Yes, I know, I'm an idiot.
January 10, 2012 4:23 AM   Subscribe

Can I negotiate my salary after my first paycheck?

I was recently hired at a small company, part-time (35 hrs). We did not discuss salary at the interview and I stupidly did not bring it up when I started the job. I went into the interview thinking there was only one job, but there were two, and I ended up with the one that was not actually described in the ad, so I was unsure if the hourly rate in the ad applied to me or not. Apparently it does, and I am making a good $3/hr less than what I "should" be. I have not worked in an office since before the crash, and it was in a different part of the country, but I haven't made so little money since I started working in offices (5-6 years ago).

I just got my first paycheck, and I am realizing that this is not going to work. Of course it is better than having no job, but I can't afford not to look for a higher-paying job. My father thinks that I should explain this to them and ask for a higher hourly rate, but I'm not sure if it's worth the trouble. Has anyone ever done this?

Factors I'm considering bringing up:
* I have a much longer commute than anyone else in the office
* another woman hired the same time as me is making the same amount, even though she just graduated from college and I graduated 5 years ago and have been working ever since
* I googled the average pay for someone doing my job in my area and it is substantially more
* my boss has repeatedly mentioned how happy she was to find someone with my specific experience

I know that they may just not have the money. But is it worth asking or will it just make me look greedy?

I know that it was stupid not to figure this out in advance, but please don't take me to task for that in your answers. I really feel bad enough already.
posted by chaiminda to Work & Money (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why would anyone care how far you commute?

Bring up the fact that you applied for a job with a particular rate and want to be paid at that rate.
posted by biffa at 4:31 AM on January 10, 2012 [14 favorites]

I know that they may just not have the money. But is it worth asking or will it just make me look greedy?

You do not look "greedy" asking for more money especially as it seems there has been a misunderstanding:

"I went into the interview thinking there was only one job, but there were two, and I ended up with the one that was not actually described in the ad, so I was unsure if the hourly rate in the ad applied to me or not."

Talk to your employer. Say there has been a misunderstanding. Be prepared for them to say "Sorry, nothing we can do." Stand your ground. Assert your qualifications. Say your acceptance was based on the different rate and that this just doesn't work for you.

If the employer does not compromise, start looking for another job whilst cheerfullly keeping the one you have.
posted by three blind mice at 4:32 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

A- What Biffa said. "hey boss, I thought the ad said I was supposed to be making $X?

B- Unfortunately, in many jobs you just aren't paid all that much differently for 5 more years of experience, and you said that some of those years weren't even working an office job.

C- Commute is irrelevant to the employer. Sorry.
posted by gjc at 4:36 AM on January 10, 2012

* I have a much longer commute than anyone else in the office

Doesn't matter, don't bring it up. Nobody cares about your commute, where you live is your choice.

* another woman hired the same time as me is making the same amount, even though she just graduated from college and I graduated 5 years ago and have been working ever since

If someone is doing the same job as you then technically they should be being paid the same as you. If anything, this "argument" will work against you so don't bring it up.

* I googled the average pay for someone doing my job in my area and it is substantially more

This is relevant and something you can bring into the discussion.

* my boss has repeatedly mentioned how happy she was to find someone with my specific experience

This is great, this means there is some fertile ground for discussion.

That said, you better start looking before you go in there because you don't have a walk away plan. If you don't have somewhere else to go, what are you going to do if they say No?

Don't mention this though. Ask your boss for a private discussion. Be honest about the misunderstanding. Keep on point about that part, leave out your commute and the co-worker. Re-affirm your specific experience that they are happy about. Come in with facts and figures about those other company's pay. Ask them what they can do about it, not if they can do something about it. Give them a few days to look into it and follow up.
posted by like_neon at 4:39 AM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

Some answers are implying this may be a misunderstanding, but...
I ended up with the one that was not actually described in the ad, so I was unsure if the hourly rate in the ad applied to me or not. Apparently it does
Am I reading this right? You're saying you've got a slightly different job to the one advertised, but the pay is what they advertised, and pay was not mentioned during recruitment? In that case I don't really see what you can do. If you have unique skills or are in a strong job market (both of which will make it easier for you to find a new job, and make them keen to keep you), then you can give it a shot, but it would pretty much the textbook definition of getting off on the wrong foot!
posted by caek at 4:46 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would take an entirely different approach on this, one that still allows you to make an inquiry about your pay but not necessarily right now.

Ask if you are under evaluation for the first few months and if there is a point when they will review you at a one-on-one meeting (often within the first few months). If they tell you it is in the first 30 days, few months, just remember when it is and when that time comes ask to meet with your supervisor, too (don't just let the date pass).

In the meantime, do your job really well.It sounds like you already are if you are getting those compliments.Meet deadlines and even exceed them if possible. Learn what people on other teams are doing,see if you can learn/help out those people.Make friends of those colleagues. The idea that I've had is I may not be working at a particular place for long, but if you make connections and people respect your will help you get somewhere else at a later point if you want it. Continue perusing other jobs online and see if there are additional skills that you need to get paid more or other jobs. Actually, while you are at your office -- ask about your other colleagues backgrounds and what they did to get there (you may find a job title you can transition too..not now, later if you have the background).

Now when your review happens, it should start out with ...they are happy because you do X, Y, and Z. They will ask what you think. That is when you say you were originaly hoping for a higher salary....based on research it is typically X(as others not talk about your commute, etc.) If they balk, then say: Can we re-evaluate in 6 months and to make this likely, what do I need to do or demonstrate? If they don't give you a raise at that point or have a good explanation, do make looking for a job part of the plan that you keep to yourself.
posted by Wolfster at 5:19 AM on January 10, 2012 [8 favorites]

Getting a raise is about the leverage you have over them. The more the company relies on your expertise, the more leverage you get.

This - 1000 times this. If they are amazed at your qualifications, your fit, your singlular excellence in the field, and if your qualifications mean that they cannot train someone to do the same quality of job in the expected timeframe that they had made a mental note of - then you have leverage. If they could train someone to do your job, but they no longer need to because of your expertise, well then - call them on it.

Be prepared though - are you willing to walk if they say "no?" Because if you create a stink, and back off - as an employer, I'll know that I can push you like this again and you'll back off - and that you are potentially a headache if you don't.

I work in a job that is either "all in" or "fold" when it comes to gametime decisions. Make up your mind. Figure out the costs of playing it to the end. If the risks are worth it, do it.

Or, relegate yourself to asking for a raise next year, when you have a track record. Just keep in mind as to how special a snowflake you are though, and ask yourself if they are making your type of snow, or if they could do the same thing with a snow machine.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:19 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

$3/hr is definitely worth the trouble of mentioning.

Tell them they've made a mistake and are paying you the wrong rate (so far as I can see it is possible that that's actually the case). Don't accept that it's in any way your fault and only accept grudgingly that there might have been a genuine misunderstanding. Stay calm and don't bang the table, but imply that you will leave immediately if it's not rectified, even though you won't.

It won't look greedy, but don't worry about looking greedy. What you need to worry about is coming over as someone who either can't read their own pay-slip or is dramatically lacking in assertiveness.
posted by Segundus at 5:31 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hand your paycheck to your boss and say, "I am so sorry but there seems to have been some confusion. I'm delighted to be here but my acceptance of this job was based on the $X per hour stated in the ad for the job I actually came in to interview for." And then smile and say nothing more and see what happens.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:44 AM on January 10, 2012 [17 favorites]

What DarlingBri and Segundus said.

Do not bring up your commute (not their problem), do not bring up what your coworker earns (it is inappropriate to discuss fellow employees' remuneration in many workplaces), do not bring up anything other than the fact that you thought you were supposed to be earning X instead of Y.

And be prepared to be told that your job pays Y. And take this as a lesson learned that you should ALWAYS discuss remuneration BEFORE you accept a job.
posted by biscotti at 5:54 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with Segundus.

Business is not personal. You need to stop worrying about what people think and focus on what matters to you. Don't mind-read, don't engage in wishful thinking, don't bitch with fellow co-workers about the boss, just stand up for yourself. And be prepared to walk if you don't get what you want. In the future, don't agree to something unless you are happy with the deal.
posted by teedee2000 at 6:10 AM on January 10, 2012

OP, can you clarify the facts here?

I read your post as saying you applied for, say, "PR Associate" at $10 an hour, but were hired for the unlisted position of "Marketing Associate" and you've since discovered that "Marketing Associates" in your area typically make $13 an hour--but you're making the $10 an hour listed for the other position. No discussion was made of your actual salary. Is that right?

You can always ask to re-negotiate (in fact, it doesn't sound like you negotiated at all). But, to be frank, I don't think it's going to reflect well on you. You'll have a much stronger position once you've done some good work for them--whereas you would likely seem foolish for not having established what the pay is before agreeing to work there or, worse, wily for accepting their offer and immediately renegotiating after they dismissed other candidates and invested in you. In either event, if and when you go in saying that there was a misunderstanding and you need a raise, I think it will likely signal to your employer that you're likely to leave if you don't get the additional money, even if you don't threaten to quit--they'll just assume you're looking, and treat you accordingly.

My plan would be to do great work for a few months, and also be searching for a new job. If, after that initial period, they decline to give you a raise, you'll hopefully be closer to getting a new job elsewhere. When potential employers ask, just tell them that the commute was too long, etc.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:32 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

So, did you not sign any agreement when you were hired on? My company has offer letters that specifically state the starting rate to which I agree and sign off on.

It does suck to make less than before. Have you been out of work for a while? It sounds like your last office job may have been before the crash? so have you been out of a good job since 2008?

I was lucky enough to graduate in 2009 woot. Perfect time to look for those great paying jobs, but what I have come to realize is that not all companies pay the same, and that wont change. Smaller companies and non-profits will pay less than larger companies. The Industry also matters. So Pharmaceutical will pay more than some other types of places. Plus many jobs may have paid $20/hr before 2009 but now they pay $15/hr.

That being said, I would definitely go in and talk to your boss. It sounds like the job advertised paid more than the one you got? I am not sure if that should go into the discussion if you were not selected for the better job, but you should bring up that you were expecting a higher pay and would like to negotiate that.

You will get nothing by keeping quiet.
posted by Jaelma24 at 6:44 AM on January 10, 2012

I'm reading you the same way Admiral Haddock is. You had an interview for a $12/hour job and they offered you a better job with more responsibility and you assumed for some reason you would therefore be making more money. So you think you deserve more based on the job being harder and the current market rate for that job, but instead you are making the advertised rate.

If that's the case, I think you're out of luck. As the old saw goes, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. And, unfortunately, you didn't negotiate anything. This might be part of the reason they are so thrilled to have you--great skills, and cheap, too! Plus it sounds like this is just what they pay people who do your job, since a co-worker is making the same amount. Having more experience is a negotiating chip before you accept the job, because they are paying a premium for someone who will learn the specifics more easily and could take another job offer instead. After you've already agreed to work there, that point is rather moot.

You could, potentially, after a month or so--once you are really up to speed and working at your highest level--approach your boss and say that the job is much more demanding and has more responsibilities than you were expecting and you think it should be paid more. Mention that you are happy working for them, but that you could be making much more money at this job elsewhere. That way you're not just saying "Oh, hey, I forgot to ask how much the job paid and turns out this isn't enough." I think this will only work, though, if you are fantastic at your job and if you are prepared to leave if they don't pay you more.

If I'm misunderstanding, and you are actually making $3 less an hour than they advertised, then DarlingBri's advice applies
posted by looli at 7:54 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

my boss has repeatedly mentioned how happy she was to find someone with my specific experience

...and who was willing to work for $X.
posted by rhizome at 10:17 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can ALWAYS negotiate, but at this point you have no leverage. You'd be better off waiting until you've proven yourself as a great employee, then getting a job offer elsewhere that you can use as a negotiating platform (but then be prepared to take the new job if you don't get what you want).

Also, raises are based on work performance, not drive time.
posted by coolguymichael at 10:57 AM on January 10, 2012

Your boss knows the market, chances are you got paid less because you're a chance. Your're unproven. Give it six months & work your butt off, don't sit around with a negative attitude. After the six months, you should normally have a review. Bring the pay up then if it's possible.

If you want a job closer to work, that's your problem not your boss'.
posted by mkelley at 10:58 AM on January 10, 2012

If the company is big enough, it's possible that some wires got crossed between the person who made the hiring decision and whoever handles payroll. Esp if the scenario is that you were originally seen as a candidate for job A, but were then offered job B instead.

In any case it's perfectly reasonable to say something along the lines of: "Hey boss... I got my first paycheck and it looks like there may have been a misunderstanding somewhere. I thought I was going to be getting $X, but I got $Y?"
posted by philipy at 11:19 AM on January 10, 2012

I think upping the ante on the "there must be a misunderstanding" line by playing Dumb Dora is a good option. "There must be a mistake on my paycheck. I thought the job was paying $X per hour? That is what the ad said." Smile. Be friendly.

Leave it to them to explain the pay difference, and why you aren't getting paid as much, and let them accept the blame for not making it clear to you. Then let them know that it's unfortunate, and that you really have to reconsider the position unless you get the correct pay advertised, and really apologize and see what happens.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:01 PM on January 10, 2012

I think the OP needs to clarify, because to me the only mistake I'm seeing is their own, and only the last two points of the four might be useful in negotiating, but not now because you have no leverage. I simply don't see how the OP could go to their boss/HR and say that they thought the pay would be any amount that was neither discussed in the interview nor was in the job ad (the rate that is being paid is the advertised rate for Job A but is less than the OP thinks they should be paid for Job B).

Unless I'm reading this wrong, there was no misunderstanding between the company and the OP regarding pay. There was simply no discussion whatsoever and the OP assumed they would be getting paid more for a different position, and assumed wrong. Sorry, OP, I doubt that bringing this up will net you higher pay no matter how you go about it right now.
posted by sm1tten at 5:34 PM on January 10, 2012

A clarification--is there any reason to believe that this was some sort of bait-and-switch?

I don't see how any employer can offer someone a job without informing them what the pay is. I don't see that as the fault of the employee, especially when they initially interviewed for a job that did have an explicit pay identified. How can an employer offer a different job than the one interviewed for and not at least have the courtesy to tell the employee that it pays much, much less?
posted by jabberjaw at 11:32 AM on January 11, 2012

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