Recently I received this note from one of my colleagues. I have deleted company names for this purpose.

 “Last week the XYZ company made me a fantastic offer that will provide me with the opportunity to gain tremendous experience and receive a dramatic increase in my salary. I pretty much signed on the spot and joined up. Today my current company made me a counter offer of a 38% increase. However, I have decided to move on - I gave the XYZ company my word.”

Having since discussed this with him I have learnt that he felt that his current company had invested significantly in him with training and mentoring. But had given very little positive feedback on his successes in bringing in more business for the firm and they hadn’t kept his salary on a par with the market. He had had to drive the relationship with little, or at most, irregular feedback. Furthermore, he had an increasing awareness that, considering his productivity and technical skill level, he was being underpaid.

I believe if you are not being treated ‘right’ by your boss or firm, it is important to communicate this to the powers that be, to ensure they know how you feel. Talk to them and explain why you believe you are being undervalued and assess the reactions carefully. Similarly if you manage people you value, look after them before it is too late. In today’s highly competitive job market it is quite possible to lose productive and well-regarded employees. This is even a problem in China where there is a significant skills shortage in engineering talent despite the reported 500,000 engineers graduating every year. (But this is the subject of another rant).

Conversely, if you are an employee who is a little incompetent, or you dislike your career/job or are inappropriately employed, but are determined to stay put; don’t rock the boat. This could result in unnecessary attention directed your way and a potentially awkward situation.

I don’t believe a contented and motivated employee is simply such as a result of an adequate salary or a pay rise every now and again. It is more complex than this. It can involve things such as; a healthy, positive office environment, an employee’s sense that he/she is capable of achieving designated ends, that important experience is being gained and that productivity is noticed and applauded and sometimes financially rewarded.

People can be significantly motivated by positive feedback when they succeed. These can include, on-going and relevant training and mentoring, regular opportunities to tackle interesting engineering jobs and some travel to other sites, where possible, to network with their peers. Just to mention a few.

As Patty Hansen observed:  You create your opportunities by asking for them.