Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Feeling underpaid and undervalued at your company due to Covid-19? Dating and unable to be together making intimacy a challenge because of Covid-19?

DEAR NATALIE: I am a woman. I hold a bachelor’s degree. Previously, my company tried to force me into accepting a position for 73% of the compensation they had been paying a man without a degree after they had expanded the responsibilities related to the role. I was asking for roughly 85% of what a similar role pays for in a company our size in our area, but I was mocked for asking for a comparable salary. I was able to refuse to accept it at that time, and we had some honest communication about unrealistic expectations and fairness. Now they are using the Covid-19 events as the reason they are moving away from previous practices of posting positions and accepting bids, to unilaterally moving team members wherever they want them with no discussion.  As I understand it, refusing the new position is the equivalent of quitting.  I am looking for another job, but this is a terrible time to find one.  I will have to accept their new approach for now.  What can I do to encourage them to treat me fairly? Any advice you can offer would be appreciated. — EXPECTED EQUAL PAY

DEAR EXPECTED EQUAL PAY: I really applaud you in advocating for yourself when you realized that you were being undervalued. Unfortunately, as we know, white women make around 77 cents to the dollar that men make for doing the same job, and if you are Black, Hispanic or Native American, the numbers are closer to 56 cents per dollar. So what can we do? You already have tried talking with them, and if going to Human Resources (HR) doesn’t sound palatable, the only thing you can do is take the position and continue to look for work. It is disturbing to me that companies would use Covid-19 as a way to exploit workers further, but it doesn’t surprise me. Ask if you can discuss your performance and what action steps you can take to increase your pay. This is yet another example of why unions are so important. HR is there to protect the company, while unions protect workers. I hope because of this situation, more workers can find ways to organize and recognize their collective power. 

DEAR NATALIE: I had been dating a really fantastic woman before Covid-19 hit and it’s been several weeks since we have seen each other. We were sleeping together before this situation, and I suggested on the phone the other night that we should send each other pics or do something online/over the phone to keep things engaging. She really hated the idea and told me I was “pervy” for suggesting it. Now things are really awkward. I just thought it would be fun since everything is so difficult right now. How do I get this relationship back on track? If she doesn’t want to do it, that’s fine, but her reaction seems extreme. Any thoughts? — NOT A PERV

DEAR NOT A PERV: These are weird times, so try cutting her some slack on this one. Maybe she isn’t comfortable being on video right now for several reasons, or maybe she just has no interest in sending anyone intimate photos for fear that they could be used against her or shown to other people. Maybe she is just a private person. There are so many reasons that someone would not want to engage in any kind of virtual intimacy, especially now. While calling you “pervy” was rude, I wouldn’t take it to heart. She may have felt vulnerable and just became defensive. But, sex is a part of relationships, and I can understand your need to want to connect in that way. I would call her and tell her that you didn’t mean to cause any tension, you were just looking for other ways to feel closer to her. Maybe she has some suggestions or ideas to keep the heat at a simmer until you can be together again. This is so hard on everyone's relationships and perhaps now instead of dating, think about “courting” each other with romantic texts, cards in the mail, or surprise gifts left on the doorstep. If those suggestions from a hopeless romantic like me make your eyes roll, find other ways to show your interest. When you are able to be together in person, take it slow. She may need time to acclimate to the idea of seeing you in real life. Everyone needs an extra dose of patience right now. Hopefully you can find your way back to one another by remembering what you liked about each other in the first place. 

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: When in a Zoom meeting, keep yourself muted unless you are asked to join the conversation or need to interject. Then, instead of looking for the unmute button, simply hit the space bar to share your thoughts. Keeping yourself muted helps cut down on background noise, children crying, dogs barking… you get the idea.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to Follow her on Twitter @NatalieBenci and on Instagram @NatalieBenci