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Career Q&A | By Marie G. McIntyre, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

Employ diplomacy when HR isn't helpful

Q: One of my employees, "Katrina," has some performance issues that I am trying to resolve. However, some of her co-workers have apparently decided to collect their own "evidence" against her. They record Katrina's arrival and departure times, track how often she leaves her desk and scrutinize her e-mails for grammatical errors.

My boss and I want to stop this harassment, but our human resources manager supports the perpetrators and says they are being helpful. Even though this woman has absolutely no HR experience, we can't challenge her because her brother is the president of our small company. What should we do?

A: Under normal circumstances, I would suggest that you simply direct these overzealous watchdogs to focus on their own jobs and leave the supervision to you. However, that might alienate your untrained but well-connected colleague, so try using a more procedural approach.

Work with your boss to create a detailed performance improvement plan for Katrina, including specific goals and timelines. Review this document with the HR manager and explain your monitoring strategy.

For example: "I plan to closely track Katrina's progress and meet with her weekly to provide feedback. Since I will be evaluating her myself, I'm asking her co-workers to stop scrutinizing her activities. In addition to duplicating my efforts, this has begun to distract them from their jobs."

Unfortunately, many small-company executives fail to comprehend that human resources work should be performed by a qualified professional. Although they would never delegate accounting or legal tasks to a complete neophyte, they happily hand over HR responsibilities to any warm body who happens to be available. When that person is a relative, the results are frequently disastrous.

Negotiating for and justifying more pay

Q: Even though I am a top performer, my pay is low, based on market comparisons. To be smart about my career, I think I should refuse to accept this mediocre salary. My performance review is coming up, so I plan to make my case for receiving market-level compensation.

I made this request last year, but nothing happened. It seems weird that management won't work to keep me, because I add value in so many ways. If I'm offered a standard 5 percent raise, how do I say, "Thanks, but I'm worth more than that. What can you do to bring my pay up to market level"?

A: You certainly have no shortage of confidence. However, justifying a raise requires more than confidence and compensation data.

Salary decisions are based not only on market comparisons, but on internal factors. How does your pay compare with that of other employees? How close are you to the top of your pay scale? Did your company have a good year financially?

You must also assess how much leverage you have. Do you have unique knowledge or hard-to-find skills? If you left, would it be difficult to replace you?

Most important, however, is why your previous request was rejected. That would seem to be the obvious starting point for planning your next approach.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics."

Employ diplomacy when HR isn't helpful 06/04/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 4, 2011 4:31am]
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