Sunday, December 22, 2019
Boss shouldn't get heads-up about colleague's intentions
"My boss doesn't like to be surprised," writes a reader we're calling Ken. But he's undecided if he should give the boss a heads-up about a colleague who might approach her about a raise.
A few days ago, Ken writes that he received a phone call from a colleague seeking his advice. The colleague has been with the company for a couple of years and regularly seeks out Ken's advice since he has been working there for more than a decade.
"Typically, his calls are easy enough to respond to and often deal with how to navigate company policy and procedures," writes Ken. But on this call, the colleague told Ken that he had been contacted by an employee with a competitor encouraging him to apply for an open position with the competing firm.
"Do you think it would be wrong to ask for more money here?" Ken's colleague asked him, making clear that he wanted to know if their boss would respond badly to such a request.
Ken told his colleague he couldn't predict how the boss would respond, but he thought that if the colleague wanted to ask about the possibility of a raise, that was his decision. He advised him that instead of threatening to quit if he doesn't get a raise, he should simply make the case for why the boss should consider paying him more. If he truly feels underpaid, Ken told him, then there's no reason not to ask the boss if he can set up time to meet with her.
Ken likes his colleague, but he also likes his boss. She has been demanding, but has strongly supported him in the work he does for the company. He is confident that she would appreciate knowing that the colleague might be approaching her about a raise before such a meeting occurs.
"Should I call or stop by her office to tell her?" Ken asks.
Regardless of the fact that Ken's colleague didn't ask him to keep their conversation confidential, he did the right thing by listening to him, offering advice sought and leaving it at that. It is not his responsibility to let his boss know to expect some incoming confrontation from the colleague over pay. That decision should be his colleague's.
Because Ken doesn't even know if his colleague will follow through and contact the boss, giving her a heads-up might result in a mess of miscommunication.
Even if Ken's colleague had asked him to alert the boss, the right thing would be for Ken to decline the request. If the colleague wants to talk to the boss about a pay raise, it's his responsibility to make the effort to talk with her directly.
It can be a good thing to have a mentor or a confidant in the workplace who can offer career advice. But that advice should never take the place of the person seeking it ultimately deciding what he or she wants to do and then having the courage to act on his or her convictions.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin
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