How do I navigate a salary situation at work?
January 30, 2013 7:55 PM   Subscribe

I work in technology as a senior architect. I really like my firm but it is quite a bit smaller than other firms in the area and in a similar industry. I've been getting offers ~40% more from two, more established, larger firms. These are lateral moves. I'd like to stay where I'm at, but the salary increase being offered is too much to ignore. Can I bring this up with my firm, or is this a sort of take the larger offer or don't bring it up sort of situation?

I don't work in SF/NYC/Austin, so none of my firms are VC loaded startups or anything.

I was given a significant, 15% increase 10 mos. ago and would assume that I would get an increase shortly. That is still well short what I could take right now.

I really do like where I am at, culturally and the people I work with. I could only see myself really justifying staying by getting at least within 10% of the offers from other firms. I know going in and saying, "I have offer x% can you match it?" is seen as disloyal, but I can't see myself going in and starting negotiations at 30% without justifying the increase.

Take the offer for more and move on, or do I have another option?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The only way you can play this without losing your leverage is to strongly suggest that your current employer revisit their pay scales to be sure they're in line with other employers. The way in which you word this, and who you say it to, can be taken (as it should be) as a direct warning that people, possibly including you, are starting to look elsewhere due to salary pressures -- but without actually saying anything of the sort. Also reiterate how much you love working there. Provide pointers, if you can, to publicly available salary surveys that are relevant to your region and job strata.

You gotta keep it abstract, or they'll know you're a jumper.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:03 PM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

>> is seen as disloyal...

In general I don't think that this would be considered disloyal. However, I suspect that leaving without giving your company the chance to counteroffer could easily be interpreted that way.
posted by JohnFredra at 8:19 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know going in and saying, "I have offer x% can you match it?" is seen as disloyal, but I can't see myself going in and starting negotiations at 30% without justifying the increase.

I'm a software architect and have managed architects in the past. Where I've worked, it's accepting another offer without giving your current employer a chance to beat it that is considered disloyal. A good manager will appreciate the chance to discreetly adjust your compensation to the market level. A bad manager...wait, why would you work for a bad manager?
posted by backupjesus at 8:20 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might find this article interesting.
posted by sockpup at 8:36 PM on January 30, 2013

Take the money.
posted by roboton666 at 9:43 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wait for your upcoming review, and if it's still only 15%, ask them "is that the best we can do this year?" or "I was thinking it'd be higher" (don't say by how much), or words to those effects. See what they say while planning to jump ship after that if they don't step up. At this point they're basically letting you get cherry-picked, so with only a modicum of pushback they'll know why and you'll get the salary you think you deserve in the event you have to leave for it.
posted by rhizome at 10:23 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

This got long, sorry. As a point of introduction, I research and teach negotiations at one of the top-ranked business schools. I ended up writing more than I expected because I've thought a lot about the situation you're facing.

Here goes....

The first lesson in any negotiations class is that the outcome of a negotiation is a function of the two party's best alternatives (i.e., what each party would do if they did not reach a deal). This explains why starting salaries tend to go down in recessions (nobody can find another job) and why starting salaries go up during booms (everybody can find another job). The outside offers you have mean that you now have a much better alternative. That's great! It means you can walk into the negotiation with a lot less stress and a lot more power than you would if you didn't have a backup plan.

The big challenge that you face, however, is how you leverage the power of an outside offer without looking like a disloyal self-interested asshole. What you should not do is talk about "averages" and "pay scales" or ask them to make the "first offer." Companies love to pay below average salaries and there's no reason why somebody as marketable as you should be paid an "average" salary. These passive aggressive are rarely successful in practice.

I also don't recommend saying that you have an outside offer and want them to match it. Doing that can backfire. If you ask your current employer to match an offer and they don't, you won't bea able to stay in your current job without a huge hit to your reputation.

What I recommend doing is grab a friendly cup of coffee with your supervisor and ask them for their advice. Tell them that you're receiving calls from from other companies (they've gotten calls too, and probably made them). Explain, like you explained to us, that you're not sure what to do. You know that you could use these offers to try and get a big raise, but you love working at your company and don't feel comfortable making threats you wouldn't want to follow up on. That's just not your style. You're loyal and you don't want to get a raise this way. Show them how uncomfortable this makes you. By having this conversation, you're establishing that you have a really great alternative, but that you care too much about the relationships to use it. This protects your from them acting like assholes.

Chances are, talking about these things will make your supervisor feel a bit uncomfortable as well: why talk about outside offers if you're not planning to ask for a raise? This is when you pivot and make them feel at ease. Explain that you want to have a longer conversation (in a week or two) about your role in the company, what you do, where you'll be in five years, etc. Explain that this is more than just a job to you and, if you're on your dream career path, there wouldn't be an outside offer in the world that would tempt you. You want to be thrilled with your job and you want your company to be thrilled to have you.

Basically, I want you to turn a relationship-killing win-lose negotiation into a relationship-building win-win negtiation. In the second negotiation--about your career---you'll not only be able to get a big raise (but don't forget that you want more money!), but you can also set yourself up for future raises, promotions, etc. Just treat it like collaborative problem-solving instead of a negotiation and you'll probably end up much better off.

Good luck!
posted by eisenkr at 10:47 PM on January 30, 2013 [96 favorites]

Disloyal? Years ago I saw a program on PBS that warned employes not to give loyalty to a corporation because the sentiment is absolutely not requited. You are the one who has your best interests at heart.
Note: Forget what that weird supreme Court said about a corporation being a person. It isn't.
posted by Cranberry at 11:37 PM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]

In aggregate, outcomes are poor for senior employees who threaten to leave over money and ultimately stay. Your manager will never trust you quite the same way again, and as a senior architect you will get nowhere without their trust.

Are the places offering you a much higher salary a good deal overall? Consider insurance, benefits, 401K, stability, and respectful culture in that calculation. If not, your company might not be prioritizing its talent. You could address that directly with senior leaders, which would give you an absolute understanding of where you stand. On the other hand, the higher offers might might be places where you have to pay a lot more towards your health insurance (for no net gain in income) or where you are treated much worse. You need to evaluate all elements of both offers.
posted by SakuraK at 11:46 PM on January 30, 2013

I'm also a software architect and have many friends who are, too. It is a great idea to bring up the difference in pay. Obviously don't phrase it as "well those guys would pay me more so cough it up or I'm out." My friends have gone with "gee, I love working here SO much, and I don't want to make money the issue... but I know that others in the area are making closer to X and I'm hoping we could be more in line with that here."

That tactic just got my friend a 35% bump in an already-not-awful total comp. Still not as much as his other offer, but enough to keep him happy for now.

There are plenty of software firms where you'll like the people and culture, so don't worry too much about that.
posted by Talisman at 11:47 PM on January 30, 2013

is seen as disloyal

If your current employer ever has to let you go for financial reasons, worrying about how loyal it seems to you won't be a point of discussion.

Unless you think there is something about the culture/work that is so unique it is worth more than the 40% pay difference there is nothing wrong with telling them that you enjoy working there but others appreciate your talent more. A lot more. Assuming the other offers are solid, you literally have nothing to lose by stating your case.
posted by mikepop at 5:24 AM on January 31, 2013

>> is seen as disloyal...

Because corporations are represented by people, it's hard to separate social expectations and responsibilities (loyalty, among others) that we have between equal entities, from financial expectations and responsibilities, which is what we have with corporations. Loyalty doesn't apply here. Ask for the money politely and firmly, and if they can't match it, move.
posted by spindrifter at 2:08 PM on January 31, 2013

I think "disloyal" is a loaded term here, and distracting from the fact that anon wrote "I really do like where I am at, culturally and the people I work with."

You can ask for more money or more perks, but you cannot a culture and co-workers you enjoy. But if you're offered more money from other companies, you can probably get more money from your company, unless the bigger companies are utilizing lower-cost employees to allow them to pay more for the big fish at the company or some other mean of maximizing benefits to the higher up employees, which anon's current small company can't do.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:48 AM on February 4, 2013

« Older How can I most efficiently "spring clean" my...   |   Costa Rica in May? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.