What are you currently being “voluntold” to do? Have you taken on task after task with zero compensation? This episode offers 4 ways to turn free efforts into paid work.

In this episode of The Career Rx we’ll discuss:

  • 4 best practices for (finally) getting paid for extra work
  • Some hard truths about expectations and compensations
  • The caveats that come with setting boundaries at work

Today we take a look at some food for thought around value and recognition for uncompensated tasks. By the end of this episode, you will have 4 professional ways to approach your current “free” duties above and beyond the scope of your hired work.

In this Episode:

[2:30] Your official job duties vs what you’re doing today
[6:45] Questions to ask about the visibility and tangibility of your work
[9:50] What goes around – comes around
[12:15] When all else fails, try this!

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TRANSCRIPT: Episode 109 – How to Get Paid for the Work You’re Doing for Free

Hey, y’all on this episode, we’re going to be talking about how to get paid for the extra work that you are doing that you’re not being paid for today. This is one of the things that so many of my colleagues find incredibly frustrating and it is really widespread – it happens everywhere in all kinds of work environments and academics and in private practice and an industry all over, people are taking on additional work really going above and beyond and trying to do things that they feel strongly about passionately about, to make a difference in their institutions.

Or because they’ve been sort of volunteered, or I like the word voluntold. It’s been assigned to them to take on some piece of work. And it doesn’t come with any additional protected time to do that work or additional compensation. So if this has happened to you, this is a good episode for you to listen to.

I was recently working with a coaching client, and she was telling me about, you know, a piece of work that she’s doing around quality and safety within her organization, and that this has sort of been tacked on.

So when she looks at other physicians who are in her same group doing her same clinical practice or same amount of patient care activities, they have no significant equivalent, right she’s doing what is a pretty onerous and time consuming body of work, championing the quality and safety piece within her department.

And she’s not getting any additional compensation for it. And it’s not offsetting the clinical expectations either. And as she looks around her colleagues, and because she’s done her homework, she also knows that they don’t have similar things so that the compensation is really inequitable. And the amount of time that she has, is really considerably diminished. And also, importantly, this is not what she was hired to do.

Right? So I think that’s one thing to keep in mind throughout is for most people, you’re hired, either for your clinical work, your academic work, your administrative work, or whatever it is, there is sort of your core body of work for which you are hired, that’s why you have a job, that’s what you’re paid to do.

And then these other things just kind of come on the plate. And before we get misunderstood, I do recognize that there’s always going to be little things people will want to take on to go above and beyond to bring sort of their own interests and their own passions into their workplace and to make things better. So I get that, and I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t ever do it.

But when you reach the point where you’re starting to feel like, “wait a minute, I’m doing a considerable amount of something that I don’t really want to be doing like for my own fun, right, I’m doing this as a contribution as a service, and I’m not being compensated for it.” When that starts to feel out of balance, then it’s really important to think about whether you are managing it in the right way.

And so when I think about my client, and I think about the fact that, really she could just simply stop doing what she’s doing. And there would be no consequence other than perhaps people would be a little bit annoyed, right, they would wish that she would continue to do this work, but since she’s not, it’s on her contract, she’s not being compensated for it, she’s not obligated to do it. It’s not the reason she was hired.

So it’s certainly not going to be the reason that she’s let go, right? That’s just not how that narrative is going to unfold, then it’s really important to think about, why do we continue to do things for which we’re not getting the kind of compensation or recognition or whatever is the appropriate reward.

And I realize not everything is monetary. So you can, when you think about your own work, you can sort of substitute in here, whatever words mean the most for you. But I know this is a really common experience for a lot of folks.

I also recognize that early in your career, when you have less to do, you’re less busy, and you are not entirely sure which direction you want to go in, it can be highly valuable to say yes to a lot of different things, and to take on special projects and kind of dip your toe in many waters.

So there’s definitely value in doing that. I think the danger is when you hang on to keep all of those things because you feel there’s an expectation that you do that and that begins to grow and grow and become unmanageable.

Another way in which this seems to sort of begin and then take on a life of its own, is when people are, you know, they’re really bringing their unique skill and their unique perspective to the job and they’re starting to do things that they feel are really important and it’s out of sync with what their boss or their organization thinks is important.

Doesn’t mean they don’t want to pat you on the back and say, “this is great, good job.”

But when it comes down to it when the rubber meets the road and when they think about are they going to give you time, are they going to give you money to do it. But if the answer is no, but it’s something that you love to do, then you have to realize you’re sort of at a crossroads, right? If it is important work, but it’s important work to you that’s not valued by your boss or your colleagues or your organization in a tangible way, then that’s a good time to take a hard look at whether or not you are managing it right.

So let me give you my sort of four, the four considerations, or four tips for how to finally get paid for that extra work that you are doing.

  1. So number one, you have to tell your boss and your colleagues, this might sound ridiculous, because I know that people think that everyone knows what they’re doing. But the bottom line is that everybody is extremely busy, your colleagues are very busy doing what they’re doing, and focused on what they are doing and on their own lives outside of work.

And everything, people are incredibly busy. So your boss is incredibly busy. And presumably your boss has many, many direct reports to kind of keep track of. So it is, you know, we think everyone knows what we’re doing, and that it’s obvious, but it’s actually really much more likely that a lot of the work and effort you are doing is simply invisible to other people.

So the first thing to do is really to take a look and make sure that you are managing up appropriately, right? Are you letting the stakeholders who need to know the people who are in charge of your time and your money?

Are you letting them know what you’re doing? And you know, making sure that people are aware and that it is visible, that you are doing this work? That’s sort of the basics to do that. So that’s number one.

  1. Number two, if you think that people are aware, then, you know, the next thing to do is really consider have you put forth a really important value proposition. And by that I mean guests, they know that you’re doing the work, but do they appreciate the importance of the work.

And again, to you, it may be totally self evident why it’s really important, but to other people who are focused on other things, they may not realize they might need a written value proposition, an elevator pitch that, you know, communicate again and again, about why the work is important. And critically, why it’s important to them, right, to other people.

So not just why it’s important to you. But why it is important to your boss, why it is important to your organization is especially super, if you can have metrics to show either time, or cost saving or process improvement, reputation enhancement, retention, or whatever it is, that would be something that your organization and your boss would find valuable.

Make sure that the work that you are doing is not only known, but also known and explained within the context of the benefits that it’s bringing to the organization that’s really, really key. It’s also, I think, helpful, if you make sure that it has a name, and that you have a name sort of a title.

So even if this is informal, it has not been bestowed upon you by somebody else, it’s important to be able to take something that feels a little bit a amorphous like side job, or even perhaps like a hobby, and make it something that that is concrete and really tangible and can be understood by your colleagues, I don’t actually mean your hobbies, I mean, the work that you do at work that isn’t part of your normal remit.

That seems like oh, yes, this person is our, you know, there are sort of resident experts in such and such, they’re our go to person for blah, blah, blah. If it feels really amorphous, so you want to be sure that it has again, that value proposition or elevator pitch, that it has a name that can be referred to really easily and understood and potentially that you have a title or a way in which you refer to yourself as leading that charge in a way that is also really concrete and tangible. You have to make it visible. And you have to make it very real, very impactful.

  1. So if you’re doing those things, the third thing you can do to really advance your cause, right and bring it bring it with more value so that the next time you’re having negotiations about your time and your money, that is even better understood and that you’re in a better position to be able to negotiate favorably to get paid for that work is to recognize other people.

And by this I mean in a faculty meeting or via email or whatever is the appropriate opportunities and forums, recognize other people who are working together on this with you who may have contributed in a way even if it’s small, because it gives you the opportunity to raise the awareness and the visibility of the overall piece of work.

So while you you can and should get comfortable, you know, sort of waving your own flag and explaining your own elevator pitch and value proposition but you can also take these opportunities to give recognition and gratitude to other people who are contributing to the work that helps people become aware of the work it helps people to realize the the sort of scope the magnitude of it can help people to realize the importance and be an opportunity to communicate, again, the value that it brings to the organization, also in a way that builds allies, because people like to be recognized if they’re working with you on something that helps them to feel even more invested.

And it goes to show that that many people are needed to continue this work to really to pull it off and to make it effective, that it is substantial.

And so that is another way that you can really bring the visibility and the importance to the forefront, because all those things are really necessary before somebody is going to find this to be worthwhile to pay for.

And you can think of that just as a consumer in your own life, when you think about things that you would take it if it was free, like a sample in a store, perhaps, but you probably wouldn’t pay for it. And you want to think about where’s that tipping point where people are aware of stuff and they find it so valuable, that it ought to be compensated, that’s really, that’s, that’s where you are, right? If you are finding yourself saying, “Oh, I’m doing all this stuff, for which I don’t have time or compensation”, that’s where you are.

There’s either a disconnect between those stakeholders who make those decisions. And their understanding of what you’re doing, or how important it is, or how much time and effort it takes or whatever. So all of that needs to be communicated.

Or it’s been communicated. And they just, they look at it as like a sample in a Costco or Sam’s Club, right, they just don’t view it as being not important.

  1. And that brings me to number four. And the way, the hard and fast way to really figure out how someone’s going to pay you to do this work, which they have not been doing so far is to stop doing it. That’s number four, stop doing it.

When you decide to stop doing work, that you are not being compensated for, one of a few things will happen. I mean, it really sort of forces down a path one way or the other.

One is people will recognize the void, and they will pay you and you’ll have that leverage in the negotiation. And they’ll say, wait a minute, wait a minute, we can’t lose this, or we have missed this or you know, we, we want to get this back. And they’ll recognize the gap, they’ll appreciate what they maybe didn’t appreciate before.

And they will begin to pay you for that work because they will recognize its value, and they’ll recognize you’re the person to do it. And that would be super, right? That’s probably what most people want, that would be an ideal outcome.

The other thing that might happen is they might choose to not pay you, they may want to kind of guilt trip you they may want to you know, there’s a maybe a little bit of a social penalty that might be sort of levied against you which I think you just have to have that thick skin and say I’m not going to I’m not going to continue doing this. If indeed it’s inequitable, right? If everybody is doing their fair share of little things around the department, that’s one thing, right?

I’m not saying don’t do your fair share, I am saying if you’re doing a considerable body of work that’s not being recognized, then they either will pay you, or it’s not that important to them.

And so even though they may want to guilt trip you and be disappointed that you’ve made that decision, et cetera, et cetera. If they’re not actually willing to invest time or money in it, then what they’re really saying is, it’s not that important, this is super important for you to know, you’ve got to get crystal clear on this.

Because if it actually is not important to them, and it’s not something for which they’re ever going to eventually want to compensate you time or financially, then now you have your time back.

And at least you know that and then you can reflect. So now you’ve got your time back. So you can dedicate that time however you want, you know, you could pick up a different project, you could take time just for yourself and your family and your hobbies, and whatever it is that you want to do.

Or you could begin to think about, if that’s truly something that’s really your professional passion, you could begin to look around and say maybe there’s a better fit for me somewhere else, where they really do want that. they really do value it. and they’re willing to pay and compensate for it.

So when you get to step four, it provides extreme clarity. So in a way, it’s very, very freeing, because you understand that actually, if it’s not the primary reason, again, not the reason you’ve been hired, so it’s not part of your contract.

And it’s not something for which you are, it’s not your remit, right, so that’s not something for which your job isn’t in jeopardy because it’s not actually part of your job, something you’re not being compensated for.

You’ll either get paid, or you’ll find out, they’re not going to pay in which case what an amazing load off your shoulders because then you can be very, very clear on what you need to look somewhere else for a better match where the things that you are really good at and that you bring unique value to are valued and compensated by the organization.

That is, that’s one approach. Or you can just simply have Your time back. And you can say, Okay, well, you know, at least now I know that that’s not something for me to pursue anymore, I can have my time back to do what I want.

Or again, you know, perhaps the best case scenario that everybody thinks about, which is what you’re kind of hoping and waiting in the wings for, is for somebody to finally decide that they really should compensate that work.

But I think for many people, that’s never going to happen, because there is sort of a culture of, of expectation that people do things in an uncompensated way, especially in academics, just simply for the purpose of, you know, eventually moving up, but it’s extremely intangible.

You know, if you’re in academics, and you know what their promotion criteria are, you should really take a look at the work that you’re doing and whether it ladders up to any of that specifically.

If it doesn’t, you can be pretty well assured that that’s not actually going to help you get promoted or get a raise, and it’s not something that you’ll be compensated for. So then you have to ask yourself, why, why are you doing that?

So in summary, these are my tips for how to get paid for the extra work that you’re doing that you’re not getting paid for today.

Number one, make sure your boss and your colleagues know about it, make sure your work is not invisible.

Number two, make sure the value is understood. The value to your boss and your organization. right not to you. But the value that you’re bringing to others is really clearly understood with metrics around it if you can.

Number three, recognition of the other people who are working on this with you to get allies to raise the visibility and to show the depth and breadth of how many people or how much effort is necessary to continue to bring this to your organization, or your department, or institution, or what have you.

And if you’ve done all of those things, and you know that you’ve been clear on what you’re doing, and the value that it brings, and the effort that it requires, and still, you’re not being compensated time or money, then the next thing to do is simply to stop, let them know, you’re not going to be doing that work anymore.

And that is when you’ll get really, really clear on whether you are ever going to get paid. And nobody is going to just suddenly wake up one day and say, you know, so and so has been working really hard on this project, or on this work stream or whatever you want to call it right?

This extra bit of things for which it’s not really their contract. And it’s so important, so valuable that we ought to have, we ought to give them a raise, or we ought to assign some budget to that, or we ought to give them some compensated time to do it. That’s, that’s like literally never going to happen.

That would be a wild exception. If your boss suddenly woke up one day and on their own action decided that you ought to be compensated for something that you’re doing that today you’re doing for free, and that you have been doing for free for a period of time, it just doesn’t work that way.

So if you’re sure that they’re aware, and if they understand the value, and that you’ve, you know, really shown the breadth and depth of the involvement of other people. And you’ve been able to recognize everybody for that value, then simply stop doing it.

And then you’ll see if you get paid to get time one or the other will happen. And if you follow those steps, then at the end of that road, you will find that you are being paid for the work that you’re doing. Because either now you’ll be being paid more, compensated more, or you’ll be doing less work. And that’s the end of that.

Sometimes people feel upset like this, this is a letdown, right, my fourth step, because there’s no way to make somebody compensate you if they don’t find value in it, you can’t make them you can be a great negotiator. But you cannot make people find value in your work and compensate you in a way that you wish.

But you also don’t have to do that work. So that sometimes is the best result to just excuse yourself, then from that work, which may again free you up to find a place where they do value that work and where you have a better fit.

But in any case, at the end of it all, you’ll be compensated for the work that you do, those things will be aligned. And that’s really where you get that equity at work. Can’t always get the dream job that you want.

But you can always establish yourself for fair compensation and time for the work that you are doing if you approach it in this manner. So I hope that helps.

And I hope you will take inventory of the things that you are doing, as it’s, you know, sort of a transition from one year to the next, always a good time to really think about where are you spending your time? Where are you spending your energy?

What is it doing for you? What is it doing for your organization and your service to your profession? And what is it time to move away from so that you can move towards the other things that are most important to you.

I hope this is helpful, gives you some food for thought and brings you into a really strong 2023 To have your best career year ever. That’s it for today. Bye for now

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