No, Wage Negotiation Does Not “Hurt” The Employer

I normally hate giving in to pigeonholes, but it’s a facet of American culture that the vast majority of the country engages in… so I’ll temporarily do the same for the sake of ease of understanding.

  • I’m a millennial
  • I’m an asshole
  • My sense of humor knows no boundaries
  • I enjoy #RealTalk a little more than any person should
  • I’m really efficient at my job so that sometimes leads to some bouts of boredom

All of these converge – especially the last one – at a website called Post Grad Problems. Short, entertaining articles that encompass some of the employment woes experienced by the younger generation. I personally enjoy it, but it’s not for everyone and that’s a-ok.

So anyways…

They recently published a fantastic article about why you shouldn’t take work home with you. And like any other person, I shared it on the Book of Faces because I felt it contained good advice for anyone of any age. Typically, if a comment thread even forms, it’s filled with laughter and casual banter. But every now and then, someone gets their jimmies rustled and finds an issue with (what I believe to be) common sense advice. In the aforementioned article, there is a segment about not sharing your salary numbers with your coworkers for the sake of maintaining the peace. Again, I feel this is common sense. However, just a couple days ago, an article from The Atlantic made its rounds on my feed, arguing that salary silence is illegal and might hide malicious intent from the employer and you might be getting stiffed and you deserve a “fair wage”… blah blah blah. And every “unbiased, enlightened, and informed” John Green progressive suddenly had another weapon against those damn capitalism loving Republicans.

A friend from high school – whom I barely talk to – felt ballsy enough to step up to the plate:

By employees being open about their compensation it gives them far greater power in the negotiation process and doesn’t hurt anyone but the employer [sic]

The following is my response that I felt was worthy of sharing…

Almost verbatim from that Atlantic article. Hmm…

The underlying assumption is that everyone brings the same thing to the table and they don’t. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. My office is a prime example of that. For the longest time, technicians were people who had been promoted up from production, maintenance, etc. It’s only been recently that management moved away from that approach and started hiring college grads. Why? I don’t know and I don’t care. It was their decision. But it ended up with a very eclectic group that is highly versatile.

One of my coworkers has been with [company name redacted] for over 20 years. He earned his way up from maintenance. He’s skilled in a lot of areas but the one that sticks out to me is PLC programming. I know some basics of ladder logic but he is an absolute mastermind. It’s amazing watching him work. The paint line went down for a few minutes one day for a small repair. During that window, I watched him tweak the code real quick. When the line went active again, the robot movements were exponentially smoother. No one told him to do it. He had so much knowledge of the process that he was able to recognize a problem before it happened. Cool shit, right? And you wanna know what blew his mind? My CAD skills, and that I picked up CATIA – a software I’ve never touched before – in a mere 2 weeks. My department needs PLC guys and CAD guys. And is there a pay discrepancy? Oh sure. Because the weight of each skill is different depending on the project and what is necessary to get the job completed.

As far as college education goes (because it’s a PGP article), the education level is different despite accreditation. My degree was certified by ATMAE, Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering. They have a list of minimum requirements that a school must meet in order to receive their seal of approval. I emphasize that it’s the MINIMUM requirements; not ideal requirements. Where does EKU stand in the metaphorical distance from the minimum? I have no clue. It very well could be the bare minimum. On the other end of the spectrum, the university’s standards could be so high that if they wanted to, they could go for ABET certification – Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. – the same board that certifies the BIG [regional] engineering schools like Louisville and Purdue. The same degree from different schools could have different levels of merit. There are so many factors that go into it, it’s impossible to name them all.

However, if you’ve been at your job a while and you’re kicking ass and you feel deserve a raise, 9 times out of 10, all you have to do is ask. When you’re initially hired, the company is making an investment. If you quit or you get fired, that costs the company money. It’s lost time that can’t have a price put on it; overtime pay to other employees to pick up the slack; extra paperwork for HR; recruiting costs for a replacement; etc. It’s not a cheap endeavor. If a raise is what it takes to keep talent on the team, they’re more than likely willing to make that investment. They get a better return.

“Doesn’t hurt anyone but the employer” is a cringe-worthy statement. If you’re in the salary negotiation stage of an interview, then you (more or less) got the job. For starters, there are websites like salary.com and glassdoor.com that you can investigate before going into the conversation. People anonymously submit their compensation along with a company review. They’re fantastic tools that give you an edge in the negotiation process. But ultimately – why do you want to “hurt” your potential employer? Especially during a recession with a saturated job market. Consider yourself lucky you’re even in that position. Salary negotiations don’t “hurt” anyone. We act as consumers. We want a quality product at the lowest price. It’s human nature. In a company’s interview process, they are the consumer. They are looking for quality labor and skills and are willing to spend up to X amount of dollars. Naturally, lower is better but it is understood that for quality – exceeding expectations – comes at a price. This is why you hear about “competitive wages” as a selling point for job openings. They’re willing to pay more to get the better talent. It’s not a conspiracy – it’s nature. They know going into that conversation that there will be haggling on the price. You want more, they want less. Where can you meet in the middle so that a mutually beneficial exchange takes place? That mutually beneficial exchange – whether in an interview or in the produce aisle at Kroger – is the basis for our economy.

Hope that clears it up.

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