquette issues. Although e-mail is informal, it should still be written with care, Fox said. Always include a note in the subject line and a salutation. E-mail should be answered within one day, even if all you have time to do is acknowledge the fact that you received it.

In shared or open workspaces, show consideration for people who are working. Use headphones if you listen to music. Avoid nervous habits, like tapping pencils or jiggling your leg, and don’t sing, whistle or hum. Go to the restroom if you want to comb your hair or put on make-up.

In the end, Fox said, “it comes down to being sincere and making people feel comfortable.”

At the table, napkins should be unfolded only when everyone is seated. Keep the napkin in half during lunch, but fully unfold it at dinner. It should be placed on the thighs and never tucked under the collar.

If you leave to go to the restroom, place the napkin on your chair. At the end of the meal you may place it, folded, on the table. Don’t put keys or glasses on
the table.

To eat your bread and butter, break off a small piece of bread. Once the butter is passed to you, use the knife on the butter plate itself to cut yourself a pat and place it on your bread plate. Then use your bread knife to cut a fragment of the butter off to spread on your piece of bread.

Hold wine glasses by the stem, never by the rim or the base. Always scoop soup away from you and never blow on it. Never pass the salt without the
pepper. Once the meal is over, you may rest your elbows on the table – when the last course is completed.

What Works

Demonstrating your value.

Demonstrating a long-term commitment.

Showing you’re a team player.

Showing you understand company positions.

Increasing revenue.

Reducing cost.

Raising coworker morale.

Concrete examples you can show your boss.

What Doesn’t Work

Appeals to emotion.




“Work Less, Make More,” by Jennifer White

“Excuse Me: It’s More Than a Resume, It’s a Reflection of You,” by Gayle Oliver

“Business Finesse: Dealing With Sticky Situations in the Workplace for Managers,” by Linda Talley

“Winning Ways: 4 Secrets for Getting Great Results by Working Well with People,” by Dick Lyles

“Etiquette for Dummies” and “Business Etiquette for Dummies”), by Sue Fox

WEB SITES: – job outlook, includes average earnings. – jog listings, feature stories, etc. – comparable salaries

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