Ouch. That phrase coming from senior leadership is still ringing in your head. You just delivered what you considered a fact-based and compelling argument in support of your compensation program recommendations, and the best you received in return from the powers that be was an indifferent "nahhh."
They don't want to do it. They didn't even give you much of a reason to ponder or to argue against and may not have even provided you with a rationale that you might be able to circle back on with an adjusted recommendation. The door was shut. They're not interested.
Frustrating as the experience is, anyone who has been in the compensation profession for any length of time can tell you that yes, rejection happens. Sometimes it happens a lot. And it stings. But it's not unusual for those in senior leadership to harbor pre-conceived notions, biases, and personal preferences (pro and con your position) that are coupled with a stubborn or even arrogant demeanor. It may seem that they don't even listen. They know better than you and they run the business. Deal with it.
Talk about trying to push a boulder up a hill!
You do have options though. To avoid smacking your head against the wall you could serve up proposals that reflect only what you already know they want to hear. You could be their "yes man" and play to their preferences or help feed their biases by agreeing with them. That approach may not be doing your job as a compensation leader, and it certainly doesn't seem to have the best interests of the organization at heart, but it would increase the likelihood of receiving a YES response - or at least better your odds.
But if you go down that road what do they need you for? That's using you to hold up a mirror to their pre-conceived notions, and then to have you administer whatever it might be that they’re comfortable supporting.
You could do that. I've seen it done. I've seen people make a career out of that strategy. They keep their head down so that it doesn't get chopped off. Risk not, want not, is the attitude. In such a case compensation management is relegated to compensation administration.
That's because changing the mind of senior leaders who have their heads in the sand, or whose prime consideration is safeguarding their own self-interests, can be a difficult and stressful process. For some of you out there, it's not worth it.
Odd Man Out
Then again, maybe you're the type of professional who wants to stand for something, who wants to believe in something - a better way. Maybe as an experienced compensation practitioner, you feel strongly enough about something (program, policy, procedure, decision) that you're willing to raise your hand and say, "wait a minute" when you know something is wrong and you know how to fix it. Or at least you know that the ship is going in the wrong direction. You could be the principled fellow with the persistent voice of persuasive argument, the architect of change, the champion of compensation professionalism.
You could also find yourself out of a job. Because sometimes rocking the boat can get you tossed overboard. Be careful that you know when you're pushing too hard.
Or, you could decide that you would find greater job satisfaction by working somewhere else. Having to deal with mental dinosaurs and the stubbornly backward may be more than you want to keep struggling with.
Strike a Balance
But have a care first. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Perhaps the right direction for you is neither right (what they think they want) nor left (what your profession suggests is the better strategy), but closer to the center by presenting a balanced viewpoint. So bend a little, become knowledgeable of those management preferences and stubborn thinking, and then present reasoned arguments that both incorporate those preferences and still move the organization in the direction you feel is better. It can be done. You just need to discover the leanings of your senior management audience and where their self-interests lie.
Rome wasn't built in a day, but they still got it done, one building at a time. If you push in the right direction you may only receive half a loaf from a recalcitrant management, but that's still progress. Remember that. And the next time you might get more. Just keep (gently) pushing.
Frustrating? Yes. Will you lose some battles? For sure.
But what an accomplishment you could achieve. What a mark you could make for yourself, and for your organization.
Because to give up is to become an administrator. Would that work for you?
Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations. He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant. Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation. He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.
Creative Commons image, "Cat-reading-glasses-with-paper," by Floho67