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John wrestles a raise request

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Raise . . .

Mel sat nervously on the edge of the chair. He drew close to the front of John's desk, tucking his legs uncomfortably under the seat. Mel cleared his throat then began to speak. He chose his words carefully, " John, I have been working here for three years now. I think I have become a very valuable employee . . ."

John touched both index fingers to his lips then he pointed them at Mel. "Whoa! Excuse me. I have to interrupt here. I need to ask a hypothetical question. Something that just popped into my head from totally out of the blue . . ."

Mel swallowed and nodded the affirmative.

John continued, " OK. Let's just SAY that you walked into my office and started a conversation by saying something along the lines of . . . oh, I don't know . . . ' I have been working here for three years now and I have become a very valuable employee'. Again, this is strictly hypothetical. But, if a conversation DID start like that, then I might assume that the conversation would gradually work its way around until it came to the moment when you ask for a raise."

Mel smiled and nodded again. "Yes."

John placed both hands flat on the desk and leaned forward, "Thank goodness I stopped you. This is very important. You must never ask for a raise. The act of asking for a raise prevents you from getting a raise."

Stunned, Mel leaned back in his chair, stroked his chin and studied the ceiling. Finally, he returned his gaze to John and said simply, "I don't understand."

John explained, "If you ask me for a raise, I can't give it to you. It must be my idea to give you a raise. It can't be your idea. It must be my idea.

Let's take this scenario to its ultimate conclusion: Let's say you were to ask for a raise and I gave it to you. Pretty soon, everyone else would hear that they only need to ask me for a raise to get one. Word would spread that I am handing out money. In no time, there would be a line at my office door; everyone wanting a raise.

Everyone would be fully expecting a raise because I set a precedent by giving a raise to you. You see? It is just human nature. Everyone, in their own mind, would have justification why they were at least as deserving of a raise as you. Each one would have a convincing argument why they are at least as deserving of a raise as you. So, for the sake of this argument, let's say I give them all raises too. Everybody is happy. Right?"

Mel smiled and nodded again. "Right !"

John shook his head, " Wrong. Let's say you are ticked off at how little money you make so you ask for a raise. You ask for a dollar and get it. The very next thought in your brain is, ' That was so easy, I should have asked for TWO dollars !' . So you make more but you are still ticked off at how little money you make. You ask for two and get it. Then you'll be ticked off you didn't ask for three. And that goes for everyone else, too! So what is accomplished ? The end result is that everyone is STILL ticked off how little they make - even though they are making more - AND the payroll is bankrupt! That's what is accomplished ."

Mel blinked, "But . . ."

John continued, "Look at it from my side. We are in business to turn a profit. That means we try to maximize revenues while minimizing expenses. If I need bolts, I solicit competing bids so that I am certain that I am paying the lowest price for my bolts. Let's say a bolt salesman comes in here and demands more money for his bolts than the other bolt vendors. Let's say I buy those high-priced bolts. What do I say when the man upstairs asks me why I paid too much for bolts? He is going to think I'm either 'on the take', or stupid or disloyal. None of those perceptions are any good for my career.

If I gave a raise to anyone that asked for one, all I would do is run up payroll costs and not improve production. It is human nature that everyone is always ticked off at how little they are paid. And, I have shown you that everyone would STILL be ticked off even if they were paid more money. So, it is my job to keep costs down by only giving raises where absolutely necessary - on my terms and my on schedule. Now, that might not be on YOUR terms or YOUR schedule but we can't discuss that. Remember: if you discuss the topic of your raise with me, it wipes the slate clean - I won't be able to give you a raise because it becomes your idea - not mine.

You see? If you ask me for a raise, you are attempting to control the outcome. You are making me look ineffective. You are essentially attempting to give yourself a raise . To maintain the mantle of management, I MUST deny the raise if you ask for it. That is why you must never ask for a raise."

Mel rubbed his forehead, "But . . .But . . . I am not a BOLT."

John kicked his chair back. He rounded the desk and put his hand on Mel's slumped shoulder, "No Mel, you are not a bolt. You are a living breathing human soul with passionate interests and loves and fears and a family and friends and a mortgage and a car payment. And you are ticked off at how little we pay you - just like I am ticked off at how little we pay me - and everyone else out there is ticked off at how little we pay them. And that is just the way it is. "

John shook Mel's hand as he walked him to the door, "Anyway, I am glad I was able to stop you before you asked me for a raise. That would have been a big mistake. But, fortunately, your options are still wide open!"

Carlos watched as Mel stumbled out of John's office. "Hey Mel . . . ", he called as he approached. " . . .Did you get that raise?"

Mel rubbed his eyes, "No, I didn't have a chance to ask for it."

Carlos gave a knowing nod, "Oh, he used that old 'you can't ask for a raise' logic on you. Huh ?"

Mel shrugged, "I never saw that coming. I practiced an answer for everything I thought he might say. But, I wasn't ready for THAT ! "

Carlos patted Mel on the back. "Don't take it hard. There aren't many who can out-BS John. Come on - I'll buy you a cup of coffee. . . . Did he use the bolt analogy?"

As Mel and Carlos walked past John's office, they could hear John speaking loudly into the telephone, "Whoa ! Wait a minute! You weren't going to ask me for a donation were you? Don't you know that if you ask me for a donation, I won't be able to give it to you? You see . . . "



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