My Mediocre Employee Wants a Raise But Doesn’t Deserve One!


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“Difficult conversations” in the workplace are never easy, no matter how much we think we’ve made them non-emotional or direct and to the point.

But even the most direct of managers can often times skirt giving honest feedback when it comes to talking to employee’s about their performance.

This week, Aaron has a question from a manager that falls under a top-tier difficult conversation: How to tell an employee who wants a raise that their performance is not strong enough to merit the raise they are asking for:

Dear Aaron, 
I manage a hard-working product team for a start-up. One of the most senior team members has been a generally low performer since starting a year and a half ago, and is already asking for a considerable pay raise. I feel terrible, but I don’t think he’s deserving of a raise. To make matters more awkward, he was a star hire and poached from a big competitor, but has been utterly mediocre since starting! I don’t want to upset him, he’s a beloved member of the company otherwise, but I also am baffled and kind of irked by this request. Am I being a wimp? How do I handle this?
Avoidant and annoyed 

Watch as Aaron answers this question by focusing on the importance of managers, bosses and leaders to remain neutral in situations that feel awkward to them. Emphasis on them. As Aaron says, “your awkwardness puts the awkward into it.” If you can be aware of your own upset thinking or worry going into it, you’ll be less reactive and less afraid to be straightforward.

Have a question for Aaron? Email us at [email protected] with the subject line “Aaron’s Mailbag.” Your identity will be kept anonymous.