CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q I am an AE with a mid-size PR firm. I have worked at this agency for four years. We went through very tough times last year, including two rounds of layoffs and a salary freeze. It has been two years since I had a raise, and until recently I have just been grateful to have a job at all. But in the past two months or so things seem to be picking up. The firm has been retained for a couple of fairly lucrative assignments, and I am working long hours to keep up with the heavy load (especially since we have fewer people post-layoff). To be honest, I feel like I deserve a raise, but I don't know how to broach the subject with my boss. How can I make them see that I deserve a pay rise now?

Q I am an AE with a mid-size PR firm. I have worked at this agency for four years. We went through very tough times last year, including two rounds of layoffs and a salary freeze. It has been two years since I had a raise, and until recently I have just been grateful to have a job at all. But in the past two months or so things seem to be picking up. The firm has been retained for a couple of fairly lucrative assignments, and I am working long hours to keep up with the heavy load (especially since we have fewer people post-layoff). To be honest, I feel like I deserve a raise, but I don't know how to broach the subject with my boss. How can I make them see that I deserve a pay rise now?

Ms. T, Denver

A I'm quite certain that you are not the only young PR practitioner asking this very question right now, amid rumblings of an improving market. I asked my dear friend Judith Harrison, SVP of human resources at Ruder Finn, to offer you counsel. "Given how bad the economy was in 2001, our wage-frozen AE is far from alone in her situation,

Judith answered.

But heed her next words. "Although I empathize with her wish to be rewarded for her patience now that business seems to be picking up for her company, I don't think it's a good idea to ask for a raise on this basis alone."

You will have to demonstrate your value to the firm in order to merit a raise. "The critical factor here is performance, not time served, which is not to say that loyalty and perseverance aren't appreciated,

Judith continued. "Given the salary freeze, I'm sure that her boss feels her pain."

Judith offered the following practical tips: "If she is up for a review, it would be a good idea for her to prepare for it by writing a list of her accomplishments over the last year. She should also get a copy of last year's review to jog her memory about her previous contributions to her agency. When she's ready to discuss all of the above, as well as her "improvement opportunities,

she should e-mail the list to her boss with an opening paragraph explaining that the list is intended to assist in evaluating her progress and potential, and that she looks forward to her upcoming review."

Q I am a VP in the PR office of a retail chain. After September 11, we suffered huge losses in revenue and all departments have been under incredible pressure to turn the situation around. Our CEO has been particularly tough on the PR team to get positive coverage and arrange face-to-face meetings with key reporters, which just isn't easy right now.

I have sensed some resentment from my six-person team for a while, but I believed that the bad economy would keep them loyal. Yesterday, I found a copy of a team member's resume on the photocopier that was accidentally left behind - so now I know that this person, and possibly others, are job hunting. I really don't want to lose any staff right now, as they are each capable of doing an excellent job. Should I confront the employee and convince him to stay?

Ms. D, Boston

A I think you are asking the wrong question. You are clearly not doing enough to encourage your employees to excel without demoralizing them.

As vice president, you should be the gatekeeper between the CEO and the team. Ask yourself what more you can do to bolster morale and engender loyalty from your staff.

Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try Pandora. E-mail her at pandora@prweek.com.

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