MONEY Workplace

Wage Equality Takes Center Stage at the Oscars

Patricia Arquette's acceptance speech at the Academy Awards put the gender wage gap at the forefront of discussion.

MONEY salary

500,000 Walmart Workers Are Getting a Raise. Here’s How You Can Get One, Too

Walmart raise minimum wage $1.75
Gunnar Rathbun—Invision for Walmart

These 5 moves can help you make sure you get what you deserve.

Two corporate giants have made headlines recently for perking up their workers’ paychecks.

Last month, health insurance provider Aetna announced it would be raising the lowest wage it pays to $16 an hour, effectively giving raises to 5,700 of the company’s workers. On Thursday, Walmart followed Aetna’s lead, revealing it would be giving 500,000 associates a salary bump of at least $1.75 above the federal minimum wage.

While across-the-board wage increases such as these are unusual, other corporations are also expected to be more generous with pay this year. Among mid- and large-sized employers, the average increase in base pay is expected to be 3.0% in 2015, up from 2.9% in 2014 and 2.8% in 2013, according to HR consulting firm Mercer.

You can help your chances of boosting your pay with these five tips:

1. Ask at the Right Time

Choosing the optimal time to approach your boss about a raise will significantly increase your chances of success. Stay on top of your own industry’s salary trends and consider whether your company and division are doing well enough to afford what you’re asking for. It’s also a good idea to ask for a raise a few months before performance reviews so that salaries aren’t already set.

Read more: How to Tell if Now Is a Good Time to Ask for a Raise

2. Know What Others are Getting

Before you ask for a raise, you’re going to need to know what kind of raise is reasonable. Check sites like PayScale.com and GlassDoor.com to get an idea of the industry standard for your position, then consult your colleagues to see what the story is internally. For women, that means making sure to check with your male mentors as well. As MONEY’s Margaret Magnarelli writes, female employees tend to be underpaid relative to their male counterparts, and often remain unfairly compensated because they compare salaries with female colleagues who are also underpaid. Gathering a broad cross section of salary data can help break through the ceiling.

Read more: The Foolproof Way to Make Sure You Land a Big Raise This Year

3. Be Able to Prove You’re Better than Average

The 3% average bump that Mercer projects isn’t bad, but being better than the norm can be very lucrative. In 2014, Mercer said the highest-performing employees received a 4.8% raise—more than 2 percentage points higher than the average for that year. How do you show you’re the best of the best? Gather a portfolio of past endorsements and ask satisfied clients to write testimonials. Then do your best to quantify your accomplishments so that your boss has the hard numbers as well.

Read more: 5 Ways to Get a Big Raise Now

4. Identify Your Added Value

Think about what you do that no one else at the office can do—either where you’ve particularly excelled or what highly marketable skill you bring to the table—and then frame your ask around this added value. Jim Hopkinson of SalaryTutor.com suggests framing your requests as follows: “Not only do I have [all the standard requirements that everyone else has] + but I also possess [the following unique traits that make me worth more money].”

Read more: The Secret Formula that Will Set You Apart in a Salary Negotiation

5. Just Ask!

As Wayne Gretzky said, you miss you 100% of the shots you don’t take. According to CareerBuilder, 56% of workers have never asked for a raise, which is a shame because 44% of those who did ask got the amount they asked for, and 31% still got some kind of salary boost. It might seem daunting to ask for more money with the economy still in recovery mode, but job openings are the highest they’ve been in a decade, almost three-quarters of employers say they’re worried about losing talented workers, and raises are gradually getting larger. Being assertive can be scary, but don’t let fear stand in the way of a bigger salary.

Read more: New Study Reveals the Odds You’ll Actually Get the Raise You Ask For

More from Money.com:

How to Balance Spending and Safety in Retirement

When to File an Auto Insurance Claim—and When Not To

4 Ways to Hit Your Money Goals

TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Disagree With Your Boss and Still Get Ahead

The Boss mug on a desk
Getty Images

Disagreeing with your boss in the right way can benefit your organization as well as your career

The fear of disagreeing with authority is universal. It exists in life, and certainly in the regimented corporate workplace. While millennials are arguably more willing to express their opinions to a superior, most workers still remain shy – to the detriment of their career progress.

The fact is that it is not only possible to disagree with your boss without endangering your job, but the willingness to do so could put you on the fast track to professional success. What we tend to forget is that most managers benefit from having their employees provide constructive feedback and contribute original ideas. It can help the managers do their own job more effectively and easily.

The key lies in why and how that disagreement is communicated. Here are 5 tips that can help you navigate those waters successfully:

  1. Make sure you are disagreeing for the right reason. Too often, we disagree to compensate for our own lack of authority, without a good reason or an end goal in mind. That’s a serious mistake since it can compromise your professional credibility with your boss. It’s also just annoying. Disagreements that have a valid context and add real value, on the other hand, can be a big plus.
  2. Disagreeing is not about arguing but making an argument. Anyone who argues routinely with their boss is likely to be eventually fired. But a worker who frames her disagreement as a logical and thoughtful argument in favor of a better approach to a situation or a new idea will be heard gladly, and win serious points with the boss. Avoid attacking other people’s views or complaining and focus instead on making your own constructive points.
  3. Do your homework. Nothing irks a manager more than a worker who insists on sharing his opinion but hasn’t done the research to support and stress test his argument. It shows intellectual laziness on the part of the worker and fails to provide the manager with the tools to evaluate the input. Think about it. If you don’t do your homework, you are effectively forcing your boss to do it for you. Could that ever be a good idea?
  4. Be passionate but not emotional. Arguments are more convincing when they are delivered with passion. The listener needs to feel that you genuinely care about your suggestions, believe in your perspective, and are willing to take ownership of it. But that doesn’t need to involve an excess of emotion, which can make you look hysterical and your boss feel pressured. A clear, confident, and calm presentation will have the best impact.
  5. Speak in the same language as your boss. Some people are extremely data-driven whereas others are more intuitive. Knowing your boss’ personality will help you relate better and communicate your argument more effectively. Put yourself in your boss’ shoes. If you think in numbers, then a numerical argument might persuade you of a different viewpoint whereas a purely gut-based presentation will meet with instant skepticism.

To summarize, don’t be afraid to disagree with your boss. Alternative views and good ideas can benefit your organization as well as your own career. Just follow these guidelines to do it the right way.

Sanjay Sanghoee is a business commentator. He has worked at investment banks Lazard Freres and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, at hedge fund Ramius Capital, and has an MBA from Columbia Business School.

MONEY Bankruptcy

Bankrupt RadioShack Wants to Reward Execs With Bonus Pay

RadioShack with clearance sign in window
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Why should CEOs make more when their companies fail?

For most Americans, the “failure” concept is scary precisely because it means taking a financial hit. For a few others, though, there tends to be a little more victory — or at least a lot less agony — in defeat. Even in the midst of what most of us would call epic failure, the top tiers of corporate managements often get paid handsomely despite failure.

Take RadioShack’s RADIOSHACK CORP. RSHCQ -6.39% bankruptcy for example. Despite being broke, the retailer is now angling to pay out several million to a handful of employees.

Just a little set aside

RadioShack, which finally filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection recently, has asked the bankruptcy court to allow it to allot $3 million for retention bonuses to give eight executives and 30 other employees financial incentive to stay on board.

It’s still unclear who exactly would qualify for the bonuses, which would range from $88,000-$650,000 for eight executives, with the additional $1 million set aside for 30 others who also landed in the “critical employee” bucket.

Meanwhile, though, many of the 27,500 RadioShack employees out there are likely worried about their jobs or have already been laid off. When it comes to regular old severance, RadioShack had already changed its policy in December so that former employees would no longer receive lump sums, but instead get payments in weekly or bi-weekly dribs and drabs until the full amount is reached.

Given the bankruptcy, that also means they’re just part of the huge crowd of entities to which RadioShack owes money — money they may or may not receive.

Looking up the (pay) record

RadioShack had already been using its scarce financial reserves to try to convince upper tier execs to stay long before this most recent setback.

Last year, the company agreed to pay Chief Executive Officer Joe Magnacca a $500,000 bonus to hang in there through next year; its rationale was “due consideration of the skills and talent deemed critical to the company’s business turnaround efforts currently under way, the difficult business environment, and the competition for skilled, talented employees.” Other executives were eligible for bonuses of $187,500 and $275,000 at the time.

Clearly, the incentives didn’t do much to help the struggling chain, which hasn’t reported a profit since the year ended December 2011. Things were bad enough without its own strategic missteps; the electronics landscape is super competitive, and it had to contend with a multitude of big-box stores like Best Buy BEST BUY BBY -0.4% , not to mention online powerhouse Amazon.com AMAZON.COM INC. AMZN 1.34% .

However, it’s pretty easy to say management’s strategy was lacking, too. Take last year’s bizarre decision to spend big bucks on a Super Bowl commercial. The retailer went on to report continued poor financial results and 1,100 store closures shortly thereafter.

It hasn’t been lost on RadioShack’s shareholders that some people have been making gains despite the retailer’s struggle to survive — and it wasn’t them.

Last August, the majority of RadioShack shareholders used their say-on-pay votes to express displeasure with overall CEO pay policies for the second year in a row. Only 43% voted in favor of the pay plan. In 2013, CEO Magnacca had received a base salary of $893,000, and a $1.3 million bonus, $1 million of which was a sign-on bonus.

The bankruptcy benefits club

Word of RadioShack’s request gave me a case of déjà vu. In 2011, Borders sought to pay out $8.3 million in bonuses as it plodded through bankruptcy and shut down stores in its efforts to put its financial house back in order. (As we all know, though, Borders ultimately couldn’t be saved.)

Digging deeper in my archive for related topics, I remembered that in 2012, The Wall Street Journal published an article called The CEO Bankruptcy Bonus, which revealed some disturbing data along these lines.

It teamed up with consulting firm Valeo Partners and studied CEO pay at 21 of the largest 100 companies that had gone through bankruptcy. Those CEOs together raked in $350 million when one takes into account base salary, bonuses, stock, and severance, and some enjoyed larger windfalls during bankruptcy protection than they had beforehand.

The median pay for the studied set of folks was $8.7 million, only a tad lower than the $9.1 million median pay for regular S&P 500 companies at the time. RadioShack’s case is grating, but it’s not without precedent.

Death of the meritocracy

The court will decide whether RadioShack can go forward with the bonuses at a hearing scheduled for March 4.

Regardless of RadioShack’s specific outcome, this situation highlights some questions about our own society’s view on merit, money, and the marketplace.

Why do so many default to a hard-edged “tough luck” attitude toward most Americans when things like mass layoffs go down, yet shrug or sometimes even defend CEOs and other high-ranking executives who make out like bandits even though their performance has been poor or even downright damaging?

Things like bonuses for bankruptcy and a more common insult to common sense, golden parachutes, represent perverse incentives.

It’s time to rethink who we see fit to reward, and why. The last thing a healthy marketplace needs is incentive to fail.

Check back at Fool.com for more of Alyce Lomax’s columns on environmental, social, and governance issues. Alyce Lomax has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

Related Links

MONEY Aging

Pop Goes the Age Discrimination Bubble

senior man blowing bubble out of gum
Getty Images

Age discrimination charges have returned to pre-recession levels—another sign we're getting back to normal

The popular narrative holds that age discrimination is off the charts and employers can’t shed workers past 50 quickly enough. Yet age-related complaints filed with the federal government fell for the sixth consecutive year in 2014, and the percentage of cases found to be reasonable have been trending lower for two decades.

Certainly, there remains cause for concern. The 20,588 charges filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act are higher than in any year before the recession. But the number is down from 21,396 in 2013 and from a peak of 24,582 in 2008, according to new data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Meanwhile, the EEOC found reasonable cause in only 2.7% of the cases filed. That is up from 2.4% in 2013 but otherwise the lowest rate since at least 1997. Monetary awards hit a five-year low of $78 million.

Just about everyone past 50 knows someone who believes they were discriminated against in the workplace because of their age. In a 2012 survey, AARP found that 77% of Americans between 45 and 54 said employees face age discrimination. Clearly, in many cases older workers command higher wages. Organizations can cut costs and make room for younger workers by moving older workers out—even though doing so on the basis of age is against the law.

This helps explain the rise in age discrimination charges during and since the recession, when companies undertook vast reorganizations and laid off millions of workers to cut costs and adjust to the slow economy. Older workers who lost their job have had a difficult time finding employment, further driving them to seek relief wherever possible.

Now age-related charges in the workplace are roughly at pre-recession levels. Charges ranged between 16,008 and 19,124 from 2000 through 2007. Returning to near this level is the latest sign—along with more jobs and rising wages—that the economy is getting back to normal.

Age discrimination is a serious issue. It is more difficult to prove than discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or disability. It also takes a heavier toll than other forms of discrimination on the health of victims, research shows. Boomers who want to stay at work typically need the income or the health insurance that comes with full-time employment. Turning them away places a greater burden on public resources.

Meanwhile, older workers have a lot to offer, including institutional knowledge, experience, and reliability. Some forward-thinking organizations including the National Institutes of Health, Stanley Consultants, and Michelin North America, among many others, embrace a seasoned workforce and have programs designed to attract and keep workers past 50.

None of this is to say age discrimination is no longer a problem. One alarming aspect of the EEOC state data is that warm climates popular with older people have a high rate of age-discrimination complaints. No state had a higher percentage of EEOC age-related complaints last year than Texas (9.2%). Florida had 8.5% of all cases and Arizona had 3%.

Federal officials note that the government shutdown last year contributed to a falloff in cases filed. So official complaints may be understated last year. And an overwhelming number of age-related sleights at the office never get reported. Still, the bubble in recession-related age discrimination cases appears to have been popped. That’s a start.

MONEY Startups

3 Reasons to Take Your Startup in a New Direction

150213_CAR_PivotStartup
Robert A. Di Ieso

Many successful companies changed up their business plans early on. Here's when you should too.

Podcast platform Odeo turned into Twitter. Check-in app Burbn switched its focus to photo sharing and became Instagram. Does your startup need a change in direction to succeed? Here are three signs it’s time to revamp:

1. Customers Are Telling You

Is your target buyer consistently asking for something you don’t offer? “Customers exist because you make them better off,” says Gary Gebhardt, an associate professor of marketing at Canadian business school HEC Montréal. Listen to them.

2. Your Idea Isn’t Sticking

Do you have a hard time holding on to business? Go beyond focus groups and surveys. People often misrepresent their behavior. Instead, says Gebhardt, observe your customers going about their day. “When you see how people do things, you see how you can create a solution,” he says.

3. The Competition is Winning

Look at why people are favoring your rival’s product. But don’t panic pivot, says Steve Blank, co-author of The Startup Owner’s Manual. “A pivot requires substantial evidence that your original hypotheses for your business were incorrect.”

MONEY Jon Stewart

3 Ways to Be More Like Jon Stewart

The comedian demonstrates how to execute a job departure at the top of your game.

As you’ve probably heard, Jon Stewart, the beloved host of Comedy Central’s “Daily Show,” announced this week that he’ll soon leave the show after 17 years.

It seems clear from his own words—and the desperation of his employer to find a bankable replacement—that Stewart is departing of his own accord and on his own terms. And yet, unlike his former acolyte and fellow late-night star Stephen Colbert (who will take over David Letterman’s chair on CBS in the fall), Stewart will apparently leave his perch without a planned landing.

His reasons? “I don’t know that there will ever be anything that I will ever be as well suited for as this show,” he told NPR’s Terry Gross last year. “That being said, I think there are moments when you realize that that’s not enough anymore, or that maybe it’s time for some discomfort.”

It’s a sentiment that many of us can identify with, even if directing feature films or a future in national politics aren’t likely to figure into our own second acts. The fact is, countless mid- and late-career professionals feel restless in their jobs, find that they have nowhere left to go at their organizations, or simply feel burned out.

Whether or not that description fits you, there’s a great deal that almost anyone can learn from the funnyman’s gracefully planned exit.

1. Know when it’s time to say goodbye

Do you constantly complain about work? Do your achievements go unrecognized? Do you end each week frustrated and dread Mondays? Do you see no professional path ahead? “Yes” answers to any or all of these are probably a good sign that you may have gotten all you can out of your job and it’s time to consider other professional options, because chances are those feelings are having a negative impact on your work.

By most accounts, Stewart is still at or near the top of his game; according to the Wall Street Journal, “The Daily Show” was number one among younger viewers by a wide margin as recently as last season. Follow his example and recognize your lack of focus before your audience, your boss, or your subordinates do.

“You have to choose the right moment,” says career coach Roy Cohen. “Ideally it’s when the stars seem to align, whether that’s the company offering a buyout or right after you have wound down a successful project.”

That way you’ll be able to go out on your own timetable, with financial stability, and heading in your desired direction.

2. Lay the groundwork for your second act before ending your first

Stewart isn’t leaving “The Daily Show” on a whim. He took a three-month break during summer 2013 to direct Rosewater, a critically acclaimed film about an Iranian journalist and political prisoner. This sabbatical appears to have given Stewart a chance to do a test-run of life outside his comfort zone, and it certainly proved that he could hold his own doing something very different.

Cohen says doing that kind of thinking ahead of time is key for anyone considering a career move.

“First, engage in an assessment of your biggest goals,” he advises. “Ask yourself honestly: What do I like? What don’t I like? Where have I succeeded? Where have I failed?”

He also advises those considering an exit to start planning early and do a reality check on how long the transition will take. “I’ve had clients who didn’t carefully plan their exit and then felt they had shortchanged themselves in their second acts,” Cohen warns.

For some people, careful planning will mean searching for and landing another job before leaving their current one. (Call it the Stephen Colbert approach.) For others, it’s taking classes that will expand your skill set, or just saving up enough money to give yourself the time to figure things out and set off in the next direction.

Or there might be an in-between approach that involves a part-time or consulting arrangement to help your former employer through the transition—and sustain your bank account—while also carving out enough time to get a fresh degree or otherwise establishing your bona fides in a new field.

3. Make your people into stars

Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, John Oliver, and Ed Helms are just a few of the once-obscure, now well-known comics that Jon Stewart helped launch and move onto bigger things. You can be sure they’ll ardently support him in any next endeavor, and probably spend a good deal of social, political, or financial capital to do so.

Of course, mentoring and otherwise helping others advance their careers is part of the job description of most managers. But taking this role seriously can have reciprocal benefits down the road when it’s time to explore new professional avenues.

If you’ve been generous with your time, accolades, and connections, your former employees will likely do the same when you are looking to start your next chapter. They’ll become an active network of supporters, able to bridge you into new industries and professional communities; clue you in on and recommend you for exciting opportunities; and may even give you your next dream job.

MONEY Workplace

How to Deal When You’re Promoted Above Your Peers

Illustration by Mikey Burton

When a promotion kicks you out of the coffee klatch, you’ll need to keep your former peers from becoming your future critics.

Right after you celebrate that well-earned promotion, reality hits: You’re now the boss of people who had been your peers. “When you become a supervisor, the relationship structurally changes, whether you like it or not,” says Good Boss, Bad Boss author Robert Sutton, a Stanford University professor who studies organizational behavior.

Going forward, your work will be judged on your ability to lead people with whom you used to consort and complain. If that’s not enough pressure, you’re now at risk of being the one complained about. Make the transition seamless with these steps.

Meet One-on-One

Sit down with each person to discuss the change in leadership. “You’re in learning mode,” says Linda Hill, a Harvard Business School professor and co-author of Being the Boss. Ask staffers to share their short- and long-term goals, skills they’re building, and obstacles that get in the way of doing their jobs. You’ll convey respect and gain valuable info that can help you achieve buy-in.

Also, if you were promoted over a colleague, “address the elephant in the room” and alleviate worries about your ability to work well together, advises Atlanta social media strategist and job coach Miriam Salpeter.

Step Back Socially

You can be a great manager and preserve friendships by slightly altering your behaviors. Continue attending happy hour, for example, but stay for only one drink, suggests Hill. Allow your staff space to vent. “We all need to blow off steam sometimes,” says Katy Tynan, author of Survive Your Promotion! (Just make it clear to your people that if something is really bugging them, they can talk to you, she adds.)

Also, disconnect from your subordinates on all non-work-related social media. “Many times you’re doing people a favor, since it puts less pressure on what they can and can’t share on their profiles,” says Salpeter. Do let employees know before unfriending them, though, so that they don’t take it personally.

Prove You Don’t Play Favorites

Prepare to make—and to justify—difficult decisions, particularly regarding raises and promotions. To be seen as objective, try to grade everyone using the same metrics, and be sure people know what those metrics are, says Keith Murnighan, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

To show humility, solicit feedback from subordinates on your own performance, says Gentz Franz, a University of Illinois lecturer who studies job succession. “It’s incumbent upon managers,” he says, “to open the lines of communication if they want to create a collaborative work environment.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser