Salary Raises and Ethics (kinda long)

Hey Dopers - please help me out.

I got my raise the other day - and it left me a little bitter. A little background information for you.

I have been with my current employer for 5 years now. I started here in an Inside Sales position when we were a much smaller company - about 75 employees then versus over 400 now. I have worked my way up in the company - always scoring well above average on my reviews.

I have been in my current role of Senior Financial Analyst for almost 3 years now (the title, while maybe impressive, is kind of just for show as for the first year I as in the position, I was the first and only financial analyst). My job encompassed a lot at the beginning and I like to think I managed it extremely well. I reported directly to the CFO of the company and had a lot of exposure with the top management. However, since the CFO is an extremely busy woman, I was left to manage myself - which I did quite well.

Chief among my various duties as S.F.A was to coordinate and make the company budget. However, I also did in my earlier days all of the company sales tracking - both to a branch and a rep level, all sales reporting - both to our customers and to our vendors, and a lot of internal reporting such as summarizing financial statements and custom ad hoc reports and projects.

As the company grew, my job became much more difficult to do properly due to sheer volume. Where we once had 20 branches, we now have 34. Where we once had 60 sales reps, we have have 140. The budget was becoming more complex, having to do many revisions and “what-if” scenarios. And so on. So, it was decided to make a new group within the company called the Measurements Group. We would add 2 or 3 new headcount to take some of the tasks that I was doing and have them expand them to make them even more useful.

So we hired 2 new employees - one to do reporting and one to do sales tracking. And we also hired someone to manage the group. I was not considered for the manager position as I had no experience in managing people before - although it would be my job to coach these new people, teach them our internal systems and share my years of knowledge with them. This was a year ago.

I was still doing financial and internal reporting, custom reports and projects, and of course the budget. During this time I also got involved in 2 new items. I helped out in doing a tonne of work required to help us become a public company and I totally changed our pricing system - for which I won a “Special Achievement Award”. Woo Hoo.

Still awake?

In December, I was asked to make a decision - my two main responsibilities of the budget and pricing management were sucking up all my time. By going public, there was going to be a lot more focus on the budget and the budgeting process - including switching from annual to quarterly budgets. So I had to choose between doing one or the other. I chose the budget and they hired someone else to handle pricing. I moved out of the Measurements Group and back into the Finance Group.

So in late January I sit down with my new manager. He explains that they are going to move up my annual review (from April to as soon as possible), and they will be giving me my merit increase (which I already knew what it was going to be), and a level increase. This was exciting news for me. My wife and I are looking to have kids soon so any extra money would be appreciated. And, according to industry statistics, I am under the average salary for the type of role that I do. I never complained about it because a) I enjoy where I work for the most part and b) I don’t like to complain.

All my new manager needed to process the increase was some paperwork from my old manager. I followed up with him to make sure he send it along and confirmed that I was looking at both a merit and level increase.

So yesterday, my manager calls me in and tells me - I am only getting the merit increase. No level increase. The reasons? The CFO puched back, saying that I would be throwing the salary structure out of whack because the next level up is reserved for managers and I am not one. Also, they only wanted to give me 4% merit increase, which would be the smallest increase I have ever received, even though I am still rated as an above average employee. I was extremely dissappointed and frustrated to say the least. Partially because I know I was being fed a load of crap.

See, as part of doing the budget, I have to incorporate people’s salaries to project what the total compensation plan is going to be for the year. I know what everyone makes. The one guy they hired to take the sales reporting responsibility from me? They were paying him only $500 less per year than I was making - even though I was divesting it to do “higher-level” work and had 4 years experience at the company. Not only that - while he is a great guy and a lot of fun - his work output is not quite the same level as mine was. The guy they brought in to handle the pricing management? They are paying him $20,000 a year more than me. And he is not a manager. That should be throwing the salary structure out of whack. I am sure that they are paying him that because that is what the market will bear for that type of employee - however, had I chosed to keep that position instead of the budget one, would they have paid me the same? What would it cost if they needed to replace me in my current role? The CFO’s executive assistant make more than I do.

So when I was told what my increase was, I expressed my disappointment and left it at that. Now, CFO wants to have a meeting with me to discuss my frustration. So to get right down to it - it is fair for me to pull the confidential information that I have been trusted with out as ammunition? I have been involved in many high level projects here that have required me to maintain strict confidentiality, and that is a source of pride (but not income) for me, so I don’t want to jeapordize that. But, I do feel that I am being shafted?

So, can I use the salary information? I don’t want to - but I have slept on the issue and woke up more pissed off than yesterday.

Thanks for your time.


Although it “should” be fair to use the salary information, you will only get in serious hot water bringing it up. If it’s confidential info (like it is at 99.99% of companies I have seen), you are supposed to keep it in confidence. You will seriously undermine your credibility as a good employee and “team player” by bringing it up.

Even if there is no company policy calling it “confidential” - managers hate it when people find out how much they are being screwed, because the numbers don’t lie. And managers hate pitting one employee against another, and making those adjustments for “fairness”, even if they are needed, because it means extra work. A lot of extra work. And it’s a decision they may be questioned on, even in court, someday.

That having been said - your situation is unfair to you. It’s happened to most people, including myself. But then, that’s the way it is where salaries are confidential.

I agree with Anthracite don’t bring up the confidential information.

On the other hand, there are ways to broach the subject without falling back on that. A wage survey is a great way to start. Generally temp services and your industry specific mags and web sites have this kind of info available. I would bring this info into any meeting with the CFO.

Also, if you’ve done anything to help the company make the bottom line: recommend some ideas that were implemeted, ensured all sales commissions were really earned, etc, those kind of value added items increase your worth.

Be prepared, don’t be defensive, and stick to your guns. You may not get the increase, but you will have made your case. It sounds like if they give you an increase it’ll still be less than what they would have to pay a new hire if you left.

Let us know what happens. I’ll be rootin’ for ya!

The really difficult thing about employment is that loyalty is rarely is ever rewarded in salary and wages. If they know they can keep you, they have no incentive to pay you more. It feels so bass-ackwards sometimes.

Don’t soft-pedal your assessment of your salary. While I agree you can’t breach confidentiality, perhaps you can speak in generalities. OR you can ask them (nicely) to produce the numbers themselves, to defend their assertions about the salary structure. They don’t have to name names, but they can certainly show you the minimum and maximum salary for non-managers at the company. It’s perfectly fair for you to say “I will be better able to weigh this increase fairly if I have data that supports what you’ve said.”

I’ll put a third vote in- don’t mention the salary of other employee’s. Just say that you know for a fact that you are underpaid and other companies are offering much bigger packages then the one you are at.

Say something like, “I don’t want to leave, but I can’t help being frusterate when I know I’m being underpaid by market standards. I wouldn’t be so upset if the margin wasn’t as large as it currently is. While a 4% merit increase is generous, I feel like I should be receiving more of a X% increase.”

Good luck.

I’ll put a third vote in- don’t mention the salary of other employee’s. Just say that you know for a fact that you are underpaid and other companies are offering much bigger packages then the one you are at.

Say something like, “I don’t want to leave, but I can’t help being frusterate when I know I’m being underpaid by market standards. I wouldn’t be so upset if the margin wasn’t as large as it currently is. While a 4% merit increase is generous, I feel like I should be receiving more of a X% increase.”

Good luck.

Don’t use the company’s exact numbers. Do go fetch the average numbers for your duties over the whole market. Show that you are being under-paid for where you are in thier company compared to other companies.

Good Luck. and have some great tools for what you should be paid in your title and in your area.

(And remind them that 4% of $0.00 is still $0.00.)

Thank you all for the responses so far - it confirms what I originally thought. I really can’t use my inside knowledge of salaries to negotiate a better deal for myself.

So what am I going to do? Pretty much nothing. I already had some stats on what the average salary range for my position is elsewhere and while I am at the (very) low end of it - I am there. But that hasn’t helped me in the past.

I don’t expect to get any more money when I talk with the CFO (who is out of the office for the rest of the week). Instead, she is going to explain her reasoning behind the decision and make promises about next year.

Ah well - such is life. Still don’t like it though… :slight_smile:

You have gotten excellent advice here. Just stay focused on the facts and be friendly. Sounds to me like you are entering a job plateau and probably need to find a better paying gig. With your accomplishments that should be pretty easy.

First, you really don’t need internal comparative salary data to support your case. The only thing you need (and the only thing that will really mean beans to your employer) is an offer from another company.

If you’ve been doing a good job and being a “team player” giving your current employer the chance to keep you will not be considered disloyal, it will increase their respect for you.

But you have to do the work of attracting another offer. Don’t kid yourself, do it. The world will change for you.

Don’t don’t don’t go in with another offer unless you have every intention of leaving.

There are certain people who will let you go on principle alone. (They won’t negotiate and will let you go.) However, if you know your boss will negotiate, then a job in pocket, that you have accepted, is a great negotiating tool.

Hey, a fellow Analyst checking in here.

I’m just going to offer you my good thoughts, because this is a dicey situation.

For what it’s worth, it’s real hard to have access as part of your job to salary/bonus/etc. information. I am annoyed every year during budgeting when I enter in the bonus payouts - only given to Director level and above. The bonuses they get are often more than my annual salary. I always am pissed that they don’t use the same pool of money and divide it across ALL employees.

And then there are the salaries. Especially when you see people who are slackers getting paid $25K more than you. It’s hard to extract yourself emotionally from that.

I think having that information can sometimes be a burden, especially when it comes down to negotiating your own salary. Certainly you don’t want to bring up employee X or Y’s salary when you’re trying to increase your own. About the best thing you can do is bring in salary survey information. Making it personal is probably not the best idea.

Best of luck, it’s a tough spot to be in.

Budget Analyst

(and hoping someday to add “Senior” in front of it…but I’m not holding my breath…)

See, now, I’d call them on it. At least the “we can’t give you a raise because you’d throw things out of whack” or “you can’t make that much because you aren’t a manager” I’d say “I think we both know that I have access to salary data as part of my responsiblities, and have the data to evaluate that statement. If you think I’m being paid what I’m worth, that is fine, tell me so, but don’t bullshit me.”

Then start looking for another job. For some reason, they’ve decided that you are worth what they are paying you, and aren’t willing to give you more. Maybe because they think you won’t stand up for yourself. Maybe because they think you won’t leave. Maybe they are right.

My husband had a job like yours - been there a long time, took on more and more responsibility, argued for more money - which they never paid him. He left, switch jobs three times in two years, and tripled his salary. Talked to his old manager, who’d also left “they thought you wouldn’t leave. They thought they could underpay you, they’ve replaced you with three people who still can’t do what you could” i.e. they thought you were a doormat.

Jane, I hope that was a typo where you said to negotiate using a job offer that you have accepted. The negotiations are over at that point, you’re leaving.

A firm offer (in writing of course) that you intend to respond to tomorrow is an excellent negotiating tool. Of course you are correct to say don’t do this unless you are prepared to actually take the other job.

But if he wasn’t prepared to take the other job, that means the money doesn’t mean as much to him as the things he likes about his current job, which means they are paying him the correct amount.

This is pretty much it. Had I not known where I stand in the pecking order, I would most likely have smiled and thanked my manager for his time.

Although, the part of the story that makes me most upset was that I was led to believe that I was going to get more. I knew pretty much after my previous salary increase a year before what my next one would be. And thoughout the year, I was planning future events around that. No problems.

But, I was told by two different people that I would be receiving not only a merit increase but a level increase as well. So I was now expecting it. Then, it is taken away. Same story - had I never known that there was going to be a level increase then I would not have any issues now. I may not have enough experience as a manager of people to be one here - but one thing I do know is to set the proper expectations with your staff. This was clearly not done here.

While calling me a doormat might be a little strong, I am not going to use this to start a hell-raising rallying cry. I choose to describe myself as “having a different set of values”. :wink: Noble, sure, but it doesn’t bring home the paycheck.

The mean part of me wants to stride up to the CFO’s desk and drop my 2 week notice letter on it. We are in the process of finalizing the budget among other things right now so this would be the worst possible time for them to lose me. But that is not a smart plan.

I’ll bide my time for now. I working towards an accounting designation currently. Once that is in place, and with the additional experience I’ll have at that point there will be a lot more options available to me. Here and elsewhere.