We’ve all heard the old saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” People who get the things they want in life are people who aren’t afraid to ask for them, right?
That is probably true in some cases, but is it true when it comes to raises and promotions on the job? We asked some RT managers what they think about having staff members come to them requesting a raise or promotion to find out.
Career pathways and clinical ladders help
Daniel Ventimiglia, BS, RRT, RPSGT, RST, manager of respiratory services, sleep disorders, and pulmonary rehabilitation at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, FL, has had a lot of experience dealing with these kinds of requests.
“In a department with over 125 team members, this is normally a weekly occurrence,” he said. “Our diversity in years has many therapists coming into the office area to discuss their ability to grow and increase their income.”
His department has developed a career pathway that helps staff members see what it takes to get to where they want to be. The pathway offers tiered-based pay on four levels – RRT1, RRT2, RRT3, and RRT4. Each level offers about a 6% difference in salary, and years of experience in the profession figure into the equation too.
“The career pathway contains education requirements, departmental participation, and skill-based competency requirements to advance to the next level,” explained Ventimiglia. “Each year at the anniversary date of team members, we perform an annual evaluation that allows a 3 -5% merit increase based on the previous year’s performance.”
Elizabeth Wooldridge, RRT, RRT-NPS, cardiopulmonary and respiratory therapy manager at Med Center at Franklin in Franklin, KY, has never had anyone in her department come to her specifically asking for a raise or promotion. However, she has had one employee tell her she didn’t think she was being compensated enough. So she went with the employee to human resources (HR), and they worked it out that way.
But like her colleague in Florida, she has developed a formal process to help employees see what it takes to earn a raise or promotion.
“I developed our clinical ladder about 14 years ago as a way that someone who was interested in doing more could get a ‘raise’ without it being considered a raise,” Wooldridge said.
Both managers maintain an open-door policy for staff, though, and if anyone wants to discuss a raise, promotion, or anything else related to the progress of their career, they can come in and do it.
“Nothing would ever make me dismiss their request entirely,” Wooldridge said. “I always recommend the clinical ladder and offer to help them achieve that goal.”
Ventimiglia says he goes to bat for his staff with HR if the situation warrants as well.
“Sometimes we find out information that was not considered in the original hire practice and will review this error of omission,” he said. “Then we will petition HR for a correction.”
Stand out from the crowd
As a long-time manager at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, UT, and a past chair of the AARC’s Leadership & Management Section, Kim Bennion, MsHs, RRT, CHC, has had her fair share of experience with RTs who think they should be paid more than they are, or feel they should be rising in the profession at a faster pace.
She has this advice for any RT considering asking for a raise or promotion.
“If an employee only does the minimum expectations, I would not ask for a raise,” she said. “If you have done extra work, then meeting to discuss a raise or promotion would be appropriate. It’s really how and when you ask that will either make it or break it, in my opinion.”
In other words, therapists who want to earn more or be more in their departments first must show their managers how they stand out from the crowd. Bennion advises staffers to start small and work their way up from there.
“Where you see areas for improvement, present ideas for improvement and be willing to lead the initiative,” she says. “Be positive, lead by example, and think outside the box. Once you’ve proven yourself, discuss with humility what you’ve been doing and then request your manager’s consideration for advancement and pay.”
Indeed, she’s seen incidences where positions have been created to match the needs of such people by managers who don’t want to lose them from their departments. But patience is often required.
“I waited 11 months for an advanced position where my direct report kept me updated as to the whys and when it was expected to happen, as well as the reasons for the delay,” she said. “I stayed positive, and then it happened.”
Ventigimilia agrees that standing out from the crowd is the absolute best way for an RT staff member to gain approval for a raise or promotion. However, while things like reliability, seniority, and loyalty (an argument he’s heard a lot during the pandemic from employees who point out how they stuck it out) are commonly mentioned, they don’t rise to the level of being raise- or promotion-worthy to him.
“The one that really seals the deal is their own development,” he said. “When a team member speaks about how they have been progressing either with personal education or skill base, then they have my attention.” A staff member who can show him how they are becoming his next subject matter expert capable of helping to develop new employees or work on process improvement projects will shine.
“With that, I can act and consider them for a career pathway advancement or increase their pay with their annual merit increase,” he said.
Do this, not that
Bennion offers a couple of great examples of how to and not to approach your manager about career advancement options.
The first comes from an experience she had during her years as the system administrative director of respiratory care with oversight for 23 hospitals in the Intermountain system.
“I took students – and still do – for an executive leadership and CQI clinical rotation at the corporate office,” she recalls.
Her own office in that building had a beautiful view overlooking the Salt Lake Valley. She was showing the students a new piece of equipment when she asked them each to tell her where they saw themselves in two years. One young man’s answer was, “I see myself behind your desk.”
“I literally laughed out loud,” said Bennion, who went on to explain to the young man that he would probably need more than just two years of experience to reach that goal.
The second example centers on her own experience just last year when she decided to retire. About two weeks from her departure date, a $2 million grant came in for a project she’d been working on for the past decade to study remote patient monitoring of adult asthma and COPD patients.
While she did retire for about six months, she worked for free over the summer to make sure the project stayed on track. Finally, her former boss took notice and approached her about returning to work on her own terms to lead the study.
“We discussed my new hours, job expectations, my new title, and wage,” she said. “He said, ‘Write it up, and I will make it happen,’ and he did.”
Today she’s the director of respiratory care research at Intermountain Healthcare.
“I think showing what you are capable of doing sets the stage for a positive conversation about position and pay,” she said.