Have you ever had someone say something to you that shook your world and made you feel worth less than what you believed you were worth? Well, I have, and here’s what I did about it.
Early in my career, I was working in business at an international company. It was January, the dreaded “personnel management performance review” time. I walked into my boss’s office and sat at the round table where we usually worked. He got up from behind his desk, walked over to the table and sat directly across from me. He seemed hesitant as he handed me the written review. As I read the review, my jaw dropped, my eyes kept getting bigger, and I sat up a bit straighter.
I had excelled in every possible category. I was ecstatic. I knew I worked really hard that year and was so pleased to see someone recognized me for my work, especially someone whose opinion I highly respected. I was really seen. I was recognized as a great contributor. I was valued.
I was excited and ready to continue doing my excellent work.
But then there was a very uncomfortable silence. He looked at me and just said, “Unfortunately, the range of raises this year are lower than last year.”
I knew this was not going to be good. “You’ll be getting a 2% raise.”
I was stunned. This raise was nowhere close to what I thought equaled the amount of effort I had put into my work. It did not come close to compensating me for the process changes I made that saved the company money, for the many recommendations I made that were put into place, or for the many extra hours I worked.
I looked at him and felt my throat tighten, my body stiffen, and the tears welling up. We just stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity. I took a very deep breath, felt my body pulling together and a tiny little voice came out of me and said, “I can’t talk about this right now.” I got up and walked out of the room.
I immediately went to the bathroom, sat on the toilet, and let the tears roll. I couldn’t get my head around it. I was raised to believe all you needed to do to get recognized was to keep your head down, work hard, and wait for the inevitable recognition that would be tossed at my feet.
But, I had just seen first-hand this wasn’t necessarily true. I sat there and thought, “I am worth more than this.” I sat there a little longer and thought, “I am worth more than this.” Then, drying my tears, I stood up and said out loud, in that bathroom, “I am worth more than this!”
I left the stall, walked over to the sink and looked at myself for a while in the mirror. I was surprised to see a strong, confident and well, gutsy woman gazing right back at me. Here was a woman willing to claim her place and her immense value in the world. And that woman was me. I went back to my office, sat down and I started to write. I am worth more, I am worth more, I am worth more. This led to me writing why I thought so.
I left the pad of paper in my desk drawer, went home, and came back the next day clearly prepared with what I was going to say to my boss. I was fully prepared psychologically to leave my job if I didn’t get what I thought I was worth. This was that important to me.
First thing that morning, I went into his office and boldly said, “We need to talk.”
We did talk, and at the end of the conversation, he looked at me and said, “Pat, that was gutsy of you.”
“You got that right,” I proclaimed. So, what did I learn throughout all this? Sitting there in that bathroom was a turning point for me. It was then that I consciously realized I had a choice: to cave or to claim the power to claim my life. I realized that no one, absolutely no one, had the power to make me feel worthless unless I gave that power to them. At that moment, I realized getting gutsy was the only way to make my world rather than allow it to make me.
It was the moment I knew, really knew, I had a choice in everything I did and in determining, for me, what was acceptable and what was not.
By the way, I got exactly the raise I wanted.