Last week, I spoke about the promotion my husband just got. While all that was going on for him, there was a whole lot going on in the background for myself at work (we work at the same company).
I manage a shipping and receiving department with two other full time staff members and several part timers. One of those full-time staff members became ill two weeks ago and had to take 2 weeks (potentially more) of doctor ordered time off. I have been working a few hours for the past few months (as much as I am allowed to while on leave) but it became apparent that the best solution to this employee’s absence was for me to come back to work early. My leave is not up until the end of May (baby was exactly 11 months old yesterday) but I said that if they could make it financially worth my while I would come back early.
On top of this new development, I had already planned to negotiate my wage upon my return. My husband had asked that I not begin negotiating until he was done with his own negotiations (which took 3 months!). I have previously alluded to the fact that I had begun to wonder whether I was making a fair wage or not but during my husband’s wage negotiations these fears were confirmed. I found out that an employee that has worked at the company for about half as long as I have, with no responsibilities and whom I have been asked to train/ baby-sit on many occasions was indeed making about $2 more than myself per hour. I mostly felt humiliated and immediately began to wonder how many other wage discrepancies there were and if anyone knew what I made. I can’t begin to tell you how paranoid and embarrassed I felt.
I had two things that I meant to remedy in my wage negotiations/ leave termination discussions. I needed to be compensated for the nearly $2000 I would lose by going off of leave early and I needed to get my wage up to what I felt was a fair level. Keep in mind too that with his new promotion, my husband’s wage was pushed up to $4 above mine and he had just been made a manager, a position that I have held for several years now though his department is larger than mine.
Unfortunately, because of time constraints, we had to begin negotiations via email. I voiced my concerns about my wage and wrote up a ‘resume’ of what I’ve done for them since I began there. Rather than ask for a lump sum to replace the government money I’d lose by coming back early, I asked for a significantly higher wage ($2 more than they just gave my husband).
When we did meet to discuss, things did not go well. My boss began with, ‘I don’t want to talk too much about feelings…’ and then proceeded to guilt me for asking for so much money, saying he was ‘taken aback’ by my request. I listened to all of that and then started to say that if they could look me in the eye and tell me that they have been paying be a fair wage in relation to the employees around me then so be it except that I had a hard time finishing that because I got a little teary…
I should mention here that we are a very close knit company and those of us that have been around since the beginning are mostly all either close family friends or related. We actually used to be fairly close friends with the owners of the company (the people I was meeting with that day) to the point that we spent a lot of time at each others’ homes and even went on short trips together. It makes things a bit more personal- from both sides of course.
When I teared up they got very uncomfortable and said, ‘sorry I guess we should have started with the part where we do think you deserve a raise- a $2 raise’. I didn’t hear much of the backtracking after that… something about ‘one of the best employees they have’ and so on.
Obviously, I wasn’t going to give up a government subsidized month with my son for a $2 raise that (according to what they were able to pay the people working around me) they should have given me ages ago. They argued amongst themselves about compensating me for the money I would be out. It was apparent that one of them wanted to just pay me the money and have me back and the other did not- the other thought we could just hire a temporary employee to fill the gap for the sick employee and everything would be fine. In her defense, she has very little to do with the every day operations of the company and is not well-informed on what we actually do (despite my best attempts to enlighten her). We left the meeting agreeing to speak later that night when the two of them could work out their disagreements.
I wasn’t too happy about how things went. After the meeting I felt like I did not want to come back early because it would really screw them- but since it’s my department, it would really just make things that much worse for when I did come back in a month.. In the end, they called me back and offered to pay me dollar for dollar any government money that I lose by working the extra hours.
I caved and decided to go back early. I should be happy. I got a raise. I will be making extra money over the next month that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to make otherwise. I wish I were happier. I feel ungrateful but really I’m still a bit upset with them. They handled it poorly and in regards to the wage that they are paying me, I feel a bit like I’m being discriminated against for being of child-bearing age. I think they feel like I’m going to up and go on maternity leave again soon so I am not all that valuable. I don’t trust them all that much anymore.
I’m a bit upset about the wage discrepancy between myself and my husband. I don’t think it is justifiable but I don’t feel like I can voice that because I don’t see how comparing myself to my husband can work out well for either of us. I asked our general manager about it briefly because he is a friend and I felt like I could be a bit more honest with him (without it coming back to bite me in the ass) and he basically said that he got what he did because he played ‘hardball’ which, while probably true, is pretty damn shitty.
Things went poorly, I’m not too happy and they probably aren’t either. I’ve decided to go back and be the best damned employee I can be because that’s who I am and if I do decide to go on maternity leave again soon then I will thank them for assuaging me of all guilt about it. Also, the next time a reasonable job offer comes my way (there have been 4 in the past 6 years in the same industry I’m in), I will take it. I will be happy for the opportunity that I have right now to make some money and I will save as much of it as I can. I will be thankful for the flexibility that my job currently offers me. I will be grateful.
Please be kind.