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Thursday, August 14, 2008

boss hiring second person to do same job

A reader writes:

I work in an entry-level, dues-paying job. As could be expected, the experience I'm getting is great and will directly help my future career development, but the salary is very low. (I don't really have "disposable income," unless my student loan payments count.)

My boss just told me that she wants to hire a second person to do my job, to start in two months. She went to great pains to explain that it's not because my performance is unsatisfactory. She wants a second assistant partly in order to get more work done faster, and partly so that she doesn't have to start from scratch with a new assistant when I go back to school for an advanced degree (which will be in a year).

I can't argue with her second point, but there's a problem with the first point: there is really not enough work for two people to do. I stay on top of everything my boss gives me and have never finished anything late. I would be able to handle an increased workload, so I wondered if it'd be worth offering to take on whatever "more work" she has in mind in exchange for a raise. I think she'd jump at the chance to save money on hiring a whole new employee, but I have no idea how to frame the question without sounding like I'm desperate for more money or like I've been sitting around doing nothing the whole time I've worked for her. Really, I'm not sure if I should even mention such a crazy idea, since I'm in a boot-licking job with no direct advancement potential (normally in my field you'd work such a job for 2-4 years, then go to grad school, then return to work and actually be on the ladder). But I'd hate to see my boss hire a second assistant and then have both of us sitting around bored. What do you think?

First, the idea that she wants to hire a second person in two months so that she's not starting from scratch when you leave in a year is odd. This doesn't sound like a job that requires 10 months of training. So either she's not thinking this through very well, or something else is driving this.

If your boss wants to add a second person to get more done faster, you offering to take on extra work won't necessarily address that, since you presumably can't double your speed. But if she didn't really mean faster, and really just meant more, and you have the time to take on all or most of that more, then yes. But are you sure that you do? It's possible that she has entirely new projects in mind, work that isn't currently on your plate, and so the first thing to do is to find out specifically what she envisions this second person doing.

If it turns out she doesn't plan to add to the existing pile of work but just thinks two people would handle it better than one, and if you believe you can do it yourself, then sure, speak up. But here's the problem: If you tell her, "hey, I could do this all on my own," then it would be reasonable for her to expect you to, sans raise. It's reasonable to expect you to work to the best of your ability, without you tying it to a raise.

That said, if you're doing a great job now and can legitimately argue that taking on the additional work would raise your stress level or increase your hours in a way beyond what simply comes with the territory, then I think you can tie that to a raise request. Or you could ask for a title change or something else that would show increased responsibilities in a way that could benefit you when you're job-searching in the future.


Anonymous said...


Concur AAM. No job needs 10 mos turnover. Even the commanding officer on a US Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carrier only gets 30 days.


This could be a very nice opportunity to ensure that you are doing everything possible to get things done. You indicated that she assures you that it is not your performance. Ask again. And ask open ended questions - what else could I take on? What else can I do?

There is also the remote chance that she has the opportunity to ADD STAFF. In this day and time, when managers, supervisors and directors get the opportunity to add staff, they don't typically question it. THEY ACT FAST.

If you think it is not performance-based, start having the conversations about work distribution, what your position will be doing, what the new position will be doing and the reporting structure.

There is also the chance that you could be seen as a lame duck, with only a year left there. Make sure that you keep it professional and don't fall in the 'short timer's syndrome.'

Good luck!

HR Godess said...

I agree with the advice. It seems to me that something isn't being said, which is unfortunate. I'm not a big fan of not being open and honest if there is a problem but there are a lot of managers who try to avoid conflict as much as possible. HR maven makes some great suggestions as well. Tread lightly...

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am the writer, and I've found out more about the situation -- I think hr maven is right -- she's been given the budget to add a second assistant for the first time ever. Grapevine says that my boss is already worrying about finding things for the second person to do.

If there is a problem with my performance, then I would be the last to know! My last two performance reviews have been glowing and other employees tell me that my boss says good things about me when I am not around.

Anonymous said...

Well, if that is the case,then you have a TERRIFIC opportunity to step up and be a hero. Ask now what kind of projects you could take on, ask if you can help train, work to be seen as a support with the transition.

Good luck to you. And school next year!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad the writer got more info, as it seems to underscore what I thought the issue REALLY was, which is that the boss really just wants more directs. Always, always, always remember... YOUR concerns about raises, promotions, etc are MIRRORED by your boss. They want to advance, too, and one of the ways to show that they're moving along is to have more and more direct reports.

Alison said...

Yes, if she's trying to figure out what the person will do, this is a great opportunity for you. Spend time thinking about what additional projects would benefit your boss/your department. Think creatively. Then draw up two proposed job descriptions, one for you and one for the new person, and show them to your boss. This could actually result in turning your job from a "dues-paying" one into one that will help your resume even more!

LisaLahey said...

To Anonymous:
Hopefully the new recruit isn't going to replace you. I've always understood that when a person is hired to take on very similar work to yours in your department probably at your salary level you're on your way out.