Money 101: Workplace matters

Published: June 25, 2011

Do not comprise on yourself – we all need a job to pay bills and make ends meet.

The workplace is somewhere we head to in order to earn money and yet discussing money in the workplace is one of the most difficult topics to bring up.

Do your own thing

Starting from something basic as lunch orders – in most urban workplaces the current trend is to order in and split the costs. In this situation the financially prudent individual who brings lunch from home or wants to pay exactly Rs99 for his one order of fries can find himself/herself being labeled as a bad sport, kanjoos and so on. And given that you end up spending 9-10 hours with these people on a regular basis those are labels most people can live without. Then again everyone has their own spending pattern and expenses and many people do not want to spend almost five grand per month of lunch. It may start a debate that rages in most workplaces about burgers and bun kebabs (burgers being the posh locality dwellers in Karachi and bun kebabs hailing from the less prosperous addresses) and the best way to survive it and maintain a healthy equation with colleagues is to limit the shared lunches to once a week.

Once a week on Fridays or mid week go ahead and splurge on whatever the popular choice is and the rest of the week save yourself from the two hour debate on “aaj lunch pay kya order karein!”

Everybody’s different

I am all for communal sharing like carpool, even taking turns to bring food from home for lunch but having worked in various sectors and organisations for almost a decade I think what you need to establish before becoming best friends with your co-workers is if you have similar values, mindsets, economic backgrounds. Because nothing makes a long work day seem longer than the noise of hushed whispers behind your back or people asking questions about what your religious/ moral affiliations are (buddy, I am all for discussing cricket but keep me away from politics – and trust me I learned all this the hard way!)

Most workplaces are embracing diversity as a mantra these days and owing to that you have people ranging from, total Americanised brats to fresh from the Sahiwal farm, competing for the same slot, and it is here that the clashes over mindsets begin.

Don’t throw money around

No one likes a show off so think before taking out your logo encrusted shoes and hand bags for the work place. And the same rule applies to the few occasions where the whole team needs to contribute, for example weddings, childbirth and so on.

So, be decent in your gift giving (remember your turn too shall come) but no need to donate half your salary to the cause, for the sake of keeping up with the Joneses.  People will remember you for your personality, your drive to work, even your sense of humor, once you have moved on to another and hopefully better position. No one will remember what the logo on your shoes was or if you treated everyone from a top class eatery on a regular basis. Having said that, do invest Rs300 each month throughout the year in an effective deodorant – Ms Sewer was a brilliant lawyer but I still remember her for her (un)flowery smell!

Tips for when you ask for a raise

And then comes the sixer – how to talk to your boss about money i.e. the dreaded increment related conversation we all dread!

The simple tips to broaching it are as follows:

1. Convince yourself. Even if this requires rehearsing in front of a mirror do repeat out loud “I have worked very hard and I deserve this raise.”

2. Be realistic about the percentage you are likely to get, for example most sectors are not doing well these days and the economy is in a mess, so asking for a 25 per cent raise when your company has asked 10 people to leave in the past month is a recipe for disaster. However given inflation levels do keep an amount in mind and approach your supervisor.

3. Do not speculate about the raise or lack of to your co-workers – gossip has an interesting knack of getting back to its source. Look out for the boss to be in an ok (if not great) mood as nothing sounds better than ‘no’ when you are ready to kill.

4. Most importantly do not compromise on yourself – we all need a job to pay bills and make ends meet, but when you start being taken for granted, when there is no room for growth, or when your basics like health-care or gratuity are not paid, it is better to aggressively look for something else and move on, maybe even with a slight pay cut for now but something that will pay dividends in the years to come!

Shezray Husain

Shezray Husain

A journalist turned investment banker turned entrepreneur with a keen interest in most things around her.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Laila

    With reference to “don’t throw money around” – I sometimes find difficult to strike a balance between being generous and showing off. Is offering to take your colleagues out to lunch too extravagant? I have always seen my supervisors do so and I feel it helps in teambuilding. Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    always a pleasure reading, what you have to say. You should do a piece on work place diversity as well, i noticed you touched on it slightly. We are a society that does not value or embrace diversity, we look for reasons and excuses to dislike some one, if they are even marginally different than us or how we expect them to be. People come with different values, back grounds, up bringing to the work place, we must respect people’s uniqueness and individuality. If some one is a little different from conventional or from most people at work, we should make an effort to help make that person feel at home and assist in the adjustment process.Recommend

  • http://ictec.wordpress.com M. Uzair Sukhera

    Totally agreed with Mr. Deen Sheikh. Will love to read what you write on diversity issues! :)Recommend

  • http://bakedsunshine.wordpress.com/ Shumaila

    Ms. Shezray, you always write well :) thanks for the good advice this time around too. Recommend