If you’re a halfway competent employee, you’ll hear a variation of the following phrase multiple times throughout your career: “You’ve done such an amazing job on [extra thing you did] that we’d like to add [more of same extra thing] to your responsibilities. Keep up the good work!” To which most of us would like to respond, “Well, hey, thanks Chuck, and how about you go screw yourself, unless you’re planning to pay me more?”
When your employer acknowledges your hard work by assigning you more work without added compensation, it’s perfectly fair to view these people as jerks, because in further fairness, they probably already know they’re being jerks, and it still doesn’t stop them from doing it.
But is the behavior itself even legal?
Of course it is — this is capitalism after all.
“Being assigned more work doesn’t mean that you’re eligible for a raise,” confirms Susan M. Heathfield, an HR expert with more than 30 years of experience. According to Heathfield, chances are good, though, that this new project will eventually replace some of the other work you’ve been assigned. “If not, and you’re overloaded to the point of out of control, this is a negotiation you need to make with your manager about the amount of work [you’re doing] — not about more money,” she explains.
But as we all know in these dark, understaffed, underpaid days, more work piling on top of us is pretty much the norm. So how do companies get away with it?
“Traditionally, job descriptions ended with a line such as: ‘Any and all work as assigned by your manager,’” says Heathfield. “This was to cover for the fact that no job can be precisely defined.” Which is why, Heathfield explains, there will always be changing circumstances that cause an employee to change their work, take on more work or do unexpected assignments. You’re expected to adapt to your company’s needs, not the other way around.
“The best employees go with the flow — they understand that the time to negotiate a raise or promotion is when they’ve demonstrated a track record of successfully performing and making measurable contributions. They also understand that the majority of bosses wouldn’t regard a request for more money because of a new assignment very kindly.”
Asking for a raise to compensate for doing more work, Heathfield argues, might adversely affect the boss’ opinion about the employee, their work and their work ethic. She adds, “The request might also make the boss uncomfortable.”
Excuse me one moment:
Still, there’s one paper-thin silver lining of hope: “A new assignment that wasn’t discussed in the parameters of the job would probably be worth more money if it raised the employee’s level of authority,” says Heathfield. In other words, if your added responsibilities include managing some staff members, you’re eligible for a raise. “Otherwise, a good employee will embrace the assignment with open arms,” she says. “Raises and promotion will follow for this successful, valued employee.”
Does any of this sound fair? No. But then, you may as well ask why life is unfair, to which you will receive no answer — only silence, and probably more work.