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Situation

I work in a small company of ~20 people. While this company was a startup ~a decade ago, it is not anymore. The people working there aren't "wild teenagers" anymore; some have kids already. Things like pensions become more important now, but have been repeatedly postponed - if I understood correctly, it first came up 9 years ago.

There are other issues that differ from department to department and from person to person, like micromanaging, no opportunity for growth or not supporting work life balance. However, for example the team spirit is excellent and we would like to try and turn this into a place with a future for their employees (sounds dramatic, but you get the point).

Issue

We had a meeting after work to discuss this. We came to the conclusion that we want to open a discussion with "management". However, that's where the size of the company comes into play: For example, "management" is only 2 people who work 10 meters from us and we talk to daily. There is no official process for serious requests because we just get up, walk there and talk to them directly.

Current plan

Our current plan is to write a letter and give it to management as a group. The letter:

[Formalities]

We would like to bring the following to your attention. As employees at [Company], we add a lot to the company's success, good work atmosphere and development.

We think that our contribution is not appreciated enough. We think it is time to take steps towards operating in a way more appropriately for a company of this size, so that [Company] stays an interesting workplace in the future.

Appreciation of the team's efforts can manifest in several ways. We look forward to hearing from you inside the next 2 weeks what your plan in this matter would look like.

[Formalities]

Some of this sounds weird/awkward in English but I did my best to translate the meaning.

Question

We are not yet sure about all this (well, hence this question) and are still wondering, for example, if the letter should be delivered by the whole group (seems like "ganging up") vs one representative (but who?). However, to sum it up in one question:

How can we start a dialog about work conditions with "management" in a rather small company?

  • Pension (and medical and other perks) can be thought of as just +X% to your salary (minus some tax differences, unless you can't get your own pension fund for some reason), so asking for that is roughly saying you're not getting paid enough and asking for raises for everyone. I can't tell you whether or not that's justified, but thinking of it that way might help. – Dukeling Mar 3 '18 at 16:36
  • 4
    I don't know your company culture, but a letter seems awfully formal when you usually just go and talk to them - have you considered an email instead (with everyone CC'ed)? – Dukeling Mar 3 '18 at 16:38
  • It appears that you want to have some sort of a group discussion with the managers, and not a 1-1 meeting, so privacy and confidentiality don't seem to be of much concern here. Is there some reason why talking to them directly like you normally do wouldn't work? – Masked Man Mar 3 '18 at 18:23
  • @Dukeling The way the office is set up, they would pretty much receive the email and then look up and probably already have eye contact with who sent it. The office layout makes that option very awkward to the point of appearing a bit "passive aggressive". – FriesFlag Mar 3 '18 at 18:23
  • @MaskedMan Normally it's personal issues, but this time it's a group. They don't have a huge office, if we'd "storm" it I'm not sure we'd even all fit in there. So, exactly like normally isn't possible. That doesn't eliminate the option completely, but as we don't really have a meeting room, we'd pretty much have to call them over to the lunch table. – FriesFlag Mar 3 '18 at 18:38
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Since the working atmosphere is very informal I wouldn't go the "formal" way of doing things.

There are three steps to the problem: The WHO, the WHEN and the WHAT.

First find out WHO you want to talk to:

You said that the management consists of only two persons. Do you want/have to talk to everyone? May be just one of them could decide such a step. Also are there other stake holders? Usually some other people also have a word to say in such situations. Do you also need to talk to them?

Then find out WHEN you want to talk to those persons:

Because you are seeing management (and everybody else) every day, look for opportunities to talk to one or more of them privately without time constraints. An ideal way would be a department party. After some beers everyone is a little more open to new ideas.

Lastly think about WHAT to say in the conversation(s):

I wouldn't ask for what you want straight ahead, but rather lay out some arguments so he/she gets it on his/her own. This way it doesn't seem that the management did anything wrong, but came up with the plan on its own. This sounds a little bit silly, but people in charge don't take advice very gladly.


After you did everything above there are two options:

  1. Management listens to you and change things. You could also profit from it since you helped them.
  2. Nothing changes. If everything fails I would go for the formal route and make an open letter to management with your claims. Just don't bring up your prior attempts.

Good luck!

2

Managers appreciate it when solutions are offered when problems are found. Rather than send a "hey, we can think of lots of ways to make this better, so we want to hear from you" email you send one that has concrete and actionable items you'd like.

In other words, if you guys are after a pension, then tell them that you want some type of pension (be specific). That way they can take a bit to consider the situation and then decide how they want to handle things.

Under no circumstance do you set this up as a "do this or else!" demand. Instead, phrase it so that it looks like you guys want a friendly discussion about the future.

1
  1. Phone them and ask them to come to the office.
  2. Tell them - in person - exactly what you want, not some wooly words like your sample email. Without precise demands, no negotiation can begin.
  • um, phone them and ask to to come to the office? they are the managers! also making demands is beyond this group. they really need one person with authority to negotiate for all of them, and who knows the package is things they want. you are right about the precise requirements being known. – bharal Mar 3 '18 at 18:35
  • If they're not in the office, they should be - otherwise, it's hard to manage effectively. If they're not there, then a line of communication should be opened in order to get them there before all the staff decide to leave through lack of management... – PeteCon Mar 4 '18 at 1:31
  • @PeteCon: From comments, management is in the office. The 10m wasn't 10 minutes or 10 miles. It apparently meant 10 meters. – NotMe Mar 5 '18 at 3:05

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