You know what I'm talking about. The day will come when the compensation decisions/recommendations are yours to make. When you're no longer sitting second chair but instead have to make the calls yourself. When your own neck is sticking out there.
Likely you have heard the drumbeat criticisms:
- You don't know my job
- Who died and made you king for a day?
- Where did you get your numbers? They're wrong.
- What do you even know our business?
- You're being unrealistic
- You've matched against the wrong jobs
- You're just spouting the company line
- All you care about is your precious budget
- Don't you realize that you're hurting real people here?
Do you want me to go on? I could, of course, but you get the drift. Likely you can add your own set of zingers that have been tossed your way. They can come from all sides but are the most telling when they're coming from above you.
Where Does This Come From?
Unless you're a particularly loathsome person this criticism of your work is typically not meant to be personal, though I admit that it usually stings in the same fashion anyway. The root cause is that someone on the receiving end of your position (your analysis, judgment, recommendation, etc.) didn't get what they wanted. So they're upset and aggrieved, which puts you, the source of their anger, in the cross hairs. If they can move you then they can get their way. So, they push.
Logically you can probably see that much of the criticism is emotional, often unreasonable and may not even have the best interests of the organization in mind. Critics often do not look past their immediate desires, never mind take the time to consider the possibility of unintended consequences. But still, these disdainful comments, if used often enough can potentially damage your reputation, your credibility and your image within your organization.
That's why you shrug off these comments at your peril.
What Are You Gonna Do?
It's easy to say, "Stand your ground as a professional and do the right thing." But this isn't a Disney movie with a guaranteed happy ending. You can get hurt professionally by such criticism, so an arrogant "who cares?" is likely not going to help you - and can, in fact, make things worse.
Here are a couple of thoughts for you to consider, presuming that you're not going to surrender and transform yourself into a "Yes person" compensation administrator.
- Be approachable: You should strive to develop a reputation as someone who will listen, who complainants can talk to. This doesn't mean that you have to change course, but that you are willing to let those with a criticism have their say.
- Be flexible: Be willing to consider that there may be alternative tactics to reach the same goal that your critics desire. So remain open to suggestions, keep an open mind about possibilities and work with your critics to move in the same direction - if at all possible.
- Explain yourself: Often times your critics just don't understand the processes you must go through to reach a conclusion, so tell them. Make sure that you explain the principles involved (including ramifications) and why you took the stand you did. That transparency will usually take some of the air out of their complaint balloon.
- Understand the other side: Make sure that you actively listen, so that you understand where the critic is coming from; know their perspective. Knowing an opposing viewpoint might not change anything in your mind, but you'll get points for having them understand that you do "get it."
- Do your job: You can't be a friend to everyone, you can't (or shouldn't) be the practitioner who can't say no. Not if you intend to do the job that you're being paid for. There are limits to how much you can placate someone who didn't get their way.
And while you're at it, work on hardening your skin. Because you've chosen a career where it's easy to be criticized.
You just need to be able to take a punch.
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, "Day 29: Knockout," by Mike Nelson