How to respond to this email from my boss?
April 26, 2018 2:26 PM   Subscribe

I found a great development opportunity and emailed my boss with a request to attend. Total cost ~$200. Boss says "how about a 60/40 split?" Floored. How do I respond to this?

A few things:
I am half time.
There is no HR.
The thing is in 2 weeks.
This is a small nonprofit.
We have been encouraged by comments about professional development being valued.
This is a training that would require me to travel for several hours and result in a 15-hr day (aka 3/4 of my workweek).

The exact response to my request was:
"We do have some amount in the budget, but not a lot. How about a 60/40 ({org} pays 60%) split, and we can set aside a bit more in case you find another opportunity later in the year?"

I have never experienced this before (but I also have to keep in mind that this is the same boss who two years ago suggested they shop out my services for my same low wage, to generate income for our org). Is this a thing? Do I decline and declare how wrong this is? Do I pay the 40% because I actually really do want the training? Wouldn't that set a terrible precedent? WTF?

I do on rare occasion do outside consulting using the same tool that is covered in the training. I'm not sure if boss knows this. I mention this only because it may matter that this training would also benefit me outside my workplace. Maybe I should suck it up because it raises my value as a consultant? Also, as for the possibility of "other opportunities later in the year" boss mentions above, there will be another one in the fall I'll want to attend. Also: boss is stepping sideways and a new new boss arrives next month so fall will likely be a different experience.

Small town. Not quitting the job or looking elsewhere. Your feedback welcome!
posted by AnOrigamiLife to Work & Money (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would reply that I'm already paying for transportation at x cost, and have met or exceeded the 40% split.
posted by politikitty at 2:40 PM on April 26, 2018 [7 favorites]

Well, I have worked at companies that were for-profit and still wouldn't even pay 1% of a conference/training fee for employees. It was 100% on the employee to pay for such things. So I think 60% coverage from a non-profit actually sounds pretty decent.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:41 PM on April 26, 2018 [28 favorites]

I work at a university where the official policy position on job-related classes at other institutions is 50/50. The rate for training AT the university is more generous and they can often find their way to paying the employee's 50% but it's not a guarantee. Just a data point for you to consider!
posted by cranberrymonger at 2:55 PM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Was there any discussion of who would be paying for professional development when it was encouraged? Was there any mention of the employee status? I guess I'm not surprised that if you're half-time they wouldn't pay for 100%, especially at a non-profit. If you want to take it and can afford it and it'll be useful to you elsewhere then totally do it. If not, skip it! They clearly don't value it enough to pay 100% so neither should you if it would only benefit you at this job.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:08 PM on April 26, 2018 [14 favorites]

I think 'valued' can often mean a lot of different things to different people.

So it can mean 'they will pay you wages while you attend the class'. It can mean 'we pay for the class, but don't pay for your wages'. It can mean 'We won't pay you wages or pay for the class, but we won't consider it being absent from work. All of these are reasonable interpretations, and it's hard to say which it was beforehand if it wasn't discussed.

If they're paying your hourly time, a 60/40 split isn't bad. If they're not, I wouldn't do it.
posted by corb at 3:13 PM on April 26, 2018 [14 favorites]

Not sure why you’re floored. My last request for professional development was flat out denied. I’d leap at this.
posted by FencingGal at 3:15 PM on April 26, 2018 [18 favorites]

Yeah, nthing that this is not at all surprising. Everywhere I've worked, there's some (small) pool of money for PD and they try to make it last as long and spread it around as much as possible. I've only rarely had PD paid for 100%; a 50/50 split on the cost of attendance is pretty typical (usually my 50% takes mileage/food costs into account as applicable). Note, though, that these positions were all salaried, so I still got paid to work that day. Definitely don't go if they'll dock you a day.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:09 PM on April 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

I would not attend training *for work* that was not paid for *by work.* Hell nope.
posted by Occula at 4:31 PM on April 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

Just piping in to say *wow* it is a thing! And I don't understand it at all. These employers want to cultivate their talent and expect their employees to pay for their own training. Huh. Is this also true in the corporate world?

And so... people pay it because they are truly interested in the training and investing in their own future? (If not, then I have to wonder why else? A hope of getting a raise based on the knowledge gained at the training that you paid for?)

@masquesoporfavor, I guess I'm supposed to know about these training opportunities during budget time and then I could get it in the books and expect reimbursement. It seems there's a $1500 budget for things like this with zero spent five months into the year, but "I'm trying to leave some for us to use later in the year." I'm told I can always try to apply to have the 40% reimbursed as we get closer to December. No mention of employee status being an issue.

@politikitty, the $200 includes the transportation, otherwise sure.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 4:40 PM on April 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'd do it, if I were into the training for my personal/professional development, and would hold off on scolding the boss. One of the reasons you're floored is you are finding out how this org deals with this issue and that budget. If you otherwise like your job, decline if you must but this is not the hill to die on. This is also a chance to make sure your boss knows what kinds of things you are into, and what might be available going forward.
posted by vrakatar at 4:52 PM on April 26, 2018

Definitely a thing in the corporate world. If my company required a training, they’d vet it, arrange for it, and pay 100%.

But if I identified an outside opportunity myself, they would let me go but not likely pay much, if anything. Maybe a token percentage if I made a big case for it, but certainly not 60%. There are a lot of scammy, time-wasting trainings in the world and my company would rather I do actual work for that amount of time than attend a seminar of unknown value.

I’m talking about one-off trainings; at my company and many others they would throw in a sum toward tuition at a legitimate institution if the course were directly related to my job.
posted by kapers at 4:58 PM on April 26, 2018 [7 favorites]

In my experience as staff in academia, it’s rare and precious to have an employer who will pay for any training at all outside of whatever staff tuition benefits exist. Being able to plan into the *next* budget year can help if e.g. you know you’ll want to attend a specific conference each year.

I would take the 60% in your shoes, but with your new boss and/or at your next performance review, address professional development outside of a specific event request, and say that you’d like to be able to be able to plan for a specific amount of support so that you can seek/plan for appropriate
opportunities within that budget.

(That said, that might be a harder sell as a part time employee, if training budget is extremely tight. But it’s a very reasonable thing to at least ask.)
posted by Stacey at 4:59 PM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I can't get over that they pushed back over $80. If this will really help your consulting, I'd suggest choking it down and making it up by raising your rates.
posted by rhizome at 5:03 PM on April 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

There's no right or wrong here. Companies aren't obligated to pay any amount for training, regardless of what they claim. Just like asking for a raise, you would need to convince your manager why it's in the companies' best interest to pay for any of this training. If it's not written into your offer letter or contract, then it's always purely at the company's discretion.

Paranoid companies are often afraid you'll spend their money to train yourself into a better job with another company.
posted by meowzilla at 5:11 PM on April 26, 2018

I meant to mention this would not be available to part-time employees at all at my big co. I think the idea roughly being, why should we pay for you to increase your marketability elsewhere?
posted by kapers at 5:12 PM on April 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

people pay it because they are truly interested in the training and investing in their own future?

Yep. On the bright side, it means I've never attended a (paid) PD session that didn't genuinely interest me. (As kapers says, if I'm required to attend a training, then of course they pay for it. But if it's something I've found on my own, yeah, I pay half-ish, but then I get to go to a thing that has value for me in my current and future jobs.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:13 PM on April 26, 2018

My company only pays for required trainings, not trainings that help me over-perform in my current role.
posted by samthemander at 5:14 PM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

If my corporate employer paid for outside training there would have to be a business case and an approval process. I would then be made to sign a training contract and commit to paying back a decreasing percentage of the training cost if I were to leave within 12 months of completing the training. So this seems to be a fairly decent offer. And I work in an environment where up to date and specialist knowledge is everything.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:17 PM on April 26, 2018

I suspect your boss is assuming you'd write your part off on taxes, but if that's not feasible you might just need to try pushing back and see what happens.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:29 PM on April 26, 2018

You are getting a great deal. Given that you are a part-time employee and that the entire L&D budget is $1,500, I think it's extremely generous for them to pay for anything at all. I mean that's like nearly ten percent of the L&D budget for the entire year. And they'll pay for the rest if there is money left in the budget by year end? That's really nice of them, honestly. And the $200 total cost, that they are willing to pay 60% of, includes transportation?? Our company's L&D budget explicitly excludes transportation costs and would not cover any of your transportation for this (and we are a very generous company).
posted by phoenixy at 5:42 PM on April 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

Data point - my company gives a $500/yr professional development stipend, and you can spend it how you see fit with manager approval.
posted by askmehow at 6:01 PM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Here's a possibility: maybe swallow some WTF and respond simply & neutrally that 40% is difficult for you, accepting the fact that this may nix you doing this, or might lead to an offer of 80/20 or something that would be more awkward to turn down.

Or if it's not a financial strain and it's just pique over being asked to pay for something that will benefit your employer, just fork it over, given that it benefits your outside work as well. At the risk of siding with management, it sounds a little like they're not making this offer for the hell of it but rather because there isn't a ton of money. Maybe he considers the opportunity less valuable to the org than you do.
posted by Smearcase at 6:34 PM on April 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Seconding that this doesn't sound too shabby. I haven't had that many jobs, but only one of them ever paid for something like this. My current job definitely wouldn't. From what I can tell it's really not that common for employers to help pay for training or professional development that the employee has sought out themselves.
posted by caitcadieux at 7:05 PM on April 26, 2018

I would respond by saying, "Thank you. Actually there is an opportunity I might like to take advantage of later in the year. How about Org pays 100% of this one and if I decide to attend that one, I will pay."
posted by AugustWest at 7:11 PM on April 26, 2018

I'm surprised to hear so many people say this is normal outside of academia and non-profits. Every company I've worked for -- from five person startup to huge MNC -- would pay for 100% of professional development costs for full-time salaried employees. If it required air travel and hotels, those were covered as well ... along with a daily expense allowance.
posted by bradf at 8:27 PM on April 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Boss of non-profit here and conferred with my husband who is boss of small business - we both agreed (and seemingly disagree with everyone else on this thread) that we would either a) have the money for professional development and offer to pay (mostly as goodwill towards employee) or b) not have the money and apologize, but offer to pay for your time to go (and not make you take vacation day). What your boss did was weird to us both.

So, two data points in your favor.

In terms of what to say to your boss? Eh, I'd guess there isn't a point arguing with your boss about it - so take the money she is offering, go to the development training and maybe look for a better job elsewhere using your newly learned skill?
posted by Toddles at 10:34 PM on April 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

Corporate world experience here. If it was training offered by the company then 100% covered. If it was training I suggested I was very unlikely to be approved for any costs at all and I’d be pleasantly surprised by an offer of 60/40.
posted by like_neon at 11:53 PM on April 26, 2018

Some offices cultivate a proactive approach towards personal development and others do not. In my experience (private tech and marketing sectors) employers would cover 100% of relevant training costs but cut them back or eliminate them once hiring and promotions slowed down and staff began using their new credentials to get better jobs elsewhere.

60/40 for training they're not assigning you to sounds generous to me inasmuch as your part-time status means it's expected for all benefits to be less than for full-timers. Employee status was probably not mentioned because you're both aware of it. I would accept the 60/40, get in writing your boss' offer of covering the other 40% from remaining funds at the end of the year and hold them to it.
posted by at by at 3:12 AM on April 27, 2018

Wow! These answers are surprising! I work at a large university as staff and we get our PD paid for 100%. In my unit we are encouraged to seek out PD opportunities at least once a year and I've never known anyone to not be approved.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:02 AM on April 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

As you can see from the comments here, there's a huge amount of variation in terms of what organizations offer for training support. What you're being offered is within the realm of the normal, and you probably won't get far pushing for more. So you need to ask yourself whether this will be beneficial enough to you personally to make paying for it worthwhile. Will this training give you skills that might make you more marketable in the future, when you're looking for another job? Will it significantly improve the chances of your getting a raise or promotion at this one? If so, that's probably well worth the money. If not, maybe pass.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:14 AM on April 27, 2018 [6 favorites]

I work for a small tech company and we get a $250 PD stipend each year. A part-time employee getting any help with PD is actually pretty generous in my experience.
posted by COD at 5:22 AM on April 27, 2018

The split is pretty normal. I'm a non-profit manager - and yes even $80 is significant with what's expected of me to stick to budgets. Maybe the manager is concerned of future issues of fairness, will other employees expect paid training as well? The company will get value from your skills - but how much? You are contributing just fine, I'd imagine, or they would have fired you or you would have found out by a negative review. Also the value you get personally from the training will last with you beyond your employment.

However - it's still within your power to negotiate especially as you are part time. Some ideas:

- agree to the split but count 100% of the hours as your worked time for that week, including travel

"I agree that I'll be getting some value out of this training, but I really want to do it to be better at my job, so I'll pay 40% but ask to do the training on the clock as my work hours that week, and I'll be available by phone and e-mail during the breaks"
posted by sol at 7:18 AM on April 27, 2018

If they are not willing to pay 100% of the cost, there should be an official policy. This should cover things like who pays for transportation, differences between full and part time employees, methods for approval, etc. This is so employees don't have to wonder and there isn't a need for a new negotiation every time someone wants training. If there is no room in the budget, there is no room and the request should be denied or delayed with an explanation. Policies like this can make everything easier, and your boss usually has leeway to be more generous than the policy lays out. They may not have felt the need for anything official before, but you would be doing them a favor by nudging them to create something.
What should you do right now? Ask if there is an official policy. (There isn't.) Decide if you are willing to foot the rest of the bill. Ask the new boss for a policy since you know there is another one you want to attend in the fall. Don't apologize for asking in a polite way. Don't hold a grudge when the answer is no or only 60 percent.
posted by soelo at 7:38 AM on April 27, 2018

Huh. I'm a little surprised at responses too. In my last two salaried jobs with small, for-profit tech companies, any work-related professional development was 100% paid for by the company, including travel costs and a per diem for meals. My overall impression based on chatting with attendees from all sorts of companies and organizations at conferences I went to was that their employers had also paid their way (excepting independent contractors.)

But, if your company is small enough not to have an actual HR department/officer then it's not surprising they don't have a well-defined policy around professional development, nor a big budget for it. I agree that if the company-wide budget for PD is $1500 per year, then spending 8% of it on one part time employee does actually seem fairly generous, but it's awkward in this case because that figure isn't set per employee, so it's your boss making the call and it seems subjective.

In other words: If you had been told up front when hired that you had $120 per year to put towards training it would probably still be frustrating, but it wouldn't feel unfair.

If this training is as important to you as it sounds, I would pay the 40% split this time, then use this incident to pursue better clarity/policies around future budgeting.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 8:41 AM on April 27, 2018

Regardless of what happens here, in the future I would suggest regularly asking your boss how well fundraising is growing as a matter of general concern (as common as the weather), so you don't have to have these conversations in the future, and that they're reminded that the performance of that part of the organization affects the professional lives of others. "Yes, everybody would like to have more money" is not what I'm talking about.

I don't think it's fair to compare PD policies at for-profit companies, but there is an angle there. My understanding is that "non-profit" mostly applies to how taxes are done, not about how much money can be brought in, so "small non-profit" doesn't mean (by itself) that you should be on the hook for this. I mean, If I was feeling particularly salty I would ask if the non-profit is actually viable as a going concern if they can't afford a $200 class. This may not apply if the org is more like a hobby of independently-wealthy people.
posted by rhizome at 9:27 AM on April 27, 2018

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