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You may have to switch jobs for profit

Chris Posti
| Sunday, Dec. 31, 2006

Q: I work for a nonprofit. I love my job and our mission, but I am underpaid. Salary increases will be decided soon. How can I persuade my boss I am worth more money?

A: Every job has its drawbacks. In a nonprofit, salaries are the usual complaint, and no amount of documentation, persuasion or tears will convince your boss to pay you what you think you should be making. Understandably, that's just not the way nonprofits operate.

You may love your employer, but you are not in chains. If you can't live on the salary they are paying, you are free to leave. Either persuade yourself you are content with your paycheck, or go find a higher-paying job in the for-profit sector. Staying on with a negative attitude will be a drag on your performance and attitude. The choice is yours: reshape your attitude or leave.

Q: Other than an anonymous note, can you suggest an easy way for me to tell my boss she has really offensive body odor•

A: The easiest way is to pawn the problem off on someone else in authority. That may sound like a chicken's way out, but it's really not a bad idea, considering your boss will always remember who delivered the message, and may even want to "shoot the messenger."

So, how about asking Human Resources to address it• They are often called in to take care of problems no one else wants to touch. If you have no HR Department to turn to, you may be tempted to talk to your boss' boss. However, since he has apparently chosen to ignore the problem, it's likely he would not appreciate a subordinate demanding action on a problem he has chosen to ignore.

So, if there is no one to rely on in Human Resources, and if you feel this is an intolerable situation, you'll have to address it yourself. While it can be awkward to do so, the key is to figure out an angle that will allow the offending person to save face.

Here are a few examples. Once, when I had to talk to a computer operator about his body odor, I explained that in an atmospherically controlled work environment such as a computer operations room, our natural body odors can be distorted. I told him some other employees had noticed some strange odors on his shift, and so I was recommending that he shower right before his shift and use a deodorant soap. Stretching the truth allowed him to save face and, at the same time, gave him solid reasons to change his hygiene habits.

Another time, I was asked to talk with a woman who had strong body odor, which she tried to mask with heavy perfume. I explained to her that employees and visitors often have allergic reactions to perfumes and asked her to discontinue using them. I recommended a good deodorant soap in lieu of perfume. She fortunately got the hint and began to take better care of herself.

And just recently, I was working with a French executive who needed to understand that daily showers are considered de rigeur in America. I mentioned a string of habits peculiar to Americans and gave great emphasis to Americans' propensity toward extreme body cleanliness. He was perplexed, but he changed his bathing habits.

If you can come up with a face-saving explanation like one of those above, I'm sure you can get your message across in a way that will get you results, but not get you into trouble. Certainly that is a better solution than an anonymous note, which would jeopardize your career if you were discovered to be the author.

Or you could just learn to live with it. Which is probably the best advice of all.

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