Our business culture just isn't set up to talk about compensation, and the "How about a raise?" talk gives most people a bad case of the heebie-jeebies. Luckily for you, we have some expert advice!

In this week's Motley Fool Answers, Kara Chambers and Lee Burbage of The Motley Fool's People Squad walk through when to ask for a raise (and when not to), what research to do beforehand, how to prepare for the worst, and more. Also, Robert Brokamp shares the dismal highlights from this year's Social Security and Medicare trust fund report, and Alison Southwick digs up some fun nuggets of Motley Fool lore.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on July 17, 2018.

Alison Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers! I'm Alison Southwick, joined as always by Robert Brokamp, personal finance expert here at The Motley Fool.

Robert Brokamp: Hi, Alison!

Southwick: On today's episode, we've brought in a couple of people from The Motley Fool's People team to help you negotiate a raise at work. And, Bro reads reports about Social Security so you don't have to. All that and more on this week's episode of Motley Fool Answers.

So, Bro, what's up?

Brokamp: Alison, it's that time of year again -- the time for the "Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Trust Fund" report!

Southwick: Yay!

Brokamp: In other words, these are the reports that come out every year from the trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust fund. In case you're curious, there are supposed to be six trustees. There's the four that are on the report this year -- the Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Acting Commissioner of Social Security. There are supposed to be two public trustees with four-year terms. The last trustees, their terms ended in 2015 or 2016, and they haven't been appointed yet. If you look at the report, it has the four people that are part of the cabinet, and then it says, "Vacant Public Trustee, Vacant Public Trustee." There are no public trustees on these reports anymore, which I think is a bit of an issue. Regardless, these are the folks who are in charge of the trustee.

This report comes out every year and unfailingly points out that at some point in the 2030s, the trust funds are going to be depleted, at least the Social Security trust funds. That exact year changes from year to year. This year it is collectively 2034. That's the exact year it was in the first article I ever wrote for The Motley Fool back in 1999.

Southwick: Really? Oh, wow!

Brokamp: Yes. Back in 1999, 2034 seemed like a long way off. Now, not so much. But there is something different about this year's report. That is, for the first time since 1982, the Social Security program's cost will exceed its income and it'll have to dip into the principal of the trust funds to pay the benefits.

This is coming four years sooner than expected. There are all kinds of reasons -- some is, the economy has not performed as well as was projected. Certainly, the Great Recession has had a large effect on the finances of the program. There's the well-known demographic problem. Last year, there were 2.8 workers for every Social Security recipient. In 2007, it was 3.3. So, there are fewer workers to pay into the program.

The Wall Street Journal actually pointed out a couple of other reasons why things are looking a little worse this year. We all know about the tax cuts that were signed into law at the end of last year. Those cut income tax rates. It didn't affect the Social Security taxes that we all pay on our payroll -- except that, because of those tax cuts, the recipients of Social Security, those who are already retired, are not going to be paying as many taxes on their Social Security benefits. It turns out, the taxes that are raised by taxing Social Security benefits actually go straight into the trust fund. But because retirees are going to be paying lower taxes, it actually weakens the trust fund.

Another issue that the Wall Street Journal points out is that the projections from previous years, you always have to assume a certain number of people immigrating to the United States. Now, they're projecting there will be fewer immigrants, because of issues that have been in the news, if you've been paying attention. That actually weakens the Social Security program to a certain extent.

A report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College also looked at the results and wondered whether things are a little bit worse than currently projected because, what happens during a recession, and happened in the last recession? Birth rates go down. Economic times are tough, families are like, "Maybe we shouldn't be having kids right now." But, normally, when the economy recovers, people are like, "Yay, let's have kids!" That hasn't happened in this recovery. The birth rate has stayed low.

Southwick: We found better ways to celebrate, I think. A recovering economy. [laughs]

Brokamp: Exactly. So, to the extent that it's something that continues -- the fertility rate is actually what they call it in the report -- that will make the finances look worse, because there will be fewer workers coming into the program to pay the payroll taxes.

The thing about it for me, when I was reading about the report -- it does come out every year -- there are lots of people out there like me who have been pointing out that this year is coming. There's just much more despair in the articles this year. It's coming, it's actually looking a little worse, but there's absolutely no political will to do anything about it. The responsible thing would be to do a mix of raising some taxes as well as changing some benefits, maybe raising the age at which you could get Social Security, maybe making it so that if you have a certain income, a certain number of assets, you wouldn't get quite as much Social Security, some sort of what they would call an intergenerational bargain to make the program solvent. But, given the current political climate, that's just not likely to happen.

So, the bottom line, I think, for everyone, is to pay attention to what the report says, and that is: at some point in the early 2030s, there's only going to be enough money in the program to pay for about three-quarters of estimated benefits. Anyone who is in their 50s or younger should assume that they're only going to get about 75% of what they're currently projected. Hopefully, they'll come up with some solution before that happens, but I certainly think that, at this point, it's responsible to assume that you're only going to get about three-quarters of what you're currently projected.

Southwick: The unemployment rate here in the U.S. is the lowest it's been in the last 18 years. With the economy humming along, now might be a great time to ask for a raise. Joining us to talk about how to improve your chances of getting more moola from your employer are Lee Burbage and Kara Chambers. Lee heads up the People team here at The Fool, and Kara is in charge of People Development. Hi, guys!

Kara Chambers: Hi!

Lee Burbage: Hello!

Southwick: Have you been on the show before?

Chambers: Maybe once, for five minutes.

Southwick: I think Kara was on. Lee, is this your first time?

Burbage: You know, I can't recall, and that makes me think no.

Southwick: OK. If not, why don't we start, before we really get into it, with your personal journey and how you ended up here at The Fool? That's what we usually start with when we have people on.

Burbage: Sounds exciting. Kara, why don't you start?

Chambers: Sure. I've been here 13 years, coming up this year. I'm actually kind of a rare case of a Fool that stayed in a similar team over my career. I started out recruiting, and then I got really into things that keep people working here, so I moved over to working on organizational development, and a field that I didn't know existed, people insights, which is looking at survey data and compensation data and helping us make the best decisions.

Southwick: Lee, how about you?

Burbage: I've been here almost 20 years now. I'm always doing something in the HR/People world for The Motley Fool. I worked for Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) for about seven years before coming here. A decent amount of my career doing similar stuff at a much bigger scale. I think when I left Bank of America, there were 200,000 employees. When I started here, there were about 75.

Brokamp: My very first Foolish interview was with you, Lee, around a ping pong table back in the old building.

Burbage: It's funny, I remember it as us being in the radio studio. I wonder if at that time, the radio studio wasn't also the ping pong room. [laughs]

Brokamp: We didn't have a devoted studio, it was just one of the conference rooms.

Burbage: Yes. I distinctly remember interviewing you. How long have you worked here, Robert?

Brokamp: Almost 19 years.

Southwick: Aw. You guys go way back. Well, the reason why we called you in here today specifically is, we're actually doing something really crazy here at The Motley Fool called Ask For A Raise Day, where we're encouraging everyone at the company to ask for a raise. Kara, why? Why would we do this?

Chambers: We're crazy.

Burbage: She's wondering that, too.

Chambers: [laughs] I'm wondering that right now. For us, one, Talk About Your Compensation Day didn't have the right ring to it. Really, what we're trying to do is get people to open up conversations about compensation that can be uncomfortable. It also isn't Get A Raise Day -- just a shout-out to our CFO, who stopped me in the hallway having a heart attack. We really just want people to be comfortable asking for compensation, even if it feels socially weird sometimes because of our culture. So, that's what we're going with. We're setting aside tomorrow for everyone to sit down and write up some criteria, think about why, make sure they understand their competitive benchmarks, and ask their boss.

Southwick: Now, I sit close to you guys. One thing that I've learned by sitting close to the People team is that one of the biggest challenges of being a People team and trying to help managers be better managers is that a lot of the time, people are just trying to avoid having really tough conversations. [laughs] They're just kicking a can down the road until that can grows into a massive keg and then they can no longer kick it down the road. [laughs]

Lee, one of your big points about Ask For A Raise Day is, it's about, not necessarily forcing people, but encouraging people to have what can often be perceived as a really difficult conversation. And why not?

Burbage: Absolutely. You have a few things working against you. At The Motley Fool, we have a very cordial culture. We all like each other very much. We've all worked here a long time, as we talked about. We know each other and our families really well. So, it's natural for us to sometimes avoid difficult conversations.

I would say, business culture in general, there are certain things that we typically stay away from, topics that people don't talk about. For whatever reason, in our culture, in our business culture, people don't talk about compensation. Don't ask them how much they make, don't talk about that! We want to encourage those conversations. Just because it's difficult doesn't mean it isn't going to be important. Have it be a great discussion. We're just trying to make it so that people want to have those conversations, and just get them out of the way.

Southwick: Well, then, let's get into it with advice for our listeners. You guys have created a framework for people here at The Fool to help guide them. This is going to be a little bit from our internal playbook here, but also your advice as people and experts in HR. First off, how do you determine when it's the right time to ask for a raise?

Chambers: One thing you can do is understand your company's timeline, and the typical pace. Be able to look at your salary history in some way and understand how often, what the pace is, so you can calibrate against that. If it's been a really long time, that's when I tell people, don't just sit back and wonder what happened. That's when you should bring it up.

Southwick: Define "a really long time."

Chambers: Typically, over a year is probably right. That's typical. Most companies have annual merit increase budgets, or something like that. So, typically, about a year.

Burbage: I find, too, that if you're thinking in your head, if you're starting to tell yourself a story about what might be going on related to your compensation, and you don't really know the answers, it turns out, you can just go talk to people and ask. If you find yourself having those thoughts at night, like, "I wonder what's going on with my comp," or, "Haven't had a raise in a while," and you're starting to try to answer your own questions, that can be a good time to step forward and ask.

Chambers: I'll also add, sometimes, it's not necessarily the wrong time, but usually the only time people are asking for a raise is, they're really upset, or they got called by a headhunter. I used to do recruiting, and I would hear that you want to get the best person on a bad day. A recruiter could call, and you're taking that call, it's when you're at your down, and then you go in on the defensive. So, that timing. Or, you found a spreadsheet somebody left on the printer of everyone's salary. Or, you see one of your co-workers driving a really nice car to work. We all get signals about how fair we think our comp is. They're crazy.

Ideally, why we're doing this is, we're trying to help people not wait until they're upset to ask for a raise, or wait until they're super stressed out. Lee likes to say, sometimes the underlying message is, "You're not paying me enough to deal with this," and then figuring what that is. So, not when you're angry, is good timing. But that's when most people ask for raises, when they're angry.

Southwick: What if your role really hasn't changed in the last year? What if you're still doing the same things you were the previous year?

Chambers: That's a good question. Is that deliberate choice on your part, is that a circumstance that you've decided is OK? Maybe that's a good part of your conversation. If your role hasn't changed, why?

Then, you'll see, there are some market differences that happen for roles. Some roles are going to get more competitive, so the salaries are going up regardless. You can pay attention to that. But for a person who, their role hasn't changed, it's really thinking about if they can develop mastery within that role and continue to improve their comp; or, if they've topped out, that can also matter.

Burbage: It could be a deeper discussion, I think, than, "I want a raise." "OK, is it 3% or 4%?" A brass tacks sort of a discussion. It could be a development conversation. Where am I in my career? Where am I headed? What are my opportunities here at this company and in my role? It can be really powerful in understanding the trajectory that you're on beyond just compensation.

Southwick: We talked about how right now, the economy is really strong, unemployment rate is really low. Do you think that will have an impact? If your company is obviously making more money, they have more money to throw at you. I assume you should probably think about that, as well.

Chambers: Yeah. We talk about context a lot. That could be the macroeconomic context. It can also be, hopefully your company is doing some kind of communication about how the business is doing. If budgets are really tight within your company, it might not be the best time. What I'm helping people talk through is, is this about you or about your situation? What we're trying to push these conversations toward is the things that are about you, vs. the things that are about your circumstances. Everybody's circumstances are different.

Southwick: Let's segue into how you actually prepare for that meeting. You've created a checklist for people here at The Fool to go through before they actually enter into the conversation and approach their manager or whomever about getting a raise. How should you prepare for asking?

Chambers: The first thing you do, I set it up so you can look at your salary benchmarks in the industry. There are all kinds of free services out there that you can use, like Glassdoor or something, just to get a sense. Some companies subscribe to salary surveys. They may or may not make them transparent, like salary bands. If your company has salary bands, figuring out how those are determined could be helpful.

I really just like to help people use that step to say, are you in the right ballpark, are you being reasonable. That can vary. Just figuring out the role and making sure. And if you think, "Hey, the role I'm being paid for is not actually the one I'm doing. I'm doing something so much more than this," that, we think, should be part of the conversation. So, bringing along, "Here's how I defined my role."

That leads me into the second one. It's interesting, a lot of people say, "Write up a job description." What I've found is, people write job descriptions to post for an external recruiting job, and they write a to-do list. They write, "Here are the things you have to do in this job." Someone's like, "I've done three podcasts and six meetings today," or something like that.

What you really want to talk about when you write about your role is how you add value. I'm asking people to put down a bullet-pointed list of things they are doing or can do that adds the most value to our business. The more effort and time you put into that process, we think that's going to be the most helpful in that context.

Again, what I've had is people saying, "See if you can articulate what your job is. Then, see if you can articulate how you add value," that would be the second part of that checklist. Then, the third one is really development. Lots of jobs have ranges. Where you are in that range is really going to come down to development. If you're at the bottom of the range, it could just be that you just got promoted, you just got this job and you have no experience. Understanding if you're at the bottom of a range, and why, and making cases for moving up that range. And, again, what your company's pay philosophy is on that, too.

In our case, we would say, "Hey, we have to figure out where you are in terms of development." What I find with a lot of people, they could be at the top of the range for one job and the bottom for the next job. That's OK, it's the same amount of money. But, knowing where you are, and then making the case of where your development is.

Burbage: We had one internal Fool who gave a suggestion in our discussion about this that I thought was great, which is, think about what would happen if you weren't here, if you weren't doing the things you're doing. That's a good place to start to try to figure out the value that you're adding.

Southwick: OK, you've done your research, and you've put a time on your manager's calendar to sit down and talk. What's your advice for making this conversation go as smoothly as possible?

Burbage: I would start with understanding what everyone's mood is going to be in that meeting. We like to think about it from a recruiting standpoint. When you're interviewing, remember that the person interviewing you is often just as nervous as you are because they don't do it all the time. These are conversations that bosses, managers, don't have on a daily basis. Compensation is often way more complicated than anyone realizes at any company. Just know that this probably isn't a conversation that your boss is perfectly set up to have. They may also be a little bit nervous, as well.

Southwick: Do you give them a heads up? Do you say, "I want to have a conversation about my compensation?" Rather than be like, "I would like to have a conversation! Put it on their calendar!" Just let them guess!

Chambers: [laughs] In that tone.

Southwick: Let them guess what they're going to blindside them with!

Chambers: [laughs] Quick chat.

Southwick: [laughs] Yeah, a quick chat.

Burbage: I think I would make it a little broader. "Hey, I'd like to talk about my compensation, where I'm at in the company, the development path that I'm on, be sure that we're aligned around the places where I'm adding value." I think you can use Kara's checklist that she so well articulated to set up the meeting in a way that the boss is going to feel more prepared.

Southwick: Often, you're going to find that maybe your role and what you do is so important to you, but maybe not so valued by the company and the company's goals, right?

Chambers: Yeah. I think that can happen. Some companies have very strict job descriptions and checklists, some jobs do. For a lot of us knowledge workers, it's a little more fluid, so you don't spend the time -- unless you're actually recruiting and interviewing for a job -- really defining it.

What I'm hoping some people might uncover on Ask For A Raise Day is, a person has written down a list of all the things that they value, and they could say something like, "I am the best brain surgeon. I could make $X as a brain surgeon." Be prepared that the company might say, "Wait, we don't use brain surgery here. This isn't a valuable skill to us." There's a calibration going on about how you could be valued in the external marketplace vs. how your company values the work that you do. That calibration's important. Again, it's important not to take it personally and say, "You don't value me!"

Southwick: [laughs] How do you not take it personally?!

Chambers: It's painful, of course.

Southwick: Yeah, it's so hard.

Chambers: But, saying, "We don't value those skills," and then you have enough information to make the choice -- do I prefer to stay here and do this job, or ... What you're walking in saying is, "I could make more money elsewhere doing this," and making sure, if your company chooses to value that role in one way or another, that's just a good point to have. Or, if they say, "Actually, it's that other thing you do that's so valuable." Right. That's where it's really helpful.

Southwick: When you go into your meeting with your manager, do you think they should ... should I ... well, not me, but ... this is funny. I'm being like, "Hypothetically speaking," but, it's like, no, actually, this is literally something I'm going to be doing. [laughs]

Brokamp: [laughs] Just asking for a friend!

Southwick: It's the reverse of that, it's like, "Oh, wait, no, I am asking for myself, I guess. This is going to have a very practical application." Do you go in with, "I want 4%," and then hope that they're going to come in around 2-3%? Lee, you talked about maybe even getting more creative in how you might want to negotiate, like bargaining for more time rather than more money.

Burbage: We do recommend that you come in with some sense of the marketplace, or some numbers. Just know that you might not get the specific number that you want. But, coming in with some data is helpful. I think there are lots of things available. It depends on the company you work at. It could be anything from, "I want more vacation time," if you're a company that tracks that strictly -- which we do not recommend, by the way.

Chambers: Don't do that, Alison. They're going to say yes. [laughs]

Southwick: "Kara, I want more vacation time!" "I don't know, Alison. Let me go send that up the flagpole. I don't know if Lee is going to go for it." [laughs] For those who don't know, we have unlimited vacation here at The Motley Fool. We have a no-policy vacation policy.

Burbage: Yes. Thank you for that.

Southwick: [laughs] Sorry!

Burbage: It could be just days in the office. More and more every year, people are working from home or other locations. Maybe a flexible work environment schedule. Maybe you want to come in later and leave earlier. "I want more management," "I want to work on a special project," "I want budget. I have a pet project that I want to do, and I'd love to get budget to do that."

Just be open that it might not be a base salary increase. Maybe your company is going through financing, and you'd like to participate, you want some equity. That could be a discussion point, as well. I think we're trying to pull people from just, "I want 4%," to a deeper development and alignment conversation with their boss that could go a lot of different ways, that it's just healthy and fun.

One fun thing about what's happening here is that, tomorrow, at The Motley Fool's Ask For A Raise Day, technically, I'm Kara's boss and our meeting is scheduled for tomorrow.

Chambers: I'm asking for a friend.

Burbage: She is going to ask me for a raise. I am taking notes during this entire podcast on what it is that Kara is asking.

Brokamp: Let me just say that I've been involved in some meetings with Kara, and she's done a fantastic job.

Southwick: You know what I love about Kara?

Chambers: Get some testimonials.

Brokamp: I just would like you to know, Lee, she's done a fantastic job.

Burbage: [laughs] Well, the great thing is, I already know that. Kara's amazing. We're very lucky.

Southwick: So, you've had your meeting. It could go in a number of different directions. It could become a conversation about development, it could be a conversation about your career, it could be about coaching you out. It could go a number of different ways! That's exciting! What a fun time for you! [laughs] But, assuming that everything goes well, and you get some amount of a raise or something, what's your advice as far as going forward? After you've gotten that raise, how can you do a better job of making sure that you're communicating to the company how awesome you are, so that it doesn't end up being another year before you're having a development conversation and you're going through this stressful exercise all over again?

Chambers: We tested this on one team already before we went into this craziness, and they came up with a great idea. They built an internal resume for themselves. Each person at the team created a living document where you wrote down all the things that were the most valuable, where you think you can develop.

I think probably the best advice is to show that you're open to feedback and that you want to grow. I've had people write down this list and then use it regularly. Maybe you and your manager use it your one-on-ones, or you bring it back six months later and say, "Hey, here are the things I wanted to accomplish." That was one thing our test group piloted. That's one way to do it.

Also, HR wisdom tells everybody to never have a tough performance conversation in the middle of a comp conversation, but that still happens. Be emotionally ready for that. Just be ready for some tough feedback. What you said at the beginning, sometimes they're tough conversations. Being ready for that if it happens, and then being ready to handle it, however you go about being ready to handle it. [laughs] Use your own techniques.

It's a risky move. That's why people don't do it. It's not only socially risky. There's a chance someone says, "No! In fact, I can't believe you make this much!" or something crazy. [laughs]

Southwick: Has that happened here?!

Chambers: No.

Brokamp: [laughs] "You're making that much? What were we thinking?!"

Chambers: No, no! I was just thinking, worst case scenario, playing those scenarios out in your head, like, what is the worst case scenario? Be ready for that. You know it's risky. If you hear no as an answer, don't leave angrily or something like that. Just saying something like, "How can I plan for this conversation to go better next year?" Or something like that.

Burbage: I think that answer could vary depending on who your boss is. Understand, what are the metrics or signals that your boss is paying attention to? That's how to manage things long-term. You may be winning in one metric, and it turns out your boss is deciding your comp based on something else. Understand how you're being measured, pay attention to that, and how your boss likes that to be reported back to them. That's what I would be highlighting -- the things that your boss wants to see, that they're measuring you on. That would make sense.

Brokamp: Alison kicked off this segment by talking about the low unemployment rate. Implicit in that is, it's harder to find employees. Since you two are in the HR world, is now a good time to be going out and shopping around?

Southwick: Asking for a friend, Bro? [laughs]

Brokamp: Not at all! But, we're talking here about getting a raise from your current employer. Is now a good time to be going out and see what else you can get, testing your skills in the marketplace?

Burbage: I think that's a really hard question to answer. It depends on the person, the role you're in, the type of company you work for, the geography that you may or may not be tied to. That can vary wildly by city, industry, where you are in your career, the things that you're looking for. When I talk to people today, they tend to be more specific than I've ever experienced, in terms of what they want. I think what people are finding in a good marketplace is the ability to find, "I want to work on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I want to commute from the beach from these other two days, and I want it to be in the tech industry." I'm not sure specifically related to comp, but more so the type of job that you're looking for. I think those things are out there. What do you think, Kara?

Chambers: I also think, if you're listening and you're a manager of people, it's helpful to think about what you might do if someone came to you and asked for a raise. I like to think about, what would happen if that person came in tomorrow? Again, the way some people ask for raises is to say, "I just got a better offer." That's more likely to happen these days.

If you're a manager thinking about how you're working to keep that person so they don't have to come to you when they're unhappy -- because, again, most people aren't brave enough, even if we declared Ask For A Raise Day. So, just pay attention that silence doesn't mean happiness. Make sure you're going out and doing that if you want to retain an employee. Knowing your options is always helpful.

Burbage: We've talked a bit today about an individual going to their boss and asking for a raise. I would also encourage anyone out there who is a boss, have an open conversation with the people that work for you. "Hey, how are you feeling about your compensation?" That's probably not something that most managers or team leaders do, and I would encourage it.

If you get to the point where someone comes to you and says, "Hey, I got better offer somewhere else," oftentimes, we find that's too late. That person has already moved on in so many ways in their mind. As a team lead, you can also proactively have a difficult conversation.

Southwick: And have awesome results, right?

Burbage: Of course.

Southwick: Potentially!

Burbage: Yeah.

Southwick: Yes!

Burbage: I don't see a huge downside, really. As Kara said, it's possible the person says no, but then you're not really in a different place than you already were.

Southwick: You just know it. [laughs]

Chambers: Which is really important.

Burbage: Maybe you're not happy about it, but I do think you're in a better place, because then you know -- to Robert's point -- maybe you should be looking elsewhere. At least you know where you stand there. Otherwise, you could waste a lot of time, even years, waiting for something to happen that isn't going to. Have the conversation.

Southwick: There you go! Alright, listeners, go out there and do it! Lee believes in you, and Kara's excited, because you have your checklist and you're data-driven!

Chambers: Everybody do this tomorrow.

Brokamp: [laughs] And let us know how it turns out.

Southwick: Tomorrow's the day!

Burbage: That would be fun. A national day of Ask For A Raise, that'd be fun.

Southwick: Let's start a movement.

One tradition we have here at The Motley Fool is an annual Fireside Chat where Fools get up and tell stories. I was thinking about that because, Lee, I believe you're the reason why we do the Fireside Chats. You got the idea from a friend or something?

Burbage: From one of our members, who also happens to be a friend of mine, an avid Motley Fool subscriber. He and I were talking about the power of telling stories. It's a great way for companies to share core values and some of the unwritten rules of an office. A great way to do that is the power of storytelling. By his suggestion, we started an annual tradition. We call it Fireside Chats. We actually have a fake fire and sleeping bags.

Brokamp: One year we had s'mores. It was quite nice.

Burbage: We do it up and take an hour or two and have people tell stories of things that have happened through the years that also teach a lesson or emphasize a core value. Gary Hill, a longtime Fool, likes to tell a story about flying coach and having a really bad rental car experience, and it gets the point across that we don't fly first class. Little things like that that are fun to tell.

Southwick: I've been digging through The Motley Fool archives because it's the 25th anniversary, as listeners know.

Burbage: Your desk is a mess.

Chambers: You have an area.

Southwick: I have newspaper clippings, I have taken over. It's insane how much stuff I have. But, I keep stumbling on these fun little things! In fact, this last week, I found a copy of the Fredericksburg Virginia Free Lance-Star. Is that the name of the hometown newspaper?

Brokamp: Something like that.

Southwick: I'm looking at this like, "What is this?" And there it is, above the fold, very top, under the masthead, an article about our own Robert Brokamp, and it had his picture and his daughter's picture in it. Do you want to tell us this story? This is not actually a Fool story, but it's just kind of weird.

Brokamp: I don't know why someone at The Fool decided to put this in a folder.

Southwick: I don't know, I found it in some hanging folder!

Brokamp: This is from 2004. Basically, my daughter and I were at a restaurant in Ohio and saw a flyer for the Storm Defender cape for dogs. You put it on your dog if your dog is afraid of lightning, and somehow it distributes the static electricity in the air and it makes your dog comfortable. We thought it was funny and we sent it to Dave Barry, who many of you may know is a humorist who does an annual gift-giving guide. He actually put it in his annual gift-giving guide, so we got a little credit there in the guide. The local Fredericksburg newspaper thought it was such a big news that we made Dave Barry's guide that they put us on the front page of the newspaper!

Southwick: [laughs] So, that was one that I found this week.

Brokamp: Can I just say that, I thought it was funny? It turns out, the creator of the Storm Defender cape for dogs was offended by this. So, let me take this opportunity to say, I apologize! I hope you got lots of sales from all the free advertising from it!

Burbage: It helped a lot of dogs.

Brokamp: It helped a lot of dogs.

Southwick: Hopefully. So, I came across a copy of Inc Magazine from 1998. In it was an article all about The Fool Rules, A Global Guide to Foolish Behavior. Does this sound familiar to you, Lee?

Burbage: It does. I also started here in 1998. I guess the week or two before I started, this article came out. Our HR leader at the time had said in the article, "If you'd like a copy of our handbook, just drop me an email," and had put her personal email in the article. Well, it turns out, a lot of people read Inc Magazine, at least in 1998, they did. We got literally thousands of requests for a free copy of our handbook.

For the first several weeks that I worked here, I literally sat in a dark corner and responded to these requests via email. I would log them into Excel. It was great learning, because I got really good at Excel. And I would stuff envelopes with our employee handbook and mail them out. The positive was, I really learned Excel. The negative, hours and hours of stuffing envelopes of our free employee handbook. That's how I started.

Chambers: You should have asked for a raise.

Burbage: I think I was overpaid for that job, actually.

Brokamp: What was so remarkable about our employee handbook?

Burbage: It actually was, and even is today, very progressive. What happened was twofold. First of all, the company said, "We need a handbook. How are we going to write this? Let's let everybody write it." It was a collaborative effort. Everybody that worked at the company at the time that wanted to contributed content. Each piece of the handbook was written by people here, not some sort of policy-driven thing that the HR team or Legal had put together, like at a lot of companies.

Secondarily, it was really accessible and fun and funny. We believed at the time, and maybe still today, that we're the only company with an employee handbook that people actually wanted to read. It was fun, funny, short, accessible, and written by the community of which everyone was working.

Southwick: Then, we also have Inc Magazine from June 1999, an article titled "How The Motley Fool Talks Back." It was all about our internet-based program called Stop Start Continue, where 125 employees were asked to use the internet board to assess one another's job performance and comment on the work habits of coworkers. Does this sound familiar?

Brokamp: [laughs] What?!

Burbage: No -- I mean, I know what it is, but --

Southwick: Tom Connor, a web developer at the company --

​Brokamp:​ TomCo!

​Southwick​ -- said using the internet encouraged more honesty, especially when it came to offering constructive criticism!

Burbage: And it turns out, it became so honest that we had to stop that.

Southwick: Oh, really?!

Brokamp: [laughs] You don't say?

Burbage: Yeah, it was a genius idea. Stop Start Continue. You could pull up any person's name at the company and ask them to stop doing something, start doing something, or continue doing something. It worked well at first, but then we began to enter into some, what I'll classify as HR violations.

Brokamp: [laughs] Oh, no!

Burbage: I believe someone was asked to continue looking hot. And a few other things like that. It became no longer constructive, and we stop doing that program.

Southwick: [laughs] So, those are a couple of things that I stumbled on. Kara, do you have any fond memories for our little Fireside Chat here?

Chambers: I remember a story that I got up and told at our Fireside Chat that's one of my favorites. One winter, I was recruiting. I had two interns that had gotten referred in. I was doing phone screens with them. They were so excited, they were like, "I love your company," and they checked all the boxes and were really ready to work. I had desks set up for them the next day. They had good grades, very smart people. The desks were set up, computers set up.

It was 11 PM the night before their start date. They were friends or something, they had referred in. And one of them emailed me and said, "What's the address of The Motley Fool?" And I said, "Oh, I'm sorry I forgot to tell you! We're right off the King Street Metro. You should be able to find that." And the person writes back and says, "I'm not sure where that is." And I gave them the full address. And they were like, "You're in Alexandria, Virginia? I'm in Boston. I thought this job was in Boston."

Brokamp: [laughs] What?!

Chambers: That was recruiting/ screening error 101 on my part. Do you know where this job is?

Southwick: I feel like that's not 100% on you.

Brokamp: Yeah, no.

Chambers: [laughs] I'll take it. But, that's a story I remember getting up and telling at the Fireside Chat. We have real enthusiasm, but check your facts, everybody. Check your facts before you apply for a job.

Burbage: As I recall, that was 11 o'clock the night before. These interns, at 11 o'clock the night before they were supposed to start, that was the first time they thought, "I should look up the address."

Brokamp: That's why it's not 100% your fault, Kara.

Southwick: Oh, kids these days!

Burbage: That was a long time ago. They're adults now.

Southwick: Well, thank you guys for joining us for the podcast today. I look forward to asking for a raise tomorrow!

Chambers: Alright!

Southwick: And receiving one, as well! Right?

Brokamp: I'm feeling good about it, Alison. I think you got this.

Southwick: For me, or for you?

Brokamp: For you!

Southwick: Wow, thanks!

Burbage: One thing that's fun about this is, every person that asks will get some sort of raise.

Brokamp: [whispering] That's why I'm feeling good about it. [laughs]

Burbage: It's small amount, but we've guaranteed that anyone who asks will get a small increase, because we want people to do it.

Southwick: Alright! I'm going to do it! Thank you guys for coming on the show. We look forward to having you back someday, yeah?

Chambers: Yeah! Thank you!

Southwick: Alright!

Well, that's the show! I want to thank Lee Burbage and Kara Chambers again for joining us. If you want to learn more about Motley Fool culture and what it's like, we have a blog. You can go to culture.fool.com. If you want to work here, you can go to careers.fool.com. We're also on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and all those kinds of places. If you want to learn more about how we do here at The Motley Fool as a company, you have many options -- blog, Facebook, Twitter, whatever.

Also, we didn't get any postcards this week. I know! Rick is aghast. So, that's a bummer. If you're going to be traveling this summer, don't forget to get a postcard and send it our way! Our address is 2000 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314, nmlsconsumeraccess.org #3030, [laughs]. Our email is answers@fool.com. The show is edited richly by Rick Engdahl. I'm going to just go with that. Our email is answers@fool.com. For Robert Brokamp, I'm Alison Southwick. Stay Foolish, everybody!

Alison Southwick has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Robert Brokamp, CFP owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Twitter. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.