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At one of our recent events in Toronto, Teri Hart and Anne Fitzgerald tackled the subjects of presenting yourself with confidence and negotiating skills. We reached out and asked if any of the attendees had additional questions for Teri or Anne. Below are two questions and the thoughtful answers from our gracious hosts.  Please note that the material and information presented here are opinions intended for educational and informational purposes only and they do not constitute professional advice.

    Question #1

My question relates to systemic issues regarding gender equity in the workplace.

How much of yourself should you be willing to sacrifice to fit in or be accepted? For example, if you were to work in a male dominated industry and they expected you to be okay with crude comments and disrespectful behavior, what actions would you take? I feel that companies talk about gender equity  to bring awareness, but the mentality doesn't change. Is it easier to just adapt instead of being labelled a feminist or a troublemaker? Because ultimately these people are in control of your career in terms of promotions or job references, so would it be easier to just accept the norm? Or just leave and take an alternate career path?

Firstly it’s important to be aware of your fundamental legal rights in the workplace. HERE is a link to articles dealing with discrimination in the workplace. THIS should be helpful too.

Crude comments and disrespectful behaviour are never acceptable in a place of business. There are many, or should be many options available to you and you need to decide for yourself what you are comfortable with. Firstly addressing the individual or individuals directly when a situation happens. Find your language and speak clearly and confidently. “I'm not comfortable with that language” “This is unacceptable in the workplace” “Don't continue this conversation in the office” I would suggest that you make your boss aware of the situation immediately and also let HR know. The company has a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for all of its employees.

The mentality of companies around gender equity is difficult to address, what's important is that there are HR policies and actual laws in place that exist to prevent discrimination and any type of harassment one experiences in the workplace. Hold the company accountable to those HR policies and to the law.

I would never suggest adapting to any environment that is offensive, discriminatory, disrespectful or harassing. However, we all have an obligation to learn to adapt to work with a group of people who are inevitably not like us. There is a wide spectrum of that adaptation required, so it's difficult to know from your question if you are talking about being annoyed by general hockey conversation … or real sexual harassment and belittlement.  As to true discrimination and harassment, you have a responsibility to address these issues not only to yourself and your own career but to others that also may be experiencing the behaviour. Have you spoken to other female colleagues about the issue? What is the consensus? Don't underestimate the power of numbers. As to learning to live with a large group of opinions and behaviours, is there an opportunity at your work environment to embrace a course for everyone of unintentional bias?  Often men/people don't realize they are being offensive to others or excluding others until they really have an opportunity to be taught.  The unintentional bias training available is incredibly powerful and eye opening to people of all walks of gender, religion, race, etc… Important to know no matter who you are!  

One should not change career paths because of unacceptable behaviour at a workplace, the unacceptable behaviour should be addressed and changed. The norm at any place of business should not equate anyone feeling uncomfortable at work on any issue. Also, feminist is not a bad word or label. Embrace being a feminist!

Teri is Reporter and Senior Producer for the entertainment division of Rogers Television

    Question #2

What advice or strategy would you give someone who asks for a raise in salary only to be shot down or told that it's not possible financially for the company, but you have proof of doing good work and positive reviews from your manager?

Before I respond to this question, I want to offer up a few disclaimers.  First, I'm no HR expert.  Second, I've only hinted once in my career that I thought I deserved a raise and was completely shot down and I never mentioned it again.  So clearly, I'm not the expert from the asking side.  However, I have had a lot of people ask me for a raise and some of those requests have been well-planned.  Most folks who broach the issue are not well prepared.  

What I do know to be true is that you will get nowhere if you are not well prepared.  

Here's the hard truth.  People who do a very good job at their current job don't deserve a raise due to that fact alone.  They may deserve a great annual bonus, but not a raise.  Most companies provide raises for a person continuing to perform the same job for which they were hired on a CPI (or close) annual basis.  That is if the company is doing well.  If a company is struggling, then don't expect any raises regardless of inflation.

The hard truth is that there really is no reason to increase a person's salary beyond the inflation rate if that person simply continues to do the job for which they were hired ... or even if they do an exceptional job in that role for which they were hired.   When the company hired you, you agreed to a salary for a specific role.  If you made a bad deal (as I have done before), then you may be stuck with the consequences of that bad deal for a long time.  

If you think you deserve a raise, you need to show that: (1) you have taken on more responsibility than for the role for which you were hired; or (2) that the market has changed; or (3) you can make much more in the same role if you chose to work somewhere else.   Pursuing option (1) is always smarter.  Simply be prepared.  Go back to your original job description.  Show where you have taken work off of the desks of others ... or where you have provided value outside of the role for which you were hired.  If you can show that you have expanded your contribution to the company, then you may win that promotion, which generally comes with a different title and more money.  

With option (2), I believe that the HR team of your company is always going to have different statistics that you can show.  You may be making less than your friends in similar roles, but each industry is different and each city is different.  HR statistics about pay are all over the map.   There are people in my role in different industries making gobs more and gobs less than I make.  There is very rarely an absolute apples to apples comparison and that makes option (2) a challenge to be the base of your argument.  The problem with option (3) is that you have to be prepared to leave your job if the company calls your bluff.   To that end, if you are ready to leave and have another offer, then this is a great time to ask for a raise without changing your role.  If you are not prepared to go into the great unknown, then this is not a good option for you.

Anne Fitzgerald is Cineplex Inc.'s Chief Legal Officer, overseeing legal, corporate affairs, governance and insurance matters for the company since January 2005