Yesterday afternoon at the pharmacy, an impatient patient (oh, the irony…) called me “snarky” after all I did was tell him I’d be right with him. Later, another patient was so filled with gratitude after I’d given her the phone number for her “foreigner” doctor so she could make a new appointment with him that she went off on a tangent that went something like this: “Thank you, God bless you, Jesus loves you, and He died on the cross for you, so I hope you choose heaven because this country is going to hell and the devil is working overtime.”
The philosophy I’ve come to adopt in order to keep my job and sanity is to just kill our incredibly rude or weird customers with kindness, no matter how uncomfortable they make me. But still, I’m human, my patience can only wear so thin, and it hasn’t happened on the clock quite yet but sometimes it’s hard to tell at what point my nervous laughter will just devolve into ugly crying.
Speaking of ugly crying; last week at work, completely unrelated from our frighteningly odd patients, I had a conversation with a coworker that again called into question both my patience as well as my tear-suppressing abilities. A coworker of mine was ranting about some of our colleagues for leaving passive aggressive notes for him when he failed to accomplish certain tasks, and then began listing off their hourly pay in comparison to his perception of their worth as employees.
I’m not saying he was unjustified in being frustrated, but I was pretty shocked at his blatant lack of a filter. Didn’t he know it’s considered inherently unprofessional to discuss and compare salaries? At least, that’s what I’ve always been taught!
…but then my curiosity got the best of me (again, I’m human…). I wondered:
What am I being paid compared to my coworkers? How much does my employer truly think I’m worth? How much do my coworkers think I’m worth? How much do I think I’m worth??
I did a little digging on approaching the etiquette of salary discussions, and here’s what I found. Long story short: bringing up salaries can be a touchy subject for some (like me…), but it can have its value when approached in the right way.
In my case, this conversation made it clear to me that compared to my coworkers, I am drastically underpaid. Not only have I accepted an unpaid internship for this summer, at my paying job I’ve also been accepting a lower wage than my peers for almost two years now! I was admittedly so frustrated after this exchange that I wanted to cry and knock every single medication stock bottle off the shelves I’m not paid enough to restock.
Ultimately, pretty much everyone in the world has similar problems when it comes to money. This comes down to something discussed here. I highly recommend you check out the whole FinanceGirl article, but here’s a quick highlight:
“If you’ve ever listened to Dave Ramsey’s radio show, you may have heard Dave talk with people who call in and say they have one of two problems: 1) an income problem or 2) a spending problem. This distinction is important.
If you have an income problem, you don’t make enough money to cover your expenses and save money. If you have a spending problem, you make enough money to cover your expenses and save, but you are spending too much money to meet your goals.”
As you’re probably painfully aware by now, I’ve recently been extremely critical of myself for having a spending problem. Almost every month I lament going over my shopping budget, and yet I’ve completely failed to acknowledge the possibility that I might also have an income problem. The two do not have be mutually exclusive!
So what do I do? What does someone do when they realize their worth and become exhausted with underemployment?
Maybe I’m not the best person to be asking. Maybe I’m still trying to write that chapter of my life, the one where I take a stand and ask for a promotion, or simply make the decision to move onto another job entirely if asking for a promotion doesn’t yield the results I want.
The uncertainty is nerve-wracking. In some ways, it’s comfortable to accept my underemployment, for the sake of sticking with what I know how to do and do well. But would I still be me if I wasn’t habitually biting off more than I can comfortably chew? Am I actually okay with trying to move heaven and earth in an attempt to remedy my spending problem, when instead I could focus a little of that energy on my income problem and maybe even kill two birds with one stone?
So maybe a better question is this: What am I planning to do about it?
Good question. As silly as it may sound, I’m biding my time. It may sound like that means I’m doing nothing, but this, similarly to my education/debt relationship, comes down to leverage. Just like I’m investing in a higher education so I can earn a higher salary over the course of my life, rather than hastily rage quit from my primary source of income, I’m using the summer to invest in myself. I’m currently studying for the exam to become a nationally certified Pharmacy Technician (July 15th!), and I’m also studying to take the Six Sigma Green Belt exam in early August. By the end of the summer I’ll (hopefully!) have two certifications that will increase my value as an employee anywhere; this is how I’ll work up the courage to either ask for a promotion or find a new job entirely.
- Take some time to ask yourself whether you have a spending problem, or an income problem, or both (it is absolutely possible to have both!).
- Ask yourself: What does your employer think you’re worth being paid? What do you think you’re worth being paid?
- Make a plan based on what you’re willing to do to actually earn what you’ve decided you’re worth (fixing the income problem), or what you’re willing to do to save what you’ve decided you want to be worth (fixing the spending problem). Or both!
- Use the time while you’re still underemployed to invest in your skills and knowledge so you’re prepared for the job you want when you actually get it.
- Be patient. Understand that it’s okay if you’re not where you want to be just yet, so long as you’re working to get there.
Rage quitting sounds particularly appealing on short-staffed, overworked, and underpaid days like the ones I’ve had this weekend, but slowly building something powerful to potentially dig myself out of underemployment forever sounds far better than plain ol’ unemployment.