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Salary and Self-Advocacy

January 17, 2023

I mentioned last spring/summer that I got a promotion and great raise. I was happy about it, but simultaneous frustrated at the length of the process. The entire reason I needed a large raise and to be promoted two levels was because I’d fallen so far beyond peers with similar responsibility. The inequity was finally put on a path to resolution in December 2021, and I started receiving the raise summer 2022 (and it was retroactive to December). At the time, I left out the detail that there was still some bureaucratic processes that had to be complete to finalize the promotion, but since I was being paid at the new salary, I simply wasn’t concerned.

This month, I was informed of yet another delay in the bureaucratic process, and also a delay in receiving some of my pay. While I have full confidence the situation will be “made right” on the pay side, it is not about money. This continued delay made me angry all over again. The anger is about having been at this job for 8 years with great reviews & increasing responsibility – and still officially on paper not having a single promotion. It is about the whole timeline of the process, and the reasons for why it went the way it did. It is about the extensive lip-service paid to equity – but the bureaucracy preventing our he equity committee to… correct inequities. Each decision along the way seemed mostly reasonable at the time, but they culminated in significant lost earnings. My managers were both doing the right things (and even more so in the past year), but there were failures in the process along the way. I took maternity leave at a bad time. Our project was low on projects at a bad time. COVID happened at a bad time. Things fell through the cracks. The whole process made me feel undervalued and frustrated and angry every time I thought about it, so I mostly tried not to think about it.

But when I found out there was yet another delay from the bureaucracy, I completely lost it. I wrote a scathing, hard-to-follow email laying out the excessive timelines and my frustration. I asked T to read it, and he said it didn’t make a lot of sense. I argued with him to say that it did… then waited a few days to calm down., rewrote it, and made it much better. He read it again and made some final edits for me to make it even better. Satisfied, I scheduled it to send at the beginning of the next work day. I didn’t have a goal in mind. Partly, I wanted to give my manager “ammunition” to take up the chain. But mostly, I wanted to tell someone what happened over the past 8 years, from my point of view.

We had already planned to chat the next day – but she responded very quickly to give some details on what was next, and to say, “I know. I agree the process has failed you and I’m truly sorry. We can talk more.” With that email, I felt an overwhelming emotional release. All of the anger and frustration I’d been holding lifted, and I started crying as I felt a physical release of tensions that had been simmering for the last 4+ years. I hadn’t realized how much it had been affecting me, mostly because I avoided thinking about it all together. It is not quite resolved yet, but I still feel a million times better than I did before.

I’d like to close this post with the typical rah-rah advice that people (especially women!) should always advocate for themselves for raises and promotions. But I don’t think that is a fair assessment of why this happened. I did advocate for myself along the way. I was not aggressive – but also I was not passive. The recent pushback because my manager is promoting two levels. After writing out the timeline out, but is clear that my then-manager and I should have pursued the first promotion before I went on maternity leave. The timing was right, I was ready. We talked about it. He suggested we wait until I returned – then it never happened. That was the clear place I missed advocating. I could have said “no, let’s do it now”. (But so could have he.) My daughter is 4 years old. I should have received that promotion 4 years ago. If I had, we wouldn’t be asking to promote me two levels. When I returned after maternity leave and adjusting to parenthood, I lacked confidence to advocate aggressively. When our department was running low on projects/funding, I lacked confidence to advocate aggressively. When COVID turned the world upside down and I was drowning with childcare interruptions and general stress, I lacked confidence to advocate at all. At those moments, it was completely reasonable for me to question if it was the right moment to push. (Not to mention that generally, women are perceived differently than men when advocating for themselves…)

So instead of a reminder to self-advocate, I’ll close this by saying that sometimes processes fail, even when you do advocate for yourself. If you have a manager ready to fight for you, it may eventually get resolved in the end. My manager has been fighting this for over a year, and has pursued improvements to the process so that those behind me won’t struggle in the same way. Thank you to all of the managers who go to bat for their people. And remember that in addition to making things right with salary, sometimes all a person really needs is to be heard, to have their experience acknowledged, and an apology for the situation.

(That last sentence reminds me very much of all of the toddler parenting advice out there…)

PS – I’m trying to write a bit more in 2023, but it may be less directly personal finance related.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Nd Chic permalink
    January 20, 2023 4:14 pm

    Yes!! The promotion matters big time when you contemplate moving companies. I routinely do things that one says we shouldn’t do. I would ask a few male colleagues what comp plan they were on when I was on the sales team just to make sure that I wasn’t leaving money on the table. I give myself 5 star reviews every time. I’m not going to be humble when I know it’s my paycheck on the line. When I was advocating for getting an assistant, I would make sure I emailed my manager about routine things at midnight or 5:30 in the morning. They need to know that I’m busy. Lol! Women need to stand up for themselves and not be modest about achievements. Good for you for sending a scathing email.

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