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I have an employee that went straight to my boss to ask for a raise. This employee never approached me about her wages.

We do reviews annually, and the last review was about 6 months ago, so it really wasn't something I was even thinking about. If she would have, I would have listened to her reasoning and more than likely, given her a raise.

Boss instructed me to give her the raise.

It's not that I am against a raise, I just get a feeling of sneakiness.

Should I

a) go ahead and call her in, tell her she is getting a raise, and let her know that her going over me instead of asking me herself was inappropriate?

b) wait for her to get tired of waiting and ask me herself.

Also, this question will probably get asked, but I am a very approachable and understanding manager. I a flexible with work schedules and never berate my employees for any mistakes, but encourage them. I feel pretty confident that I'm not a "scary" boss.

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    What do you wish to achieve? Reassert your dominance? Rebuild trust? What is your ideal outcome? Aug 20, 2021 at 19:49
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    If you try option (b), what makes you think this employee will not simply go over your head a second time? It worked the first time.
    – Kevin
    Aug 20, 2021 at 20:13
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    I don't think a "very approachable and understanding manager' would even consider option B
    – Steve
    Aug 20, 2021 at 20:35
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    Does she even know you have the power to unilaterally give raises? It could be that from her perspective your boss is the boss and you are just her direct superior so she might not even know you have the power. Furthermore, if company environment is such that the boss isn't very insulated then she might not have felt that she needed to use you as a go-between. If the hierarchy feels all smooshed together or there are many levels of it she might assume you couldn't do it.
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 20, 2021 at 20:45
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    Option B sounds very passive aggressive to me.
    – Peter M
    Aug 20, 2021 at 20:55

5 Answers 5

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Option a - but also ask her why she felt unable to ask you directly, you might get some useful feedback (especially as she is getting the raise she might open up to you a bit!).

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    This - when I was early in my career, I was once told that my IT request (which I'd discussed and cleared with my boss) required manager approval. I asked someone else to approve it, not realizing my boss was considered a manager. It could just be innocent ignorance, not realizing the process of such things, and thinking that a raise could only be given/approved by a higher-up.
    – A N
    Aug 20, 2021 at 20:13
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    This is the correct answer. She needs to understand that this is an inappropriate thing to do in most, if not all, organizations. You may be an understanding boss, the next one may not be. It's good for her to be able to have the learning experience not be a painful one.
    – SiHa
    Aug 23, 2021 at 10:36
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a) go ahead and call her in, tell her she is getting a raise, and let her know that her going over me instead of asking me herself was inappropriate?

Fixed that for you. Tell her that she is getting a raise and tell her that you think she deserves it and are pleased to offer it. You might even strongly imply that you have neglected it all this time and are glad she is finally getting it. It may not be sincere, but most workplace relations are not anyway.

b) wait for her to get tired of waiting and ask me herself.

I am a very approachable and understanding manager.

I personally don't think there can be such a thing as employee/employer incentives are fundamentally in conflict. Even if there were, the fact that you are considering passive-aggressive solutions here indicates that you likely use them in other scenarios too, making engaging with you a potential future landmine for anyone who knows that about you. Your employees probably know.

I once had two managers. I always asked for stuff from the manager who I spent the least time with as they were less likely to have seen my mistakes and less likely to be annoyed with me as a result.

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a) go ahead and call her in, tell her she is getting a raise, and let her know that her going over me instead of asking me herself was inappropriate?

b) wait for her to get tired of waiting and ask me herself.

No, c) Talk to your boss about how responding to your employees like that removes your agency.

Your boss should've asked the employee, "Have you talked this with @William?" If your boss understands how management works, they will agree with you, and this won't happen again. If your boss is on a power trip, then when the next employee asks you for a raise, send them to your boss. "P. Trip likes to do this themselves, please talk to them." I've had bosses who wanted to manage my team, and I just let them. Some people just don't have enough to do already.

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    But the boss didn't give an answer to the employee. And for all we know, he may already have said "Have you talked about this with @William?" Aug 20, 2021 at 22:58
  • Best answer here.
    – Jim Clay
    Aug 23, 2021 at 14:30
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First of all, unless you own the company (unlikely since you have a boss), she's not your employee (you did not employ her, you do not pay her wages), she's your colleague. You just happen to be in a managerial position.

Second of all, it is the employee's prerogative to decide when and whom to ask for a raise. Unless expressly specified in the Internal Regulations, the process of deciding on a working wage is a negotiation between the representatives of the employer and the worker or the worker's Union (if a union is available). You are not the sole representative of the employer, you are just one of them. And a pretty low tier one apparently, since you have a boss. Your boss holds more power to negotiate than you, so your colleague skipped one unnecessary step, as your boss would still have to sign off on the raise.

Thirdly, the employee's decision to skip your input should raise some flags about your own performance as a manager.

  • Did this employee not trust you would take her request seriously? Figure why a colleague does not trust your ability to listen to her arguments.
  • Did she not think you could get the raise for her? Analyse if your budget negotiation skills are sub-par.
  • Did she actually try to talk to you about it and you brushed her off? Start actually listening to the people you manage and figure out their needs.
  • Does she think you are incompetent/unable to assist her in her career path? Figure out why, maybe there is something to improve for you here, your primary role as a manager is to help team members improve and do better work.
  • Are other team members similarly affected by your performance as a manager and are too afraid/indifferent to do anything about it? Is this a general problem with your management style or just a one-off issue with this particular colleague?
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  • From OP's original question: "Boss instructed me to give her the raise". That means OP has no such delegated responsibility. If it is his manager's prerogative to instruct him to give raises, he is not the sole factor of decision here. I've yet to meet a company where the big boss doesn't sign off on my budget. My employee assumes you employed this person in any english speaking country, it does not mean whatever you said. I raised the possibility of incompetence of management that forced the issue on the employee, thus intent is clearly present. Did you even read OP's question?
    – BoboDarph
    Aug 24, 2021 at 6:09
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Give her the raise. Don't do anything else regarding how she went over your head.

Then figure out why she went over your head. Preferably through your boss if they know, otherwise ask your team member. This is an opportunity for you to do some reflection. Note: I'm not saying you're doing something wrong! But this is a moment to consider whether you actually are the manager you think you are.

Given that you say you're open and approachable, the employee did go over your head, even though you say that if she would've asked you would have given her the raise. Why did she do that? How often do you talk to your team members? Being open and approachable sounds really nice, but it only means that when people have something they want to discuss, you don't scare them off. It's doesn't mean anything regarding your proactiveness as a manager. Do you prevent issues or only solve them when they come (this example seems like the second case).

Consider also why did you not give her the raise proactively? You seem to think she (more than likely) deserves it. Open up the conversation, it has been 6 months since the annual review, it's good to discuss this more than once a year.

Finally, if one team member does this, how many more will be thinking about this while not letting you know? How well do you know your team members if they go over your head like this?

Please note that I'm not saying you're doing these things wrong, but this is a moment to consider whether these are things to improve as a manager.

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