Half the office gets free lunch, we fight for scraps. Is that normal?
Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week: a strange power dynamic at work, jumping jobs for more money, and returning to work after having a baby.
Illustration by Dionne GainCredit:Dionne Gain
I work in an organisation that loves hierarchy. Half the organisation has their lunch provided daily, while the leftovers are left for everyone else to jostle over. Flexible work arrangements are only available to a select few, and car parks are provided based on status. I am sometimes the only person not invited to a workplace function that my colleagues attend even though my professional qualifications are the same as my colleagues. Is this degree of exclusion normal?
No, this degree of exclusion is not normal unless you work in a company that likes to pretend they are operating in a different century. It seems like the people in power in your organisation lost the memo about modern leadership being a privilege and not an entitlement. If they want to lead an organisation of engaged, motivated, autonomous and respected individuals then segregating the haves and have-nots is hardly the way to do it. I am not suggesting every employee should receive lunch, a car park and flexible work arrangements. What I am suggesting is that either no one receives those entitlements as a matter of course, or else there is a clear and transparent understanding on why they are offered to some and not others.
It sounds like there will be many people invested in making sure this system never changes and many others clamouring to be anointed one of the ‘special few’. Ultimately, the culture sounds like it needs new leadership for any hope of change. For this reason, I would run a mile. This is Jurassic Park in an office block and not somewhere modern leaders will be able to thrive.
I am 23 and only two years out of university. I am used to jumping onto the next opportunity for better experiences, skill development, or even better pay. I’ve also conditioned myself to always head towards the next thing or else risk falling behind my peers. I’m now in a job I love but am paid below the market average. A recruiter recently made a job offer that pays $30,000 on top of my current salary. I love my job, but sometimes worry about my future here. Should I stop and relax about “being better”, or is life too short to accept being underpaid?
At your age and stage in your career, there is no doubt a sizeable pay increase can make a big difference. However, if you are in a job you love, and you feel there could be development or promotion opportunities where you are, it may be worth approaching your current employer to see whether they might review your current remuneration based on the market average.
As we all know, the grass isn’t always greener, even if it is going to pay more. If you move jobs and discover the new role, your new colleagues, your new boss or even the culture of the new company is not what you thought, the change for $30,000 will not seem worth it. My advice is to explore every opportunity, including financial, you have where you are now given you love what you are doing. You will then be ready to jump at the next opportunity when the timing is right.
I’ve recently returned to work part-time after having my second child, and I am grappling with the decision to increase my days to full-time. Due to childcare costs, it will mean my husband and I will barely break even. I enjoy my job and don’t want my career to stall. Do you think it’s a sacrifice worth making?
I wish I had a dollar every time I have been asked this question, then I would be able to help cover the costs of your childcare! Only you can answer what will be best for you and your family. It is such a personal decision and dependent on how you feel about your career, how you feel about the prospect of being at home with the kids full time, and whether you have any other family income you can rely on.
I remember when my kids were young the cost of child care matched what I was able to earn at the time. But only for a while. Often when our kids are really young, it is also the beginning of our careers, so our incomes are relatively low. However, as the kids got older, my career also progressed including promotion opportunities and remuneration increases that came with that. Long term, the balance shifted in my favour as my income grew beyond any costs of external child care. So, the short-term sacrifice was one I was prepared to take although whether that will be the same for you is really only something you can answer.
Send your questions about work, careers and leadership to [email protected]. Your name and any identifying information will not be used. Letters may be edited.
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