It's Not Above Your Pay Grade
February 4, 2016

It's Not Above Your Pay Grade

by Brian de Haaff

I once worked with a Director of Operations who was famous for slipping out of meetings before he was assigned something to do. He often found numerous ways to avoid tough tasks. In fact, he worked harder at avoiding work than actually doing it. And he had a famous saying whenever someone asked him to get busy.

Spend enough time in business, and you are bound to hear some familiar excuses for avoiding work, like this one: ‘That’s beyond my pay grade.’

People say this when someone asks them to complete a task or offer an opinion, and for a variety of reasons, they shrug off the request.

Seems innocent, right?

But saying “It’s beyond my pay grade” is almost always a self-imposed — and self-limiting — statement. And while it is often used to avoid a request or duck out of hard work, it always hurts you in the end even if you think you are suggesting that someone higher up in the organization should handle the request.

Sometimes it’s more complicated. You may not feel you are qualified or have permission to operate outside your job description, or compensated well enough to think that deeply about anything. And sometimes it really is true that you are simply looking for an easy way out.

But ultimately, successful companies want folks who see every problem and challenge as their own and are willing to step up and contribute.

They need confident people who know they have something meaningful to offer and are ready to jump in, regardless of their position or status within the company.

So, even if you have used this convenient excuse in the past, that does not mean you cannot go beyond it in every way. Here is why it is smart to never use this excuse, and instead take on even the most challenging requests and tasks when they come your way.

You stretch yourself Yes, it can be frightening to step outside your comfort zone and tackle unfamiliar tasks or speak up to offer a possible solution. But taking risks is how you will grow. And when you achieve those risks, you build your confidence. What’s more, others will notice that you seem more self-assured, and unconcerned about petty office politics or stepping on anyone else’s toes. You are diving right into the work that needs to be done.

You help others Plenty of employees show up to work every day, happy to simply earn their paycheck and think nothing more about it. But for organizations to thrive and grow, they need people who want to help the company succeed and play a larger part in that success. When you start aligning your own goals with the goals of the company, and put the needs of others before your own, everyone will benefit from your extra effort.

You prove your value There is no better way to make a good impression and stand out than to go above and beyond expectations. When you work beyond your pay grade, you will begin to paint a more complete picture of the person you can be — and soon you may have the salary to match it. It will not be a stretch of the imagination for the leadership to see you succeeding in a role with greater challenges and responsibilities.

Great companies look for people who are willing to step up and offer their best, even if it means the possibility of being wrong.

Do not let the above pay grade excuse or any other hold you back from the person you know you can be. Go ahead — work beyond your pay grade and see how far it takes you.

How do you feel when someone tells you that your request is above their pay grade?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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