Earlier this year, The HR Digest posted an insightful article on burned out and overworked nonprofit workers. With the article came accolades of appreciation, gratification, and an influx of letters asking for advice on the same. Below is a letter we received from Christine,
In February 2017, I completed two years at this family business. I started out as an intern until eventually I became the assistant manager, handling a team of five subordinates. I’ve been working here straight out of college and I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given to use my potential.
My friends are pretty envious of my job – it’s unconventional and so are the perks. Our boss ensures we always have fun and enjoy work each day. I consider everyone, including my boss, who is the co-founder, all to be friends. I’ve even attended my peers’ parties, funerals, and have been a part of one colleague’s wedding.
I have five people on our team, and we’re seriously understaffed. On some days, I have to take on many roles. This means, I constantly have to play five different roles at once, which often leaves me overwhelmed and overworked. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it keeps things interesting and I’m grateful because at the end of the day, I’m learning new things. The hiccup is that I am overworked and seriously underpaid. I graduated with a degree in computer science, and yet I make $20 an hour, which doesn’t cover my bills.
Now, I cannot ask my boss for a raise, because I know we are still struggling to break even. My boss receives only half of a paycheck to ensure we all get paid, every month. It would take at least three-four years for me to get to the paycheck I deserve, but my expenses and loans aren’t going to pay for themselves. If I leave, and they’re unable to hire someone who’ll work just as hard as I do, the business will cripple. There aren’t many people out there who’re willing to work without getting the pay they deserve.
Also, I don’t want to hurt my boss. The family business is dependent on me. Help!
23 and Dejected.
Hey, 23 and Dejected,
Here’s one critical question I have for you: Do you have equity in the business? Since you keep mentioning ‘family business’ I’m going to assume the answer is ‘no.’ I’m going to assume you have no equity in the business, and you’re not a partner. This also means that you’re being taken for granted and to some extent, are even exploited as an employee – physically and emotionally. This isn’t rare, and trust me, it happens all the time.
You’re going to have to take control of the situation if you want to make sure your bills are paid on time and you have a healthy bank balance. You’re just out of college, and the loan isn’t going to write off for itself.
Here’s the truth: It’s a family business and you’re not family. You’re just an employee, working hard like everybody else, and should be compensated for the all the hard work you’re putting in. The workplace culture could be enviable, but in the end, you’re working there to earn a living and gain skills that will add to your overall goals.
The company can cut down on unnecessary perks if the boss is struggling to pay for everyone. Here’s what I want you to do:
Ask for a raise: You should be fairly compensated based on the market value for the role you assume in the company. Ask your boss for a raise.
Ask for Equity: Your efforts are futile to an extent if you’re working in a new business, and aren’t considered for equity.
Resign: If the boss is unwilling to raise your salary or shell out an equity stake, you need to let your boss know that you’re going to have to resign. Be polite and sincere in your approach – who knows, your boss might put in a word for you and you might end up assuming an even bigger, better role at someplace else. Also, offer to find and train your replacement.
Job search: Keep exploring options in the market. You earn your worth. Do it confidentially, of course.
In the end, you’re going to have to decide what’s best for you.
The HR Digest