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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Increasing Responsibilities, Same Pay

Dear Sue: I work for a small firm; we have a total of 10 full time workers and one part-time employee. I was hired three years ago as a customer service representative and my responsibilities were to answer the phone, do light filing, data entry and sales. Since then my responsibilities have increased.

Today, I am responsible for opening the office when the owner is late and managing it when he is not in. This includes doing human resource tasks such as interviewing and training new employees; payroll, collection, solving customer problems and any administrative problems that occur. I do not receive any benefits, and my salary is low, especially considering all of the jobs I am responsible for. I have impressive qualifications and am a good worker. Should I look for another job? Ė Underpaid

Sue Says: I am not sure looking for another job is your best solution. Have you considered talking with your boss? Obviously, he values and trusts you or he wouldnít continue to give you added responsibility. He is much less likely than you are to think about the amount of money you make or need, so donít assume he would refuse to pay you more just because he hasnít offered to.

If you havenít already, it is time for you to initiate a conversation with your boss. Put in writing all of your job responsibilities so that he can see all of the things you are doing and include the amount of money you feel would fairly compensate you for the work you do.

You may not get exactly what you want at first, but at least you will have started the dialogue, and let your boss know what you need. Once he has the opportunity to respond, you will be in a better position to determine what is best for you to do. Good luck.

Dear Sue: I've worked as a buyer for over 20 years and have changed companies several times in the last few years due to the local economy. I have been in my new position at this company for only three months, and it is the worst work environment I've ever seen. It is completely understaffed, noisy, and lacking many basic tools to do the job. There is only one ladies room with a single stall for over 20 women, and the bathroom is always filthy.

I have complained loudly about this, but nothing has been done. The human resource manager doesnít know what to do either. The stress of the job and the work environment is extreme to say the least, but it is the bathroom issue, which really makes me crazy. I am depressed about making yet another change, but if I stay much longer my health will suffer. I have never lied in an interview or on my resume but I am at a loss on this one. How do I put a positive spin on such a horrible experience?

Sue Says: You can say that you realized the first day of your job that you may have made a mistake, but due to your dedicated and positive nature, you wanted to see if you could make it work rather than leaving upon starting. You felt three months was a fair trial period, and now you have concluded that you prefer to find a more positive and organized environment to work in.

If you are pressured for more information, you can say that it is not in your nature to speak negatively about people or past employers. Stress your ability to fit in to almost any type of environment, the fact that this was the first time in 20 years you left for such a reason, and focus on your other previous long-term positions. Or if you prefer, you can simply say the job didnít work out.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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