Put yourself in her shoes

raisessssDon Spetner’s superb column is far, and away, the best and most relevant read in PR Week’s monthly issue.

Spetner’s most recent effort concerns a long-ago job, and his desire to rise within the company’s management ranks. When it didn’t happen, he went to his boss to complain. The latter went ballistic, telling Spetner, “I’m tempted to deny you the promotion entirely.”

Spetner thought about it, and realized his boss was right. He counsels readers to “…never forget that your boss has a lot more on his or her plate than you.” Amen, Don. Amen.

Spetner’s tale evoked two immediate, personal memories from both sides of the promotion table:

– The first involved my pulling a Don Spetner, deciding I was ready for both a promotion and raise, and walking right into my direct report’s office to plead my case. I couldn’t have picked a worse time. Unbeknownst to me, he’d just been beaten up by a client, was on a deadline to submit quarterly numbers to our holding company parent AND was dealing with a sick wife. My boss screamed at me. He told me I should be ashamed of the salary I WAS earning. He ordered me to go home, look in the mirror and come back the next morning to explain why I deserved to even keep my job!

Needless to say, I ate humble pie for breakfast the next day.

– The second incident involved a Peppercomm account executive from long ago who, at the apex of the dotcom boom, strolled into my office, sat down, crossed his legs and sighed, “Steve, I’m working on three of the hottest BtoB dotcom accounts in the world right now. I’d like to renegotiate my contract and get a pay raise immediately.” I inhaled deeply, suggested he follow Peppercomm’s chain of command, and speak to his direct report. As he walked out of my office, I picked up the phone to call his direct report. We agreed that ‘Tommy’ wasn’t cut out for Peppercomm. We fired him that very afternoon.

Like Don Spetner, I’ve learned to try and put myself in other people’s shoes before I ask for anything.

This is especially true in the case of client/agency relationships. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to calm down a junior staffer who cannot possibly fathom why a client had just turned down a Wall Street Journal interview. I always ask our publicist to try to step back and understand that the client has many, many responsibilities and being a media spokesperson is just one.

So, take heed of Mr. Spetner’s advice. The young Repman (and the young Spetner) both dodged bullets when they made the mistake of asking for a raise without first understanding their direct report’s world. And, we both lived to see another day. But, like the late and not-so-great Peppercommer I described above, your asking for a pay raise could, instead, end up with your execution.