Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 14-07-2016
Always check to see how the leadership team is personally affected by your recommendations.
Yes, we can all agree that internal equity, fair treatment and competitive practices should be the hallmarks of any reward program, but at the same time we should also be realistic as to what is achievable – acceptable to the powers that be. If those at the top of the house in your organization feel that they themselves are not being positively impacted, or worse, then there’s a good chance that your recommendations will be going nowhere.
Or put another way, if they don’t win you will lose.
How the World Turns
I saw this reality play out just the other day, when assisting a client deliver their proposal to senior management for new grade assignments and a revised salary structure. The designations for the senior leadership cadre placed incumbents low in their salary ranges, offering plenty of upward movement – and perhaps a bit of rationale for a “competitive salary adjustment.”
Our recommendations gained smiles and nodding heads from leadership – a well-received meeting. There was no reason to explain how the senior team grades had been revised upward in an effort to better position incumbents, and thus garner approval of our proposals. Because when the initial Draft #1 results were developed (reflecting the much-touted internal equity, fair treatment and competitive practices) the leadership incumbents did not fare as well, with higher compa-ratios and less opportunity for pay growth.
Should we have left things alone (the facts are the facts) and led with our chin in presenting our proposals? Some purists would argue that we should have stuck with our principles, even if it would have been a risk. But the client didn’t want to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and risk the entire structure proposal being rejected or seriously challenged. So they nudged some of their recommendations to favor the senior leaders – who as it turned out subsequently approved all of our recommendations.
Not In My Backyard (NIMBY)
Have you heard this term used before? It’s when residents of a community are in favor of a new school, a shopping center, or any form of commercial enterprise, but not in my backyard. What is conceptually a good idea turns sour when individuals don’t like how they are personally impacted. “Anywhere but next to my house.” Well, the same thing can happen at work when you try to get senior management to control the infection called “title inflation.”
Many a time I’ve tried to explain the inherent dangers of puffery and bogus titling to senior leaders, but all too frequently they would wave off my concerns with a “tut-tut” dismissal. No worries, they’d say. “It’s a no-cost benefit,” or “What’s in a title, anyway?”
And also because the impact of inflated titling didn’t affect them.
But as soon as someone is suggested as a Vice President title when they’re really something less, well then the proverbial crap hits the fan. “We can’t have that” is the common outraged and aggrieved response, and suddenly of all the arguments against title inflation that we used for the lower levels now make sense, albeit only at their own senior levels.
The fascinating counterpoint is that the dangers of title inflation will continue to be ignored at those lower levels. Tut-tut.
But not in my backyard. Self-interest can be a powerful tool, especially when wielded by decision-makers.
Is this right? Is it fair? Is it a double standard? No, no and yes. But in order to sell your compensation recommendations it would be to your advantage to know your audience. You’ll need to acknowledge, and sometimes even play to the self-interest of those who are in a position to deny you.
As a professional it may bother you to take these steps, but sometimes managing compensation is a bit more complicated, and even contradictory, than the Compensation 101 textbooks would suggest.