Job Situation Advice Please

I need some advice on my current situation.

My husband was laid off on Friday. His income was the bulk of our income. I currently make about 44K. He was making 125K, (his current employment is a whole 'nother ball of wax). Our income has drastically dropped.

I work at a large University doing biological research. Last week, one of my friends who is a PI (Dr. J) let me know she just got a large grant and one of her post-docs is leaving. She needs someone to act as a project manager. I told her I would ask around to see if anyone was looking for such a job. Then we got the bad news regarding my husband…

I spoke to Dr. J yesterday. She is prepared to offer me the job paying 55K. Here’s the rub:

My boss is her Chair. My boss has screwed her over in the past and is just now starting to be nice to her again. He declined to put her up for tenure 2+ yrs ago saying that she didn’t meet one of the requirements. The reason she didn’t meet the requirement was because he neglected to give her enough teaching hours. She was put up for tenure last year and got it. One of the people on the tenure committee (who is a friend) told me that the committee was pissed that she wasn’t put up earlier and my boss, was reprimanded. She has been denied laboratory space, etc.

So, here is what I think I should do:

Let my boss know about the situation with my husband. Tell him I need a pay raise. If he asks how much, I tell him 55K and give him a week or so to see if he can do it. If he can’t do it, I will tell him that I need to look for another position.

Dr. J needs someone by July 1, she has written the ad, but has not posted the position yet. I need to talk to my boss this week.


Sounds like you don’t really need any advice. Your plan is sound.

Agreed. Seems like a thoughtful approach.

Those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword.

What if he says “Minnie, you’re right! You now make $46K a year!” What if he says “Sorry $55K is a bit much [a 25% raise, by the way], I can swing another four thousand for you per year”

How will he react if he discovers it wasn’t a request but an ultimatum? An ultimatum based on what you could be making by doing an altogether different job for someone else. Your boss pays you on the basis of what researchers with your skillset makes. If you want to make as much as a project manager, you are going to have to be a project manager.

You seem to be worried that there may be repercussions for Dr. J if she angers your current boss by stealing you away. It seems to me, however, that your boss has impaired his credibility on the issue of Dr. J and I think any attempts to punish her would be seen for what they are.

Universities, especially their academic personnel, love to talk about the collegial atmosphere of there employment. But at the end of the day, it’s not a Harkness table, it’s a business. Would this move be good for your career? Does the switch from research to project management align with your goals? The money is obviously on the table, so if the answer to those two questions are “Yes!”, then tarry not and accept Dr. J’s offer.

I know how the situation with your husband makes you need more money but why would a boss want to hear about that? and Why should you get a raise because you need more money?

From a boss standpoint I want to know why YOU are worth more money, your family situation is usually irrelevant to me.

If you are being offered a job at 55K, why not just take it? I’m not in academia and don’t get all the “chair” stuff so I could be way off.

Those repercussions are Dr. J’s to worry about. If she’s comfortable offering the job to Minnie Luna, then I’d say that’s not the main concern. More likely, the issue is Minnie putting herself on the chair’s bad side.

I’d also be concerned with the duration of the grant and the potential to extend the job past this particular funding source. If it’s a 3 year grant and Dr. J has a good track record of pulling research funding, that’s one thing - if it’s a one year project with limited potential for extension, it’s a whole different scenario. It sounds like the chair can hold a grudge, so I’d want to make sure I wouldn’t be coming back to his office hat in hand anytime soon.

This is pretty much how I feel. If an employer who is paying $44k is willing to give a raise to $55k just because “I need the money”, then my name is Mickey Mouse. Also, I wouldn’t want to work for someone who holds out that kind of money simply because I didn’t ask for it the right way. I trust that I’m being paid based on my qualifications. If I find out I could have had a 25% raise just by asking, I’d seriously have to question my boss and my future there. Looking at the situation from your boss’s position, if my employee asked me for a 25% raise to match an offer she received elsewhere, I’d have to question her judgment.

Since you appear to be looking for advice, I’d accept the other job and give notice. He’ll probably ask where you’re going, what you’ll be making, etc. If he wants to convince you to stay, let him try. But I wouldn’t try to make him match the other offer right out of the gate.

I think these comments are kind of important, and might be the key to your decision.

Minnie Luna, put aside the money issue for a moment, and assume that Dr. J is offering you the same amount of money. If you accept, where do you see yourself in, say, two years? Would you be enjoying the work more or less? Would you get along with your co-workers better or worse? Would your job security be better or worse? Would you opportunity for advancement be better or worse? Would your resume be healthier or not?

If the money was the same, would you take the the job? If you answered “yes,” then of course you should take it if the money’s even better. If you answered “no,” then I think the extra money, even 20% more, even with a tight budget, probably isn’t worth whatever downside there is. If you answered “maybe”… how much risk are you willing to put up with for $11,000?

You should give your boss a chance to keep you. You deserve a raise because your qualifications just went up- you’re now qualified to quit. I don’t understand the hostility toward a boss withholding money that he could give you. It’s not his job to just dole out money that you’re not asking for. Your service and dedication to the position is a reason you deserve more money than what you started with. Either he can give you the raise or he can’t. If he’s a good person, you owe it to him to let him try to keep a good employee.

While others seem to think it’s bad form to underpay an employee, I think it’s bad form to outright quit over something without giving management a shot at rectifying it.

Tell him straight- “This is my home situation. I have an offer for X. Can you give me X?” If you need more than X to make up for the lost opportunity, don’t be afraid to ask for >X and omit whatever X is.

Don’t talk to your boss until the position is actually posted. Then let him know you plan to apply. Apply. If you really get it–and Dr. J may be telling you the truth, but then you never know who else will show up in the applicant pool–your manager may make a counter-offer, or maybe not.

Ignore the petty politics. These are only a distraction from what should be a fairly straightforward negotiation from you. And you don’t really need a personal reason to go for a $10K raise. That’s a distraction, too.

I am worth more than what my boss is paying me. I have 9 yrs. experience in his lab. I am the person he assigns tasks to that normally would go to someone with a higher pay-grade/job level.

Dr. J has more grant money than my current boss. I would work for Dr. J for the same amount of money. It comes down to supervisory style, I prefer Dr. J’s. When I started with my current boss, he had 3 RO1 Grants. Due to him spending more time on academic affairs and such, he did not make progress with 2 of the grants and lost them. We are down to one RO1 that is renewable next year. Our lab has dwindled from a staff of seven to three in five years. IMHO, he is in more danger of losing funding than Dr. J.

Thank you for all your suggestions and comments.

In the words of one Dr. Robert Kelso: “This isn’t Take Your Problems to Work Day, this is just Work Day.”

No boss I’ve ever had would react well to a “Here’s my domestic situation. This is how I need my work situation to alter in order to accommodate that.”

Then move to Dr. J. And don’t even bother your current boss. If your current boss asks, tell him funding seems more assured on Dr. J’s project and right now you need the stability. Most likely he won’t even ask. Moving to where the grant money is is a fact of life.

Your current boss has a budget that is set. To give you a 25% raise, budget money is going to need to come from somewhere. If his grant money is already tight and uncertain, it isn’t happening.

Why on earth then do you have any reservations about moving to Dr. J’s lab? Is it really a misguided sense of loyalty? It is not a betrayal of your boss to try to advance your career, even if that means going to a new lab.

Then, IMHO, this is a slam-dunk. I personally would be cautious about talking with your current boss before you have a firm commitment from Dr J (because it sounds like this isn’t a done deal right now). However, assuming you get an offer from Dr. J, I think you should accept it regardless of any counter-offer, or lack thereof, from your current boss.

This. The new job is more secure, more money, and a better fit for you personally. Given those considerations, why would you stay in your current position? What could your boss offer that would be worth giving up Dr. J’s job?

Get things finalized with Dr. J and then hand your boss a resignation letter - don’t angle for a counter offer, and (assuming you’ve made your mind up) don’t pretend you’ll entertain one if he asks. Don’t feel guilty about doing what’s best for you.

When applying for another position in the same organization, it is usually an expected courtesy to let the boss know. In some organizations it’s actually required. Going behind the boss’s back to apply for another internal position is a bad idea.

Also, it is unlikely to stay a secret. The OP has already documented the active grapevine in her organization. No need to talk to the boss before the job is posted, but do mention it before applying.

Advice I saw once on Slashdot: