27 February 2022 13:01:25 IST

Kamal Karanth is CoFounder of Xpheno, a specialist staffing company he has been building since 2017. Before turning an entrepreneur, Kamal worked as MD of Kelly Services and as Director APAC for Randstad, where he built teams that grew and created extraordinary results. Today, his team members are making an impact as leaders across the talent acquisition, HR, and staffing domains. A movie buff and cricket enthusiast, Kamal is a believer in relationships and has been writing monthly columns for The Hindu BusinessLine since 2016. LinkedIn ranked him among the top voices of India in 2020 for his consistent influencing blogs and vlogs around workplace dynamics. He is a talent specialist in RPO, IT staffing, and executive search.

Ruled by the money mantra

Source: Getty Images

Over the last 12 months, we have seen two sides of employees — one who made the best of the new opportunities and the other who moaned about how greedy our colleagues have become. Let me share a case study of the former.

Ritesh (name changed) was on top of the world; a competing brand had offered him a 100 per cent hike; this was on top of the 15 per cent raise his current employer had recently given him. Salary surveys by leading rewards firms had predicted a 9 per cent average hike for his kind of role. His friends rightfully demanded a party and even as they started the celebrations, Ritesh got a call from another IT firm offering him 25 per cent more than the offer he had got, provided he joined them in two weeks.

Suddenly, Ritesh’s euphoria vanished. As he began wondering whether he had been shortchanged by the employer whose offer he had accepted and whether he should negotiate further? This was not the first time that Ritesh had been confused over salary issues. He remembered the dilemma he faced right at the entry level.

Campus blues

When Ritesh was in his final year of his professional course, and the placement sessions were in progress, the offer value for the day one slot had been upped considerably compared to the year before. Ritesh did not clear the group discussions in the day one slot and envied his batchmates, who were flaunting their fat packages from marquee brands. But, by day 3, he had an offer from a reputed MNC, and was ecstatic at the offer. Until he began comparing it to the packages that his classmates who had placed on day 1 received. That put him in a sulk.

Everyone he knew had got better jobs than they thought yet were unhappy as their best friends and enemies were getting a higher pay package. “Can you believe that someone is paying Rajesh that much money” was a common line heard at the campus. 

Becoming a CXO

The salary conundrum chased Ritesh at every stage. For instance, when an executive search firm got him an MD offer – the first time he was becoming a CXO — he told them, “make me an offer I can’t refuse”. They came up with a package about 80 per cent higher than his current salary.

He was disappointed; yes, the bonuses were attractive, big car, travel, stay all at an elevated level than he ever was. But he thought the pay had to be at least 150 per cent higher. Finally, the offer was closed at a jump of 100 per cent, and he signed up.

He joined the firm with great fanfare, press releases, foreign trips for inductions, and multiple offsites to integrate him with the team. However, a month into his assignment, he realised that his predecessor, who had joined five years ago, was hired at the same salary he had now joined.

He felt gutted that a company that had grown 100 per cent in scale had paid him a five-year-old wage. He forgot that he had got a 100 per cent hike over his previous job and had got a significant break as the head of a Fortune 500 company. Instead, he began to think he was underpaid.  

Ruled by the wallet

Let’s face it, the discussions around pay, bonuses, ESOPs are now more blatant than ever. Pay related conversations don’t deserve to be in the final leg of crucial conversations like hiring or appraisals. Imagine having three rounds of job interviews discussing the skills, role, purpose, achievements, future vision and then disagreeing on the pay and parting ways on that count! What a waste of time? After all, the enterprises start their hiring process with a defined budget for every role. How about aligning on pay expectations first and then assessing the candidates for other fitments? 

Enterprises are judged by their commercial performances, and so are individuals by societies. A start-up is hyped about the money it raises and the valuation it gets, and so are large enterprises in terms of sales, profits and share prices. Employees and entrepreneurs are products of the same ecosystem, and their materialistic needs and measurements cannot be whispered away.

The Great Resignation and re-shuffle post-pandemic has made discussions around money matters at work less awkward. The remote models and technologies have made it easier for us to be bolder in communicating our financial needs. It’s time to admit that we are getting wiser on negotiating pay irrespective of our generation. Asking for more money is no longer a millennial expression!

Perhaps there will be a day when we will all reach a position of equanimity about money, and quip like Bill Gates famously, “Once you get beyond a million dollars, it’s still the same hamburger.’

Till that time, let’s keep saying, “show me the money.”