SME Agony Uncle: Bobby Kerr answers all your business and work-related questions

Join Bobby on The Hard Shoulder every Tuesday, with thanks to Energia

Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins The Hard Shoulder to answer all your employment-related questions.

With the snow pelting down, the wallet stretched past breaking point and an eternity to go till payday, many people around the country will be wondering if now is the time to finally ask for that pay rise.

For those that decide to take that plunge however, it all comes down to preparation and timing.

“It is all about when you present yourself, how you present yourself and what sort of mood the boss is in,” says Bobby.

A recent Forbes Magazine article provides some interesting insights on some of the strongest arguments to put before your boss.

  • Show that you are indispensable - but not so much so that your loss would be a threat to the business
  • Show that your work has a tangible positive impact on the business’ bottom line
  • Show that without your input, the business would be forced to outsource your work
  • Show that you are integral to the company’s plans for the coming year
  • Show that if you left the company, it would significantly disrupt operations.

Hi Bobby,

I was told at my review last week that the company were very happy with me as an employee – but that there was no room to offer me pay rise.

This week, one of my colleagues let slip that she had been given a 4% increase.

I am furious. She earns quite a bit less than me but I don’t think that is the point. What would you do? Joan.

“I would be furious as well,” says Bobby, “And I think Joan needs to take this up with management.”

“Basically someone lied to her. Her boss lied to her and I think she is right to be aggrieved.”

For Bobby, the whole scenario shows why you should never discuss your salary with anybody at work.

“I just think it is a really bad idea as an employee,” he says. “The boss will be absolutely furious with this other employee.”

“But that is another matter really - I think Joan needs to take this up with the boss.”

I drive a company van for a living. I do a van sales job and the boss has just fitted GPS satellite technology so head office know the location of the van at all times.

I am someone who has always hit my sales targets, always worked to my own hours and always made sure I got the work done. I feel this new approach is very ‘Big Brother’ and undermines the company's trust in me. Am I over thinking it? Danny in Kerry.

While Bobby can see how somebody might be irked by the company’s approach here, it is important to recognise that nowadays, “technology is all around us” and the company is absolutely entitled to do this.

“I would look at it a different way,” he says. “Is there any way that, because the boss or the head office knows where all the vans are at all times, that it might actually make Danny’s job easier?

“It means he should never be sent on a false errand again.

“I would just try and make it work for him. He needs to just accept that this is a new technology - and if he does his job and hits his sales, he has nothing to worry about.

Hi Bobby,

I am in the restaurant business. We had a good Christmas. I just got the figures for December and we made a great profit. However, things are absolutely dead for January and I am fearful I will lose all of December’s profits this month.

I have tried to cut staff costs but I need a core number of people to run the business. Any motivational thoughts to spur me into the action I need to take for January before it is too late?

“Here is somebody now who knows they should have made moves earlier,” says Bobby.

We are now in the middle of January and it seems this listener has not put any new plans in place to deal with the winter lull.

“I have seen this first hand,” he says. “I remember one year in a restaurant business, actually losing everything that we made in December - and by god it is painful.

“I would look at things like opening hours and I would be looking at reduced menus.

“I really would tailor the business towards its needs - and if nobody is coming in on a Monday night in January, I wouldn’t be opening on a Monday night in January.

I fell at work recently and injured my knee. My boss was quite good about it and paid me when I was out sick - and paid all my medical bills.

My brother says I should sue the company and get a bit of money out of it. I would be inclined to think a claim would damage my promotion prospects. Any advice would be gratefully received. Harry

“I think he knows what the right thing to do is here,” says Bobby. “I think his brother, who doesn’t work in the business and has nothing to do with it, is giving him bad advice here.

“It might never be said publicly but I think if the company has been reasonable and then you go and put a claim in against them – you might never be told why you didn’t get the promotion, but you might not get it.”

It has to remembered that if Harry does decide to make a claim, it is unlikely the company will be left to foot the bill - and Ivan has a different take on what Harry should do.

“If he has genuinely got permanent damage to his knee and he has a bona fide claim, he should make it,” says Ivan.

“If he doesn't have a bona fide claim he shouldn’t. The insurance will cover it.” 

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s The Hard Shoulder here: If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to