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Because I Said So

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 04-04-2017

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Telling a story, by Marina del CastellDo you remember hearing this phrase when you were a kid?  I sure do.  That sharp retort would have come from one of my parents, probably after they’d had just about enough of me asking “Why?” to everything they said or asked me to do.

If you recall, that outburst never helped the situation though, did it?  Probably because it was shouted out of frustration, not education.  My parents wanted me to pay attention to them and to do what I’m told.

It Still Doesn’t Work

Fast forward to the present day.  Have you ever tried to use that phrase at work?  Have you ever found yourself so tired of doubters questioning your every step, your recommendations or simply your way of performing your job – to the point that you just wanted to scream at them, “Just do what I ask,” “I know what I’m talking about,” or my favorite, “Just trust me about this.”

Of course, that sort of explosive behavior is not a career enhancing practice when dealing with colleagues, never mind those higher up the food chain.  In fact, it might have the opposite effect as you find yourself burning bridges and alienating those you can’t afford to upset.

What is usually the root cause of the frustration is that you as the local compensation “expert” are trying to gain acceptance (and implementation) of ideas, processes or simply policy/procedure decisions that those whose support you need are not comfortable with.  They could be ignorant of the compensation rationale, not understand the cost/employee morale implications, feel that your approach is more complicated than they would like, or it’s simply an action or intent that goes against their personal biases.  And when the bosses aren’t comfortable, they dig in their heels.

Walk Before You Run

You have to teach these guys.  In effect, they need your help.  But it shouldn’t be, “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.”

You should take the time to hold their hand while you explain what it is that you want to do and why.  You have to show them the problem you mean to solve, and exactly why it’s a problem.  Your audience likely doesn’t understand the field of Compensation, and may even have a bit of distrust with all those numbers.  So you need to make an effort to get them over to your side.

Not everyone can do this.  Compensation practitioners are typically content experts, and not necessarily comfortable with public speaking or teaching others.  The competency of persuasiveness and influencing is a skill in itself, and one that you need to practice at constantly, no matter your current level of comfort.  Because knowing you’re right about something as important as managing the cost and implications of employee pay will never be enough.  You have to be able to convince colleagues and senior management that you know what you’re talking about.  That you know how to get things done.  That they can have confidence in you.  Gaining that conviction from leadership is always a challenge, no matter how “expert” you are at the technical side of your chosen profession.

As any teacher will tell you, your “students” will have to walk before they can run.  They will have to be brought along, slowly in some cases, by careful explanations of the principles involved, how they impact the organization, and how a proper application of your recommendations can and will bring success.

Remember that you have to communicate, communicate, communicate.  Use illustrations and common examples, along with a few pictures (charts and graph) to help educate those who have the power to approve or block your initiatives.  And do this, over time, by face-to-face interactions, not via impersonal (and often boring) memorandum.

In my view, a leadership team who understands the role and impact of the Compensation function can be your friend.  But you have to nurture that friendship.  You have to work to get them on your side.

You can’t tell them what to do.  That tactic usually works in the opposite direction.

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