Whether you just signed your life away to a shiny new nine-to-five or you’re celebrating your latest success, your employment contract is likely collecting a pound of dust in that “important documents” drawer. According to Forbes, 80% of companies reported that their employees do not open or read benefit materials containing vital information about workplace rights.
Even then, some of the most well-respected employers don’t provide certain information that could potentially benefit you, whether it be for professional or personal reasons. To be more successful in your professional life, stop living above your means, start taking actionable steps toward your career goals, and check out these 9 workplace secrets you need to know.
They can’t stop you from talking about your salary
There can be benefits to discussing compensation with your coworkers, especially if you feel you are being paid unfairly. However, if your employer has ever tried to keep you from comparing salaries, they may be breaking the law.
According to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), most non-supervisory employees are guaranteed the right to discuss pay amongst their colleagues. If your contract contains clauses restricting you from discussing your pay, you have the right to file a complaint with the Department of Labor.
You might be entitled to overtime pay
Just because you are a full-time salaried employee doesn’t mean you are automatically ineligible for overtime pay. More often than not, employers may misclassify your working status as exempt, or they may combine exempt and non-exempt duties by requiring off-the-clock work.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), unless exempt, employees covered by the Act must be paid overtime compensation for any hours worked over 40 in a given workweek at a rate of time and one-half their regular rate. Familiarizing yourself with this clause at the start of employment can prevent complaints filed, as well as lawsuits.
If you aren’t being properly compensated for the overtime hours you have worked, there are many ways to handle the situation. First, file a complaint with the Department of Labor or, in more severe cases, you have the right to file a suit with an employment lawyer over your unpaid overtime hours.
They also suffer from imposter syndrome
Just as you feel an extreme amount of demand from your boss, they are also under immense pressure from their superiors. It is normal to feel that you are “messing up” or disappointing your boss, but it’s important to understand that the feeling is completely mutual.
Don’t let this anxiety ruin your entire day and affect your quality of work. Empathize with your supervisor, whose own stress may be contributing to the pressure you’re feeling. Try looking at the bigger picture, including your boss’s challenges with conflict or laborious responsibility and what is being asked of them.
You can protest your working conditions
From teachers to Walmart employees, various unions have banded together to protest their unfair working conditions without being fired the second their strike signs went up. Employees are legally protected under the NLRA, and have the right to protest and oppose working conditions.
However, it’s important to note that objecting to working conditions on your own is not protected. If you feel strongly about addressing an issue or complaint, be prepared with evidence as to how the unfair conditions affect your colleagues or working group as a whole.
Familiarize yourself with your employee contract — if it states you are prohibited from discussing working conditions, you can file a charge against your employer with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
They know that you’ll eventually move on
More often than not, your manager knows when it’s time for you to move on from a job before you do. With that said, it’s up to you to make the call on whether your own worth is worth the time and effort you’re putting in, and when you need to start looking for a new job.
They’re watching how you interact with others
The way you interact and communicate with fellow employees or clients is constantly being monitored by your boss.
If your professional goals involve taking on a managerial role, having the ability to interact with others is a critical trait to possess. Whether collaborating on a group project or mingling at a work happy hour, your behavior generally does not go unnoticed by your supervisor.
Their feedback is not personal
When taking constructive criticism, one of the biggest mistakes employees make is taking said feedback to heart. We often turn feedback, which is meant to guide us, into thoughts of incompetence or inadequacy, which is almost always not the case.
To rationally digest your supervisor’s feedback without reacting irrationally, it’s crucial to take a step back and deeply analyze what was being said.
By jotting down a list of the criticism given and including a separate list of arguments you may have against the feedback and what you feel is necessary to improve on, you now have a private chance to “vent” out your frustrations without losing the value of the feedback being given.
Your employee handbook may have illegal provisions
Believe it or not, your employee handbook might contain illegal and outdated policies, including forbidding employees to discuss their salaries, denying them the right to unionize, and refusing to pay out vacation time if you quit (depending on your state’s laws.
Thoroughly read through your handbook as there could be provisions holding you against your own rights. On top of that, request copies of every document you sign, whether you are leaving the company or plan to set up shop for an extended period.
They’re open to criticism — to an extent
You may not be next in line for a promotion when openly second-guessing their every decision. But when it comes to constructive criticism, a good manager will likely be open to discussion.
When confronting your superior, sometimes, it’s all in the timing! So make sure they have some free time in their schedule and preferably in a good mood). Be sure to also come prepared with well-researched notes and documentation to back up your points, and they’ll surely take your thoughts and concerns into much greater consideration.
Maintaining a clear understanding of your rights will help build confidence in your workplace, and lead you on your way to achieving all of your professional goals.