Afraid of Being Replaced if You ask for a Raise?

Last week at the LinkedIn Group run by Citibank's Women & Co., many people expressed the view that they can't ask for a raise because there are ten other people who are ready, willing and able to take their job for even less pay than they are making now.

Au contraire.

The loss of human capital cannot be rectified by replacing existing staff (with their good client relations, institutional knowledge and good team relations) with people who must be trained, brought up to speed on company or client projects and integrated into an existing work force.

People are not widgets in a widget factory. They bring unique strengths and talents to the workplace and cannot be easily (or cheaply) replaced. Attrition also affects the smooth running and relationships in the workplace, causing workers who remain to be wary, defensive and unproductive.

Here's what theNew York Times said recently about workers being valued by the time they work (assuming that they're easily replaceable) rather than by the unique value they produce (which is irreplaceable).

A few years ago [the accountant subject of the story] realized that the billable hour was undercutting his value — it was his profession’s commodity, suggesting to clients that he and his colleagues were interchangeable containers of finite, measurable units that could be traded for money. Perhaps the biggest problem, though, was that billing by the hour incentivized long, boring projects rather than those that required specialized, valuable insight that couldn’t (and shouldn’t) be measured in time. Paradoxically, the billable hour encouraged Blumer and his colleagues to spend more time than necessary on routine work rather than on the more nuanced jobs.

Knowledge workers are not widgets in a widget factory nor college students flipping burgers in a local diner nor employees performing one simple task on an assembly line.

You cannot be replaced. Your employer can find someone who will take the place you vacate, but will lose your unique value, talents, skills, political value (alliances) and client or customer relationships.

Please don't ever forget that.