THE BLOG

Why Smart Bosses Give Bad Employees a Raise

05/08/2015 12:20 pm ET | Updated May 08, 2016

2015-05-07-1431040060-859199-whysmartbossesgivebademployeesraisesblog.jpeg

In Tuesday's article, 5 Lies Managers Tell to Avoid Giving Raises, I discussed how some managers resort to bold-faced lies when employees ask why they are not getting a raise. Many readers thought these lies sounded familiar, and several people shared others they have heard.

I like this one and think it often is told.

"In this economy you're lucky to have a job." This [lie] can go on for years... no matter how well the company is doing. People believe it and settle for less than they are worth.

Blaming the economy has been a very popular excuse of late. As the CEO and a founder of Aha! (which is product roadmap software), this trend troubles me. One reader shared another thought that can be especially painful to any employee's ears.

The main lie is "you don't deserve it."

This idea completely negates an employee's hard work and cuts right to their self-worth. I shared my own experience, a time when I met all of my objectives and still did not get the raise I deserved. One reader took me to task for this.

Expecting a raise for on-par performance is rather silly. You're supposed to meet your objectives; that's your job and that's what you're being paid for in the first place. If you want more money, out-perform yourself, and make sure it gets noticed!

It's true: Not all employers are stingy, and sometimes they are surprisingly generous when an employee does great work. But that's not always the case, and sometimes the "lousy" seem to do well too. I am sure you know a colleague who got the big raise or promotion -- which left you shaking your head. Where is the wisdom in that?

Smart leaders recognize that there is much more to management than simply sorting employees in two tight boxes: stars and losers.

Successful managers have the maturity to recognize that good employees may do things that look bad to others, but they may do them for important reasons. Here is why a manager might decide to give a raise to a "bad" employee:

They consider the whole.

Smart managers see the whole employee. When deciding who should receive a raise, they take a step back and examine the entire body of work. What were the hits and misses? They also consider factors beyond the employee's control, as well as her overall progress toward her goals. One missed objective should not cancel out the rest of an employee's good contributions.

Maybe the boss asked the employee to be "bad."

A co-worker may not know the complete story. In fact, the manager may be the one who made the employee look bad in the first place. For example, he asked the employee to go break some glass in the organization to get a hard job done, and she did it. For that reason, he might reward her for completing a tough but necessary task.

They see the potential.

Every employee has room to improve -- when you are getting going, there is only one way to go but up. Giving a raise to an employee who is growing affirms that her manager believes in her. A boost in pay may be just another motivational tool to remind her that she matters and her best is still to come.

A good manager knows many things, especially how to recognize a valuable employee when they see one.

Smart leaders realize that each employee brings her own set of unique motivations and skills to their role in the company. They also know that giving a raise sends a clear message to employees of their worth -- a valuable management tool if there ever was one. So, be weary of what you think you see and be slow to jump to judgement.

Have you seen a co-worker receive a raise that you thought she did not deserve?