Should I Ask For More Money to Start?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about pay: I should get paid more.

Here’s the scoop. I work in IT. I graduated college 6 months ago and started working for a big corporation almost 5 months ago. My IT team is small: with 1 other person near me and 1 other person 600 miles away at another office (who visits once per month). Of hundreds of people at my office, I’m basically almost the only software developer. So, I have a lot on my plate.

During my interview, my employer told me they’d like me to learn to develop IBM Lotus Notes applications (kinda like forms). They understand it’s dying and that hardly anyone is fluent in Lotus development. But, they figured I could learn fairly easily and include it as part of my job description. So in summary, I have all my regular stuff which takes up all of my time. Then, I’ve ordered some books to learn Lotus and I’m currently learning and fixing small problems that occur with that. I’m also teaching myself some new skills here and there for my regular duties, as needed. We recently added technology which I am an expert on and does require a bit of extra work efforts. My teammates are not experts in this particular technology (which is a SQLServer database by the way). So, as you can see I do have quite a few skills, and greater skills, than my teammates.

The only real thing my teammates has over me is more time at this company under their belt. So, they’ve learned normal stuff that I’d quickly pick up, if I were in their shoes and forced to..but which I will learn in time anyway. My employer said I was overqualified in my interview. I didn’t like hearing that. But, I still don’t believe my salary is that of someone “overqualified”. I think it’s quite average. I’m pretty sure my teammates are making ~25% and ~80% more than me. The ~25% teammate is my age but has been working at the company for 2 years. The other is about 15 years older and been there for about 8 years.

Sorry this has been so long. So, my question is: Should I have requested more money after receiving an offer? I received an offer and didn’t argue it. But, I’m doing far more software development (the brain stressing stuff) than my teammate of 2 years. He’s mostly just doing regular maintenance and helping people who use our hardware technology the company has invested in. So in my eyes, he doesn’t deserve more pay than I, and I believe our boss incorrectly believe that he’s “extremely” busy and valuable..he’s good at that. He’s also a bit of an aggressive teammate who gives off the vibe that he’s always irritated or pissed off about something. Do you feel I should have asked for more money after my offer? I can tell you, the offer was for $51,000. My older brother told me to just take the offer and don’t argue, so i did. True this is a recession, but i don’t feel as though i could have made the best choice possible. I now have to learn Lotus and deal with entire separate duties (they USED to have 1 person dedicated ENTIRELY to Lotus. that person left that position and transferred elsewhere within the company. Probably to get away from Lotus.)

My teammates also would appreciate it if i learned other software languages. But, they said themselves that they will not learn them, because they’re too “busy” to deal with that. I feel I can’t tell my boss that my teammate is doing less than me portrays. As for me, I feel my boss doesn’t know the extent of what I do, and even if I explained it to him, he’d be completely lost in the details because he’s not even close to an IT person. So, he may never know the complexity or difficulty of some of the software I work on, but I can still tell him what I’m working on.

I have a bi-monthly presentation coming up soon..where I can explain how all of my projects are coming. Could you please give me some advice on if I should shut up and be happy with what I do and my salary. Or, do you think i should ask for more money? They might assume that my duties, as well as Lotus duties, are part of my salary as is, because they mention it in my interview. But, they’re still wanting me to learn these other technologies and I feel I should get paid more to do it… but then again this is a recession and my older brother is against me feeling this way. I’m wondering if I should just leave this company after a couple years as well. Please help me out with any advice. Thank you.

Signed, Feeling Underpaid and Under-appreciated

DearĀ Feeling Underpaid and Under-appreciated:

There are several issues in your question, and it sounds like all of them have combined to create a situation in which you are having some doubts about the job and the salary. Let me mention each of those issues, with some thoughts for you to consider.

1. You have Salary Negotiation Remorse–which can hit all of us. I only know of one way to handle that part of it: Look at it logically and figure you were happy to get the job at the time and there will be opportunities to negotiate a higher salary. But, if you really feel you could get much more money elsewhere, you should quit when you feel you can do so honorably and decently, and move on.There’s a parable in the New Testament of the Bible that speaks about workers who were hired and were happy to have the job. Later, as it became apparent more laborers were required, more were hired. But, the manager paid those second workers more to attract the help he needed. The first laborers complained, but the manager said, “You were happy with your wage this morning. You’re only unhappy now because of the comparison. If you didn’t know what they were getting paid, you would still be thinking you had a good paycheck.” (They didn’t have HR departments then, and evidently weren’t so concerned about “fairness.”) But, the concept applies in this case. If you give the current job your best efforts then quit after a decent amount of time, you will at least have gained some good experiences. And, if you have been a good employee you will have a good reference to add to your resume. You clearly are skillful above the norm for IT staff (at least the ones I know), but gaining experience in working in a corporation is an adjunct to those skills that you really do need to be the most marketable.As to whether you should have asked for more–I think you likely should have assumed that they did not offer you the top dollar they were willing to pay, so perhaps you could have negotiated them up by a few thousand dollars, say up to 53-55K, by asking for 57K. Or the manager might have laughed and said 52K was as high as they would go. You had nothing to lose at that point, because if the manager had said no, you could have accepted the lower figure. Rarely will a manager take back the first offer and say you can’t have the job atfer all.Next time you can research salaries a bit more and be prepared to ask for more if they want you to do something extra (like Lotus Notes).

2. So, what do you do now about your salary? Consider a couple of things. First, get your job description and compare it with what you are doing. Also compare it with the ad for the job. That gives you something to talk about when you can talk about a raise. The time frame for that is probably going to be at the 8 month mark or so, with the idea that it might take a bit to make it happen and your first year will be coming up then.Next, consider how you can show your manager what you are contributing even though he might not understand all the complexities. You don’t understand all of his job, but you could understand some aspects of it.Consider just talking to him in comparisons, like, “So, John, what most developers do on things like this would be about a 5 on the Richter scale of work, but this work is about an 8 and sometimes a 9 or 10.” Or, “Let’s put it this way….my job description calls for an associates degree of work and this product has required a masters degree.”Or, “This is a triple burger with fries and a shake compared to a single patty on a bun. Without sesame seeds.”Those might not work in your setting, but I’ve used them myself when I wanted to have a casual discussion, not too heavy, but still get my point across. On the other hand, maybe you could be more blatant than any of those and just explain how complicated the work has been.I would suggest that you not make it look easy. Send emails or make calls now and then, in which you say how incredibly difficult it is. Say you’ve talked about it to your teammates and they are stymied too. Then you can find the solution. Or, do something else to demonstrate that you are a strong asset. You may even want to consider saying, in your upcoming review, that the work is much, much more time consuming and complex than you had expected it would be. You can say you are keeping at it, but it’s tough. And you won’t be lying!

3. The unpleasant coworker seems to have fallen into the trap that so many technical employees fall into–being a curmudgeon and hard to get along with. Often their specialized knowledge isolates them, and they make it worse. Just be courteous, unfailingly professional, and focus on your own work. You will have your day, and your career will move forward.The bottom line on your situation is that unless you really, truly think you could easily find something else, you are likely better off getting the experiences and the salary you now have. Look for ways to break the IT mold by being appropriately friendly with others in the company. Learn to talk their language and be part of things, not apart from things.

Look for ways to develop yourself apart from your job. Smile and be a strong team member of the whole company.When you talk to your manager, be honest if you feel you simply can’t get all your work done and still do all he wants you to do. Don’t sound like a victim or as though you regret taking the job. But, let him know it is one heck of a challenge.In a few months you will be getting ready for your anniversary there and that will be the right time to talk higher wages. You will already have a friend in HR by that time, and a better idea of what your job is worth.Best wishes as you start building your career. You will likely achieve a great deal and look back on this first endeavor with a smile, but hopefully also with the realization that you contributed a lot and learned a lot as well.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.