Reflecting on the many triggers I’ve encountered in my professional career, the situation is always that the story the person was telling themselves was drastically different than the one I, their lead, was suddenly telling them. It’s never a complete surprise because they’ve been picking up on subtle clues about the story leading up to the conversation, but hearing me say it makes it real, and having it involve quantifiable status-based topics like a title, an office, and a raise makes it that much more real.

Michael Lopp writes about workplace “triggers” or things that can affect the reactions of coworkers that you may of missed. He gives the example of a coworker “Frank” who balks at a $5,000 raise. To the outsider any raise appears to be good news. But it’s usually not that simple.

How in the world is a $5k raise a reason for quitting? Here’s the cheat sheet. Do you remember when Frank was hired two years ago and you brought him in on the high side of the salary recommendations? You forgot that, right? Yeah, you also didn’t notice his subtle disappointment to the $5k raise last year. You didn’t expect him to talk to several members of the team regarding their raises, which were $10k. Of course, he didn’t ask about base salary, which is much lower than his. Frank’s trigger is based on over a year of build-up where he believed he’s being under-compensated, when the reality is that he’s the highest paid engineer on the team.

Its worth the read, if only to remember that everyone we encounter is living their own story. In both our personal life and with our creative work, we all could do a better job to remember.


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