SME Agony Uncle


Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins The Hard Shoulder to answer all your employment-related questions.

The gender pay gap at companies around the world is rarely out of the news at the moment and this week, Bobby looked to organizational psychologist Dana Zelicha for some inspiration on how - and when - to go about securing that pay rise.

Ms Zelicha has worked with companies around the world, empowering female entrepreneurs and helping staff to foster a winning mindset.

She says the trick to negotiating an increase in pay is remaining rational and calm - while keeping the handy acronym, ‘P.A.Y.R.I.S.E’ to the front of your mind:

  • Pick your moment - There is a time to ask for a rise and a time not to.
  • Accomplishments - List them out and don’t be modest.
  • Yet - Ask yourself why has it not happened yet?
  • Research - Ensure you choose the best time to broach the subject.
  • Intentions - What is it you want and what is in it for the company.
  • See what is happening around you - If there are cuts at the company, now is not the time to ask
  • Enter - Enter the room and take a deep breath.

For Bobby, the key things to remember are clarity, timing, setting out your achievements and asking definitively.

Bobby I’m working for ten years at management level in my firm but lately myself and my husband have become a bit restless. He’s a teacher and has not taken a career break. But the more he talks about it, the more I think we’ll both take the plunge. I’m concerned however that while the 3 month break would be good for my mental health - I’m concerned it would be bad for my career. Sinéad.

While career breaks may be relatively common in the public sector, Bobby would never put the option on the table at a company he was running.

“What am I meant to do for three months while she is gone touring the world, finding herself and improving her mental health?" he asks. "Just keep the job open?"

“I think it is very disruptive for a business in the private sector to entertain career breaks and I wouldn’t entertain one at any business that I would be running.

“I think, Sinéad, if you can get your career break, good luck to you.”

Bobby, my mother was ill about six months ago and I had to take time off to go look after and help her in hospital.  When I told my employers that I’d have to take some days off, they said ‘take as much time as you need.’ I assumed this meant that I could take the days as compassionate  leave.  However, this week my boss informed me that they days were taken out of my holiday leave.  They say the issue is not up for negotiation. I feel this is really unfair. Can I do anything to object to it?

“I don’t think you can unfortunately,” says Bobby

Employees are entitled to compassionate leave under certain circumstances - however a sickness in the family does not necessarily qualify.

The moral for both sides here is to be precise and always get a clear guarantee about exactly where any time off is coming from.

“This is a horrible email in the sense that this is down to poor communication,” says Bobby. "We have to look at real situations."

“That chap might have been upset. His mother was ill. It might have been said in a whimsical sort of way but I just think this is down to poor communication.”

An obnoxious staff member in our shop is on their last warning from management yet our manger seems reluctant to give them the push out the door - even though they have been abrupt and rude to customers again today. The manager knows about the guy’s behaviour and how miserable he makes the rest of us - is there anything I can do?

“It sounds to me that this manager is actually scared to do his job,” says Bobby. “For some reason he is not doing what he should be doing - i.e. dismissing that employee.”

This staff member has been through the process and has had his warnings - so Bobby’s advice is to make it clear to the manager that he is doing nobody any favours by "pegging up the bad guy."

“Two or three of you need to speak to this guy,” he says. “You need to tell him that this employee is damaging the business and that basically he could end up in a much more serious situation if the good people end up leaving over this."

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s The Hard Shoulder here:

If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to [email protected]

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