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Employees fear one-on-one conversations with the boss

What’s the biggest cause of anxiety among employees? If you guessed public speaking, you’re wrong, according to the results of a new study. What really stresses out employees is asking for a raise.

The study from Robert Half found that only 28 percent of Canadian employees feel confident when asking for a pay increase, compared to 48 percent who feel assured when public speaking. In fact, 39 percent of respondents said they would rather clean their house than ask for a raise in a one-on-one conversation, while 10 percent would rather find a new job.

This insecurity isn’t new, but it has changed slightly over time. Last year, 31 percent of those surveyed felt confident when asking for a raise, while in 2015, the percentage was 35 percent.

Robert Half’s Confidence Matters research outlines workers’ confidence levels and attitudes about a variety of career and salary topics. More than 400 Canadian workers employed full-time in office environments were surveyed by an independent research firm for it. The survey was also conducted in 2015 and 2016.

“When it comes to confidence at work, knowledge truly is power,” says Greg Scileppi, president, Robert Half International Staffing Operations. “Professionals with a thorough understanding of in-demand skills and salary trends in their area are better able to measure their value, and are more self-assured in articulating their contributions to the business as they negotiate their compensation, at either an existing job or for a prospective role.”

Although many workers don’t relish salary negotiations, 27 percent of survey respondents said they plan to ask for a raise this year, with the primary reason being that their salary hasn’t grown with their job duties – the top response for three years running.

Other takeaways from the Confidence Matters research include:

  • Employees are confident in their companies and job prospects: Seventy percent of respondents feel confident in their employer’s stability, and 42 percent feel confident about their job prospects. Another 56 percent feel confident in a job interview.
  • Many don’t know what they don’t know: Forty-eight percent of workers say they have never checked their salaries against the going market rates for the positions, compared to 43 percent in 2015; only 8 percent have checked their salaries against the going rates within the last month.
  • There’s a lot on the line: Nineteen percent of workers said they would look for a new job if their request for a raise was declined, while 22 percent of respondents who plan to ask for a raise said they need the money to cover basic needs.

Organizations benefit from having confident employees who aren’t afraid to vocalize ideas or identify new opportunities for business growth, says Scileppi. “Managers should cultivate open communication with employees, and make time for frequent check-ins to review their individual goals, progress and preferences, which will promote morale by ensuring staff feel recognized and supported.”


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