Make money and be treated like a human?
A few months ago I did an issue on asking for raises and a reader emailed me asking if I might consider doing a follow-up that focused on retail/service/hourly type jobs and I said why yes I might! Below, find advice from the field about how witches in these fields can ask for more money or better working conditions. So much of this advice can apply to any job, or even any relationship.
As always, this is not comprehensive! If you have had success asking your employer for more money, better hours, better benefits, anything that makes your life better, please share your experience in the comments.
From an expert with a long history in retail, restaurants, and tutoring:
These jobs require a lot of physical and personal sacrifice to increase salary, and it is HARD, and there’s a lot of intense competition, especially in New York.
One way to assure you could go full-time someday is to go for supervisor and express interest in leadership, even if it requires you to move locations (being open to new locations definitely puts people in the running for a future). Moving locations also might be something to mention when negotiating salary. But if you become a supervisor, you might be on call all the time and be required to come in at the drop of a hat to cover shifts, so that’s something to consider.
If you already are a part-time manager and want more hours, I would consider getting trained on the service side, if you haven’t already, while you’re waiting for more shifts to be available in your own role. This will also give you more experience to add to your management qualifications while putting some extra cash in your pocket once in a while. For example, I’ve worked in a restaurant as a bartender where servers wanted to go home earlier, and since bartenders have to stay until closing, I would pick up tables for them and get some extra cash while the bar was winding down (this was a family-owned place, so rules were more relaxed).
To get more hours as a non-supervisor, you have to network with managers and assure they’re watching you (possibly even pick up shifts when they’re working) and offer to pick up shifts others don’t want. Also, in the beginning, regularly ask your manager for advice. Don’t be afraid to ask questions - in retail and service, it can be easy to forget that part, but managers actually end up choosing the people who ask more questions and interface with them more for future opportunities. Also, be diligent about asking for more hours on a regular basis - as in, mention you want to pick up holiday hours a month ahead of time and also let coworkers know you’d like to pick up shifts, making sure to give them your number and letting them know you’re open to texts at any time, so you become their go-to in a pinch.
Don’t forget to double-check company policy on becoming full-time or on other commitments. When I worked at H&M, anyone vying for full-time wasn’t allowed outside commitments, including school, but most of the managers were college-educated; that felt like a bit of a sleight of hand to me.
As for nannying, I would consider adding homework monitoring or tutoring to your qualifications. Oftentimes, people who work as after-school tutors are also babysitting, but they’re making much more than your average babysitter per hour. So, offering to tutor or teach the kids could be a way to transition into a higher rate.
Rachel Ramsey, the owner of Measured HR, who has been in the hospitality business for over 15 years, started off as a cook, and is now the owner of a HR consulting firm. If you work in the hospitality industry and notice that your scope of responsibilities start creeping toward other roles (like a line cook who is occasionally given managerial duties), she says that “if those managerial job duties start to encroach upon 15% of your work, that is a good time to start talking to your manager about a raise, or a title change, or something to incentivize you to continue to doing that work.” Anything less than 15%, however, she says is more of a good opportunity to learn. “That’s honestly how I received all of my raises and how I’ve gotten promotions. It’s from actually learning other work and taking on new responsibilities. Cross-training is great, but you don’t want to be taken advantage of. So after about a month and a half and after I hit 15%, I said, ‘Okay, I need to talk to my manager about what this means for me.’ Clearly, I’m capable of doing more. Clearly, I’m showing that I am able to handle that job. So now I want to talk to you about how I get to that job.’”
When it comes to asking for more money, Ramsey says that it’s important to understand the company’s ability to negotiate. “There’s nothing worse than negotiating with someone who can’t negotiate with you. So if they don’t have the ability to meet your needs, is there room for growth in that company?”
She advises speaking to your HR rep about the roles in the company. “If you are a line cook, what’s the salary grade for a saucier, or what’s the salary grade for a grill cook? You want to understand what your company has to offer. Negotiating your salary is not just saying ‘I want money.’ You have to understand what’s at stake and what they have to offer you.”
Don’t be afraid to negotiate the complete job, not just your salary. In one of her negotiations, Ramsey says, “Instead of just negotiating the amount of money that I wanted, I was able to also negotiate health insurance percentages.”
Don’t apologize while you negotiate. “If you’re not going into this recognizing that you’re an asset, you’re not negotiating correctly,” says Ramsey. “We all get fearful when we are negotiating. But to be quite honest, 75% of people who ask for a raise, get the raise. But you have to overcome that fear before you can even step into their arena.” Copper & Heat host Katy Osuna adds that too many people in the industry don’t value themselves. “Working in a restaurant might be a stopgap for some, but for many, it's not. It’s a career, a profession, a craft. An industry we will be in our whole lives. Our brains like to lie to us and tell us that we’re not worthy. But working in a restaurant is just as valuable, just as important, and just as much of a profession. The pandemic clearly shows us that we’re essential. So yes, you are worth more money. Ask for it.”
But easier said than done! Setting boundaries and asking for what you want can be challenging. Ariel Coplan and Hassel Aviles founded a nonprofit called Not 9 to 5, which addresses mental health challenges in the restaurant industry. Coplan told the podcast, “It’s partially because we’ve been conditioned in this industry so much, right? Just the constant ideas and notion that your boss is always right. The ‘Yes chef’ mentality. I think we’ve seen time and time again, how damaging that can be and how much abuse there can be in kitchens.”
Say, for instance, you have decided to start seeing a therapist and need to take to your manager about the fact that you need to take off every Thursday at 3 PM. Similar to asking for a raise, you want to lay out your key points for why you need what you need. Not 9 to 5 has an outline for such conversations called DEAR MAN. Aviles describes it as such:
D stands for “describe the situation.” Aviles says, “If there’s a situation that you're stuck in and you feel like really bad about it, you’re going to eventually talk about how you feel. But in the beginning, start by describing the situation, using facts. Don’t use emotional or judgmental statements when you are in that part of the conversation. One way to start the conversation is by saying, ‘I’ve noticed that...’”
E stands for “express the feelings.” Aviles says to try to remember that other people can’t read your mind. “Oftentimes we go into these conversations, it’s so obvious to you that this is how you feel, but to the other person, it may not be obvious at all. They may actually be completely oblivious to how you’re feeling.”
A stands for “assert your needs,” a stage in which Aviles says that directness is crucial. “Don’t dilly dally, don’t sugar coat it, ask for specifically that you want.”
R stands for “reinforce the outcome.” Using the phrase “And by doing this...” is useful. To use the therapy example, Aviles says the first part of the dialog would go like “‘I’m feeling like things that are really uncomfortable and it’s impacting my work. What I need is to not be scheduled on Thursday afternoon, or if I am scheduled on Thursday afternoons, I need an hour and a half from 3:00 to 4:30 to go to an appointment. It’s a weekly appointment. And by doing this, I’m going to feel better. And I’m going to be able to work through these feelings I’m having so that I can come better, prepared to work and be more present when I’m here.’” (Although, of course, Aviles says notes that you don’t need to tell anyone in your workplace what you’re feeling and that your employer cannot ask you what specifically you’re struggling with. “That’s up to you to share or not share.”)
M stands for “mindful.” Before you begin the conversation, decide on your dealbreakers and where you’re willing to negotiate. “So there are some boundaries where there’s room for negotiation: your schedule, what stations you work, your job description and daily tasks. However, there are other boundaries that are much harder lines that we need to set around things like sexual innuendos or physical contact. These require you to set clear lines and are not up for negotiation,” says Osuna.
A stands for “appear confident.” (See: the part where you don’t apologize!)
And N is for “negotiate.” And what if you don’t get what you want? If your manager says “Sorry, on Thursday afternoons we really need you”? Then it’s time to discern whether there’s other options for yourself or to find another job.
From employment attorney Lori B. Rassas:
I work with a wide range of clients, from individuals who are earning minimum wage to senior executives. You have to focus on the reality that negotiating the terms and conditions of employment is a business transaction. If you’re out of work and have two kids in college, and you tell a prospective employer that you’re desperate for a raise, guess what? The employer may wonder whether you can really focus on your job (given the circumstances), or offer you a lowball salary, knowing that you’re so desperate you’re likely to accept anything.
If you enter a negotiation with the mindset that your services are worth $30 an hour, this should be based on the value you offer an employer. The fact that you’re the breadwinner of your family, have a huge mortgage, and have three sick children has nothing to do with that.
At the end of the day, all employers have a need for top talent and know that retaining a great employee is going to be easier than finding a new employee because of the built-in investment of time, money, and other resources to recruit, onboard, and train a new hire. So if you are a long-term employee, with a history of showing up to work and doing your job to the best of your abilities, you are already ahead of the game.
There is significant value to that - and you should feel confident in reminding your employer of that. Particularly if you are a dedicated and hard-working employee, you should point that out. I can assure you, not all employees are like this, so do not overlook this important value you bring to the table. If your customers walk into the store and seek you for advice, or if your customers tell their friends and colleagues to patronize the store where you work because of the service you provide, you should be sure to bring this to the attention of your employer. Your employer will likely receive a financial benefit from these positive interactions and you should feel comfortable making the arguing that you should do the same.
This same approach applies to all other terms and conditions of employment you may be trying to negotiate. The idea is to explain the value you bring to the employer as opposed to focusing on you and your needs and to present what you are asking in a way that will benefit the employer. The key to negotiating any employment issues is to consistently remind yourself that even though you may be negotiating your terms and conditions of employment it is, quite simply, not about you. Instead, it is about the value that you bring the employer.
From a journalist witch who covers working mothers, on unions:
I was at Vox when they were unionizing. There is a common misconception about unionization preventing employees from advocating for raises. I think there’s a corporate line where they go, “If you guys unionize, then you gotta run everything through the union and that just hampers the process,” when that’s absolutely not how it works. The union will set baseline salaries. You can still advocate for yourself to be given a raise or a promotion based on the work that you do. If you’re doing the job of yourself and a team member who recently left and they’re not planing on backfilling the role, or you’ve taken on the role of managing the intern, then you can go to your supervisor, “I’m literally doing more work and here’s the proof and here’s why I deserve more money.” The union is not going to say, “No, you’re not. You’re going to run that past us.” They will make sure everyone else in your position is going to get a competitive salary and the benefits they’re entitled to.
There are circumstances in which they may advocate for you. In the case of contractors, the union would negotiate a better overtime system. If you’re working on a night or weekend or holiday or you’re working more hours, they can help you say, “I want to make time and a half instead of time and a quarter,” or, “You’ve been offering me comp time, but there’s so much I can’t use it, I want to be paid out.”
From Courtney Guerra, AKA Dear Businesslady:
My earliest jobs were in retail. Especially in a corporate environment, hourly pay rates are set, but because things are so corporatized and structured, there are opportunities to advocate for a more advanced title and advocate for and talk to your manager about. In those sorts of jobs you don’t say, “I’d like to be the manager of juniors department by this amount of time,” but you can advocate for schedule regularity and making the case that you’re a more reliable worker. If you can demonstrate, “I’m always here when I say I’m going to be,” it’s easier to ask, “Can you give me a regular schedule so I can plan childcare?”
A lot of the same work advice is true — anytime you accomplish something, make sure it’s really visible and your manager is aware of it. If you have a customer who is thrilled with the work, encourage people to fill out customer service surveys. When reps say things like “Fill these out! Stay online to talk to the cable company,” that stuff matters if you sprinkle that good karma out in the world. It doesn’t necessarily work the same way as an office environment where you’re forwarding nice emails for coworkers but you can say, “Oh this was so great, we had an hour and this lady only had an hour and I followed her around the store and she was so grateful.” It’s always a little awkward, but if someone is thrilled with your service, ask them, “Can you fill this out?” or, “Can you email my boss and tell them that?” If they don’t want to, they won’t, worst-case scenario, but if they do, you have evidence that you’re good at your job.
The through-line is getting over the awkwardness in expressing the fact that you’d like more than you’re currently given. Sometimes it feels like if you say those words you’ll rupture the relationship and you’ll end up with less than you currently have. There’s always the chance in any situation that the folks you’re tutoring can’t pay you more, or maybe one time out of ten they’ll get spooked by the ask and start shopping around, That’s a risk that you take, that it will impact people’s perceptions by saying, “I’ve really liked working for your kids, but my time is getting more in demand now that schools are opening up. I’d like to continue working for you but it doesn’t make sense for me unless I can raise my rates, because it’s putting pressure on other parts of my life.” But it’s about mustering up the courage to make that case and coming up with something to say that not’s like, “Because capitalism, I’d like more money than I currently have.” There has to be some logic to it.
I think there’s a certain socialization, especially among women, to think, ‘I need to pre-emptively accommodate people regardless of what accommodating them looks like.’ [We postponed this interview a tiny bit.] This morning, I didn’t want to move this meeting. I didn’t want to say ‘I’ve got this going on with childcare, I’m balancing things with my spouse, and I need 30 minutes to go take a shower.’ Why? I’m not getting points for that. That same thing applies. “I really need more money to make this work,” or “We need our hours to change,” whatever you need, just say it, and just see what happens. Maybe you can’t get everything you want. Always aim a little bit higher so you can meet in the middle and still be satisfied.
In all these situations, money is always going to be the thing that is the most intractable because there are set budgets, whether it’s a household or business, and sometimes we can’t pay more. Things like titles or responsibilities or schedules or are a little bit more fungible, often. You can have those in the back of your mind, so that if you get a hard no on a pay negotiation, you can say, ‘Well, what about this?’ If you can come to some sort of terms, you can improve your situation, even if it’s not exactly what you hoped for. Someone who just turned you down is more likely to back accommodating down the line. Even if your job has high turnover, someone who has proven they can do a good job is always going to be more valuable than someone who is new and untested.
You always want to come at it from a collaborative standpoint — “I love working here, I know all the policies, and my customer service numbers are good.” If you work in a restaurant environment, find ways to talk up what you’ve done. “I upsold this customer on these appetizers,” or “I’ve been pushing these new drinks,” whatever your boss prioritizes. Since those margins are so thin, anything you can do to create a customer experience or flip tables is necessary for that environment.
It always feels awkward to say, “Listen to this cool thing I did that proves that I’m good at my job.” If you wait tables, your manager doesn’t usually hear about your interactions with a customer unless it goes awry. These one-on-one interactions evaporate unless you tell your boss. Get in the habit of telling these stories. Build a case file you can draw on. If you are always stepping in and doing catch-up work for everyone else, covering for people, that’s really great—shouldn’t you get credit for that? There’s the idea that you’re going to shift people’s perception of you. When I did my own salary negotiation a few years ago, I ripped off the mask of the person who lives to serve, and put on the capitalist self-advocate mask. That didn’t damage my relationship with my boss. It wasn’t like, “Now we know you’re only at your job for money and we trust anything you say anymore.”
Anne Helen Petersen recently did a newsletter about how the service industry is hurting for employees right now. That suggests that it’s a good time for folks with experience to advocate for themselves.
I hope you found something useful in this issue of Evil Witches, a newsletter for people who happen to be mothers. Please share any other experiences you’ve had in advocating for yourself in the workplace that paid off (or didn’t). And if you want to read more about witches and work, here are a few older issues on household jobs we we don’t do, emotional labor, and changing careers mid-stream.
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