"Used and abused like a junk yard dog"
I'm a perverse fellow. I like working in Compensation, and have intentionally made it my career focus. Not many of my ilk will admit that. Some use it as a stepping stone for higher positions within Human Resources, while others look at us with a sidelong glance, as if we're "one of them."
But I know what I've gotten myself into. I know how practitioners like myself can be viewed by colleagues, employees and upper management. It isn't always pretty.
- We can be perceived as a "numbers-type," bereft of charm and personality. Picture the fellow with the pocket protector and ever-present calculator.
- We're often not viewed as much of a business partner, as we're too externally focused (what are others paying, what do surveys say). A constant criticism is, "if only they understood the business."
- Folks think of us as if we wore a badge. We're too much the gatekeeper or policeman (Hey there! You can't spend so much, you can't rate employees like they're relatives, you have to follow policy, we don't like exceptions, etc.)
- Our work is easy to criticize, whether it's our view of the competitive marketplace, how much employees should receive next year, what grade our jobs should be in (what do they know?), or requiring managers to use those hated job description and performance review forms.
As a result, I never did get many Christmas cards.
Alas, for those who are doing their job, which is managing or directing compensation, not simply administering it, these practitioners eventually start to feel like that old junk yard dog, beaten down, abused and definitely not considered as one of the "cool" folks.
Being challenged is routine
Think of the gauntlet faced by many when presenting the annual compensation proposal. You can almost see the agitated twitches appear as recommendations are presented and the inevitable questions, skepticism and doubts pop out like mushrooms after a rain.
- What surveys did you use?
- Those aren't the figures we expected to see
- Are you sure about these numbers?
- Your recommendations cost too much. Where can you cut?
- That's not what everyone else is doing
- My brother-in-law heard . . . (fill in the blanks)
- Can't we just go with the cost of living and move on?
And the list goes on.
That's the way it is. Like I said, used and abused.
On the other hand, some compensation administrators (when it looks like a duck and acts like a duck it may still have a different title) will tend to present what is expected, what won't cause trouble, and what will be easy to implement. Call it "kicking the can down the road." It may not be in the company's best interest, but it certainly is for the don't-rock-the-boat administrator who wants to be liked and fit in.
So which one are you?
You don't have to toss away your career when you stand up and tell senior management what they're paying you for; and that is, your professional opinion and best judgment. This is a time when your greatest value is to open their eyes with your thorough analysis, your understanding of problems and how to resolve them, and your sense of likely unintended consequences.
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the fire. You're in the wrong job. I'm suggesting that you stand up, you don't give up, you don't give in or let the challenges to your professionalism sweep you away. Remember that administrators may be liked, but they're less often respected.
In the course of my career I've been that junk yard dog. But I made it. And I gained a lot of professional respect from colleagues and senior management along the way.
So can you. It's your choice.
Btw, I still don't get Christmas cards. They all go to the generalists.
Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations. He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant. Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation. He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.
Creative Commons image,"Angry Tiger," by Guyon Moree