Firstly, for Hiring Managers, do not be put off by this question or topic.
Instead, please take it as a compliment that someone in your team trusts you enough to bring it up. It takes courage, and most people will do everything they can, including leaving a job they love – rather than broach the complex and confronting topic of a salary increase.
Which brings me to another discovery for you to consider – it is likely that if your employees are bringing this subject up, it is not something they thought of over the weekend. It is something that has been sitting with them for a while – long enough for them to gather courage for the conversation – OR sufficient time to fester resentment.
Let’s explore ‘fester resentment’. It goes like this….
The idea of a salary increases pops into your employee’s mind. It could be that their partner or best friend received a salary increase recently or an unexpected bill has come in. It may remind them of their own dissatisfied need or a lack of recognition. The idea/feeling disappears as quickly as it appeared. The thought lies dormant for some time.
But then it pops back up again – triggered by another similar event. The thought stays longer this time and may take on a life of its own. Not long after, a ‘negative’ experience occurs at work, e.g., working back to meet a deadline. It is also likely this ‘negative’ experience was not ‘negative’ in your eyes – you provided dinner, a taxi home and showed your gratitude and appreciation.
In the mind map of your employee, the ‘negative’ event attaches itself as ‘evidence’ of deserving said increase. From here, their mind will look for activities and situations that warrant and justify their way of thinking, also referred to as confirmation bias. The frame of reference will be to see situations a certain way – that backups not just an increase but maybe even a resignation. This is the time when resentment eventually wins. It happens to the very best of employees and performers. Your employee is also finding a way to justify not having that difficult conversation. Remember, people will ‘do everything they can, including leaving a job’…..It’s part of our human nature.
As a short ad juncture – of course, different personality types deal with this feeling of ‘unfairness’ in different ways. Not everyone will allow resentment to manifest. Some employees will blame themselves – not feeling worthy and may lose motivation, self-confidence, and thus their performance suffers. Our blog does not allow time to explore all these behaviours – but I wish it did!
Either way, as Managers, we need to be acutely aware of how our team are feeling. If resentment or a lack of self-worth has kicked in, we are now in a very precarious situation. We are trying to negotiate and reason with someone who already has one foot out of the door. It is hard to coax people around if they are too far gone but it is still possible if you are aware. It takes time, timing, and trust.
Far better though, that your employee does not venture down the road of justifying the increase via resentment; and instead, they travel forth on the road of courage to openly discuss their salary with you. In a market short of talent, it is hard enough to recruit for new roles – you want to avoid a situation where you are recruiting to backfill positions.
I am most certainly not advocating increases all around! That is not the answer – what I am suggesting is to have your antenna up and be open to seeing, hearing, and feeling what is happening in your team.