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Monday, May 11, 2009

should extra duties equal more pay?

A reader writes:

I am currently a secretary, with a degree in computer engineering. My employer now wants me to be the back-up I.T. person in the office, which is not a part of a support staff position. Is it unprofessional to expect or to ask to be compensated for this addition of extra duties? Can you please tell me the best way to ask for compensation and the appropriate time to ask?

Yes to the first, no to the second.

My longer answer to this is over at U.S. News & World Report today. Please check it out here.


HRD said...

This is called recession proofing. Take it on, use it going forward, but for now don't ask for a pay rise.

Anonymous said...

I have to completely disagree. Alison Green is completely off-base here.

People get hired to do a specific job. This person was hired to do secretarial work. Her pay is based on her role as secretary, regardless of the type of degree she possesses.

Sure, it is expected that she may be asked to occasionally perform tasks somewhat outside the role of secretary. However, those should be infrequent. And, they should not be too far from the skillset required for a secretary.

To hire her for secretarial work and then ask her to perform IT duties without the corresponding IT pay is unfairly taking advantage of her skills and her situation. Heck, if they're going to do that, what's to stop them from replacing all their IT workers with "secretaries"? Absolutely nothing. Just because we are in a recession, that does not give companies the right to mistreat employees.

If her company wants her to perform the duties of backup IT person, then they need to acknowledge that by officially changing her duties, her title, and her pay.

George Guajardo said...

Looks like you got some resistance on this one. I think the disagreement comes from what should happen, rather than what is permissible.

I can't speak to employment law, but I suspect there may be some collective bargaining issues here. If support staff is classified as exempt and is doing non-exempt stuff, Houston might have a problem.

No mistake, having someone do work that would otherwise cost them more is pretty shady. However, the employee is not obliged to do the work. She is probably an at will employee. She can leave whenever she wants.

The employee could really see this as a growth opportunity. It seldom knocks twice!

HRD said...

I think GG makes a good point, there is a difference between what should happen and what does happen.

The reality is though that unemployment is increasing and there are many people out there who would probably do the job for the same pay. Thats the economics of the situation.

I'm not saying its right, just that its reality.

BB said...

I have to completely disagree with the Anonymous poster who said, "I have to completely disagree."

I can attest to this being a growth opportunity as several people have mentioned - I was an Analyst for a small consulting firm while also going to grad school for an MBA and when our Finance person left, I was asked if I wanted to help fill that gap.

I gladly accepted, but I wasn't offered more pay and didn't ask for it. Turns out I was better at that job than what I was originally hired for, and although I had to leave (on good terms) to "move up", I couldn't have done that without the experience I gained.

Most companies want to hire a person to do for them what the person is already doing for someone else. In the case of the "administrative/technical" original poster, if he or she takes on the new responsibilities, they'll be much more likely to be eventually get a new position as the higher-paid technical role (whether internally or externally), and they'd be able to count the additional months/years as experience on their resume.

Anonymous said...

Someone with a Computer Engineering degree is overqualified for a Backup IT and, in fact, most IT positions. This is not a "growth" opportunity for this employee because of that fact.

No, this is simply one example of a company taking advantage of an employee.

BB said...

Guessing the two Anonymous comments are from the same person, but either way...

~ If the company IS taking advantage of the employee and the employee doesn't like it, the employee is free to leave.

~ Merely HAVING a Computer Engineering degree does not automatically make ANYONE qualified for an IT position, much less OVERQUALIFIED. Few companies will hire someone with a degree and no experience except possibly to an ENTRY-LEVEL position.

If the OP's current job isn't something that was taken to get by, either they couldn't get a job in IT yet (perhaps due to lack of experience!) or the Admin job paid more...

Susan said...

I would go ahead and take care of the IT requests without asking for compensation. How do you know that at some time in the future your employer or manager will not consider offering you a chance to switch into IT instead of secretarial work? Maybe your employer's current IT employee isn't up to the task, and this is a chance to expand your opportunities.

My suggestion is to continue helping with the extra IT items and let it go for awhile. After your manager/employer is comfortable with you doing IT or you've taken over more responsibilities in IT, maybe you could even suggest a possible switch. You could present it as an opportunity for your employer, not just yourself. At the very worst, your employer will never pay you more or expand your career opportunities, and you'll move on either when the economic situation is better or you are ready. You'll be able to list these extra IT jobs on your resume and show what a valuable and awesome employee you are by being able to simultaneously solve IT problems and serve well as a secretary.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Alison. To me this doesn't sound like anything more than a request to pitch in once in a while when the usual IT person is out. So it wouldn't be appropriate to request additional compensation at the outset. It should go on the self-evaluation for the next performance review and then, if it does turn out to be taking up a lot of time/effort, it might be worth asking for a raise and/or change in title.

If the person is taking over someone else's job responsibility completely, though (say, due to s/he leaving) then it may be worth addressing this outside the normal review cycle if it is a large additional burden.

Amy said...

If I were given more pay each time I was given an additional duty, I'd be a millionaire! Organizations change, technology changes, and job duties regularly evolve. Although my job title hasn't changed in 19 years, my duties have. Employees(hopefully) get annual merit increases to reflect that they've become more efficient at their jobs and are taking on more responsibilities and duties. Now if the job is REALLY changing (as opposed to "evolving") that's a different scenario. In my opinion, being asked to be a backup IT person doesn't fall within that category. In my office, we have a several admin people who do "backup" IT work; they have good skills in the area, and are enthusiastic about helping out where needed (and find it to be a good break from some of their more mundane tasks). None have asked for a raise over and above their regular annual increases (which, due to the economy, have become pretty darn small, unfortunately).

Anonymous said...

"Employees(hopefully) get annual merit increases to reflect that they've become more efficient at their jobs and are taking on more responsibilities and duties."

Yes to the first, no to the second. Merit increases are intended to reward good performance within one's existing job responsibilities.

To the extent the job responsibilities change, at the next review those should be reflected in a modified job description and the employee should be moved to a higher title and pay grade when the added responsibilities justify it.

Dan McCarthy said...

Having read all the comments, I’m still with Alison. One of the things I like about this blog is it doesn’t recite HR policy and the way things should work – it reflects the way things really work.
As a manager, I’d find it obnoxious if my employee asked for a raise for doing something outside of their job description.
I also tired to put myself in the secretary’s shoes:
I’m a mid-level manager. I’m asked to be “back-up VP” (fill in for my manager at meetings, take on a few on his responsibilities). Its higher grade work, I think I can do it, would enjoy it, and it would be a heck of a development opportunity. I’d be flattered and jump at that opportunity. If I’m being asked to do these kinds of things on a regular basis, and I perform well and learn, then the rewards will come.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree that extra duties should equal more pay, but that's what *should* happen.

In this economy, the employers hold the cards and they know it. This is basic economics. You might as well see this as an opportunity to increase your job skill set, and then use that as a springboard to something else when the time arrives.

Also, most CE/EE folks aren't even remotely qualified for IT. Why you might ask? Working in IT utilizes a completely different skill set. This requires mostly working with upgrades, maintenance, system administration, databases, and of course dealing with people. That's a far cry from designing circuits and microchips.