Two Weeks Away

Two Weeks Away

On my new boss’s first day, I told her that I could work on anything she wanted for the next 24 hours, but would then be away for following 2 weeks.

“Oh, you’re getting married?”


“So you’re going to Turkey?”


“Huh,” she said. And so, we began our working relationship.


Women in the Workplace: Negotiations – Not Just for Hostages Anymore

Women in the Workplace: Negotiations – Not Just for Hostages Anymore

There’s trade-craft to salary negotiation. The key? Being willing to ask. That’s where many of people, including my sisters in the workplace, get stuck. When I have negotiated raises on someone else’s behalf, I start by pointing out all the ways in which that individual has improved our overall productivity, difficult projects in which they’ve been involved, and the number of cases they’ve closed. Having that information at my fingertips – having written my own evaluation – is great ammunition. So, start there for yourself. By the time you’re done, you’ll be convinced that this negotiation is best for you, and your employer. And if that helps you do a better job on your own behalf, all the more reason to negotiate.


Before you begin, review what you have, what you want, and why they should give it to you. You need to know: your current salary, and the median – not average – salary for professionals in your field in your city. What do you want? That’s up to you. But ask for more than you think they’ll be willing to give, and know what your acceptable range looks like. Most importantly, know why you and your employer will want to work on this together: they love you. They may not love you the way they love their grandma – or Lauren from HR with the candy bowl – but they love that you work there and they don’t currently need to train someone new to take your place. Before you begin any negotiation, remind yourself – so that you’re ready to remind your management – why they love employing you. For instance: your current workload, length or duration or flexibility of your work day, years of experience you bring, your adaptability – be it with different populations or subject matter -, ways in which you exceed expectations, and your reputation of excellence. They pay you; clearly you have made your expertise, abilities, and hard-working attitude clear. Don’t forget to also enumerate the reasons they don’t want to lose you: they’ve trained you, you know the drill, and they don’t need to continue training you. FYI: on average it takes 6 months to get a new employee functioning at full speed. They don’t need to do that with you.
In most cases, if the negotiation doesn’t go well, nothing happens. You asked, and they said no. But you’re still employed – go you! Meanwhile, it rarely hurts to remind your employer of how much they want to keep you and what they should be doing to make you happy.
Or, as a former New York Times editor says;

[Jill] Abramson was the first woman to hold the executive editor spot—arguably the pinnacle of American journalism. Sulzberger had offered it to her over the phone in 2011, and she didn’t think to ask at the time what her predecessors’ compensation had been. “My advice to younger women now is don’t do what I did,” she tells me. “Just be very straightforward and ask those questions. I was stupid not to.”


There’s More to Be Said: Happy Blog Anniversary

As of today: Happy six years of reading this blog! For my new readers – I’m looking at you Filipino bots – happy one year anniversary! In honor of the occasion, here’s a conversation – or unsolicited advice – I’d gladly have with each of you:

Perel, discussing a colleague who uniformly flatters: He definitely does that to everyone.

Me: Treat him like the really nice guy he probably is –

Perel: You think so?!

Me: Yes. That way if he’s plotting you’ll have lulled him into a false sense of complacency.


Keep Ya Head Up: Choices

Keep Ya Head Up: Choices

My first performance evaluation came as a surprise. I’d been gainfully employed for years before I had one, so I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be the most positive version of a conversation I’ve had many times since.

“You come off as somewhat…” my boss paused before completing his thought. The rest of my performance review had exceeded my expectations, but he had said that there were some additional notes he wanted to share as well. “…somewhat aggressive.”

I blinked. He gave examples. I nodded.

“Ok,” I said, digesting this news. “How do we solve it?”

“I don’t think it’s a problem,” he said. “Sometimes it’s good. I know that I can give you an assignment and trust that you’ll get it done. You won’t drop it just because other people aren’t interested in working on it.”

I waited.

“But I want to make sure you’re aware. It can be helpful, but it isn’t always necessary. So you should decide when to be, and when not to be, quite so forceful.”

Candy Jar: Running on Empty

Candy Jar: Running on Empty

The candy jar at work remains a mystery. It is filled up sporadically with varied options. The rhyme and reason for who fills it with what is a mystery. Mars bars? Someone loves me. Strawberry-cordial filled dark chocolates?  Who did John* screw over this time? Unfortunately, much of the time there’s nothing to wonder at; the jar sits empty, its cheery orange lid covered in a layer of dust.

On a recent day a coworker walked purposefully toward the candy jar, and stopped abruptly in front of it. He held it up to the light and shook it, as though the clear plastic sides, which showed no candy within, were playing tricks on his eyes.

“Why is there no candy?” he called out, tossing it up forlornly. It was empty because he’d eaten the last of the candy two weeks early, and no one had refilled it since.

“I have m&ms,” I called back. “Do you want some?”

“YES!” he replied, in a tone far different from his usual funereal inflection.

He took a handful, and munching happily, asked, accusatorily, “Why are you hoarding candy?”

“I don’t think it’s called hoarding when I buy candy and eat it,” I suggested.

“It is if you don’t put it in the candy jar,” was the reply.

“Ooh! Can I have some?” pipped in a third coworker, ending our standoff.

I suspect that it’s my coworker’s love of candy, rather than the unpredictable nature of the jar’s filling, that leads to it sitting empty. The candy jar, and now my candy stash as well.

*I don’t work with anyone named John. Even though the security guard told me this week that his brother’s buddy John – handsome and tall – works in the same office. I’ll take his word for it.

Tips for Tipping

Tips for Tipping

I don’t trust anyone, except for my hairdresser. I’ve trusted her since I was six, and two decades later that trust is intact. When I was in second grade my then hairdresser cut my hair shorter than I wanted it. She was, in fairness, following my mom’s directions. But I refused to set foot in her beauty station again. My mom only convinced me to go back by promising that a new person would be cutting my hair. She handed me over to Bonnie, and by the time Bonnie handed me back, with a lollipop of my choice, I had a sharp haircut and a steadfast bond. As I grew older, and my mom accepted that Bonnie was the only person I would allow to cut my hair, I went to the salon by myself. My mom sent me off with $15 and instructed me to come back with only $1. I explained to my mom that I’d come home with all $4, my math skills more than advanced enough to know the charge for an $11 haircut. No, my mom corrected me, I was to give Bonnie $3 for a tip.

I explained to my mom, who I thought also trusted Bonnie with her hair and her life, that the salon priced a kid’s haircut at $11. I’d stared at it for enough years to be certain. My mom broke it to me that while that was true, it wasn’t the right price to pay. I explained to her again about my trust in Bonnie. She told me that sometimes trust means paying more than what you’re told.

Hair dressers provide a personal service, my mom explained. They do something nice for you and they don’t get paid enough for it. She didn’t go into details about how some people are paid less than minimum wage – the tax rule that’s supposed to keep all of us out of poverty. She didn’t explain how those in the service economy who spend their day dealing with customers lack the infrastructure of organized labor to force work to a standstill until they are protected by the same privileges enjoyed by white-collar workers or unionized blue-collar workers. She didn’t explain how so-called pink-collar workers are unable to afford the means necessary to wage a campaign for better pay on a national-scale. Instead, my mom told me that some people do you a service and you pay them extra for it because it’s the right amount – no matter what’s written on a sign.

As one calendar year ends and another begins, we take the time to thank those in the service industry who work for us every day – our supers, maintenance staff, and the newspaper lady – by paying them a tip to make sure their pay fair.

Holiday Partying

Holiday Partying

For weeks beforehand, my office was abuzz with talk of the holiday party.

“Are you going?” asked the woman in the next cubicle.

“To the christmas party?” I asked. “Yeah.”

“You know it’s a holiday party not a christmas party?” she asked, gently. Sure, I nodded, taking in her ‘seasonal’ decorations of red and green snowmen which covered the walls of her cubicle.

At the party itself, I took in the red and green centerpieces and the playlist picked by someone with an overabundance of christmas spirit. I found myself a seat and leaned in to hear my coworkers gossip of parties past.When my group broke up, I got up to find a place to stash my coat.

“How’s it going?” asked my colleague, and our resident party planner, when he spotted me on my own. I was maneuvering between cramped tables in the basement of  a downtown bar, where people clustered awkwardly between the tables at which no one seemed eager to sit. The lighting was dim, the music loud, the ambiance uncomfortable – for those who were still sober because of those who no longer were.

“Good!” I exclaimed, my smile stretched to what I assumed he would take for an enthusiastic grin. In the fifteen minutes since I’d walked in, I’d checked my watch three times and was going for a fourth when the organizer had spotted me.

“Great!” he exclaimed in return, in what appeared to be genuine happiness. “Just remember not to have anything.” And with that he walked away.

Every year, my office has held a holiday party, organized and paid for by the staff. It includes a buffet meal and an open bar – as long as you’re drinking one of the four house specials. It’s heavily subsidized by the managers, so that everyone can afford the $25 to $35 cover charge. So, managers are put out by excessive expense they bear, staff are annoyed they have to pay, and people who keep kosher are allowed to attend for free as long as they don’t eat or drink, water included.

Happy holidays

Candy Jar

Candy Jar

Most offices have a candy jar. Some have a bowl. Others have a dish. My old office had a drawer. While a drawer full of candy sounds awesome, the size made it hard fill it up at once – making any individual attempt seem paltry and stingy. In order to fill a candy drawer you have to stock up on enough chocolates, chewies, and drops to make the cashier fear that you’re trying to recreate the gingerbread cottage in which Hansel and Gretel were held captive. Which is why I tended to only bring in homemade treats – it’s much easier to fill out a desk space with napkins and such than it in to fill up a deep drawer.

My new office, however, has a candy jar. While significantly smaller than a drawer, it could still comfortably hold a small child. However, I am determined to win the affections and allegiance of my new coworkers. So, with candy sales abounding, I filled up the jar. My coworkers were thrilled with this new infusion of candy – I had strategically waited till the jar was emptied in order to gain maximum impact. I was happy that my plan to worm my way into their good graces had succeeded.

At least, I was glad until someone noticed that one of the candies had arrived in my bag – and then the jar – unwrapped. He made sure that I and everyone knew that he found this oversight unreasonable. He was still explaining the extent of his concern when another coworker leaned over him, grabbed the offending mini twix bar, and ate it. The fearless colleague assured us everything was fine and went back to work.

But the sanitary-conscious coworker wasn’t done listing his concerns about an unwrapped chocolate bar, as small and cute and tasty as it may be. Winding up his speech, he told me that he held me responsible for what had happened. I told him that if he didn’t appreciate my candy provisions, I’d stuff the jar with raisin boxes.

“You wouldn’t!” he said in horror.

“Watch me,” I warned him.

Thus is the battle for hearts and minds won. With lots of candy and a hint of dried-fruit menace.

How To: The Series

How To: The Series

Most people in powerful positions – and lots of people in powerless positions – must undergo a background check between being offered a job and being given a contract to sign. But some of the most powerful people in the world don’t give HR anything but their social security number before their start date. Those people are politicians, and for them a background check is nothing more, and nothing less, than their constituency’s scrutiny.

In my generation one of the largest and longest-lasting figures on the national stage has kept his seat for over forty years. Between elections – of which he won a 23, consecutively, – Baby Boomers came of age, the Greatest Generation faded away, and Millennials began voting. His city burned and was rebuilt. His district moved – geographically stretching north and demographically expanding to include people who didn’t look or sound like him. During that time his district went from being a drug-dealing stronghold to a bastion of economic development to a gentrified neighborhood. Yet, through it all, his district hold one thing to be true – Representative Charlie Rangel was the right man to represent them. A junior congressman, a friend to the civil rights movement, a leader of the most powerful congressional committee, or a man censured by his colleagues, Rangel held his seat and helped his people. Want to know how he’s done it? He’ll tell you about it with his signature smile. Or you can read selections of how to do things so that, like Rangel, you’ll never have a bad day.