How far do I chase this pay increase?
February 15, 2015 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Was told by no less than 3 manager types, when I started my new job 4 months ago, that after a month of training and orientation, I should expect a bump in pay. Turns out, they meant other people are to expect the pay increase, not me.

The company is an international nonprofit human service organization, and I took an hourly position in a lead role. I spent a training period with others who were in a support role, I was the only lead.

The misunderstanding/miscommunication (now, feels a bit like manipulation) began at the time I was presented with the terms of my contract. The terms say nothing about a pay increase, but the recruiter on the phone said a bump in pay was what they do after certain criteria were met through training. The recruiter also gave me a starting offer at 5% above typical starting pay for my position, based on my previous experience.

I'll add here that this company is practically desperate to hire people. They are doing a big hiring campaign, and offer sizable referral bonuses around new hires.

Throughout the couple weeks I spent doing in-classroom type training, more than one instructor also motivated us by dangling this pay increase before us. Again, I was the only lead in the the class, but I had no reason to think the raise didn't pertain to me.

I hit the ground running at on the work site. I think I've done a bang up job and people (higher up) know me. I met the criteria necessary for a raise, and my supervisor told me she would submit the paperwork to get me my increase. This was back in December. I had already met eligibility requirements (before she got around to submitting the papers), so even then I was gently inquiring about retroactive pay.

Then... I backed off. I waited to see the change in my pay stub. Wasn't seeing the change. I knew my manager was putting out many fires, and I waited patiently, letting payroll et al do their thing to properly compensate me.

Then... I sort of forgot to scrutinize my paychecks. I let it go. Work was so busy, I was bagging overtime, and the whole month of January flew by where I was still at my starting wage and not thinking much about it.

Finally, this month I mentioned to my manager, Hey, I'm still at my starting pay. Yikes, right?! She was horrified and said she'd address it with HR.

In the end, I spoke to HR on the phone myself. The rep was actually a good listener, and timely in her responses to me, but what I heard was -- "Sorry." People in the lead position don't get a pay increase after training and meeting the "criteria" -- Only the support folks have that incentive, and, anyway, I started at higher pay so I'm making more than a typical starting lead, BUT-- I am welcome to take it up with the regional director.

The regional director knows me. And, it's my job to advocate for people who cannot advocate for themselves. Should I meet with the RD and advocate for myself ("I was told... I have exceeded expectations...")? Or, do I let it go? If I don't let this go, how do I approach the RD? What do I say? Also, there was never a dollar amount named in this pay bump, but people in support roles' increase was about 8% (according to the HR rep I spoke with).

Thank you for reading. If I am going to take this up with the RD I need to do it tomorrow (Monday) or I will really be dragging my feet. The conversation I had with HR took place on Friday.
posted by little_dog_laughing to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You absolutely need to take this up with the RD. That pay increase was part of why you took the job, right? Getting paid $X is nice, but part of your calculus of whether you would take the job and do great things for this organization was that you'd make $X+Y.

So go to the RD and say, "I was promised this raise by my supervisor. When can I expect it?" Don't talk about the recruiter, don't talk about the trainers, don't talk about anything but how your supervisor told you that you would get the raise on December 14th (or whatever), so when will you see it? If the RD comes back with "Sorry, HR says leads don't get that raise," then you reply with "The recruiter said I would, and the trainers said I would, and frankly, I'm feeling like I got tricked into taking this job by being sold $X+Y, but I'm only making $X."
posted by Etrigan at 6:23 AM on February 15, 2015 [37 favorites]

Etrigan has it. There really is no other way to approach it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:27 AM on February 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I agree with Etrigan, but you may be fighting an uphill battle if you don't have those promises in writing. I have been, and know others who have been, in very similar situations.
posted by synecdoche at 6:42 AM on February 15, 2015

Etrigan has it exactly. I agree that you need to ask for the raise, using that script, but I'd guess that the chances of success are low from the way you describe the situation and the organization. If the answer comes back as a definite "no," it is at least an opportunity to discuss directly with the regional director what your options are going to be for future advancement. (And that may be the spot where there is room for flexibility, as in "Sorry, policy prevents us from giving immediate raises to people in your position, but I can put you in for the upcoming training class that will open options for promotion.")

It will be your call whether or not to stay if there is no raise. I think we've all had a similar story of being lied to or almost lied to ("falsely hinted to," perhaps) with a new job, and sometimes the right answer is to quit and sometimes the right thing is to stay long enough to get the experience and connections.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:02 AM on February 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Personally, I'd talk to the RD, but I wouldn't push the "give me the raise", but rather the " your people are dropping the ball and misleading people." I would also stress how disappointed you are that you can no longer trust what HR says. He/she will get the point.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:35 AM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Definitely tell the RD there's an issue going on. This is what would work on me:
I feel lied to and cheated. Sure, I made the classic mistake of believing verbal promises and not making sure it was in writing, so maybe nothing can be done now. But those verbal promises were made and influenced me to take this job. Furthermore, if I'm not entitled to the raise, someone could have just said so and cleared that up that misunderstanding right away instead of dangling the possibility for months now. By nature I'm a committed team member, willing to do more than my part for the company to achieve its goals. But now I have to have a nagging suspicion that I'm being a fool to work so hard when the commitment is one-sided. I hope I'm wrong and this will get resolved.

Really, it sounds like what happened is everyone is used to the pipeline for support people and it's kind of unusual to directly bring in a lead? So they have this practiced informal, maybe only mental, script that they do over and over. You got stuffed into this training group because there was only one of you and they didn't sufficiently make clear to everyone (including the recruiter) that you're a special case and to make notes in the script/lesson plans/etc to always say "except for you, little_dog_laughing, you're a lead so you'll have to check with HR to make sure this applies."

Which sucks. As the manager, I'd want to find a way to make it right for you if I could. But I would DEFINITELY want to KNOW to avoid ever doing that to someone again. Change lesson plans, or just prohibit lumping leads into the support person class. At the very least, your supervisor should know that you're going to hear some things in class that are N/A for you and warn you to expect that you might have to double check the material you hear. Something. I'm in a hiring crisis and I'm sabotaging myself making my best people unhappy and distrustful of me for no good reason? Uh-uh. Not acceptable.
posted by ctmf at 11:30 AM on February 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

They have put time and money into training you and now you are exceeding expectations. They will not want to lose you due to broken promises, however mistaken.

This is a test of your professional credibility as much as anything. If you do not advocate for yourself in this situation, you could be sending the subliminal message that you might not be entirely effective in doing so for others. Don't let those doubts take hold, in your own mind or your organization's.
posted by rpfields at 11:38 PM on February 15, 2015

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