Author Topic: Salary "negociation" in unique situation  (Read 4883 times)

ketchup

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Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« on: February 13, 2014, 10:26:36 AM »
I know, I know; they're all unique situations.  Just like how every man in Shawshank is innocent.

Background:  I've worked at the same company since January 2011.  It's a small (currently ~37 employees, was something like 22 when I started) and growing service laboratory.  I started out working as a lab tech (the only lab tech; I've since been replaced with two) working 25 hours a week making $12.50/hr.  I managed to get bumped up to 30 hours a week that October, and with increases in business got made full-time in May of 2012.  By this point I was making $13.25/hr.  At my annual review last May, I got an modest raise up to $13.50/hr.

In September, an opportunity presented itself in the IT "department".  Up until then, the IT department only had one member.  Due to increased workload and the associated "growing pains" of the company, he had too much to do, and needed someone else.  So he recommended me to the partners to join IT.  Which was awesome.  He and I had developed a friendship prior, and he knew I'd be good for the position.  He also liked hiring from within for that, because he wanted to be able to trust someone with the access that IT tends to get.  I have zero credentials to qualify for this job, just experience of screwing around with computers and programming.  He saw that in me, probably thinking of himself when he joined up in 2008, in a similar position in terms of qualifications (he had no college degree and had just worked odd jobs with free coffee).  And it's been going great for us.  He's become my "fake manager" as he likes to call it, and IT has been able to get a lot more organized.

About a week after transitioning over to IT, my pay was unceremoniously increased to $15/hr (~$31k/yr).  Nobody said anything to me; my paystubs just started reflecting the new rate.  I was content with that.  About a month in, I stumbled upon one of my fake manager's paystubs and naturally did the mental math without even thinking about it, and learned he currently makes $53k.

This significant disparity was actually reassuring to me at the time, seeing that I had a decent potential "path upwards".  It also made me start thinking about my next annual review, which will be in May.  I get the feeling that it will be rather financially important.  It seems like potentially my biggest jump in income yet (I don't expect anything too dramatic of course, as my fake manager is certainly deservedly getting paid far more than me; he knows our systems inside and out and wrote most of them).  I also feel like my fake manager will at some point soon become more of a real manager, giving him more too.  All this is conjecture based on my vague gut feelings and my feel for "the way things are done around here".

So come my next review, I don't want to screw it up.  If I have an opportunity to negotiate, I would like to as much as I can.  My main fear is that if I do something stupid, I don't really have any other real options for work.  I like this job, I like the people, and want to keep it, and recognize that I need to stick with it another year or two at the absolute minimum if I ever want to claim any real experience in IT for whatever the future brings.  So the "ability to walk away" flexibility in negotiating is essentially nonexistent.  Which kind of puts me in a pickle about how aggressive I want to be.  In my past reviews as a lab tech, I haven't negotiated anything at all.  The most negotiating I've ever done in my life was on buying a car.

Any specific advice?  I'm clearly overthinking it, but I don't want to leave money on the table, or burn bridges and do something dumb.

alm0stk00l

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2014, 10:45:14 AM »
It seems to me that you have a couple different goals here and that is always going to cause a little friction. I understand the idea of "not leaving money on the table" but it doesn't sound like that should really be a priority at this point. You mentioned that you want to stick around for the experience and the opportunities it may afford you later, so you should consider the value of that and add it to your salary. Unless you are in a financially difficult situation, which you did not mention, I am not sure that pushing really hard for a raise matters all that much.

This is the same thing I did when I first started working. I worked for a smaller company with an amazing manager who taught me a ridiculous amount. I knew that my pay was less than I could have receive at other organizations, but the amount I was learning was worth the trade-off to me. Leaving money on the table is something I have never worried about. I am not trying to get the absolute most money out of every position I have, I am just trying to get enough money and enjoy all of the other things available, e.g., good coworkers, good environment, interesting work.

I am not saying you shouldn't ask for more money; it is up to you to determine what you feel your worth is. For more pointed advice, based on the description of your position, I would think you could get $20/hour without too much hassle. Good luck with it. :)

MissPeach

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2014, 11:50:55 AM »
I would check out sites online like glassdoor or linked in to try to figure out what similar positions pay in your area. If you do decide to renegotiation I would have data that acts as a good backup to justify it. The good news is it does look like your company is good at paying for your new position. Many companies I've worked at your really have to fight for it or they are happy to leave you in the lower position indefinitely no matter what you take on.


the fixer

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2014, 12:12:31 PM »
Typically the best basis for negotiation is to demonstrate the value you provide to your employer, then expect a reasonable amount of it back. This is easiest in roles like sales, where you can measure exactly how much money you've brought in. This is much more difficult to do in IT in a quantitative sense, but there are little things here and there you can point out.

Keep records of any positive feedback you get from your coworkers. File away little stories that demonstrate you adding enormous value, which you can bring up later. "Remember when Joe Important needed to print that report for a deadline that day, the printer was broken, and I stayed late to get the problem resolved?" Stuff like that can help.

beekeeper

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2014, 11:37:26 PM »
Quote
I have zero credentials to qualify for this job, just experience of screwing around with computers and programming.

Those are good qualifications.

Quote
If I have an opportunity to negotiate, I would like to as much as I can.  My main fear is that if I do something stupid, I don't really have any other real options for work.

To negotiate calmly and confidently you need to have at least one other real option for work, which you would honestly prefer to take if they don't offer you what you want. I would suggest looking for that. If you don't have that then you are bluffing, and they can call your bluff. You need to get out of the situation of needing to bluff.

Theory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_alternative_to_a_negotiated_agreement

Related: MMM's "Position of Strength"
« Last Edit: February 13, 2014, 11:44:02 PM by beekeeper »

mxt0133

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2014, 12:53:14 AM »
I would agree with almost's post.  Your "manager" gave you a great opportunity to get paid to learn IT.  If money is an issue get a part-time job.  Consider the alternatives to get that experience, you would either have to spend money on college and give up a full-time job or self-educate on your own time.

I'm a software developer and have a master in computer science, I have learned more from professional experience than all 6 years of graduate and undergraduate.  Learn as much as you can from your manager and when you can't learn from him anymore then it's time to go.

If you don't feel like you are being challenged enough then take a few online classes, maybe get a certification or two and then start interviewing after a year or two of experience.

lhamo

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2014, 04:18:51 AM »
I strongly disagree with those who are suggesting you should just be grateful for what you have been given.  There's no harm in re-negotiating, especially in the context of an annual performance review.  You don't have to be all mercenary about it, and you don't have to walk if they say no.  But if you don't ask, you won't know, and you certainly won't get a better deal.  You can negotiate all kinds of stuff besides just your base salary -- more flexible hours or work from home arrangement, if it works for your job (maybe not for IT, more time off, different rate for overtime, extra company-funded training or conference attendance, etc.

The book "Ask for It" is a great resource for developing your negotiating skill, though kind of oriented toward women.  There's another one by a professor at Wharton -- name escapes me at the moment -- but one of his key techniques that I really like, and plan to use in my own pending negotiations, is to focus on standards.  Your fake manager's salary is a kind of standard.  Sound to me like you are underpaid in comparison to him.  I'd ask for at least 10% more and see what they say.   

Wanderer

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2014, 04:37:39 AM »
You don't have to accept what you're given, but you need to consider the ramifications.  You're in a job that you may not *technically* be qualified for.  That gives you less leverage than someone they pulled in from outside.  The first rule of negotiation is to know what you're worth.  I don't think you do--heck, I don't.  Maybe you're worth $20/h, maybe you're worth $14/h and you're being overpaid.  I don't know. 

I would try to find out what other people in your position make in the area, what the qualifications for the job would be if they were to look for an outside hire (unfortunately you can't just ask, you'll have to do some scouting of local job openings), and based upon that try to negotiate an increase, if you're currently underpaid.  Don't bring up looking for another job unless you really want to leave if you don't get what you want.  It's not really worth your employer's time to throw you more money trying to get you to stay, because most people who threaten to leave if they don't get more money are unhappy in the job and end up leaving not long after anyway, so it's usually best for employers to cut them loose early--especially if they are in an entry-level job like this. 

It might be best to stick with what you've got until you have more experience and more proven value to the company and not just to your kinda-boss. 

I'd suggest reading up some at the Ask a Manager blog, she talks a lot about salary negotiation and when and how to do it. 

alm0stk00l

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2014, 08:21:53 AM »
I strongly disagree with those who are suggesting you should just be grateful for what you have been given.

Why shouldn't you be grateful for what you are given? It seems a lot better to be happy about what you have than upset about what you don't, YMMV.

Everything he described about his position seemed to be quite positive. He never actually complained about the money not being enough and explicitly stated all the other aspects he likes about the position. I was in no way suggesting that he goes into the review and blindly accepts whatever is offered, I was just pointing out the walking into the review with an "afraid to leave money on the table" attitude might not be the best approach. There is no such thing as leaving money on the table. You ask for an amount with which you are comfortable and the negotiation really only starts if they cannot meet that amount. But trying to approach it from the perspective that you want to ask for the absolute most you think you can get them to pay is just adding a negative aspect to a process that can be very positive, in my opinion.

It is just my approach, but I have never based my salary requirements on the financials of the organization. I base them solely on what I feel works for me. I am not trying to make the same as everyone else in my position and I really do not even care what everyone else makes. I just want to go to work every day, enjoy what I do, enjoy with whom I work, and make enough to live the life I want. In the grand scheme of things making $20/hr vs. $22/hr at a job you love isn't really that big of a difference.

ketchup

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2014, 12:13:53 PM »
Thanks for all the input.

the fixer, thanks for that idea.  I'll start a list of that sort of thing.  I have a few recent things I can put on it to start out.

There seem to be two schools of thought: "just be happy you got this opportunity" and "see what you can wrangle out of it".

Like alm0stk00l said, I do like the job.  In no way do I have any ill will about the pay or anything like that.  I mostly just want to be prepared for the annual review.

I do not want to risk being too aggressive or put anyone off.  That doesn't seem productive or good for my relationship with management.  Also, I *shouldn't* know what my fake manager makes, so I can't exactly use that in conversation.  It does give me a good reference though.

I think I will do some research into similar positions, but my gut now is saying to ask for more than they offer (assuming it's a small raise), but nothing crazy or presumptuous.  The $20/hr number seems like a reasonable starting point .  That of course might change as time goes by and I do more in my position in the months leading up to the review.

NumberCruncher

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2014, 01:19:14 PM »
There's another one by a professor at Wharton -- name escapes me at the moment -- but one of his key techniques that I really like, and plan to use in my own pending negotiations, is to focus on standards.  Your fake manager's salary is a kind of standard.  Sound to me like you are underpaid in comparison to him.  I'd ask for at least 10% more and see what they say.   

Getting More by Stuart Diamond

I agree - great book!

Melody

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2014, 11:33:31 PM »
I'd split your request into two numbers...
"I'd like 3% to account for inflation and a mutually agreeable amount based on my performance and development over the past 12 months" - straight away you get $1K (inflation) which is not even negotiated over.
I feel a couple of grand in total would be reasonable given what your manager makes... I certainly wouldn't ask for more than $34-35K maximum (bearing in mind he is likely to go to at least 36k possibly more) as it seems like you are still a fair way behind him in terms of experience.

Wanderer

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2014, 05:51:51 AM »
The $20/hr number seems like a reasonable starting point .  That of course might change as time goes by and I do more in my position in the months leading up to the review.

$20/h is <$2 under what someone starting at the lowest rung in my job description gets with a year of experience in a related field and a mandatory 4-year degree in the sciences.  Now I am in government where wages are lower, but your position is an IT job without a required college degree, you have less than six months experience (will be just ~9 months in May), and there are a lot of people with 2- and 4-year degrees in CS looking for jobs.  To me without a lot of evidence showing 1. You're underpaid and 2. You're doing a really good job, asking for a 33% raise not a year in would raise my eyebrows. 

TomTX

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2014, 06:07:31 AM »
From what you have posted, your employer has been pretty good about bumping up your salary repeatedly.

I think that any negotiation needs to be done with that in mind. I might have a conversation with the "fake manager" before review time officially starts, to set expectations for the review. If you think you deserve a bump because you're kicking ass in IT, let him know. Nicely, of course. Even if he isn't officially doing your review - he has to be giving a lot of feedback on your performance to the official reviewer.

sheepstache

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2014, 07:22:24 AM »
If talking money feels weird at the time, I would be forthcoming about your expectation that there is a path upwards.  I'm not in a management position but from time to time I'm over people and it's actually tricky knowing what people want out of a job.  My experience is that people who explicitly present themselves as wanting advancement do better, because management can't read people's minds and a lot of people are not genuinely interested.  Having a worker hollering, "Me!  Over here!  I'm gung-ho!  I want to work!" can feel like a godsend.

For all you know, they are looking to expand the department and are thinking of hiring a third person from outside.  You want to make it clear that if your fake manager moves up, you want to move into his spot, that you consider this field your career now.  Or whatever their plans are.  You can ask what they are and how you could best serve them.  Since you like the place, charting your path upwards sounds like the more important concern than the short-term pay raise.  And don't forget benefits outside of salary.  Maybe overtime for extra projects (I don't think IT typically gets overtime, but still), or maybe they would pay tuition if there are courses you're interested in, etc.  A negotiator I know says a good way to avoid leaving anything on the table is open-ended questions.  "Is there anything else you could do for me?"

I feel like without knowing more about the environment of the job this advice might be completely off base so take with a grain of salt obviously.  Good luck!

SunshineGirl

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Re: Salary "negociation" in unique situation
« Reply #15 on: February 15, 2014, 03:57:11 PM »
I recommend asking your fake manager for a mini-review now. Say you want to make sure you're meeting his expectations and want to know what you can do to improve. Are there classes you should/can take? Certifications you should/can get? Say something like, "I love this job and am so happy to be doing it. I want to make sure I'm doing the absolute best I can for you and the company." Ask for and accept his feedback.

I'd do all this now, three months ahead of your review, and I suspect he will naturally fight for you to get the best raise he's able to give when the time comes. By the time he sits down with you for a formal review, his hands might already be tied and he might not be able to offer you more even if you negotiate then. So start early, but don't mention money at this mini-review. Make it all about the job you're doing and how you can do it better. I also suggest you pull aside whoever his boss is and thank him/her for giving you the chance. say how much you love it and how much you love the company.

Managers and companies want hard workers and non-complainers, and those are the people they fight to keep and tend to reward.