I just got a promotion! Now where's my fat paycheck?
February 8, 2008 4:37 PM   Subscribe

Should I be happy with my promotion, or am I getting screwed over?

I have been working for a small but quickly growing company for about a year and a half now. I went back to college to finish my degree in my mid-20s, and this was the job I took after graduation, but it is not my first professional job. When I took the job, it was at a lower salary then I was hoping for, but there are many factors at play that made it seem worthwhile at the time (great benefits, flexible hours, casual environment, etc. etc.)

About four months after starting the job, my manager was promoted into a new position and I was promoted into her job. I was told at the time that it was widely recognized that I was an excellent employee and that it was fully realized that my potential to continue to be promoted was high. I was given a small raise with that promotion, but still felt underpaid for my qualifications.

For the last year, I have been diligently doing my job and also expanding my role. My company has increased staff by over 100% in this time, so everyone is busy and things are looking good. I had several candid conversations with my boss where I expressed that I would still like to explore more opportunities, and also that I needed to see a salary increase in order to stay here and stay happy.

Last week, I was given a promotion to a Managerial level job, and was told that my salary increase would be the same amount of an increase that came with my previous promotion. So, small. I was very frustrated and had a long and drawn out discussion with my boss about how we could compromise on this. For me this is both just a cut and dry issue of wanting more money AND wanting my employer to put his money where his mouth is w/r to showing me I am a valued employee. I know there have been other posts recently where the bottom line has been that once you allow yourself to be paid too little, you will never make it to the level you want - is that what is happening here?

My boss did agree that in lieu of offering me more of a salary increase, he will agree to compensate me in the form of commission for some of the revenue I generate through sales (I am not in a sales position, but there are certain products/packages that I am responsible for and which often lead to sales). He claims that his hands are tied when it comes to granting raises due to our budget already being exceeded at this time of the year, but that if I can show my relationship to the revenue, I could be granted some of the profit. He also showed me salary data for other positions around the country, and it does seem like with benefits and bonuses, factored in, I am hitting the median mark.

I do enjoy my job and don't really see finding a comparable opportunity in my geographic area. I just don't like the idea of possibly being undervalued, though I'm told I'm not. Thoughts?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Dust off your resume and shop it around. Talk to some headhunters. Do information interviews. Look at non-employer-provided salary surveys. Check out professional associations. Then you'll know if you're underpaid/undervalued. If it's that important, you may need to change jobs.

However, if you're being paid the median and you have as little experience as you say you do, you may actually be receiving a good package.
posted by acoutu at 4:52 PM on February 8, 2008

Look, it's the same deal with family, no? The reason you go away to college is so that you can develop into the person you want to be without the presumptions of your family staring you in the face every day.

It is sad but true that once your employer (or family) pidgeon-holes you, usually the only way to change that perception is to go away.

One way people get more bucks is to leave for a year to do consulting work, then return as a new employee who can be evaluated from a fresh perspective.
posted by trinity8-director at 4:52 PM on February 8, 2008

Believe it or not this happens all the time and is very easy to deal with. Prepare a note, listing the time you've been there, the work your done and the progress you've made. Put a number there of what you would like to be making as a salary. If they offer it, take it, if they don't they'll still probably offer you something more, but they certainly won't get rid of you. You deserve it, but you'll never get it without asking.

Good luck.
posted by furtive at 4:53 PM on February 8, 2008

Sometimes the only way to be compensated fairly after a series of promotions is to go elsewhere. This is especially true at smaller, newer companies with less entrenched or rigid salary structures.

At a company I worked for years ago, the common remark was that that the only way to get a raise was to go work for [COMPETITOR COMPANY].

You may need to threaten to do this.

You should never, however, make that sort of threat without being fully prepared to walk.
posted by dersins at 4:54 PM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

The problem here seems to be that you've been given extra responsibilities by being put into management, but the company is only giving you a raise instead of a salary adjustment to reflect your new role. This isn't a cost of living situation you're talking about, but an actual change of responsibilities. That they are trying to tie your compensation to your old position is a big ol' red flag to me.
posted by rhizome at 4:59 PM on February 8, 2008

What dersins said. If you're on a whole different tier in terms of job duties, you should be a whole step up on the pay scale. However, if they don't have a tiered pay scale, you wouldn't necessarily get that kind of raise. You'd have to transfer to a Tier 2 job elsewhere to get the real pay that goes with it. (Or use that as a bargaining chip to get the same pay where you're at now.) All that is assuming that they're not correct in saying that the actual median pay for Tier 2 = starting pay for Tier 1 + the two raises you've gotten, so it seems worth investigating that possibility.
posted by salvia at 6:08 PM on February 8, 2008

Wow, you actually got a pay raise for being promoted to a managerial position?
posted by brandnew at 6:18 PM on February 8, 2008

Wow, you actually got a pay raise for being promoted to a managerial position?

My sentiments exactly.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 6:49 PM on February 8, 2008

I would wait and get experience at your new level before pissing anyone off. Then, 9-12 months from now, before review time, I would shop my resume and establish what I am worth on the open market. The conversation with your boss will go much smoother. She may need a threat of you leaving in order to get more pay for you.

You have a good deal. It is about opportunity and cash, not just cash.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:53 PM on February 8, 2008

At this point you probably have no idea exactly what you are worth 'on the open market'. 3-6 months before your review/compensation cycle, shop around and see what you can get elsewhere.

This will give you an idea of how much you can get elsewhere, and the trade-offs of leaving (title/responsibilities/hours/environment/benefits/company).

You don't have to take it to the level of threathening to leave or trying to get a counteroffer.

It is just good to have some sort of base to set your expectations from.
posted by gomess at 9:16 PM on February 8, 2008

Ride this fast track as long as you can, and then go for the money jugular when it slows down or when you NEED to. It's been my experience that high paying jobs are a lot easier to find than opportunities for rapid advancement. You would likely regret leaving this situation simply for a bigger paycheck.

All that said, it is certainly prudent to challenge your compensation if you think there is reason to challenge it... and frankly I wouldn't let anyone tell me I was making the median and should therefore be satisfied. My response to that age-old bullshit tactic is, "So you're telling me I'm an average employee?" And if age is brought into the discussion, you simply need to say that you don't believe age should be made a part of the equation, only performance. You can always also use a variation of the tried and tested passive-aggressive negotiating tactic: "I really like it here, and I would hate to have to leave behind everything we've worked so hard for simply because you're not competitive in the marketplace." HR always likes to hear that one, too--it drives them absolutely nuts. Nothing spooks human resources like a possible retention problem in the making.
posted by fusinski at 9:26 PM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

nthing advice on holding tight in the fast track. I'm probably young in my career relative to some of the other commenters (presumption), but one thing I've seen (and this is in IT, so take from it what you will) is that you can do one of two things- jump from position to position and make more money each time but with similar levels of responsibility or find something mostly good and hold out for internal promotions and then move into more money afterwards. There are pluses and minuses to both, but it normally shakes out like this- the person who jumps around might make a lot in the short term ( a friend went from making low 50s to nearly 100 a year just my moving around and changing geographic markets.. exact same kind of work in each job) but they will hit a wall. Eventually people aren't going to be willing to pay them any more than they make and then they have no choice but to take the second path, hold tight and get promoted inside. The person who takes path 2 from the start will probably do better in the long run because while path 1 was jumping around, you were working to get into a position of trust/power/authority which opens more doors later. I think its like chess in a sense- you don't want to corner the king. If you can keep your doors open to move up or up and out that in my opinion is the wiser move in the long run.

Also, as others have said money isn't everything. I made a move to double my salary and it was the worst move I've ever made. If you are happy and like your co-workers that can be worth a lot more than a bigger check.
posted by zennoshinjou at 4:31 AM on February 9, 2008

I made a move to double my salary and it was the worst move I've ever made.

Conversely, I made a move to double my salary and it was the best move I've ever made. In my case, money bought happiness. My new workplace has better career opportunities and satisfactory coworkers. Everybody's mileage varies.

Look outside your company and see if you can get a better offer elsewhere (performing your current duties, more pay, and similar or better opportunities for advancement). If you can't, well, then your current company is giving you a good deal. I don't think it's worth shaking your current employer down at this time without a firm job offer in hand. Just hammer at the raise thing every six months or so. Emphasise to your employer that money is what makes you happy. Tell them to reward good work by paying you. Suggest or insinuate that your loyalty can be bought. Welcome to the mercenary world of working for the man. Work the system.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:29 AM on February 9, 2008

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