the salary I was offered was a bait and switch

by Ask a Manager on November 12, 2013

Share on Facebook4Tweet about this on Twitter10Share on LinkedIn1Share on Google+0Share on TumblrDigg thisShare on StumbleUpon0Print this page

A reader writes:

I have been talking to another department about an internal move. When I first talked to the hiring manager, he told me the pay would be $83K with 10% bonus. (I am currently making $54k.)

When I saw the offer letter yesterday, it was for $70K with 4% bonus.

The explanation I got was that $83K is the total compensation package with benefits, vacation, holidays, etc.

I told the hiring manager that NOBODY thinks that way. Nobody hears a number and thinks, “Well, my paycheck will be only x% of that stated number.”

I talked to a colleague – who started in April – about this – and she said they did the same thing to her! So it’s not just internal candidates.

Has anyone else ever run into this? I feel as if I have been baited and switched. I am quite cranky.

Hell yes, you should be cranky. That’s absolutely ridiculous — you’re right that no one calculates salary that way.

We’ve heard about candidates wanting to do this on their side — reporting a salary history that includes the value of benefits — and everyone is agreed that that’s not cool to do. But it’s even more ridiculous when an employer tries to pull it, because they’re talking about how much they’re going to pay you. You do not mislead people about how much you’re going to pay them. It’s not okay.

Plus, if that’s how salaries were stated, how would a candidate be able to know how much money they’d actually be making, unless they knew precisely how much the company pays for health insurance, etc. (which most candidates don’t)? They wouldn’t, which is another reason why this is crap.

Either the manager was deliberately trying to mislead you or he’s completely, utterly out of touch with how people normally think and operate, to a pretty unusual extent. The first one makes him a jerk, and the second one makes him a walking red flag if you’re considering working for him. Neither is good.

Since you already work for this company, you’re in a good position to complain to someone about this BS. While I don’t normally recommend going to HR for much, I have to think that they wouldn’t be happy to know that this jerkwad is doing this.

{ 162 comments… read them below or add one }

Yup November 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I’d be cranky too. I’ve been given the “total compensation” calculations that add up salary, bonus, paid time off, medical + dental, tuition assistance, etc. But that was when I was *already* an employee, and the tally was provided to all employees annually as an FYI to show the company in a positive light. (“Look at the total value of everything you get!” Which I actually liked, because I thought the nuts & bolts of the HR math was interesting to know.)

But using that “total compensation” number in hiring negotiations is way off the standard. Did he throw in the depreciation value of your office furniture? The estimated value of the office supplies? Yuck.

Reply

Josh S November 12, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Yeah, I’ve experienced this as well, and I actually appreciated it.

The offer letter said something like $XX,000 salary, +health/dental, +life insurance, +401k match. After I accepted and got my benefits packet and sat down with HR to go over it, they showed me a ‘Total Compensation’ that gave a $$ amount to each of the benefits, with a Total that showed something like 40% over the salary number.

It was enlightening, particularly for an entry-level job. And while it felt a bit exaggerated after the fact, it definitely did convey some of the warm fuzzies they wanted to convey when bringing people on-board.

Reply

Judy November 12, 2013 at 1:06 pm

My company puts all of that in the offer letter. A total compensation of $x, which includes a salary of $y plus health insurance, 401k, etc, etc.

Reply

PJ November 12, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I think it’s very different (and very informative) when it’s spelled out as indicated above — i.e., salary amount, plus benefit amount, plus match, etc. But you come away with knowing what your SALARY is, which is the number you need to find out if the offer is acceptable. I don’t know about you, but I don’t use the value of my 401k match to pay my rent.

Reply

Jessa November 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Exactly.

Reply

SweetMisery November 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm

that’s not what happened.

They told her that her salary was X, and in the offer letter it said she was getting $A + B benefits + C= $X

Reply

PJ November 12, 2013 at 4:45 pm

…and the bonus. Don’t forget they shafted her on the bonus too.

Reply

Ann O'Nemity November 12, 2013 at 12:44 pm

The hiring managers’ explanation about total compensation fails to explain why the bonus dropped from 10% to 4%. They are trying to deliberately mislead / screw over the OP.

Reply

AMG November 12, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I wondered about that too. This is really sketchy. Please keep us updated, OP!

Reply

Josh S November 12, 2013 at 1:01 pm

And the other thing–the “Oh–it’s the *other* benefits package” excuse might work with an external candidate, but for an internal candidate who is already getting those exact same benefits…it just doesn’t fly.

This guy is utterly full of crap.

Reply

AdAgencyChick November 12, 2013 at 1:50 pm

+1. Is he planning on throwing some extra health insurance in there or something? Sketch city.

Reply

fposte November 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm

This reminds me of when a grad school classmate owed me pizza money and paid me in random crap from her apartment, including tampons.

Reply

Ann O'Nemity November 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Wow.

I imagine that attempting to pay in tampons is a fairly effective strategy in acquaintance debt forgiveness.

Reply

fposte November 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Yes indeed. If there’s anybody there’s no point in pursuing, it’s somebody who tries to pay in tampons.

Reply

A Bug! November 12, 2013 at 12:59 pm

So, was she just a total flake with no comprehension of how ridiculous that was? Or was she hard-up for cash and just desperate to find something to give you to make up her debt?

Reply

the gold digger November 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Tampons are not cheap, y’all.

Reply

louise November 12, 2013 at 4:47 pm

for real. If they were my brand, I’d totally have accepted tampons as payment. (Not that that makes it less weird, it just shows how desperate I’ve been at different times in my life.)

Reply

Kat M November 12, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Used to work for a business that was contracted by P&G at their headquarters. Free name-brand tampons for everyone!

Although it was never mentioned in any literature, I always considered it one of my favorite employee benefits. :D

Reply

fposte November 12, 2013 at 3:09 pm

She was just an incredible cheapskate who would do anything to avoid coughing up her share of anything, and people stopped sharing with her unless she paid in advance.

Reply

Ethyl November 13, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Guhhh….I had a roommate who used to do this, except she would like, try to claim past favors and exchanges as counting towards bills, and then calculate based on math from the planet Gleepglorp or something, so conversations ALWAYS wound up like this:

“Oh yeah my share of the rent and bills was $430 this month but last month I bought you a beer that one time and gave you a ride twice and then paid for cat litter once so I really only owe like $100.”

Reply

College Career Counselor November 12, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Apropos of inappropriate payment:

I was once waiting to get through a bridge toll when, a few cars ahead of me, I saw the toll-collector waving her arms and yelling at some guy in a truck who was holding something out the window. Eventually, the guy sped off through the toll, and the line began moving again. When it was my turn, I asked her what all the fuss was about.

“That [redacted] guy wanted to pay his toll in TASTYKAKES! Can you believe the [redacted] nerve of that [redacted]!?”

Luckily, I had exact change so I didn’t have to ask her to break a cruller…

Reply

Ruffingit November 12, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Being paid in tastykakes would be the least offensive thing that has happened at some of my jobs. LOL!

Reply

Josh S November 12, 2013 at 5:07 pm

I dunno. I’d take Tastykakes…

Reply

Contessa November 12, 2013 at 8:30 pm

That bridge must not have been one of the ones in Philly, because I’m pretty sure Tastykakes are acceptable currency there.

Reply

TrainerGirl November 12, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Luckily, I had exact change so I didn’t have to ask her to break a cruller…

I just choked on my water…that was the best laugh I’ve had in a while.

Reply

holly November 12, 2013 at 3:20 pm

hahaha

Reply

Sascha November 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Oh my. I nearly snorted my iced tea.

Reply

KarenT November 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm

This reminds me of when a grad school classmate owed me pizza money and paid me in random crap from her apartment, including tampons.

That’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard! What did you say to her?

Reply

fposte November 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Nothing coherent. Something along the lines of “I’d still like my money back.” While knowing that it was never going to happen.

Reply

KarenT November 12, 2013 at 3:58 pm

I might try her technique as a social experiment. Next time I go out for lunch with a co-worker, I’m going to be all like, “Hey, can you spot me $5. I’ll bring in a box of tampons tomorrow.”

Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Sounds like a sweet deal – tampons are like $10!

Reply

fposte November 12, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Just to make things worse–this was not a box of tampons. It was just like a handful of tampons.

Reply

TrainerGirl November 12, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Were they OB? OB Ultra are worth way more than pizza. I cried when they stopped making them. The new ones aren’t as good, but still better than other kinds.

Reply

A cita November 12, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Let’s not underestimate the use value of a tampon in certain situations. More valuable than gold.

Reply

Liz in a library November 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm

You went to school with my sister, huh?

Reply

Audiophile November 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Best comment ever! FTW.

Reply

PJ November 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Did she count out the tampons in order to make correct change?

Reply

Elysian November 12, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Did different absorbancies carry different values?

Reply

PJ November 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm

OMG, I thought this couldn’t get any funnier!

Reply

AdAgencyChick November 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm

You win the Internet today.

Reply

Arbynka November 12, 2013 at 2:00 pm

This. Holy cow I am tempted to send a box of tampax as my credit card payment this month :)))))))))

Reply

Elizabeth West November 12, 2013 at 2:09 pm

HA HA HA HA HA

Reply

Ruffingit November 12, 2013 at 4:06 pm

I think I will do that since Visa bleeds me dry.

Reply

PJ November 12, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Stop! Stop! It’s bad enough I snorted coffee — now I’m snorting salad! No more, please!

Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I wish my student loan company would take tampons for payment.

Reply

Melissa November 12, 2013 at 4:15 pm

+1

Reply

voluptuousfire November 12, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Hey, if they’re OB tampons, they’re practically collectors items. They stopped making them out of the blue and people have been looking for them for quite a few years now. Chances are if you put them up on eBay, you probably could make a few bucks on it. :p

Reply

fposte November 12, 2013 at 9:36 pm

They just came back later that year, though, didn’t they? They’ve certainly been available on Amazon and other online sources.

Reply

periwinkle November 12, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Huh? O.B.s are still available here in the metro DC area. I bought a box last week at the supermarket.

They’d be much more convenient as a form of currency than the standard tampons. O.B.s fit so nicely in my wallet. (I’ve got emergency stashes in all sorts of places)

Reply

TrainerGirl November 12, 2013 at 11:24 pm

OB’s are definitely available now. I just got about 5 boxes from Amazon, just in case they decide to stop making them again.

Reply

C B November 13, 2013 at 10:10 pm

I buy that at Target.

Reply

anon.. November 12, 2013 at 3:58 pm

omg lol. bad roomate. hope you got rid of her after that before she did something worse!

Reply

ChristineSW November 12, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Tampons and snorting food & drink – thank you all for the hearty laugh after my afternoon from h-e-double-hockeysticks!

Reply

Jen S. 2.0 November 13, 2013 at 12:50 am

This would be even better if you’re male.

Reply

Joe Schmoe November 13, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Now that is funny!!

Reply

Cruciatus November 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm

This isn’t the same really at all, but at my previous job I was offered $8 an hour and somehow got the nerve to ask for $10 (since I had previously been making $9.30 at another job). Anyway, the head of the school said “no, but with medical benefits it’ll be like making $10 an hour.” No, it really wasn’t. I appreciated the benefits…but no.

Reply

Natalie November 12, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Oddly, my landlord and grocery store do not accept health insurance as a form of payment.

Reply

Granger November 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I would gladly accept health insurance as payment for a month of rent.

Reply

ExceptionToTheRule November 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm

I actually used a line like that once when I was offered a position in Florida and told that part of the benefits package was “unlimited sunshine.” I knew I was being low-balled, so I just flat out asked if landlords take sunshine as rent payments in Florida because they sure didn’t in the Midwest.

I was young & snotty back then.

Reply

TL November 12, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I know that was completely unprofessional…but +1000!

Reply

AdAgencyChick November 12, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Young and snotty, perhaps…but they deserved it.

(Besides, “unlimited” sunshine? Really? I’d have been sorely tempted to point out the fact that the sun sets every day, no matter what part of the world you live in.)

Reply

Meg November 12, 2013 at 2:08 pm

And it rains every day in Florida. Random popup 10-minute showers.

Reply

holly November 12, 2013 at 3:22 pm

yup.

Reply

PJ November 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Do we have to mention the hurricanes?

Reply

RJ November 12, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Like they say at Disney World, that’s not rain, it’s liquid sunshine!

Reply

Anon November 13, 2013 at 8:52 am

Darn right magical, it is! It is magical moments every single day at WDW.

(I worked at WDW for a bit).

Reply

PJ November 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm

It’s a shame that wears off…

Reply

A Bug! November 12, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Well, that’s the most blatant reference to the Sunshine Tax that I’ve ever come across from an employer.

Generally it’s not a good thing to say outright that you’re offering less than market because you know there’s someone who’ll take it in exchange for better weather.

Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2013 at 12:49 pm

The purported initial offer is not in writing, correct?

Reply

Granger November 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm

On a semi-related thought: the world would be a better place if everyone talked about their *post-tax* salary. If I’m going to be “making” $58,000 a year I will not be able to *spent* $58,000. :(

Reply

Kevin November 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm

I agree it would be nice since that’s what you have to spend in the end. It’s just not practical as taxes can differ between two people who make the same salary. I have an education deduction but not mortgage or dependents. Do you consider property taxes part of this and how can you then compare since people have different size homes in different areas.

Reply

Granger November 12, 2013 at 1:17 pm

use just income tax. deductions could then be treated as ‘bonuses’ for an individual and property taxes as a fee similar to utilities. this would be much closer to reality than numbers we use now.

Reply

Ask a Manager November 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Still too much variation though and could really mislead people — it’s better to let the individual person figure out how their own tax situation will play into it.

Reply

PJ November 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Can I get an Amen for flat tax?

Reply

Canuck November 12, 2013 at 5:09 pm

While it may seem more fair, a flat tax really hurts low income earners. I still believe it is more appropriate to tax high income earners more. But, I am Canadian, so perhaps that’s just a cultural difference.

Reply

fposte November 12, 2013 at 5:57 pm

No, that’s why it’s never really taken off here. It’s functionally a regressive tax.

Reply

FiveNine November 12, 2013 at 7:30 pm

People here generally don’t understand that they’d lose all of their deductions and credits with a flat tax, which could be a considerable increase. Michigan just went to something akin to a flat tax and, on the individual side, people are shocked (seniors in particular).

Reply

Julie November 12, 2013 at 11:34 pm

In addition, I would be concerned that worthy causes would get far fewer contributions if there wasn’t a tax deduction.

Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2013 at 5:11 pm

No.

Reply

MousyNon November 13, 2013 at 8:48 am

How about no. It’s regressive, and disproportionately harms the poor and middle class (the latter of which should really be lumped into the ‘poor’ category at this point, given their wage effectiveness). A gallon of milk costs the same for my VP as for the woman who comes to clean our office at night–why exactly should they be taxed the same?

Reply

MousyNon November 13, 2013 at 8:51 am

Should have added: “…comes to clean our office at night—yet a gallon of milk is a substantially higher percentage of the cleaning lady’s monthly pay, comparatively—why should their income be taxed the same?

That’s what I get for arguing economics before my coffee.

Reply

NewGirlinTown November 12, 2013 at 9:12 pm

I always, always, always use a tax calculator when I am given a salary offer (not that this happens often, but when it does happen). I want to get at least a general idea of what my post-tax monthly and annual salaries look like.

Reply

AMG November 12, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Hopefully HR isn’t driving this asinine idea. If they don’t fix it, I would run far, far away. Heck, even if they do fix it I wouldn’t work for someone who is either that inept or that deceitful//whichever the case may be.

Reply

PJ November 12, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Oh, yeah, as an HR person, I had this same horrible thought — what if this is coming from HR?

To LW — if this is the case, find yourself another job. There is no hope.

Reply

Lisa November 12, 2013 at 1:41 pm

But OP essentially accepted it by still taking the job, its her own fault for taking the job at the new numbers.

Reply

Zahra November 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I don’t see anywhere that the OP took the job. I saw that she did talk to someone who started in that department 6 months ago, which, for an internal move, is rather easy to do.

Reply

Lori November 12, 2013 at 1:00 pm

The funny thing is, the $70k offer seems like a huge salary increase when it’s not pitted against the unofficial $83k figure – and it is! The letter writer doesn’t have to take the job if she’s not interested in a 30% increase for an internal move.

Reply

Mike C. November 12, 2013 at 1:04 pm

The internal transfer could easily have increased responsibilities that might be worth it to do for 83K but aren’t at 70k.

Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm

It does beg the question how likely is it that an internal move would result in an almost doubling of your current salary. $83k plus 10% bonus is $91+ and she’s now making $54k.

Reply

Ask a Manager November 12, 2013 at 1:08 pm

It depends on what the move is. You can absolutely make that kind of leap if the new position has significantly more responsibility.

Reply

Zahra November 12, 2013 at 2:00 pm

In companies that like giving a (small) percentage for internal moves instead of market rates, it’s not likely that anyone could almost double their salary in such a move. In companies that do pay market rate, as AAM said, it certainly is possible.

Reply

Kevin November 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm

That’s what I thought too. I make around what the OP makes and I would take that increase especially in an internal move. But that is if $83k wasn’t offered to me first.

Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I used to work for a shady private school that routinely engaged in this sort of bait and switch. He definitely had us over a barrel because we were all recruits from abroad so once you got there in September at the start of the school year and heard the ‘real’ salary it was far too late to do anything about it. What’s more, 99% of us would only stay for a year anyway, so he got our services as well as the opportunity to hire a fresh batch of people at the starting rate.

Anyway, his ‘explanation’ was that the amount he quoted represented the total cost to him. So that amount was your salary plus all employer contribution or taxes, etc. And he said it with a straight face and made it seem that he was the victim. He even tried to get me to work without a visa stating, “There’s no risk to you. If the police found out they would just pack you up and take you to the border. That’s it. Me? I’d have to pay a SMALL fine. I’m the one taking the big risk.” I felt I was in suspended animation, total disbelief that he uttered such rubbish.

Reply

Arbynka November 12, 2013 at 2:19 pm

So basically to him being deported out of country and not able to return for at least ten years is really not a biggie. They just take you to the border. I am speechless.

Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Yep, but he has to pay that small fine though.

Reply

FiveNine November 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Holy crap, the only reaon he emphasized this is because he absolutely had it happen at least once.

Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Well, to be fair on that point, from the sounds of things this was probably in a developing country, where visa regulations might not be so tight. But still, a DEPORTATION is a big deal.

Reply

TL November 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Yeah, but he also lied to her about $13,000 (+, if you include the bonus.)

That’s a pretty big deal, even with a 30% increase.

Reply

Mike C. November 12, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Not only the number (which is still really bad) but the fact that they lied. That’s a huge red flag.

Reply

pghadventurer November 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Sounds like the #7 way managers demotivate employees.

Reply

annie November 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I am cringing because my boss does this too, and new employees who don’t know any better sometimes get screwed unless someone gives them a warning first. It’s just so unethical to deliberately mislead people.

Reply

Noelle November 12, 2013 at 1:15 pm

My boss at my old job did that. He paid me $10K less than the previous person in that position, but he kept saying he would get me a raise to cover the difference. That of course never happened, and the promise eventually changed to, “We have very generous end-of-year bonuses.” That generous bonus? Yeah, it was a hundred dollars.

Reply

Contessa November 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm

That happened to me, too. I get paid well below industry standard, but it’s supposed to get made up for in bonuses. I didn’t even get a bonus at all the first two years, and last year I got a bonus that was 25% of the industry benchmark. Yeeeeah.

Reply

Jax November 12, 2013 at 3:49 pm

At the end of the year, my raise is determined around the same time as Christmas bonuses. Last year I got $0.50 more per hour–I was very happy because I had only been working there 6 months and didn’t expect anything..

This year I’ve moved up from an assistant to project manager in April, slaved away all summer, and still make assistant wages because “everyone gets raises in the new year”. I’m unhappy because I would rather have a review and new salary negotiation like an adult, not just be happy with whatever Santa’s Elf decides to throw in my paycheck.

Reply

Noelle November 12, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Yeah, it’s bad enough when your employer has crappy raises/bonuses. It adds insult to injury when they also mislead you about it or act as though it’s standard.

Reply

HR lady November 12, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Another possibility is that the manager gave OP the first number and THEN found out that he didn’t have the budget/approval to offer that much. So he tried to cover his tracks and pretend he didn’t make a mistake. I’ve seen that happen.

This is why we tell our managers not to propose salaries (not to talk dollars) until they’ve gotten approval for them. OP would have probably been thrilled with the $70k figure if she had never heard the $83k figure. But since she heard $83k, she’s now pissed.

Reply

PJ November 12, 2013 at 1:49 pm

She’s not only pissed, she has reason to question this guy’s integrity.

Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm

+1 never ascribe to malice what can be as easily put down to incompetence or ignorance. I’m not saying that makes it right – of course it doesn’t – but I’m inclined to believe the manager hasn’t done this as an intentional bait-n-switch, just trying to dig himself out of a hole.

Reply

Colette November 12, 2013 at 2:34 pm

So he chose to dig himself out of a hole by lying?

That’s a red flag in itself.

Reply

MsNesbitt November 12, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I’m inclined to disagree that this was a case of the manager digging himself out of a hole. He just hired someone 6 months ago with this same bait-and-switch tactic. So if that instance was him digging himself out of a hole, you would think he would have learned his lesson the next time he hired someone and quoted a range or said, “I am waiting for final approval on the offer amount.”

I think this is a case of a manager repeatedly using dirty tactics to pique the interest of a candidate. Or, maybe you’re right and he is trying to cover his tracks…again. In that case, this guy is a moron.

Reply

Sophia November 12, 2013 at 2:25 pm

But then he would have a history of doing this too, since it happened to her colleague.

Reply

MO November 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm

This guy is a fraud.

How did he explain the fact that he said bonus is 10% and ended up to be 4%?

Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2013 at 1:32 pm

I think HR lady @1:16 has the right idea. He got overruled on how much he could pay, but doesn’t want to look like he has no authority.

Reply

some1 November 12, 2013 at 2:17 pm

That’s what I thought, too.

Reply

Marie November 12, 2013 at 6:44 pm

He’s done this more than once so he didn’t get overruled by HR. He lied. Plain and simple.

Reply

Rich November 12, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I’d be fighting the air if this happened to me. Definitely worth discussing with HR. It’s just an all around bad practice. How do they expect someone to be happy with that tactic?

Reply

HR Competent November 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Agreed, this is a terrible practice and hopefully not part of any policy.

Reply

Malissa November 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Soap Box Time

The entire benefit package should be included when comparing salaries. Because there is a huge difference between $50K with fully paid health insurance, retirement, 11 holidays and four weeks of PTO and say $60K with 5 paid holidays and nothing else.
Sure $10k more a year sounds good. But the reality is that the difference in benefits means you just went down $5K in salary. (Assuming the nice benefit package is worth ~ $15K.)

The world would be a better place if employers were made to list out the value of benefits like the nutrition information panels on cereal boxes. Then the employee can make an apples to apples comparison.

Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm

You’re right – but it should be laid out with dollar amounts given for each benefit, not squished together as one figure with no explanation, which 99% of people will assume to be the salary with benefits separate.

Reply

A Bug! November 12, 2013 at 5:36 pm

This. Transparency in salary negotiations is a good thing, and it would be great to see more of it, but transparency is not what the OP describes at all.

There’s no charitable explanation for the manager’s behavior as presented. Anything I can come up with involves either incompetence or intentional deceit at some point or another.

Reply

Elysian November 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Eh. While it would be nice to know this information, the employer’s cost isn’t always the value to the employee, so these values can be deceptive. For instance, some places may have a deal that get you discount pet insurance, but if I don’t have a pet I don’t care if that’s a benefit they pay for – I’m not going to use. Or if you tell a male employee that you give 10 weeks of paid maternity (but not paternity) leave. While the employer’s cost would be good to know, I guess, each employee still has to decide what the value of that benefit is to them when they’re evaluting offers.

Maybe I would rather have the extra $10k for whatever reason than have 6 extra holidays and four weeks of pto. Ya never know.

Reply

TL November 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I can tell you at this point in my life I would rather have a higher salary and less PTO (but paid health insurance; that’s a must.)
I need the money and I can’t really afford to take excellent vacations, so a day or two at home every now and then would indeed suffice. Sometimes you need the cash more than the cash value.

Reply

Del November 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm

It should be included, but it shouldn’t be stated as the general dollar value of the salary – like the discussion above, it’s useful information to know, but when people are budgeting out a change of job, they really need to know what the $$$ they’ll be taking home at the end of the day is. Landlords won’t take health insurance or PTO in lieu of a check when the rent’s due!

Reply

Jax November 12, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I agree with you. My husband accepted a job he thought paid more–until he asked for their health insurance information. It cost so much that he would have brought home LESS.

He had to call them and say, “After looking over your health insurance, I can’t take this job.” It was embarrassing and disappointing and he ended up burning a bridge with that company. (I’m sure it could have been handled differently, but we were young and stupid and he called in a panic and blurted it out.)

The benefits are absolutely important to know about up front.

Reply

Zillah November 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I agree, but only if it’s made very, very clear that the figure applies to the entire benefits package and it’s also made very, very clear how much money the employee will actually be taking home.

Reply

Anon November 12, 2013 at 2:21 pm

This also relates to employers who don’t want to reveal salary and just expect you to be happy with it. My employer takes people through 4 interviews, offers them the job, and THEN tells them salary. They won’t even say a range before.

I remember interviewing for an organization when I was still somewhat entry level. During my second interview, I asked for a salary range and the interview replied in a snotty tone, “It’s too early for that discussion but we’re competitive.” Um… I’ve seen similar positions in my field range from $10/hr-$40/hr. And there’s no way in heck I want to spend my time interviewing for a $10/hr job.

Reply

Colette November 12, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Yeah, I interviewed with an organization that was really weird about salary (they required you to put your desired salary in the subject line of the e-mail application, they asked at both interviews, asked for references and then, before they called the references, said, “oh, BTW, our range is $20,000 less than you want”). I do not work there – because they were underpaying for the position, but mostly because they were playing games.

Reply

JenTheNiceHRGirl November 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm

I will never understand why people will do this… if you know the salary range, why not share?? Geez. I would be pretty irritated if I went through 4 interviews and then was told that the comp was way less than what I was looking for.

Reply

Mike C. November 12, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Because they apparently only hire children who are unable to understand why they didn’t get top of the range.

Reply

Ursula November 12, 2013 at 3:06 pm

The company I work for has a pretty standard way of figuring out new salaries for transfers when the new position is in a higher pay band. They take the difference between the two midpoints and raise your salary by 50% of that. It resulted in a 24% increase for me when I took my current job.
A friend of mine works for a company that doesn’t increase beyond 6% regardless of the difference in salaries. (I’m sure that is negotiated at the management level, though.)

Reply

Ask a Manager November 12, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Terrible policy. You should be paid what the position is worth to the company, and it’s not worth less just because it’s filled by an internal candidate than an outside one. (In fact, you could argue it’s often worth more when it’s filled by someone who knows the company.)

Reply

Mike C. November 12, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Bingo.

Reply

Ann Furthermore November 12, 2013 at 3:36 pm

This is like when your manager says that your bonus is part of your salary. I had this debate with a boss once. I told her that no, it was not part of my salary because: (1) it was not guaranteed; (2) it was based on things completely outside my control like total annual revenues; and (3) if I left before the end of the bonus period, I wouldn’t receive it.

This particular boss was hiring people in for much more than the people she inherited (including me) were making, which is how the topic came up. In the end, what it all came down to was that she resented the fact that we’d all gotten pre-IPO stock options and she didn’t, because she joined the company after the IPO. And yeah, the stock options were great for about 3 months, until the stock price tanked and shares were trading for $2 a piece and the option price was about $5 per share. During the discussion she kept saying, “But you’ve got stock options, so you should include that in your base compensation number.” Uh, not when the options are under water, I shouldn’t.

Reply

the gold digger November 12, 2013 at 7:07 pm

I had stock options at my old job. The strike price was $42 and our stock was trading at $22. My mom asked, “Why would you buy stock from your company when you can get it cheaper on the open market?”

I sighed and thought of all that money I never got and was never going to get.

Reply

Adam V November 13, 2013 at 11:55 am

> During the discussion she kept saying, “But you’ve got stock options, so you should include that in your base compensation number.”

“I am including them – I’m just valuing them at $0, which is what they’re worth until we IPO.”

Reply

Adam V November 13, 2013 at 11:57 am

Oops, I missed the discussion about underwater stock options. In that case, you should ask for *more* money to make up for them! :)

Reply

JenTheNiceHRGirl November 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Wow, that is awful! If one of my managers were doing that, our HR Director would put a stop to it pretty quickly. That is just not right. He is either a jerk or a moron. I would suggest going to your HR Director and asking if you can get a breakdown of what is included in the comp package per this manager as to get a better understanding. If your HR Director is sane, he/she will be pretty irritated that the offer was presented to you in this manner.

Reply

OP November 12, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Actually, the offer letter with the breakdown came from HR. That’s how my offer letter to join the company last year was, as well, but when salary was discussed, it was salary, not total compensation. So I thought the line that “this is total comp” was BS.

Reply

OP November 12, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Hello – OP here. I think the HR director was behind the whole thing – I think he told the director of my new group, “You don’t have to pay her that much and you can’t pay her that much” and that my new boss had no power to do anything. I know he told me $83K and a co-worker who had asked HR about the job before I applied was told $83K as well.

I also learned that the HR director and the director of my new group (who is not my new boss) are good buds. Nobody I have ever talked to has had a good word to say about the HR director.

I did accept the new position because I am pragmatic above all. I can take the increase and continue to look for a new job. On paper, I am still with the same organization, so I won’t have a short-term job on my resume.

I am angry, but I am going to put the anger behind me and focus on doing a good job and getting along with my new boss. That’s the best way for me to get a better job, I think – do well at whatever I am doing.

Reply

PJ November 12, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Wish I could be a fly on the wall during your exit interview!

Very adult way of looking at this, OP. You made a good choice for yourself. I’m very glad to hear you’re job hunting.

Reply

Jake November 12, 2013 at 5:58 pm

+1

Reply

blu November 12, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Not saying the HR Director couldn’t be bad at their job, but also consider how this information is getting back to you AND that there is a difference between you Can’t pay that and you Shouldn’t. I can tell you that being on the other side of this we have managers who know full well what the authorized pay range is for a position is then then try to go outside of it. Fine if you want to do that, but then you need to go back to your leadership to get approval for the additional cost. They usually don’t want to do that and it turns into “HR told me I can’t pay you this.” I wouldn’t be so quick to absolve this manager of his part in this since you know this is at least the second time he has pulled this stunt.

Reply

OP November 12, 2013 at 7:02 pm

I wouldn’t be so quick to absolve this manager of his part in this since you know this is at least the second time he has pulled this stunt.

That’s not the case, actually. The hiring manager told me $83K but HR also told a co-worker $83K. So the first I heard of the salary was from HR, via a co-worker. (Which was one of the reasons I decided to apply for it!)

And the co-worker who went through the same thing in April is in my current group and she went through it with HR. So I am getting the idea that HR pulls the strings on this issue.

Reply

blu November 12, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Ok that is just bizarre, I can’t imagine how either of them thinks this is normal or appropriate.

Reply

Joey November 12, 2013 at 5:52 pm

So don’t accept it. Simple really. I don’t mean to be sarcastic, but what did you expect? A way to fix it? Sure you could complain about it but would that get you any real remedy? From where I’m sitting it only has the potential to put you on the shit list.

Does it suck? Of course, but it usually takes a pattern of these type of complaints for it to be considered a credible issue. And in the mean time you’re probably on the shit list. It’s just not worth it.

Reply

Rayner November 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Why?

The OP was promised X. The OP did not get X.

It’s a valid complaint. And important to the OP – losing out on a large sum of money because some asshat lied about salary ranges is a big big issue.

And the OP shouldn’t always walk away from that.

Reply

OP November 12, 2013 at 7:05 pm

What do you mean, what did I expect? From AAM? Nothing for me, as this already happened before the letter was published. But if there is a way to deal with this that Alison knows about, then perhaps someone else who faces the same situation in the future would be armed.

Reply

fposte November 12, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Note also that this was a “has anybody encountered this?” comment in the open thread initially, and Alison asked to make it a standalone post. So it wasn’t even the OP straight out writing to Alison and asking what to do.

Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Right, the OP was asking Alison’s general advice about workplace practices. It wasn’t another “it it legal” question or even “what should I do” but “this seemed strange to me but I wanted to get your perspective on it.”

Reply

Jake November 12, 2013 at 6:24 pm

I agree this is a bad tactic, but I was shocked at the intensity from AaM and some of the commenters. I thought the responses would be a moderate rebuking of the company, but I was treated to a smack-down.

Reply

Lora November 12, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Never mess with people’s paychecks. Ever. I’ve left jobs I LOVED with copacetic management because accounting could not get their act together and pay me in a timely fashion. I’ve known plenty of people who did the same.

One of my financial friends explained it thus: Payroll is boring, in terms of finance & accounting jobs. Accountants prefer to work in almost any other role–tax management, financial analysis, fraud investigations. Payroll is sort of a crummy job as accounting and financial jobs go, so it is assigned to people who are not necessarily the very best in their field, who are maybe not so good at arithmetic.

Reply

Kara November 12, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Agreed. Let’s not pretend like we don’t work for money. I would leave a job in a heartbeat if they consistently messed up my paycheck or deceived me about money in any way, thus keeping me from meeting my financial obligations. Money is important.

Reply

Wc19805 November 20, 2013 at 1:10 pm

How about I’m way overqualified for a new job. I put in 60 hrs a couple weeks ago. I worked so much the girl that trained me got almost no hours that week. Then since I wasnt on the “schedule” yet the new company “wrote down all my hours” for payroll. I was paid the regular part time hours they had forecasted that week. Now surprise surprise i’m on the schedule for the part time hours & no sign of the 20hrs overtime I worked prior. And my coworker that lost hours that week has an attitude with me so basically I worked for free that week & neither one of us got those extra hours! Scum.

Reply

Michael Rochelle November 13, 2013 at 11:24 am

If you didn’t already work for the company, I would have recommended that you RUN!!! Sometimes I hear some of the scenarios that take place in some workplaces, then hear how people want to fight to stay at those organizations (or get back onboard once they’ve been fired) and, to me, I wonder why the individuals would want to work somewhere with a manager(s) like that or at a place where they clearly aren’t wanted because they’ve been fired or abused in other ways.

At the end of the day, jobs aren’t the buildings we go to. The dynamic is made up of the people we work with/for each day. Often times, even if you get HR involved, unless the individual or the boss goes, the risks or retaliation or further bad treatment just doesn’t seem worth an individual’s sanity and confort within their role. Who wants to be watching their back 24/7 or relying on people that you already know aren’t fully trustworthy.

Sure, it’s easier said than done in this economy. But, I’d question whether the potential to win the battle is worth being in the war.

Reply

ew0054 December 1, 2013 at 9:40 am

Michael you are right, jobs are comprised of the people and environment, not the place. In my career there were time I felt things were going south and I should have listened to my gut earlier. But I didn’t listen soon enough.

I got out of a bad situation, but I ended up taking a 30% pay cut just to have a job. Never will I do this again. Hold on to the job as long as you can (because jumping around never looks good on a resume’). Once the managers are against you, it is only a matter of time. Better to just leave asap than get fired.

Reply

C B November 13, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I encountered this at my last company – a very well known Fortune 500 company that produces household cleaning products (among other things). In my case, I accepted a new job in the same company and was given verbal confirmation that the new job came with a 5% compensation increase to my previous position. However, when the offer letter arrived, the 5% increase was not in base salary nor bonus but in medical benefits. Their reasoning was they could have passed that increase on to me through my payroll deduction but are paying it instead and I should see it as a salary increase.

Reply

Wc19805 November 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm

So u basically got nothing out of the deal! They would have likely paid the premium increase for u had u kept your old position. That sucks. Hopefully u wanted the promotion & not them just handing it to u.

Reply

C B November 20, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Exactly, Wc19805! I went from having a reasonable job I could handle to one with a lot more responsibility, 80 hours a week, higher expectations, a jerk for a manager – all for the benefit of them footing the incremental cost of medical. I quit within six months. I had worked for this company for 5 years. The upshot is I was the first one of many to quit and since I left 10 months ago they have been hemorrhaging talent ever since. What goes around comes around.

Reply

ew0054 December 1, 2013 at 9:41 am

Yes but how does this help you? Well you hopefully got good work experience and a good position to add to your resume’.

Reply

Wc19805 November 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Whats a person to do? 70K is a fair salary. I went from making $65K on a decent job that paid fair mileage compensation. I could drive whereerver I wanted to & not have to buy gas. Anyway I went to jobs offering me about 12K a year. Going to loose my house & packing everything up to move back home! Point is My last 5 jobs have all offered a higher pay then start cutting hrs & so on. The point is if u dont take it or u complain they will give it to someone else. I’m not saying its right & it sucks.

On the bright side the UAW workers at gm were making $103 an hr with thier pay, benefits, stock purchase, & family health plans :) I’m sure theyre not fond of the world seeing a total average spent on them. Thats what it is companies are soo freaking cheap they try to re add an expense they would spend anyway. I guess it like trying to refry some refried beans!

Reply

ew0054 December 1, 2013 at 9:34 am

The OP’s frustration is justified, but living in the dog-eat-dog world that we do, a strategy to consider would be to take the job at 70k, because after all it is a 30% increase, which is good, then still look for something else.

The 4% bonus is not guaranteed so don’t even consider it. What is guaranteed however, is an excuse as to why you don’t qualify for the bonus when the time comes.

Reply

Tom March 9, 2014 at 2:12 pm

This happens frequently in my career field. Employers advertise professional positions, but the job will be manual labor, or shipping and purchasing. Buyer beware..

Reply

Leave a Comment

You can find the site's commenting guidelines here.

Previous post:

Next post: