Aaron in Azerbaijan

Just another blog about Azerbaijan.

Getting a Raise

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Not for me, though (remember? I’m a Volunteer).  This was a tangible development at the bank. My work at my main assignment, AccessBank, consists of a lot of conversations, and is less about creating tangible changes while I’m here, and more about planting ideas, showing alternative ways of doing things. Tangible successes along the way are a bonus.

One of my goals while working here has been to transfer some solid business skills to my colleagues at the bank. This has proven a little difficult, because much of what I see and would recommend for improvement involves an entire office environment, not just a small change here or there. Trying to get the branch manager to see that he can communicate in more constructive ways is a long-term thing, not conducive to overnight metamorphosis. Having had this discussion with my overseers at the bank, our attitude is that the sort of changes that will be tangible will appear years down the road instead of in the two years I’m here.

So you can imagine how I felt when something concrete actually came to fruition. Working with one of the guys at the bank, one who speaks really good English, having worked in Tanzania and Liberia for AccessBank, I coached Arzu through negotiating a salary. He’ll be working on a new project assignment in Tanzania with AccessBank for a minimum of nine months, and was offered a salary similar to his last stint in the country (also note, these are Westerners we are negotiating with, not Azeris). He wasn’t too happy being offered the same money while also having increased experience, a higher-responsibility job, and likely higher housing costs. But instead of focusing on those three key points, Arzu was having a hard time describing why he deserved a raise. Instead of looking at his value, he could only see the numbers, and see that the numbers were the same.

I’ve already been working with Arzu on communications and business correspondence, but this is the first time we’ve tackled the concepts of salaries and job placements. After having a call to flesh out details about his new assignment to Tanzania last Friday, Arzu came away with a positive feeling, thinking he’d have no problem with what they discussed. On Tuesday, however, he received an email that reflected differently than what he thought he discussed over the phone. This is when he came to me. Arzu wanted to know why the call had gone so well, but then everything seemed to have changed in the course of a few days and one sent email. He wanted to know why Westerners say one thing in the moment, and then say another in writing (that’s a tough question to answer, but I think it’s not so clear-cut a question or answer).

We sat down for a few minutes to think about how to approach the situation. While Arzu wanted to focus on what was wrong with the last email and a rather incoherent argument about the salary, I pointed him in the direction of a constructive and thought-out response. The end-result was an email that laid out why Arzu deserved a raise (described above) and an openness to discussing the issue further. Sent! The response came back that what Arzu had explained made sense and was taken into account. A few emails later and we had the final count: a $400/month raise!

I’m not sure how many people I will work with who are negotiating for higher salaries, but this one felt pretty good. Bargaining at the bazaar over food prices and the cost of a new shirt seems to come naturally here, but negotiating a salary isn’t innate…and that goes for people both here and in America.


Written by Aaron

June 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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