Asking for a raise
April 30 2002 at 12:39 PM

One of the dudes recently sent me the following letter asking how he should bargain for a raise.

Hi Oscar,

I've got an issue, nothing serious but it could escalate.

Basically, I want to know how to press the issue for a raise from my boss. It's rather complicated so I'll need to fill you in on the situation, and the players involved.

I started work there 3 weeks ago. It's a beaten up old juku school that specialises in mathematics and Japanese language. The owner is slightly eccentric, and obsessed with languages (he is fluent in 5 languages English, Urudu, Hindi, Latin and of course Nihongo.)He is 61 years old.

He cares not much for money, feeling that academic pursuits are a superior motive. He has two material posessions...a trumpet and 20 year old bicycle. But he is basically content.

As well as the maths and Japanese, they have had English classes there for the last 30 years.

When I had the interview with him he admitted that he has never made a profit from the English side of things, and usually draws even, but sometimes less. He admitted in fact, that it had been a failure for 30 consecutive years. He told me his dream is to just for one year , make some coin from the English part of the business.

I am the first teacher that he has hired without a degree of some sort. He has also told me that I'm the best teacher he has had in 30 years. He wasn't bullshitting either, he was serious.

In the interview I pitched to him that I could see some commercial potential lying latent in his business, and if he hired me I coulsd turn things around. Well, I was hired on the spot, provided my spouse visa came through.

When I started, there was 25 students, the present teacher before me was a nice guy, but rather slack and lazy. I met him once, he wore old work clothes, and refused to teach kids.

I took over from him He had to go back to England to tend to his sick father (I could feel it was a bullshit story), well for whatever reason he wanted to leave. Anyways, back to the point, within 3 weeks I have transformed the business. I changed everthing, the advertising, textbooks, the whole system was transformed to my desire.

Now we have 57 students. My taiken percentage is 100%. In short, I am a very popular teacher. Not gloating or anything, but Im very good at what I do. Im also very good at teaching kids as well as adults.

OK, time to enter the next personality. The owners son married about the same time as me. He works as a teacher there. The girl he married has worked for Nova for 11 years, managing foriegn teachers in Osaka. She is a little bit like my wife in that she has moved to the country out of filial duty. She is a nice chick, but she has been a nova manager, and she is an Osakan (mo kari ma ka?) She has been given the task of taking over the English side of the business. Her business acumen is totally different to her father in laws.

Now, Im getting the feeling the previous teacher left, because she might of been putting pressure on him to actually do a good job.

Now my issue is this (if your still reading this!)

I have done the right thing, I have delivered what I promised. I have, dare I say it , revolutionised their business and made their retirement look a little more rosy.

But I'm getting the same pay as all the other slack, unmotivated losers got before me.

I have not even asked about any incentives for my efforts yet. BUT, when I mentioned that I recieved many bonuses from my previous employer the Osakan totally changed from a happy smiling nice person, into something nasty.

She wants to turn me into a Eikaiwa slave coolie. She is even suggesting that my classes go from a maximum of 6 to a maximum of 10 people!

I am quite happy to do the work, BUT I want to be paid for it. They were happy to pay the 250,000 yen before to slack fucking losers, but now she wants to capitalise on my talents, and pay me the same as any other jerk that walks in off the street, with no marketable teaching skills whatsoever.

Oscar, I am worth 400,000 yen a month in Tokyo, and thats just working from home.

I dont want that kind of money, as I fucking detest Tokyo, and as a newlywed, adore the exotic attraction of the countryside.

But I dont want to get screwed either, I got this feeling their going to use me for whatever they can. Fuck that, then I should just go in everyday, hungover, wearing a shitty old pair of jeans , and do a very shitty incompetant job, and still get the same money.

Sorry to bore you with this incredibly long mail, and dillemma.

But what is the gracious, Japanese way of going about getting what you deserve, as far as a raise, or more money goes.....I certainly dont want to be a Aho Gaijin. I have my way of dealing with western people, but that ceratinly wouldn't work with Japanese.

Remember, due to my efforts alone, there turnover has doubled, and it has cost them nothing. And thats just after 3 weeks.

So dude, What should I do?

This was my reply back to him:

Let me start off by saying that your employer sounds like a total asshole and I question the wisdom of working for them.

Some people believe that profit can be had for free, and do not believe in investing in better talent.

My best suggestion is that you look for a school that has been profittable for the past 30 years and run by people who care about money. Your achievements in your current school has been admirable and you now have those results under your belt.

Another method is to calculate how much money your classes are making in a month. Find out how much each student is paying for the lessons, count heads, subtract overhead and give the owners a reasonable cut of the take and then come up with how much you are really worth to them. Say, it was 35,000 yen per month. Tell them you just got an offer for a 37,000 yen per month from a plausible competitor. (In order to avoid a blatant lie, you should fish around for something that offers something similar.) Then give a shitass excuse (the other employer is far away, you have grown fond of the current employer) that you would rather stay with the current employer for less. But of course your inlaws and your wife would rather see you working for more and you are in a dillema and could you please help me out?

Remember that you never want a raise. But you are forced to ask for it for the love of your current position.

If worse comes to worst, you can work as a coolie for him for a while, then start your own school, thereby robbing him of his students. It's been done before.

My two cents.

I met him later in the chat room where he told me that he got the raise he wanted by using the wife line. This trick of blaming relatives is standard operating procedure in Japan. My mother in law once got an unwanted gift from her neighbor and wanted to return it. But she didn't want to cause trouble. Because I was visiting, she asked me if she could make me the villain in this affair. Since there was no conflict of interest, I agreed. She safely returned the unwanted gift saying that she would loved to have kept it if it wasn't for her nosy son-in-law who complained so awfully. The neighbor didn't know me so she had to buy it.


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