zookeeper wages

Part 2: Underappreciated

I had an employee approach me once and tell me that she needed to make more money. She had a long, stressful commute, she had some expensive, personal, medical stuff going on, and she needed a raise.

I told her no.

Here’s the hard truth, your choices, your challenges, and your needs are ultimately not a good enough reason for you to deserve a raise. So what is?

Here are a list of reasons you deserve a raise

-extra projects you’ve taken on

-team work and leadership skills

-ways you’ve grown as an individual

-responsibilities you have that are above your job description

-consistently high performance

-time served (though sometimes I’d even argue with this, just because you’ve been there forever doesn’t mean you’re adding value)

-revenue you’ve created or generated or assisted in generating

-regular positive guest feedback

Let’s say one or more of these apply to you. In addition, you haven’t received any write-ups, you haven’t been called in for coaching or counseling, and you haven’t been involved in any conflicts that you couldn’t solve on your own. You own your shovelful and manage it carefully.

So how do you go about advocating for an increase?

  1. Understand how money works at your facility
    1. ask questions about the budget
    2. understand how your daily choices impact the bottom line
    3. do things to add to the revenue and decrease the expenses
    4. understand how the financials are reported and how an increase for you would impact those financials
  2. Understand who makes the decisions
    1. who all signs off on increases?
    2. start building relationships with those individuals while respecting the chain of command
  3. Make your case
    1. make a list of the reasons you deserve a raise from above
    2. talk about why retaining you is important and what it looks like long term
    3. make sure to talk about everything you’ve already done and things you plan on doing in the future
    4. if now that you understand the system you know a raise is unlikely then get creative. Can you make a commission on programs? Can they pay for a conference or a course you want to take? Can you make a plan to slowly increase your pay over time?

Lastly you have to be prepared for a “no” or a “not yet” answer. Ask questions about what you can do to change the answer in the future and ask when you should follow up on your progress. Most importantly listen to the reason your manager gives you, and then think about what you can do to change that answer in the future.

You should also be prepared with your plan B. What will you do if you don’t get the raise? Are there other ways you can meet your own financial needs? Are you sure you aren’t basing your personal value on the dollar amount of your paycheck.

If the answer is no, it’s a good time to redefine your why. You’re going to feel under appreciated and your ego is going to take a little hit. Recommit to WHY you do what you do everyday. For most of us it isn’t the paycheck anyway.

That employee I mentioned in the beginning, she went back to the drawing board and came back a couple weeks later to make her case. As I expected, she had added a tremendous amount of value to our team and got the increase that she deserved! So go out there and get it!

Our online course Beyond Animal Training will help you find your “Why” and work to change the culture of your facility. Check it out!


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