Handling not giving a raise to an average employee who thinks he deserves one

Shivani Pradhan

Product Management, Azure DataBox Edge at Microsoft at Scality



"I had a senior engineer, who was an average employee but who thought he was a rock star and deserved a raise. I had to have a conversation with him."

Actions taken

"It would have been an easy conversation if I had complaints or issues with his performance. The problem here was that he was average, and did his job well. Nothing bad, no complaints, yet nothing outstanding. Below are my notes for this conversation. First, I decided to recall the basics of salary raises. Raises are performance driven, they are not an entitlement. I explained that being on time and doing a good job is why we hire anybody. That's the baseline. You don't get a raise for just doing your job. You get a raise because you raised the bar and you brought additional value in some way. I questioned if he had, and if so, how. I explained that as he was a senior engineer, I expected him to show self-drive, and not just to do what he was given. While he should clock-in and clock-out, he should also look for opportunities to improve the product and the process, and demonstrate leadership potential to differentiate himself from others. I then shared some positive feedback from the team to keep the conversation light, positive and motivating. As a manager, I try to seriously think of a few times where this person could have gone above and beyond when it was not their direct responsibility, so I gave him some examples of ways he could go above and beyond:

  • "Don is new to the group. He has been here two months and is still slowly ramping up. What can we, as a group, publish, or create to help him ramp up 40 percent faster. Things that can be reused for other new hires in the future! You can influence our onboarding process and try to think out of the box to make us more efficient, even if it's not your direct job."
  • "Every few days some developer breaks the build. You are not given the job but you decide to step up and do an analysis on what the top five reasons for the build breaking are. The analysis report itself is showing self-driven initiative. You could take it another notch by actually suggesting a few ideas about how to solve it. Could a static code checker like coverity help?"
  • "You observe coffee machine issues and it is hurting everyone's efficiency and productivity. You take the initiative to stick to certain rules and become a kind of caretaker, reflecting on your ability to volunteer and deliver on responsibility."
  • "You drive team building activities. Ask management and start a lego game evening or make a building structure with spaghetti." This person did point out a few times where they had taken initiative, but nobody had noticed. This was very important to address to restore their trust in me. I had to have a very honest conversation with him about him needing to ensure the visibility of his good work. A polite email to everyone telling them about a good piece of work, an idea, or an initiative, and asking for other ways to improve it is a great way to gain visibility."

Lessons learned

"It is very important to have a baseline review with every employee to make sure they understand they are at 5/10 or 7/10. They must also reflect on your expectations to move from being an average employee to one exceeding your expectations. It helps to keep a close pulse on your employees. I always keep a list of gaps, and ways employees can improve, so my team members can look beyond their day-to-day roles and responsibilities. This list is very handy when I'm dealing with average employees and trying to motivate them to go above and beyond, and to think outside the box."

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Shivani Pradhan

Product Management, Azure DataBox Edge at Microsoft at Scality

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingPerformance ReviewsFeedback Techniques

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