Felecia Lamb, a proofreader and editor for a New York City law firm, has never had a timid tongue. When she found out that a newly hired proofreader at her firm was making several thousand dollars more, she approached her manager and demanded a raise.
“My manager tried to deflect my request by saying that employees should not discuss salaries and that rumors were not a basis for salary requests,” Lamb recalls. “But I persisted and when raises were issued, I received that rumored amount.”
Michael V. Wilkins Sr., Ph.D., career and life coach and author of the self-published No Secrets to Success (NAASA Publishers Inc., $15.95; www.4naasa.org) offered by the National African American Speakers Association (NAASA), an international communication training organization in Park Forest, Illinois, says most job-related needs go unmet because employees don’t make the necessary requests. As a career and life coach, Wilkins teaches individuals how to effectively communicate their needs. He offers the following tips:
Ask someone with authority to help. It’s useless asking someone who doesn’t have the means or the influence to help you get what you want. “A sympathetic ear does not automatically translate into desired results,” Wilkins says. However, if your direct supervisor does not have the authority to help you, ask him or her who does. If you proceed, keep your supervisor informed so he or she will not feel as if you have usurped their authority, Wilkins adds.
Be specific. Don’t give in to your emotions by whining or complaining. Outline, in detailed terms, what you want, why you need it, and when and how you would expect it.Create value for the person you are asking. Again, your request should not be based on emotion. You should be prepared to show the decision maker how fulfilling your request can benefit the company overall. “My argument was that I had proven my worth,” says Lamb. “I had been with the company for two years. I always had favorable reviews. I did good work. And this new employee had no track record.”Ask until you get an answer.
Follow up with your requests or ask when a decision will be made. A timeline will help you gauge your follow-up. Wilkins suggests that if the first few requests go unanswered, ask if there is someone else you should consult.You also have to be prepared for the answer you get, [even] if it’s not what you expect to hear,” offers Lamb. “I knew that if they didn’t increase my salary, I planned to leave.”
In the Know
Producers of the independent, behind-the-scenes documentary Test of Courage: The Making of a Firefighter highlighted these statistics: Detroit has more than 20 African American women firefighters, including District Chief Charlene Graham who was promoted in 1996. The District of Columbia Fire Department employs more than 50 women. In New York City, black women represent only 0.3% of the city’s 11,000 firefighters.
Test of Courage (www.pbs.org/ testofcourage) features the challenges of men and women from different ethnic backgrounds in their quests to become firefighters in Oakland,