Discussion: May 4, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks How to Say It:

Recently my job description was changed without notice. But there was no discussion of a change in salary. My responsibility level has increased and so has the time commitment. I like the work, but I cannot justify doing so much more for the same low salary. My boss commends me again and again on how well the transition is going and what a great job I’m doing. How should I tell him I want to discuss the salary?

Here’s How to Say It: “I love the new job — it’s a huge change from what I was doing before. I fact, it’s a promotion with added work, new responsibilities and more time required. Does this new job include a new salary range and performance metrics?”

By raising two issues — salary and metrics — you emphasize just how big this change has been, and you avoid seeming like money is your only concern. (Frankly, I have no problem with just talking about money — it’s a huge concern by itself. But I’m trying to be diplomatic…)

What you need to consider is whether you’d leave the new job if they didn’t pay you adequately for the work. Unless the answer is yes, you don’t have much leverage if they refuse to pay more for the added work.

Don’t just sit and stew. You need to have a discussion with your boss soon. The longer you wait, the more it seems you have tacitly agreed to the new deal at the old comp level.

But that’s not the only useful advice about this. The best is yet to come… I expect the ATH audience will have more to add!


  1. I agree that it’s very important to bring it up soon. If you let resentment build up it will be harder to discuss it calmly with your boss.

    Plan in advance what you’re going to say and then one time when you get a compliment from the boss ask the question about how exactly the job has changed. I like the idea of asking about measuring performance along with mentioning salary. That should lead clarification of exactly what the job is now.

    You may find, of course, that you are expected to do a lot more work for no more money but at least you’ll know exactly where you stand. You won’t have th

    e regret of ‘If only I had said something’. When planning what to say, think of what you want both in terms of money and other kinds of benefits and privileges if you can’t get money. Not just a title (almost always useless) but technical or management training or a private office or something to make it clear that you have made a step up.

  2. Agreed, bring it up ASAP. I favor Nick’s point about diplomacy & G’s thinking it through. And add, write down and organize those thoughts.
    I’d suggest the diplomatic approach of setting up a meeting and take your thoughts, the facts about the new job your demonstrated capability in performing it, and turn it into what the boss should have done, have a “career development” discussion. e.g. ” I love the job,thanks for the opportunity and based on it, let’s talk about working on my career plan(s). (This is a legitimate discussion by the way). What does the boss have in mind moving forward? where can you take this job? Where would you like to take it? what does he/she suggest in the way of preparation for further advancement (education, training, more enriched experience? etc etc. Into this discussion performance metrics/expectation and money are a very natural fit? e.g. what does the boss have “planned” for you? what’s the pay ranges for the direction “we’re” taking,etc. Money is diplomatically diluted to one point among many related career development topics.
    There’s something a bit odd about the scenario of course..and that’s the absence of a prior discussion or heads up by the boss on the transition & it’s impact on you, the boss, the company.
    At any rate, take heart. In the best case the boss is doing some block and tackling along the lines of “you have to do the job, before you get the job” That is by positioning you to demonstrate you can take on additional responsi bilities, and you in turn showing that you can, the boss now is very well equipped to leverage the system to give you a promo/raise or whatever he/she had in mind. He/she may be working the system to you benefit. The absence of a prior discussion could be to minimize dissapointing you should that tactic fail..but as you point out at the risk of making you feel taken advantage of.
    In the worse case the boss was obtuse and never gave a thought to piling more work on with no reward in sight. But you still haven’t lost out, the boss is making your more marketable should you, as Nick pointed out, have to consider leveraging your greater value outside the firm.
    At any rate a boss discussion should leave you knowing where you stand and based on that you can make an informed decision on where to go with this.

  3. If performance metrics sounds a little foreign, another term for it is expectations. What you want to do here is manage expectations and see if all that extra time is really required as you may think it is but your boss may think you are just giving those extra hours each week as part of loyalty or generousity on your part.

    Another part may be to be prepared for some contingencies such as how will this change be handled in your next performance review? Are there other changes that you don’t know? It may be worthwhile spending a few minutes to come up with a list of questions just to make sure that you get your concerns addressed as there is a lot more here than just wanting more money I think.

  4. Here is something that I have found works every time.

    Try asking, “If you were me, what would you recommend I do?” – and don’t leave off the “If you were me” part.

    We had a young relative stay with us for April while on trial month as a graphic artist – pay: $25,000/yr. They made him a full-time offer (without mentioning a pay raise). He asked me to co-sign an apartment lease since the landlord wanted him to earn at least $30K.

    I refused, and told told him to ask his new boss, “If you were me, what would you do?” She found a cheaper apartment, then renegotiated a discount with the first landlord, and sent a letter saying he would soon be raised to $40K (which is true).

    He came home flabbergasted, but happy.

    In a crappy economy, there might not be more money. My grandparents made out like bandits during the Depression, even though Granddad volunteered for pay cuts.

    Here is the story.



    PS, “If you were me…” works for everything. As a hiring manager, I ask candidates, “If you were me, would you hire you?” I get to see if they can empathize with me, or if they can only imagine being themselves.

  5. Excellent post, after a long time I have read something worthwhile about career