Thursday, December 06, 2007

Money Doesn't Matter -- Yeah Right

As the end of another year approaches, so too does my contract with my current employer. They have been talking big all year about how wonderful I am to the organization.

My manager is always giving me tonnes of compliments on my work, and tells me all the compliments she receives from other managers and executives about my work. I am personally thanked and complimented by other managers, directors and other executives too, for my hard work, dedication, and overall high quality.

My manager has been dropping not so subtle hints all year that she wants me to stay on. She insists she doesn’t want to lose me. She even asked me a couple of times, if they were to offer me a permanent staff gig, if I’d be interested.

I told her what every other client who has asked me – I’d consider it.

And I would – who wouldn’t consider an offer of employment?

I have bitched and moaned all year about a lot of the inadequacies and ineptitudes where I work. There are some serious problems there, and it makes the work environment less than ideal. However, I suppose that is the case at any office – if you stick around long enough anywhere you’re bound to find things you don’t like.

There are of course, things that I do enjoy where I work as well. And these make my concluding contract sad in some ways.

But what it really boils down to is money. Money makes the world go around. Compliments are always welcome, and sadly not often given in most circumstances. People will always chime in when they upset, but rarely do they speak up for no reason other than to say “thank you.”

So I am honoured and thrilled that I receive so many complements and words of praise – from managers, fellow staff, even the president thanked me recently – which surprised even me.

But complements don’t pay for a roof overhead, food in my stomach or clothes on my back. They don’t go very far in the world of work – and that’s the world I am in when I’m negotiating my next gig.

My manager recently gave me a performance review for the year just past. This was filled with exceptional complements and wonderful words of praise. But I’ve been on permanent staff before, I’ve had numerous performance reviews in the past – I know how these things work.

Most companies – including the one I’m currently on contract with – link the annual performance review to money. These performance reviews are used to determine everything dollars and cents – from the annual holiday bonus, to whether you get a raise and if you do, by how much.

Because performance reviews are linked so strongly to money, they intentionally make it impossible to achieve perfect. See, if people were getting perfect, or even near perfect, then the company would go belly up, as they’d have to continuously pay out large sums of money.

I know I’m not perfect, and I did very well on my performance review. But even I could see a pattern in terms of the rankings. If I scored high in one area, the next area was not so high. If I scored not so high in one area, then again, the next area was high. It was like looking at a multiple-choice score card, and looking for a picture among the answers.

I discussed at my review what the ratings would translate too in terms of dollars. She gave me general estimates. However, I was already starting to wonder if all those wonderful nice things people say about me are true.

It is amazing – no, it is awesome – to receive positive feedback. As I said, it is a rare occurrence to receive any feedback, unless it is negative these days. So to not only receive positive feedback, but to receive lots of it, that is exceptional.

But if that positive feedback doesn’t translate into dollars and cents in the end, I’ll move on to my next gig elsewhere.

Something a lot of companies fail to recognize for some reason come contract close outs – I’m a contractor, so I don’t have to fall in line with their small annual pay increases based on some annual performance review. Just because their ratings system says I qualify for a meagre raise, doesn’t mean I have to accept it. Unlike someone on permanent staff, if they don’t have my signature on something saying I’m continuing working for them, then once my contract ends, it ends.

One thing many an independent contractor has learned over the years, once you get a permanent job, you are tied to whatever salary increases they offer, if any at all. You lose your bargaining room, as you already are expected back in the New Year, regardless of whether they offer you more money or not.

But as an independent contractor, you have the ability to negotiate for something better. Just because they dragged you into a performance meeting, and told you this is where you stand, doesn’t mean you have to accept it.

All that is tying you and your employer together, is a thin piece of paper, with an expiry date. When that expiry date happens, you leave, unless everyone agrees about the terms and conditions of continuing.

Contract negotiations are never easy. People often assume when you turn down a contract it is because you personally don’t like them or their organization – even if you tell them it isn’t about them or the company, it’s about the terms of the agreement.

So, hopefully, when they do come to me with an offer, it will be one which I can accept right away. However, I seriously doubt it – they are stuck in a certain frame of mind, which is limited towards a certain line of thinking.

That line of thinking is all too common and goes something like this:

  • Jobs aren’t easy to come by – especially good ones in your field of expertise.
  • So, any offer of employment will automatically be accepted, unquestioned, because . . .
  • Jobs aren’t easy to come by.

Jobs are not easy to come by – but they are out there. It just requires some digging, a lot of interviewing and running around to potential employers. And above all else – it takes initiative.

Initiative to seriously look for the right fit, at the right price. Most people lack initiative. We are creatures of comfort. We like to take the easy road, and are often too willing to accept anything that comes our way, even, if it isn’t really what we want.

We’ll see how much initiative my current client has in offering me something of actual value to me.

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