HR Issues

September 15, 2011

Written by: Joseph D'Allesandro

You’re worth more.

You feel it so strongly, you’re willing to consider facing the boss to (gulp) ask for more money. How do you prepare? What do you say?

Start by asking three basic questions:

• Do I need to approach this from the standpoint of job or career?

• Why do I deserve a raise?

• What is my plan if I am turned down?

Job vs. Career

I worked 70 hours a week as a sous chef making $24,500 ($6.75/hour) while servers walked with $400 on Saturday nights. Servers always made more. This would really aggravate some of my peers because their shift was half as long and they weren't schlepping and sweating the way we were. I It is dangerous to make those kinds of comparisons.

From a career perspective, keep your eyes on your long-term goal. Gain experience and credibility. Someone told me long ago: “In hospitality you get paid from the neck down until you can be trusted to be paid from the neck up.”

Your early years are about showing up on time, working hard, proving yourself dependable, and producing consistent excellence. If you work hard and smart, one day you will realize that your commitment has yielded a professional leader who is worthy to be trusted with valuable assets and decision-making.

On that day, you are indeed a Manager or a Chef.

Until then, get your hands back in the dough!

All the toques and GM’s who went before you empathize, but we also know that to get to greatness in this business you have to pay your dues.

Do I really deserve a raise?
I consulted my pals in operations and in human resources, and even did an informal poll on facebook (follow us…http://www.facebook.com/shsagency). The consensus: you better be able to prove your value. Says one veteran HR executive: “First, be performing at a high level.”

Be able to cite specific and significant contributions. Don’t bring a stack of paperwork like you’re going to a debate, but be able to discuss the impact. Cite revenue growth, cost savings, decreased turnover, innovation, efficiency, leadership, openings, etc. Hard numbers and percentages are powerful. As one hospitality professor put it: “Numbers tell the story.”

Study your specific market, and research the average compensation package for your position. Look at factors beyond salary. You may find that your salary is below average but your out-of-pocket medical expense is $10,000 less than your peer at a different company. If you make a rash decision based only on wages, you could end up netting less money at your new job. Ugh.

If the research shows that you deserve a raise, then I suggest taking the following steps:

1. Know the increase you want. Do not go into a negotiation without a realistic number, and don’t ask for too much. Getting greedy could cost you credibility points in the long run.

2. Consider waiting until your semi-annual or annual review or anniversary. Ask the boss for a meeting if your company doesn’t have standard review process.
3. Keep your guns holstered. Be sincere and upbeat and smile. Do not make an ultimatum. Giving your boss an ultimatum should result in your being replaced within several months.

4. Make a lucid, logical case for why you deserve a raise and never make comparisons to others. Be a person of business, a professional. The stronger the facts and the cleaner your record, the higher the probability you will get your raise. Cite the positive impact you have made.

5. If you don't get the raise, say “thank you,” smile, and go back to working hard and keep your attitude positive. Your employer deserves that. You might have surprised your manager with your request and they turned you down because that’s their first reaction. They may wake up the next day and fight with their boss to get you that raise. Wouldn’t it be a shame if you turned them off with a negative attitude? Never grumble or gossip!

What if I am turned down?
If you are turned down, and you do not see a future in the company, quietly and carefully look for another job. The safest route is to work with an agency like Strategic Hospitality Search, so your search will be absolutely confidential.

Do not leave your job until you find the job that is right for you. That may take up to a year. In the mean time, keep working hard. You will want an excellent letter of reference upon your exit from the company!


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