Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, got a rude surprise this past week. When asked at a woman’s conference what advice he would have for new female professionals, he said in effect they should “trust the system” and refrain from asking for a raise.
As you might guess, at best his comments were inarticulate. Hmmm.
The current “self help” book wisdom is just the opposite. Women should not only ask about a raise but should demand one. How could Nadella get it so wrong?
We may never know because a proper explanation would take so much time that the “tell me in 25 words or less” crowd would be busy checking their smart phones or tweeting some observation before Nadella got to the heart of the matter. Microsoft will be in damage control up to its ears in politically correct talk. We should expect to see commercials featuring happy women thriving within Microsoft’s offices. Women are just too big a buying group to be overlooked, even if what Nadella was trying to say must take a back seat to honesty.
I suspect that Microsoft has a well established pay system and within its HR community, watchdogs who look out for any pay discrepancies between genders. What Microsoft seeks are employees who come to work and are 100% involved in exceeding their job’s expectations.
What Nadella is probably suspicious about are workers whose first priority is maximizing their pay. This type of employee typically sees which way the flag is blowing and is full square behind that initiative or position. This type of employee is also acutely aware of who else is getting recognized (and assumed to be getting more money). These behaviors detract from an employees concentration on the work at hand.
If Nadella could rewind the clock and get to speak his remarks again, he might have couched them in terms of what he expects of all employees, regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity. He might have said that at Microsoft there is an understanding between employees and the company. This understanding is based upon the notion that when the company does well, all employees do well. Further to ensure each employee is treated as fairly as possible, HR policies have been adopted where all employees are reviewed against the same standards and are all informed of the assessment.
These policies also seek input on what the employee wants for a career path and how best to realize their goals. Then Nadella could have said, while it is certainly ok to ask for a raise, it is really all about how one asks.
If the HR policies were working correctly, then the employee should be properly placed within Microsoft’s pay scales. If, on the other hand, the employee feels their contributions have not been fully appreciated, then focusing (during an annual review) upon how the employee’s managers viewed their contributions could be a value adding experience.
Simply asking for a raise would actually send an unintended message that the individual was more interested in personal renumeration than job performance.
In the business world in general there is always a tension between budgets and results. Supervisors and managers have budget limits and granting pay increases during an operating year is often difficult.
If an employee is exceptionally valuable, the prospects that the employee will leave for better paying work is often enough to obtain an off-forecast pay increase.
Equal pay for equal work seems the proper goal. National statistics, however, suggest gender differences favoring men are the norm. So the question of women asking for a raise is not a bozo idea. The real question might be “how to ask for a raise”.