Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week, a question about being paid for attending a workshop, corporate box-ticking on NAIDOC week, and what to do when you’re not happy with the pay rise you got.
I have been invited to attend a strategy workshop in an area where I have experience but is outside my day-to-day work. It is being run by a government training provider and the organisers expect me to contribute my ideas for free, even though they end up being used by others without acknowledgement. Most, if not all attendees will be paid directly or indirectly to attend the weekday event but as a Disability Support Worker with private clients, I will lose a day’s wages to attend. I have floated the option of consulting to the training provider but have been declined and they say this will be a “good opportunity to network”. I see no value in this and resent losing money and my ideas not being valued. How do I navigate this situation and respond in a way that will leave the door open for future involvement?
Networking and exposure aren’t sufficient payment if you’re being asked to contribute heavily to a workshop.Credit:Dionne Gain
Ah, that old chestnut of “networking opportunity”. You should ask the government training provider if they are forgoing their wages on that day for the “networking opportunity” (only, just kidding, don’t really ask that but you know what I mean!). There are rare occasions when the opportunity to do something far outweighs any payment you might receive. It does not sound like this is one of those opportunities.
My advice is to work out your day rate – at a minimum what you make as a support worker and then some, since the work you do as a consultant will be quite different – and let the training provider know this is your fee for the day. If they decide not to use you, that is up to them. I expect that if you have a certain expertise they can’t replicate, they will understand they will need to pay you to be there. You will then set the expectation with them and anyone else who wants to engage you with that you have a daily rate for your expertise. It is important you are paid and respected for the value you offer.
My company emailed everyone about the NAIDOC week celebration, which I was looking forward to. Turns out the “celebration” was basically a table with non-Indigenous-inspired snacks and some materials explaining Indigenous culture. Our line manager did not know what to do and the whole thing was lacking to say the least. It reminded me of an International Women’s Day celebration with pretty cupcakes and cute stickers – just another corporate box-ticking exercise with no substance to it. There could have been Indigenous speakers or the very least internal panel to discuss and bring awareness to the organisation. Why the lame effort for something so important? I would have much preferred if they just sent out an email and be done with it, instead of a disjointed and uninspiring celebration.
It is critically important we avoid turning NAIDOC week – or any other efforts to celebrate diversity and inclusion – into just another corporate box-ticking exercise, as you have identified. Sadly it sounds like your employer simply wanted to be seen to be doing something rather than taking the time to think through the purpose and meaning behind NAIDOC week.
Given the theme for NAIDOC week 2022 was Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! I wonder whether your letter is the first step in that process and you have the opportunity now to pass on your feedback and suggestions to your employer for what can be done differently (and not just during NAIDOC week but every week). Does your employer have a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) or other ways to recognise and celebrate Indigenous employees or the Indigenous lands you work on? There are many resources available at naidoc.org.au you can also direct your line manager to if they are unsure of how to proceed.
I have been working in a business I really like for three years. The people and culture are great. I have recently been offered a promotion but the salary offer was quite disappointing compared to what I am paid now. I was only offered a few thousand dollars more but extra responsibility. To be honest I felt offended by the offer and have told the business owner but I don’t think anything will change in that regard. Considering the market situation I am truly considering moving on. Should I approach them with a final counter offer and advise if that is not met at some point soon, should I be open to new opportunities?
I can understand your disappointment if, in your mind, you think the new role is worth a lot more. However, sometimes it can be short-sighted to move. The grass is definitely not always greener. You are working somewhere you love and you said the people and culture are great. That is worth something – maybe not money – but it is worth something for the moment. The other opportunity you have is to take on a promotion with extra responsibility. The experience you gain in your new role will help you down the track apply for and hopefully obtain jobs that might pay even more.
In terms of counter offers, I do not recommend you go down that path simply as a way to be paid more in your role. In my experience, it never ends well. I would focus on the new responsibilities you have been offered and doing the job to the best of your ability. You have expressed your disappointment to your boss already and it will be counter-productive to try to “win” an argument on that front now. If you do well in this role, your boss will remember your disappointment and hopefully rectify it in your next review once you have proven yourself. If you happen to be offered a different position by another company at a higher salary, then you can decide if you want to leave. Ultimately I expect you will earn more in the long run by getting the experience of this new role under your belt.
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.
Dr Kirstin Ferguson is a non-executive director, author and regular columnist. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the QUT Business School and former Deputy Chair of the ABC.
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