is it okay to be honest about just being in it for the money?

A reader writes:

I’ve worked for a large nonprofit for the 13 years as an assistant to a CEO. It is a great job and with more than generous PTO, but the pay isn’t great. I actually get some social services because of how little I make. I could possibly make more elsewhere, but there is no guarantee that would work out and I have a young child and can’t really take the chance. I also need that generous PTO and other companies might not offer that. As a single parent, PTO and the ability to use it are gold.

I don’t hate the job. I like it. I have no real complaints but my loyalty begins and ends at my paycheck. I do what I am paid to do and do it well and then go home. I’m great at my job and I’ve got nothing but praise, but I only do that because they pay me to always be on my toes and to go above and beyond. The little gift cards they give me after a hard event have literally helped me keep my lights on and I go above and beyond solely for two reasons: (1) I can easily be replaced and I really, really need the job to survive, and (2) They give me money incentives to perform above expectations and I want those. The work has no meaning to me. They could ask me to do anything and I would. I just want the money for it.

The upper and middle management recently did a type of purpose-driven training. One of the main reasons cited is that my workplace feels people are just in the job for the money (my boss says this all the time) and not for our mission. It went over well with the higher-ups so they wanted to test run it on some of the assistants before rolling it out to our front-end and direct care staff. This is a direct-care type business, so the majority of the people outside of administrative and director positions make well below the poverty line. The average hourly salary for my agency is $9 an hour. Their employees are often struggling to make ends meet and don’t really have the luxury of being in it for just a purpose. Money is their life line. There is huge turnover because pay is so low that for the work that is demanded of them, they could and do easily move to a lower pressure and lower skilled job for the same amount of money.

My boss, the CEO, wanted me to be the first assistant to do the training and the test and the assessment. It was definitely not for front-line employees. It goes in depth about purpose-driven work and seems to chastise employees whose main motivator to work is pay/employee benefits. I was told to be honest and true in my assessment so was honest about my main motivators and other things. It spells out that working solely for money is a bad reason to work and it is frustrating as someone who has to work to live.

Once I was finished the results were sent to my CEO. He saw my results and wants to set up a meeting about how I thought the training/testing went and to discuss my results, which he hasn’t looked at yet. He said he won’t view them until the meeting. He said he wants my candid opinion and he always accepted my candid opinion before. We’ve worked together for 13 years and I know how well he takes and values honesty, but I am scared that admitting it mostly about the money will make me look like a bad employee. And I feel it shouldn’t.

The answer to his question about why he has such a high turnover rate is a very easy one: It is mostly because direct care work is hard and underpaid. If you paid people more they might find more value in their work. It is all just my opinion, of course, and my experience. I do really well at work but I would do even better for $1 more an hour. My time and energy are 100% for sale.

I honestly think they are misapplying a training that it is meant for upper management and trying to make it work for all employees. I am not saying lower paid employees don’t find value and joy in their jobs. I am just saying that it is easier when you are paid well to like the job better and you often have a financial cushion to look around for jobs that you have a passion for. And that is a privileged lower paid employees might not have.

I think the training is going to come off as really condescending and they aren’t going to get truthful answers because no one is going to admit that their motivators and impacts are money/benefit driven if they are chided for doing so.

Am I just a bad employee? Since he asking, is it ever okay to be candid with your boss about money being the main motivator or do I just keep my mouth shut? Am I missing the point of the training maybe? I want to note that I would never offer up my unsolicited opinion about what upper management does.

You sound like a pretty good employee to me.

And your boss sounds like someone you could be pretty candid with, since you say you’ve worked with him for 13 years and have seen that he values honesty and takes it well.

I wouldn’t necessarily say, “I’m just here for the money” … but I do think you could say something like this: “I don’t think this training is suited for front-line employees. Most of us make below the poverty line and are struggling to make ends meet. While I’m sure everyone here supports our mission, having that be a primary motivation for working is a luxury that most of us at these salaries don’t have. Parts of the training seemed to chastise people for working for money, which I think will alienate front-end and direct care staff. I could see using this for upper management, but I do not think it will be well received if you use it more broadly.”

You could also use this language straight from your letter: “I am not saying lower paid employees don’t find value and joy in their jobs. I am just saying that it is easier when you are paid well to like the job better and you often have a financial cushion to look around for jobs that you have a passion for. And that is a privilege lower paid employees might not have.”

And if you’re comfortable mentioning to him that you get some social services because your salary is so low, that might be illuminating for him, if he doesn’t already realize that. You could even say, “The gift cards we get here sometimes have literally helped me keep my lights on, and so you can imagine that other financial incentives are very motivating too.”

On your broader question about whether working mostly for the money makes you a bad employee: No! It makes you a completely normal person. Most people work for the money. Certainly people have varying degrees of passion, and there are plenty of people who are motivated by the work itself rather than the money — but (a) that’s a really privileged position to be in, and those people are lucky, and (b) even then, most of them wouldn’t continue to do their jobs if they weren’t being paid. (Some would, so that’s not true across the board. But it’s true for the vast majority.)

As long as you’re a good employee, your motivations for showing up aren’t anyone’s to judge. If you’re good at what you do, you get great results, and you treat the people around you well, no one should care whether it’s because of the money you’re being paid, or the crush on your coworker that keeps you showing up every day, or a competitive drive to be as successful as your brother, or because you love the work itself. (Well, that’s simplifying it a bit. Your manager wants you to be motivated by something that will keep you showing up after the crush is gone, and a therapist might care about the brother thing. But generally speaking, what matters is how you do your job.)

{ 571 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. paul

    Non-profit managers pulling stuff like this makes me see red.

    You pay your staff peanuts and expect them *not* to care about money? Are you crazy?

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      Alison nailed it when she said it was a privileged viewpoint.

      Ross: I just never think of money as an issue.

      Rachel: That’s because you have it.

      Reply
      1. Agatha_31

        This is exactly it. One of my first jobs was a waitress in a place that paid minimum wage (and then only because they legally had to, it being Canada), no raises, and they kept everyone part time to avoid overtime/holiday pay/etc. We had this one woman who used to come in who regularly used air miles to travel that she *earned by travelling so much*. She bragged about her purchases, she bragged about her beautiful million dollar home, etc. And she’d go on and on about how poor people just need to learn how to save and they didn’t know the value of money and etc. One time as she was talking about “the value of money” she threw a soda can into the garbage. It took all of my willpower not to take that soda can and return it to her in a very personal manner. Instead I just waited until she was gone and fished it out because hey, free nickel.

        Reading OP’s letter makes me tear up. I’ve been in jobs like that for *so long* and it’s *so hard* to break out of that cycle. I still haven’t, completely, but I am at least at a point where I sometimes manage to have a teeny tiny (we’re talking a couple hundred dollars) cushion – and many people would still say “that’s not enough you should have six months savings bla bla etc etc plus retirement bla bla.” LIKE I DON’T KNOW THAT. Tell that to the two operations I had to have this year. Tell that to the $4k I spent on my teeth last year. All without the benefit of benefits, mind. Tell that to my car repairs this year. I am PROUD that I have managed to get myself into a position of having ANY money in reserve. It means I can take my mother out for her birthday instead of making her lunch. It means I can say “yes, I want to replace my tires” instead of “I’m going to have to drive very very slowly and carefully this winter and hope nothing else happens and I can afford them for next year.” It means I can stop borrowing from my parents to make up my paycheck each and every time I miss a day because I’m too sick to go in. It means I CAN call in sick instead of dragging myself in.

        People who live a comfortable life and talk about “the value of money” are the very definition of “privileged” and I rage when companies pull stuff like OP’s company is pulling. How dare they make people that you are keeping in that position feel BAD about it? How dare they look at someone struggling to pull themselves out of the dirt and PUSH THEM FURTHER DOWN. How dare they question a person’s motives for working when they are doing the exact same thing, only have the luxury of doing both? In fact I wonder if that might not be a good question to bring up to boss? “Let’s look at it another way – how many of the higher ups COULD stay in their jobs if they weren’t doing it for the money? If their salaries were cut to $9/hr jobs? Or to nothing, since it’s supposed to be not about the money at all?”

        OP, I really really hope you manage to find something else somewhere that treats you with more humanity than your current job. You deserve respect, not “we’re not satisfied with you pushing yourself to the limits *just* so you can keep your electricity on this month, we want you to lie to us about the money aspect while you’re at it so when people ask ‘how do you justify paying your employees so poorly?’ they can point and say ‘no it’s okay guys, they LIKE it!'”

        Argh. It’s still morning and I need a drink.

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        1. As Close As Breakfast

          Incredibly well said. I am giving you a standing desk ovation over here. It started with a slow clap and there is a single tear slowly rolling down my cheek.

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        2. Let's Sidebar

          Completely agree with your sentiment of “How dare they question a person’s motives for working when they are doing the exact same thing, only have the luxury of doing both?”.
          I really hope the OP takes Alison’s advice to mention that the gift cards have actually helped her keep her lights on. That is an impactful piece of information that may make the CEO consider not only the training, but maybe even the concept of “competitive pay”, which in some fields translates to “how low can we pay people to keep bodies around”. I know if I was confided this by one of my reports, especially one of 13 years (!), it would resonate HARD.

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          1. Not So NewReader

            Nine bucks and hour does not buy you an employee who looooves her work. It buys you an employee that hopes the groceries last most of the week.

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            1. Ego Chamber

              Or it buys you an employee whose expenses are already covered, and this is just extra, and they’re primarily working “for the love of the cause” or “for something to do”—but if this is what a company wants, they have to screen for it instead of assuming or trying to force it after the fact.

              Yes, not having to work to afford to live is the definition of privilege and it’s stupid to expect people to work jobs for less than fair pay, but seriously low-paying jobs should either raise wages (preferred!) or intentionally seek out people who don’t rely on that paycheck to live; it’s a super-shitty practice, but it does reduce the amount of compensation-related turnover to hire people who can afford to live on the wage offered, instead of handing new hires a sheet of information on welfare programs and food bank locations with the rest of their paperwork (*cough* Walmart *cough*).

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              1. Gazebo Slayer

                Honestly, they shouldn’t seek out people who don’t need the money either. It’s unfair to those who do, and it severely cuts their potential applicant pool.

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              2. Pommette!

                I think that many people in important but poorly-remunerated, “I work for the love of the cause!” fields are in the position you describe. They are financially comfortable enough to afford the low wages.

                My partner is in such a field. We feel poor but, by virtue of being partnered and childless, are better off than many of his colleagues. Most of his colleagues care about their clients and their work, but are unable to dedicate as much time or energy as they would like to the job; most would leave if a safe and better paying opportunity presented itself.

                The people in management positions at his agency are incredibly talented, hard working, and dedicated. They have lots of other opportunities, but choose to stay where they are. They are also all married to comparatively wealthy partners.

                I like and respect these people. They do impressive work, spend time that they could spend on themselves helping others, and work hard to take care of their employees. They worked hard to make sure that my partner and his colleagues have better working conditions than most of their industry peers (better wages! benefits! dentists annually! doctors when necessary! it’s magical!).

                But there are big socio-economic (and demographic) differences between management and staff, and those differences aren’t there because of any failing on the part of the staff. Not having to worry about money, being able to afford support on the home front (good childcare, domestic help), and knowing that you will go home to a safe, comfortable place with healthy, fresh food on the table are huge deals. Not having to stress about such things was probably one of the factors that made it possible for these people to do extra work, attend extra training, and take on the leadership roles that they did. Money (even a little bit of it) makes a lot of things possible.

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        3. Amber Rose

          I hear ya, fellow Canadian. Although we laugh about it, it actually hurts just a bit sometimes to read articles that tell me to skip the morning coffee or the avocados and I’d have *so* much money by the end of the year. I bet they never had to cash in bottles at the depot in order to afford food for the week.

          To paraphrase Sir Pterry, only the rich can afford to be poor.

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          1. Polaris

            Pterry’s “boots” theory of social inequality resonates with me really hard for this reason. Yes, I’d love to be able to afford a really nice pair of hiking boots that won’t wear out for years, or a new winter coat to replace my 10-year-old one that’s got holes in all the pockets and much-repaired buttons, or decent shelves that won’t fall apart for my apartment, but I am just now, barely, in a place where I can keep my head above the water and start paying back some of the massive debt that I’ve accrued and keep myself fed at the same time. If anyone pulled something like OP’s boss, I would be hard pressed not to lose it.

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            1. Amber Rose

              Yeah, the boots theory has been one thing from all his books that really, really stuck with me over the years. I hate buying cheap crap that wears out in a year, but the minute I start spending money on stuff I need is the minute my phenomenal amounts of debt start to spiral out of control.

              I’m grateful to my current company for giving me a grocery store gift card every year with my bonus. It helps us feel like we can have a real Christmas.

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            2. Artemesia

              This. The total insensitivity of privilege is appalling. The idea that you would shame workers at the poverty level for working for money is just creepy. I am pretty privileged i.e. I got to go to college, I had enough to eat growing up, have never been homeless. But there were the years of making one pound of hamburger last for 4 dinners for two people. There was the year that half my income went for necessary dental work and there were no new clothes bought at all, no meals out at all. The people scraping by barely are not spending a thousand a year on coffee or buying a lot of avacado toast.

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              1. Former Temp

                You just gave me a flashback … There was once a time when I was scrounging trash cans for bottles/cans for the deposits, and someone gave me a coupon for a BOGO Whopper … I bought the two Burger King sandwiches, took all the veggies off both sandwiches and ate that the first night, then cut the sandwiches in half so I’d have something to eat the next four days. (I was pretty sure the lettuce wouldn’t have lasted if I didn’t eat it the first day.)

                I had a co-worker who used to have a sign in her cube that had a “top 10 reasons I love my job”. #1 was “every two weeks, they give me money”.

                I also remember a time I was working retail, when they announced that they had to do “budget cutbacks” which meant that all the part-time staff was let go and the full-time staff was cut back to 32 hours/week. Then, in the news, the CEO was getting a raise that doubled his salary and trebled his annual bonus so that his pay would be “competitive”. Yeah, that was not well-received by the people who’d taken a 20% paycut (and these were not kids working for ‘mad money’ .. these were adults who were heads of households). Honestly, if I hadn’t also been managing at the apartment building, which came with free rent (but I still had utilities) in exchange for cleaning vacant apartments, showing vacancies and maintaining the common areas (it wasn’t a large building, only 17 units besides the one I was in, and mostly stable), I don’t think I would’ve been able to get by before they let us go back up to 40 hours/week.

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        4. Say what, now?

          Paying rent, for me, meant gambling with my health. I never had health/dental/vision insurance when I first graduated college. I was relying on my youth to see me through. I think a lot kids graduating with such massive debts are being forced to make those kinds of choices. My heart goes out to them, OP and to you, Agatha. It was many years before I was able to start saving and once I was able to it was such an amazing accomplishment. I’ve been prouder of the small amount I set aside than anything else in my working life.

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          1. Kiki

            This week I went to a doctor’s appointment and was able to pay the co-pay without having to worry about it impacting my grocery budget. It’s the first time that’s ever happened. I’m in my 30’s. But still, happy to have even that much stability.

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            1. SimonTheGreyWarden

              My husband and I had enough in savings to cover our portion of the expenses of having our son this summer, even though he came a little early. We were ecstatic. I’ve been working since I was fourteen and for the first time I had enough of a safety cushion I could have a baby. It only took 20 years.

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            2. rdb0924

              I’m in my late 50s. I don’t have this luxury. If a catastrophic illness befalls my husband or me, it will be terminal. And that’s with health insurance. We have no cushion. We don’t make enough money to cover basic expenses. Retirement is never going to happen for us, because we’ve had to raid our 401(k)s to stay alive. My employer gives less than a s–t about any of it. I am underpaid by about 25%. I am overlooked by other employers because of my age and experience.

              Don’t be poor. In particular, don’t be old and poor.

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        5. 42

          That was beautifully put, Agatha_31.

          I reeeally hope the OP sends in a follow up to this, I would love to hear how this conversation with the CEO went.

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        6. Lora

          *stands and applauds*

          I am 100% confident that if upper class people who act like you describe had any idea how hated and despised they are, they would never show their faces in public. They’d cower behind an army of mercenaries.

          I will be fascinated to hear the follow-up. I work in a field which in some particular sub-fields is staffed mainly with very privileged people. After a merger, one such department was all called into a large conference room and ordered to answer some icebreaker type questions about what you would be doing if you weren’t doing this job. First person to be called on answered the question the way I interpreted it: if you hadn’t been so incredibly fortunate to get a college scholarship or whatever lucky break got you into corporate America, what would you be doing instead (because me and whatshisname both thought we were “being positive” to describe the notion of being thankful for our jobs, right?). He said, working for an electronics factory in his tiny hometown. Then about 78 colleagues nattered on about their aspirations in wildlife photography, music, teaching yacht-sailing classes (not kidding) and artsy things that pay well below the poverty line – jobs you only really do if you have a trust fund ensuring that you get to eat and live in an actual apartment on a regular basis. By the time they got to me, I knew to say “organic farmer, coming up with new ice cream flavors” rather than “shoveling cow poop in my cousin’s dairy barn”. Technically the same job, but, ehhhh.

          He was picked off in the first round of layoffs. Didn’t fit in, you know? Too rough around the edges.

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          1. Starbuck

            I think that might have been an issue with interpreting an ambiguous question in two very different, but valid ways that are informed by your life experiences. Sounds like the privileged people heard ‘what would you WANT to be doing if you weren’t doing this job’ or didn’t have to do ANY job- to me when I hear that question, it sounds like it’s asking about my hobbies, or my fantasy hobbies if I had unlimited means & time, rather than an alternative career. Maybe that’s what they were going for, as a casual icebreaker. That’s a different question than what you and that first colleague understood.

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            1. Lora

              Exactly…and he got punished for answering the”wrong” way that demonstrated he wasn’t one of the country club set.

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          2. Say what, now?

            Ouch! Poor guy. Ask an ambiguous question, expect to get an out of left field answer. I hope he went on to land a job with people more in tune with his straight-forward thinking.

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        7. she was a fast machine

          Standing ovation! Seriously, I feel you 100%. Life is hard out there and 99% of the time the people who complain the most about money have no idea what it’s like.

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        8. crookedfinger

          I feel the glow of your righteous anger and wish I could force every privileged person in the world to read this.

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        9. nacho

          This. I remember when I was a kid and my mom tried to tell me how I shouldn’t worry about money, and just find a job I love like her. The only reason she can afford anything at all is because she married a guy who makes ten times as much as she does.

          It’s great if you can do it, but pretty much nobody can actually afford to work someplace they love. Not unless you win the lottery or something.

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          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)

            Yes, and this kind of advice is why I’m now in the position of being dependant on my husband. Everyone always told me how smart and special I am and that I would be successful at anything I wanted to do. I believed them – why wouldn’t I? – and pursued something impractical that I thought I loved enough that my passion would lead me to success. Well this advice leads you to ignore warnings and take financial risks and fail to develop a backup plan. Coming from a relatively privileged background can mean that you are not equipped to deal with the reality of poverty.

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        10. neverjaunty

          SO well put.

          OP, I join the chorus of people hoping you can find a better job. No decent workplace makes its employees rely on gifts to keep the lights on.

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        11. Geoffrey B

          Friend of mine was lamenting the difficulty of finding an affordable house in Melbourne. Co-worker: “Why don’t you just sell one of your investment properties?”

          “My what?”

          Turns out co-worker owned six properties and was renting one out to cover costs while keeping the other five vacant. I’m still not quite sure how my friend kept herself under control.

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      2. Snark

        Precisely this. And just to add to that – I’ve known young, underpaid nonprofit employees making under poverty line who were in it because they passionately believed in the mission….but they were educated, came from affluence, could count on support from parents, didn’t have kids, and so on.

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        1. Jadelyn

          Seconding this. I *am* a young, underpaid nonprofit employee making under poverty line (for my region) and well under market value for what I do – I stay here because I believe in the organization and I love my team – but I tick most of your boxes for that too: educated, upper-middle-class background, have a partner who makes twice as much as I do, no kids, etc.

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          1. Bibliovore

            When I was a young underpaid person working for a non-profit I was lucky enough to get a twenty every now and then from my dad, ate at least two meals a week with another family member, babysat my niece for free knowing that I would have their fridge to raid. I’ve had the lights go off because I paid the rent and not the electric bill. Scrounged for quarters to have clean clothes. For a long time food in the fridge, roof over my head, and clean clothes was economic security.

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        2. SpiderLadyCEO

          This, so much. I hate it when interviews are like, “Why are you passionate about this cause” well, you do good things but to be honest you had the best salary for the work I do. Eating and paying my bills are important. The cause is just a bonus.

          (Oh God and half the time the reason you are passionate is something you wouldn’t otherwise want to share, like having been sexually assaulted, having a relative with a severe illness or disability, identifying as queer, being a single mom. Like, I don’t want to tell you! That’s personal!)

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          1. Not So NewReader

            This.
            And we haven’t even gotten around to the part about the use of the word “passionate”. No, I will not marry this job, no, I will not have an affair with this job. I am not passionate with jobs, period.

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            1. TL -

              I’m really passionate about the work that I do; I love my field of science, I love thinking about it, I love talking about it, I love reading about it. I adore thinking about how to tell scientific stories to people. I spend big portions of my free time engaging with media that either talks about science or tells stories in a way I think is useful for what I want to do. I’ve talking underpaid-for-the-field jobs to work in amazing labs and learn. (but with liveable wages.) I think passionate is the word to describe how I feel about my work. (I’m really lucky!)

              I still wouldn’t do it for free, or, frankly, for poverty wages – I have better paying options than that and also I needs the money.

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      3. Sigrid

        One of my best friends comes from Old Money (or as Old as Money gets in the US, at any rate). He fundamentally does not understand basic economics. I’m talking daily, domestic economics, like ‘money comes in, money goes out, the trick is to keep the former greater than the latter’. For him, the money has always been there, and always will be there, so why think about it? He’s gotten a bit better with age (and marriage to one of my other best friends, who comes from a lower middle class family), but only a bit. Of course, for him the money always will be there, so why should he bother to understand it?

        He’s not the kind of person to say ‘money doesn’t matter’ to someone making $9 an hour, but he is the kind of person to say, ‘what does it matter?’ when asked how much his proposed group vacation to France is going to cost. He is a genuinely good person who tries hard to wrap his brain around other people’s living reality, and I love him dearly, but being friends with him has certainly opened my eyes to some of the way being at the top makes you truly blind to how the rest of the world lives.

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        1. Snark

          I palled around with some Old Money dudes in college. They were genuinely nice, good guys, but their relationship with money was just bizarro. I truly don’t think they registered expenditures of less than five figures as economic transactions. They truly didn’t understand, for example, why people couldn’t go out for a celebratory $500 meal at the best steakhouse in town to celebrate midterms being over, for example. And they had no idea how to deal with a bill or calculate a tip, or split a check. They could be volcanically, astonishingly generous with sums they thought insignificant – one bought me a Vail season ski pass for the year because hey, he needed someone to show him around the mountain. But they also could be astonishingly cheap, like they’d forget their wallets and just kind of expect people to take care of a night of top-shelf booze and food, because what’s it matter? Weird world.

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          1. JB (not in Houston)

            It’s not even just rich people. People who have always had enough money to not worry about bills being paid or new tires for the car, even if they generally have to budget, can be like this. I had a roommate in college who definitely watched her budget (of the money her parents gave her), but she didn’t understand broke. She asked once if I wanted to go to a concert of a band we both liked, and I told her I didn’t have the money. She asked, “can’t you just splurge” because she couldn’t understand that it wasn’t that it wasn’t in my budget, I literally did not have enough money for a ticket in my bank account. She could also afford to take an unpaid internship because it took care of housing, and she didn’t have to worry about spending the summer earning money for the next school year. I don’t think it occurred to her that not everyone could do that.

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            1. Tuxedo Cat

              I knew plenty of people like that in college and even now in academia as a paid researcher. I even work on research that is on folks from low income backgrounds.

              The concept of genuinely being broke is lost on some people. For some people I know, being broke is having to ask their parents for some money or not being able to take a holiday. For me, it is being homeless and hungry. I’m lucky I’m no longer approaching being broke.

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            2. Agatha_31

              Oh wow, you reminded me of when I was working in Alberta during the oil boom. I’d completely forgotten about this! Years ago I went out there to get a job because “everybody gets jobs and they pay awesome and EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!” So I got a job at a call center. And yes, the pay was way better than I’d make in other provinces BUT because of the damn boom, everything else was of course extortionately higher – so I was still depressingly broke (but at least I had a job). Most of the women I worked with had boyfriends or husbands working in the oil fields. I liked them, we had fun together, but shopping could be incredibly painful. They’d have their boyfriends’ debit cards, and I’d have… mine. They were *constantly* saying “oh let’s do/buy/try such and such!” to something painfully expensive to which I’d point out that I was broke until next payday (and even then couldn’t afford to do/buy/try such and such within my budget) and they’d LITERALLY say “come onnnnn, splurge a little! Treat yourself!” Ah, the memories of how often I felt like I’d just banged my head against a wall over and over again…

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              1. Indoor Cat

                “Treat yourself!” <– Gaahhh I hate this. This is bad.

                To me it feels like friends-of-friends I once had who, every time we hung out, wanted to binge drink or do recreational drugs. Which I'd be fine with except that they wanted *everyone* in the group to do it too, and they'd get pouty or accuse you of being not fun or judgemental if you didn't want to. I wasn't judging! I'm actually in favor of legalizing a lot of things, and I've had a lot of fun at parties where other people drink or take a few adderall. But *I* don't want to do those things, and in some cases doing them might actually kill me.

                The money thing honestly can get just as bad. I know people who have essentially been peer-pressured into taking on massive amounts of credit card debt and even those payday cash-advance loans, not because they had medical issues or emergencies to deal with, but because they were working class and hand middle class or wealthy friends and they caved into "treating themselves" when it was irresponsible. And then half the time the middle class people will just turn around and say, "Why are poor people so irresponsible with money???" and it's like *headdesk*

                (also, ftr, I'm definitely aware that most poor people are very responsible with money and that's not the issue in most cases)

                Reply
                1. DDJ

                  One of the biggest turning points for me was being honest with my close friends about my financial situation. Turns out pretty much everyone I was hanging out with would rather go to someone’s house and play board games and buy a bottle of cheap wine than go out for fancy drinks at a bar. But no one was willing to be “that person.” And I just got fed up with the way everyone always wanted to get together and do things that cost a lot of money, and I just said “I can’t really afford that, would everyone be ok just coming over and people who want to have a drink can bring their own booze and we’ll just hang out?”

                  And then we all bonded over our budgets and the various ways we were managing them, because it turns out that hey, we were all on a budget! We were all struggling! That’s what happens when you’re in your early 20s and new to the working world.

          2. Falling Diphthong

            My husband describes this as the amount of money he can spend without thinking about it. Which started at around $5, then $20, then $100…. but he can remember when it was $5.

            Reply
            1. Bryce

              man, these days I’m not even sure I can manage $5 depending on the context. My rent has been eating up more and more of my budget and what used to be “tight but a cushion” is now bare bones. I need to move somewhere cheaper but I have issues with change and even that takes enough money TO move and bluh.

              Reply
          3. Lora

            Oh god. I had a colleague like this. Funny-not-funny story that makes me feel slightly better:

            He decided he was too good for bench chemistry a mere two years out of college, decided he was destined for better things and went to Harvard for his MBA. The Bank of Mommy & Daddy and a dude he met during an internship gave him an amount of money I can’t even dream of having all in one place to start a biotech, because his undergrad degree was in biochemistry and he worked two whole years in a core facility at a Big Pharma and he had his MBA, therefore he knows everything there is to know about running a drug company, right? You can imagine the results, he went on a two month trip to Spain for funsies and now sorta doesn’t know what to do with himself, he had outsourced the company website to someplace in Pakistan for $6 and didn’t know how all the information just vanished…company produced a single paper in Joe’s Journal of Nothing much.

            He had asked if I wanted to pitch in with this venture. I told him nah, I’m busy.

            Now I’m starting a CRO out of my spare room with the grand sum of $4000, pulled from a savings account I never quite got around to rolling over into a new account when I changed banks. Have a couple of clients lined up, and will be moving into the local (decidedly un-sexy, extremely basic) biotech incubator run by the local downmarket non-Cambridge university when I get one large project per month because then the analytical outsourcing isn’t worth it compared to the access to core labs. I don’t have investors, I have friends who are the best in the business going through divorces/layoffs and looking to make some cash on the side running an LC-MS for me. I give you three guesses who actually has revenue and who has a pile of debt…which, of course, Mommy and Daddy will forgive.

            Reply
            1. Indoor Cat

              I really love stories where people get what’s coming to them. Doesn’t happen nearly enough, honestly. And it’s so cool you’ve already got revenue and you’ve got some stuff going on! I don’t know anything about biotech, so being able to make it in that field strikes me as incredibly impressive.

              Reply
              1. Lora

                The magic is, 1) I am old and have seen all the mistakes other people make 2) I take on relatively small projects that look like a lot to me but look like my ex-colleague’s weekend bar tab, and such projects were beneath his glorious vision 3) I am grumpy and b-tchy and on the occasions when I have self-doubt I think, what would Chaz Worthington the IVth do?

                So, not that magical.

                Reply
              1. Lora

                Ha! Nope, he’s more whiny than punch-able.

                When I retire (probably never, but you know, in this fantasy I also have two horses and a whiskey distillery on an island you have to row a boat to) I’m gonna write a book about it. All the business secrets of how to de-risk an incredibly risky business. It starts with “never hire a Wharton grad” and ends somewhere around “the judicious use of the word fk”.

                Reply
          4. medium of ballpoint

            Seconded. I worked at Fancy Schmancy University and it quickly became clear that people have little sense of scale. I worked with a lot of wealthy people who were never exposed to others who made less than several million each year (and certainly no one who made less than six figures). When you assume everyone around you is pulling in six figures regardless of the job they hold, it’s very easy to dismiss them as lazy and dumb for not being able to manage their money.

            Reply
            1. SimonTheGreyWarden

              My sister and I both got full rides to one of those exclusive, mostly-rich-people liberal arts colleges (probably not the one you are thinking of). When I went there I drove an ancient rattletrap car that was falling apart and was a stick shift to boot. No one’s Lexus wanted to park near me. I remember when my sister was enrolled there, several years after I graduated, and we were having a conversation about how people at this school thought they were “slumming it” when they walked down the street through the less-gentrified neighborhood to get to the local grocery store. No one had any sense of scale for money – people let parking fines rack up because they didn’t care; Mommy and Daddy would pay them. It is true that if that is your reality, then someone else scrounging for change makes no sense. A friend I had there’s definition of being broke was that her parents had taken her credit card because she was shopping too much. All her food, education, etc was paid for – she just couldn’t shop for a while.

              Reply
          5. Pmort

            OMG, Snark, my college BF was like this. Generous with sums he (and only he) considered trivial (he once flew all of us to a party over winter break because the tickets were “cheap”), but was all the time forgetting his credit card or wallet and expecting everyone else to front him for whatever we were doing, and truly not getting it when people would get pissed. What did it matter? We were all friends, right?

            Reply
        2. Just Another Techie

          I have friends who live off investment income, and have income streams that exceed mine by a factor of 5x. And friends who earn a tenth what I earn. It really is eye-opening to see how very different those two worlds are, from my own and from each other.

          Reply
          1. Anlina

            Also:

            Trump on health insurance: “You’re paying $12 a year for insurance.”

            Gary Cohn: “If we allow a family to keep another thousand dollars of their income, what does that mean? They can renovate their kitchen, they can buy a new car, they can take their family on vacation, they can increase their lifestyle.”

            Reply
            1. Jadelyn

              …I hadn’t heard that second one. What universe do these people live in??? I’m gonna need the name of his contractor if the guy can renovate a kitchen for a thousand bucks. My kitchen could use an upgrade.

              Reply
      4. Koko

        Yes, there’s a show I watch where a character reconnected with his biological mom who turned out to have married into money after leaving his family.

        He said one of the weirdest things about going to visit her was, “Growing up, we talked about money all the time. Where it was coming from, where it was going, whether we had enough of it, what we were going to do with what we had. Out there, money is like air. It’s all around, but nobody ever talks about it.”

        Reply
          1. Koko

            Oh it’s a terribly trashy but wonderful in its own way showed aimed at teenagers called Pretty Little Liars. It’s my junk food TV and also how I stayed on top of fashion trends while it was on the air (everyone is very well styled)!

            Reply
      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        In the words of Kanye, “Having money’s not everything—not having it is.”

        (But yes, this whole thing also makes me see red. What OP is describing sounds so condescending and class-privileged, and it sounds likely to alienate an already overworked and undercompensated staff. You do not get to pay people poverty wages and then chide them for not being sufficiently “mission driven.”)

        Reply
        1. AntsOnMyTable

          All I could think is that they want to chastise them for not caring about “the mission” so that way they could make anyone feel guilty for wanting to leave because of such low pay. They won’t raise salaries to keep people, instead they will just make them feel like bad people in an attempt to keep them.

          Reply
      6. K

        This is so true…
        My boss is an expatriate in middle management (I’m a direct report/assistant) with an exceptionally expensive package and he always complains about lack of commitment of most employees.

        From official statistics, our company salaries are in the lowest quartile of the industry so at least 75% (!) of other companies pay better. An awful lot of people work even within our company’s range for much lower salary levels than the functions they have; unless they are somehow related or friends with the CEO and make 500% more of what they should earn…

        As a result, we have a retention rate of lower than 50%; with regularly over 60% of new hires leaving within their first 2 years. If a company pays shitty, they shouldn’t be surprised if people are highly incentivised by money and of course frequently leave the company for better salaries.
        You get what you pay for.

        Reply
      7. Queen Esmerelda

        I had a boss like this once. We had an employee leave for a $3 an hour raise, and she was indignant that someone would leave for “a mere” $3 an hour. I said “When you’re making $26K (the employee’s salary), the difference between that and $32K is huge. When you’re making $159K (her salary), it’s not so much.” The look on her face said that she got the message.

        Reply
        1. SimonTheGreyWarden

          I’d sell a kidney for that much of an increase. I’d sell both my kidneys and one of my husband’s. I might even side-eye my sister to see if I could hold her down long enough to get it out.

          Reply
    2. WerkingIt

      I have worked in this same scenario. Paying direct care staff barely above minimum wage and executives making $250k (for some executive positions) to $900k (for the CEO) and complaining that staff are only concerned with their paychecks.

      LW obviously takes pride in her work, but being willing to do something in exchange for a paycheck isn’t quite as cynical as she seems to have labeled herself. I do seek out a certain satisfaction in my jobs, but even still I demand a paycheck. The fact is, remove or lower the paycheck and a lot of people would walk away from their jobs. It’s a JOB.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        It’s really difficult for people who come from and live in affluence to really comprehend this. And people making a quarter to almost a full million a year, they just occupy a totally different financial reality. It’s not consciously callous – usually – but I think a lot of high earners honestly have no earthly clue what it’s like to scrape by.

        Reply
        1. Turquoisecow

          Yeah, I come from pretty middle class origins and have never rolled in the dough. My current industry is not known for paying really well (our HR person sent out a job description, telling us to share with anyone we knew who might like the jobs and the salary is really low.).

          My husband works in technology, and while he’s not so bad, some of his friends and colleagues really have no idea what it means to live paycheck to paycheck. I finally got my passport recently and a friend and I were talking on fb about how we’d been meaning to do that for a while but it wasn’t really a *necessity*, and a friend of my husband’s (who is my fb friend also) butted in to say that oh, international travel isn’t THAT expensive, just rack up points or get bonus points for signing up for new credit cards, maybe stop having Starbucks and toss the smartphone.

          Meanwhile, my friend (who works for a nonprofit) was like, um, I am trying to pay off the massive amount of cc debt I have currently, no new card is going to give me airline miles as a bonus. I don’t have the newest smartphone, and I’m barely making my rent payment, so the fact that I can get a ticket to Europe for “only” a thousand bucks is a little more money than I can spend!!

          It’s just another world. Which is fine, until they get all judgmental. You want to make a lot of money and fly around the world, ok. But don’t expect that I can do the same if I “just” give up a few luxuries that you haven’t.

          It’s not that I don’t know how to manage money. It’s that I don’t have money to manage.

          Reply
          1. paul

            Hence my ire at Ramsey and his ilk.

            Ditch my 40 dollar a month cell plan on my 50 dollar smart phone that I’m required to have for work? Yeah sure…then I’m unemployed.

            Eat out? What’s that? I do about one lunch out a month at Subway or similar.

            Reply
            1. Turquoisecow

              Yes, it’s okay for them to have gourmet meals at a sit-down restaurant with a bill in the multiple hundreds, but if you give up eating that $6 footling, you’ll have so much more money!!

              Reply
              1. Ego Chamber

                $6 footlong?! If you give up one of those per week, that’s $24 saved per month! That’s $1248 per year! Then you can afford that $1k plane ticket to Europe—and you’d still have $248 to spend on lodging, transportation and food while you’re there! International travel can be totally affordable, just by giving up the one little luxury you allow yourself!

                If you don’t have little luxuries but you’re paying over the minimum payment on your debt, just drop down to the minimum and look how much extra money you’ll have to spend on travel!

                #sarcasm (also, real advice I’ve been given)

                Reply
                1. turquoisecow

                  He tried to argue that you could get great cheap hotels online in package deals and also save money with Air BnB, and it’s just like, yeah. Let me give you my actual budget and then you do your magic and fail.

            2. Ramona Flowers

              Thank you for saying this. Ramsey annoyed me so much with his condescending stories of people who just couldn’t part with their cable TV.

              Reply
              1. Rusty Shackelford

                Ugh. He’s awful. Yes, he has some good advice, but he’s also full of “if your employer wants you to pay for your travel and then get reimbursed, just say no!” or “don’t buy a house until you can pay for the entire thing with cash!” And, of course, the only way to get out of debt is to walk with Jesus.

                Reply
                1. Genny

                  SpiderLadyCEO, he’s fine with people having a mortgage (he recommends a 15 year plan) for their first home, but he recommends paying cash for a second home (even if it’s meant to be an income property). The idea is that a second home is a luxury and you don’t go into debt for a luxury.

                2. FPU Student

                  Hey now. I am currently going through Financial Peace University right now (Dave Ramsey’s program). His advice is based off of what he himself did (after going bankrupt) to get himself to a better place financially.

                  Do I think some of his advice is far more situational than general? Of course!

                  His program also isn’t really designed for people living in poverty (though he does try to provide resources for people in that situation). His advice really- honestly- is tailored more towards the kind of people who are being foolish, not those actually facing severe economic challenges.

                  His program isn’t “one size fits all” and people are entitled to be critical of it, but I don’t think it is entirely without merit.

                  Don’t trash it so callously.

            3. Alton

              People who judge others for spending money on something like a phone really bug me, not only because it’s none of their business but because I think it lacks perspective a lot of the times.

              A big challenge a lot of people face is having enough money for recurring costs. Sure, if you ditched your $40/phone plan, maybe you could save an extra $480 a year (ignoring the fact that you need a phone). But if your goal is to, say, buy a house, then $40/a month is probably not going to be the deciding factor in whether or not you can afford mortgage payments, utilities, house insurance, etc.

              That’s my struggle. Yeah, there are expenses I could probably cut back on, but they wouldn’t add up, on a monthly basis, to the amount I’d need to comfortably afford my own apartment (sans roommates).

              Reply
              1. Not So NewReader

                People here will get cellphone so they can ditch their $89 per month landline. But cells don’t work here. So they use it at work. you know what happens next.

                Reply
            4. cornflower blue

              I love “save by spending” advice. I was told to save money by borrowing CDs from the library instead of paying for satellite radio in my car. Uhhhh, I save money by driving a 1994 clunker with a busted tape deck.

              Reply
          2. Snark

            Ah yes, the “you too could be as wealthy as I am if you’d just toss the smartphone, stop eating avocado toast, and not get Starbucks! Gotta run now, though, the valet is bringing my Range Rover around” argument. I feel like super-affluent people either think small expenditures are totally insignificant, or attach way too much significance to them.

            Reply
            1. Turquoisecow

              Definitely the case with this guy. He currently has a Tesla, previously drove Porsches, and has spent the last few days messaging my husband articles complaining about how much the new iPhone sucks, but he’s going to buy it anyway.

              Yes, this all could be mine if I just give up drinking Starbucks!

              (And got a job that pays more that 100k/year like he does.)

              Reply
            2. Ego Chamber

              “I feel like super-affluent people either think small expenditures are totally insignificant, or attach way too much significance to them.”

              Sometimes both at the same time (that’s one hell of a party trick!).

              Reply
          3. Falling Diphthong

            I looked into those high-reward miles cards when my daughter was ready to get a credit card, and you usually have to charge, like, $8000 in the first two months. Okay, if you have $8000 set aside that you were going to spend really fast anyhow, maybe this works to your advantage.

            Reply
            1. SimonTheGreyWarden

              Yeah, we got one like that only because we knew we had the hospital expense of birthing our baby. We paid it on the credit card, paid off the credit card right away, and then will convert the card to something where we don’t have to spend that kind of money right away.

              Reply
          4. SarahKay

            Urrghh! All those magazine articles promising “You can save £20/week!” Except it’s all suggestions such as: stop getting take-out coffee, make a packed lunch, car-share to work.
            Yeah, great. Except I never *started* getting take-out coffee, I already make a packed lunch, and neither I nor any of my friends can *afford* a car; we take the bus.
            Okay, I’m now in the income bracket where I could get a car, take-out coffees and buy lunch, but I sure remember what it was like not *having* any luxuries to be able to cut back on.

            Reply
            1. Indoor Cat

              Right! Plus, if I’m in the income bracket where I can afford to spend $16/week on lattes and pastries, or I could spend that $16/week (or $64/month, or $678/year) on another non-necessity…what’s wrong with coffee and pastries?

              I mean, this is basically where I’m at now; I can safely pay for all my needs and a few of my wants. I don’t have a car either, I pack a lunch, etc. So why are people going to be judgey if my wants are mid-morning treats or the new $50 hardcover, illustrated Dave McKean book (which I’m plenty willing to skip a month of treats over), but not going to a restaurant or a movie or whatever most weekends.

              Lavender chais and gingerbread lattes and maple-apple steamers make me happy, and now that I can finally afford them, I’m gonna buy them. And since $64/month isn’t enough to get a car, isn’t enough to go on a trip, and isn’t enough to pay for a dental emergency, I’m not letting anyone talk me out of enjoying them.

              Reply
            2. Newt

              THIS!

              I remember the time an older person I knew tried to “help” me and the partner during our period of severe poverty by “helping us budget”. They brought around all these pieces of paper with questions on to help us figure out where we could cut back from or move money to.

              The first stumbling block was the argument about our income. “No I asked your total income, I mean the total for both of you.” “Yes. I know. That’s it.” “No but… it… oh. So is that weekly?” “Monthly” “But-”

              By the time we’d gotten them to understand that no, we didn’t have mobile phone contracts and only topped up the PAYG when we absolutely had to, that we didn’t have a budget for eating out or getting coffee because we did neither, that we – and yes I know you should but let me give you my budget and you tell me where to make it happen – didn’t have contents insurance (rented home so buildings is covered by the landlord) and that we had no gas supply to our home to “get a better deal on”, and that we were spending £25 per week total for food for the both of us… ehhhh they were starting to get a bit flustered to say the least.

              They never did try to suggest we “budget better” again though, if we said we couldn’t afford something! Give them that!

              Reply
          5. Yvette

            “I finally got my passport recently …” I know this is slightly off topic but that reminds me of something that really annoyed me at the time. I was at work behind two people here (in US) who were here on work visas. Their conversation went along the lines of “Most Americans don’t have passports because they have no interest in anything outside of their own country”. No, I didn’t have a passport because in those days (pre 9/11), on the strength of my birth certificate, I could travel to Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and most of the Caribbean. I didn’t need a passport. You know where I needed a passport? Europe, Asia, etc. You know where I could not afford to travel? You guessed it, Europe, Asia, etc. I would have loved to go to those places but I could not afford it. I still would love to go, but still can’t afford it. Maybe if I gave up my daily $8 Starbucks habit, oh wait, I don’t have a daily $8 Starbucks habit.

            Reply
            1. nacho

              To be fair, I don’t have a passport because I have no interest in anything outside my own country.

              But then again, my country is about the size of the whole European continent, so I feel that’s kind of justified.

              Reply
            2. Gazebo Slayer

              Oh don’t START me on “if you don’t travel internationally, you’re a dumb yahoo with no interest in the rest of the world.”

              Reply
              1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)

                It’s sometimes hard to deal with this attitude as an American in the UK. Other Americans here sometimes have this condescending attitude to people back home who have never left the US, as do many Brits. But sometimes the Brits don’t really understand how vast and diverse the US is.

                Reply
            3. turquoisecow

              I have a daily Starbucks habit, but it’s not $8. :)

              I used my passport to travel to Canada, though I have plans to travel elsewhere at some point. I didn’t get a passport as a kid because my parents didn’t have money for foreign vacations, so there was no need to. I definitely have interest in traveling outside the country.

              Reply
          6. Bryce

            My best friends from college got married halfway around the world, and it took them a bit to understand why I couldn’t join them.

            Reply
          7. Annie Moose

            This one manager at my work is constantly on the credit card wagon. He’s tried to talk me into it before, and he’s like “oh, all you have to do is spend $2000 in the first month! [or whatever] And you pay it off right away so you don’t get charged interest and it isn’t really debt!” I tried to explain to him that I don’t spend $2000 a month to begin with, and I genuinely don’t think he understood what I was saying.

            I don’t know, he has some scheme worked out where he buys lottery tickets with the credit cards for games where he’s guaranteed to at least break even, and that’s how he takes care of the minimum spends–but who’s got time for that kind of elaborate plan? Or can afford to tie up that much money that way?

            I’m lucky enough to have a steady job that allows me to save money (and I just got an annual raise! I’m pretty stoked, my old company was always “having a bad year” so raises were small-to-nonexistent), but that doesn’t mean I can casually drop $2000 on some lottery-ticket-credit-card-airline-points conspiracy.

            Reply
        2. Parenthetically

          Yep. We have a newish friend who did our estate planning and when I mentioned in passing that for the first 8 years I lived in this city, I made less than $20,000/year, the blood actually drained from his face. He was STUNNED that a person could survive and not be homeless on that amount of money.

          Reply
        1. Anon for This

          It’s people who are staffing group homes, providing respite care for behavioral disturbed kids or mentally challenged adults, or working with others who need the help of social services.

          I’ve done direct care work, and it’s very challenging and the people that you work with can be abusive (emotionally and mentally, even though they don’t understand that they are being that way), and it’s very low paid. When I provided care I was paid $7 an hour. It was fine as a part-time job to serve as supplemental income, but there is no way I could have done that type of work long-term, as many people did.

          Reply
          1. K, Esq.

            Direct care work is paid at such a low rate because insurance will only reimburse minimum wage + 25%. That leaves very little for the agencies to pay their workers and cover their overhead. I’m an elder law attorney and know firsthand that providing care is HARD.

            Reply
        2. Sigrid

          Usually referring to things like home health care, hospice care, nursing/medical assistants, etc. A very difficult job that everyone says is extraordinarily important to society and yet generally makes minimum wage.

          Reply
          1. Snark

            Yeah, it’s basically taking care of the bodily functions of the sick, elderly, senile, and/or dying for $9/hr, because you can get the job with a GED the job typically offers (crappy) benefits, unlike fast food or retail.

            Reply
            1. Elizabeth H.

              It is truly horrifying that these jobs are paid so little, for the sake of the employees, the people they care for and society in general.

              Reply
        3. Kathleen Adams

          I think it means that the employees are working directly with the recipients of that non-profit’s services. So for example, if the non-profit is some sort of hunger relief organization, you’ll have people working to get donations, people producing the marketing pieces, people working with volunteers, administrative staff and that sort of thing, but you might also have people actually talking to poor people and helping to arrange the food or money for food that they need. The latter would be “direct care.”

          That’s how I’ve heard it used, anyway.

          Reply
        4. LW/OP

          Hi! I am the OP/LW and I just wanted to say that I shouldn’t have used such a generalized word like “direct care” since it could mean a ton of things. In my agency and our type of work it means the people who work in homes or in our facilities with those with developmental disabilities. These are the people that change diapers and cook meals and handle behavioral issues and drive them to doctors appointments and generally help take care of their day to day needs and provide respite for caregivers. We also host a preschool for children with developmental disabilities so in that case direct care would apply to our preschool teachers and aides. I am excluding people who would make more in this such as therapist, nurses, administrators. They are considered middle management/supervisors in my agency.

          Reply
          1. 42

            Ah, there you are OP! Can you please send in an update after you have the talk with your boss/CEO? A lot of us would find how he responds very eye-opening, I think.

            Reply
        5. CAS

          They’re workers who provide care directly to individuals who need it. A home health aide is one example. I worked for an agency that operated group homes, and the staff who worked in the group homes directly with clients were direct-care staff. They generally help with tasks like cooking, laundry, cleaning, bathing, dressing, shopping, etc. In a group home environment, they also are often responsible for providing independent living training to the clients. They also transport clients to medical appointments and for other services.

          Reply
      2. Anonymous Educator

        Yeah, some of the pay discrepancies at non-profits are ridiculous. I know some people worry that money they donate to non-profits goes to salaries and “overhead” instead of directly to “the cause,” but salaries matter. I don’t care if my donated money goes to salaries, as long as it’s not to pad the CEO’s salary. Find me a non-profit that has a CEO making no more than 3 times what the lowest-paid employee makes and also pays the lowest-paid employee a decent wage, and I will gladly donate my money to that non-profit.

        Hypothetical. Let’s say you have a 10-person organization, in which this is the salary distribution:

        400000
        80000
        40000
        30000
        28000
        28000
        25000
        22000
        20000
        20000

        Guess what. That same total salary could be redistributed this way, too.

        231000
        100000
        70000
        50000
        45000
        45000
        40000
        38000
        37000
        37000

        If you can’t take a pay cut from $400,000 to $231,000, don’t tell me you believe only in the mission and don’t care about money.

        Reply
          1. Anonymous Educator

            Thanks. Note: even in the hypothetical I posted that’s fairer, the CEO is still making over six times (not three times) what the lowest-paid employee is making.

            Reply
            1. LBK

              My one counterpoint to this (which I stole from previous posts Alison has made on the subject) is that executive director salaries do still tend to be on the high end in order to make those positions attractive in comparison to for-profit C-suite salaries. But that does prove your point that therefore people are at least somewhat in it for the money since they’re only willing to run the organization for 50% of what they could make elsewhere instead of, say, 10%. No one’s running an org for $50k.

              Reply
              1. Falling Diphthong

                Yes, I thought of that with one charity I donate to. A few years back congress critters were commenting snarkily about how she certainly did earn her high salary, what with staying cool under their questioning for days, not flinching, and generally being incredibly effective in a very high pressure job.

                I’m okay with her making a lot.

                Reply
                1. Editor Person

                  I know who you’re talking about and I remember hearing the number and thinking “oh, that’s not so much, for a CEO of a national organization.”

                2. Anonymous Educator

                  I don’t begrudge orgs paying CEOs a high salary, as long as that’s not at the expense of the salaries of everyone underneath the CEO. If you’re going to pay a competitive salary for one position, pay a competitive salary for all positions.

                  I’ve worked with non-profits that are strapped for cash, and they don’t even imagine they can get a world-class CEO. They struggle to get an Executive Director they can.

                  If you’re operating at a national scale and have hundreds of millions to deal with, then pay your workers (all of them, not just the CEO) proper wages.

              2. Anonymous Educator

                Why does the ED’s salary have to be competitive, but the other employees’ salaries don’t?

                Note: Nowhere did I say that a CEO should be making $50k.

                Reply
                1. Infinity Anon

                  I agree. The argument isn’t that the CEO should take a paycut, it is that if he isn’t willing to he should not be upset that other people work for money too (instead of volunteering their time for the mission).

                2. JB

                  Sadly, in the world we live in $9/hour for a direct careperson -is- competitive in many places, as defined as “at or above the going rate required to keep the position consistently staffed.”

                3. Anonymous Educator

                  It’s not that competitive if the turnover rate is high (which is what the OP indicates). Just because it’s similar to other places doesn’t mean it’s competitive (maybe those other places have high turnover, too). You want quality people to stay? Pay them appropriately.

                4. Sarah

                  I think you’re mixing up fair and competitive. $9 for direct care isn’t fair but it is competitive in my very very large middle-of-the-country city.

                5. Gadfly

                  Anonymous Educator, there is always high turn over because it tends to be a crap job for crap pay where you mix abuse with a crap ton of guilt (which often results in a lot of unwilling overtime or donated time) because you do care about the patients. And more guilt because you usually have little or no power to actually advocate for them. And the companies usually cycle the workers through because they are replaceable and because it allows them to blame the direct care staff for everything that goes wrong rather than asinine company policies.

                  Which, $9 an hour is competitive for that, in our economy.

              3. Clinical Social Worker

                I know someone running an org for that much.

                And am currently a board member for a startup nonprofit and make $0. Along with all my other board members.

                It is just not sustainable. People need to be paid.

                Reply
              4. Nonprofit pro

                The last org that I worked for had the two EDs making 40k each. When they retired and a new ED was hired making 90k it was discovered that the only reason the books worked was because the original EDs would frequently not cash their paychecks. They were also the original founders of the org and I’m guessing had some family money. I was making 27k as the director of development and it was a huge increase from my previous salaries of 18k and 10,700.

                Reply
        1. Rookie Manager

          Yes! Very good post.

          In my particular departmemt of a non profit 90+% of our budget is salaries. That’s because our service is delivered by people and their knowledge. As manager I earn just over twice the salary of my lowest paid report. However director level are maybe twice my salary and the top man- let’s say he won’t need any welfare benefits.

          Reply
        2. Lorelai Gilmore

          Not trying to be judgmental, this is just truly educational for me (and I work in a non profit), is the first structure reality in many organizations? I don’t know how anyone could survive on $20,000? Is that a real thing? Many (most) people would be working for under $30k?

          Reply
          1. Not So NewReader

            In my area I think at least 1/3 to 1/2 of the people are making 20k or less. My town averages 40k per year and that is good compared to other towns.

            Reply
            1. GermanGirl

              Average doesn’t say much though, as this example illustrates.
              The average is the same before and after the redistribution: 69 300 $

              With salaries, the median (half the people make more and half make less that this) tends to be more representative. In the first example it’s 28 000 $ and in the second example it’s 45 000 $.

              Because of the way salary distributions work, you can safely bet that the median will be lower than the average.
              So if the people in your city make 40k a year on average not only half of them make less than that – a sizeable majority make less than that!

              Reply
          2. nacho

            Depends on where you live. Where I am, people making $15-20 an hour are living paycheck to paycheck, but farther south, I could buy a house with that kind of money.

            Reply
        3. ArtK

          Goodwill pays upper management a lot of money (6 figures, up to $500K) but takes advantage of laws that allow them to pay the disabled less than minimum wage.

          Reply
      3. Anon today...and tomorrow

        My husband works in direct care. There is so much turn over in the field. His current company is facing a hiring crisis but they don’t want to raise wages for the staff, so they’re hiring people who are just desperate for any job. Abuse towards the clients and drug theft has slowly ticked upward over the last year and there’s a sense of general misery from everyone in the positions there in the trenches. The people with the money and power are constantly making changes to the treatment programs…not because they’re working but because they’re cheaper to run. My husband is desperately trying to find a job elsewhere but anything in this field pays horribly and his experience is holding him back from a career change. It’s so frustrating.

        Reply
        1. Gadfly

          I am convinced they mostly want high turnover in this area to make it harder for caregivers to be advocates and so that they can blame everything on high turn over rather than on the policies.

          Reply
    3. Nolan

      Yes.

      “One of the main reasons cited is that my workplace feels people are just in the job for the money (my boss says this all the time) and not for our mission.”

      People who say things like this are too privileged to comprehend that most folks work to survive. Spell it out for him, his employees don’t have safety nets, passion doesn’t pay the bills. Maybe he’ll get it… I hope he gets it.

      Reply
      1. GG Two shoes

        I think they need to have the boss work the job of direct service for a couple days. Then talk to them about what living paycheck to paycheck really means. Freaking clueless. Talk about a tone deaf manager. You know what would improve morale? 2 more dollars an hour, at least.

        Reply
        1. Rookie Manager

          There is a tv show that does this ‘secret boss’ or something. Almost always they end up uplifting salaries as they realise how hard the frontline work and then how had they work to make ends meet.

          Reply
          1. Amy

            A lot of times it seems to me that they really don’t get they big picture though. They see that Bob works hard and is struggling to pay rent so they do something for him but that doesn’t do much for the 200 other Bobs who work there.

            Reply
            1. Bryce

              Yeah. Occasionally you get someone who seems to really understand what they hadn’t been seeing (of course you never see the follow-up to know what they changed) but for a lot of them they Fairy Godmother three people and ride into the sunset.

              Reply
            2. CMF

              reminds me of a Dear Prudence column from a year or so ago, where the person writing in referred to her employees as being “low-income,” and how sad it was (the LW was management and not low-income), and Mallory was like, “uh, they’re low-income because of your company, not because of outside forces.”

              Reply
    4. Aurion

      Absolutely. One apt quote from Gotham:

      Bruce Wayne: “The money doesn’t matter.”
      Selina Kyle: “Try not having any. It matters.”

      Reply
    5. Falling Diphthong

      Not only non-profits. I remember an NPR interview with a woman who couldn’t find committed staff for her boutique. The job paid minimum wage with no benefits BUT employees would be working for a small family-owned business. Family-owned! AND small! She sincerely didn’t get why those two things weren’t pulling in dedicated people who would be happy to work any hours asked and stay for decades, for they were the employees of a Small Family-Owned Business.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        I had this argument with an acquaintance. “I’ve got a cherry position open at my company, but I just can’t find qualified people!”

        “What kind of position?”

        “Senior llama groomer. It’s a pretty technical position and they’d be a supervisor, but I should at least be able to find a few good candidates!”

        “What’s the salary?”

        “$32k.”

        o_o

        Reply
          1. Snark

            The thing is, though, going market rate for senior llama groomers is more like $60k and we’re in a state with unemployment below 3%. He’s delusional.

            Reply
            1. paul

              I didn’t register that you actually didn’t mean llamas at first :( I was picturing making nearly what I make now working in the back end of nowhere with a few dozen llamas.

              Reply
                1. CM

                  This reminds me of the “dream job” discussion. You guys, llamas are mean. You will regret taking the pay cut when you come home from work every day drenched in llama spit.

                  Anyway, for the OP, I’m glad to hear that you feel you can trust your boss enough to be candid. I think your perspective would be extremely valuable for your boss to hear — you try to do a great job for the organization, but because you have this job that pays so little, you NEED to prioritize money over passion. I think asking your boss if he would work for $9/hour out of love for the mission would be illuminating, as well as pointing out that you need public assistance because you earn so little. I really like your point that they are misapplying an upper-management training to line staff.

      2. Agatha_31

        The fun (“fun”) part is when those same Small Family-Owned Businesses wail and gnash their teeth all over local media that locals aren’t buying their stuff at 10x the price WalMart sells it at. “Our employees who we pay below living wages to are causing the DEATH of our community! It’s definitely not that they’re settling for lower-quality goods because they literally have no choice! They LOVE buying things like cheap shoes that wear out in a year instead of good shoes that last forever! Oh woe is us, responsible businesspersons who totally support the community by… running a business in it and expecting everybody will come in and buy because ‘Small Family-Owned Business!'”

        Reply
        1. paul

          I remember when the county I grew up in got a walmart (not a super center, just a regular old Walmart) and that was *the* topic for a few months.

          Frankly, most of those small mom and pop stores hired high schoolers who didn’t know any better and exploited them at least as hard as WalMart did.

          Reply
          1. Ego Chamber

            Samesies. There are still local businesses on main street, they still ignore all the labor laws they don’t like and expect everyone to work as many hours as the owner even though they’re only willing to pay for [x] hours at $low_wage, but now they blame “Walmart and Amazon” for their shitty practices instead of the more general “big businesses” like back when I was a kid.

            We have a lot more tattoo shops now though, so that’s cool.

            Reply
          2. Agatha_31

            I was a kid when it happened but I do remember the adults putting up a *lot* of fuss when the first Walmart went in where I lived! Which is funny, because all it was doing was replacing a Woolco, which as I recall was pretty much the same deal.

            When I was a young adult, I once did some work for a locally owned grocery store that was having a *fit* when Superstore wanted to move in. They spent *so* much money trying to emotionally blackmail the community, sending out letters, putting up flyers, writing to the newspaper, , used all kinds of weasel word type arguments like “that site’s too near the school, won’t anybody think of the children!” and even dragged their employees to out-of-work-hours city council meetings to talk about how awesome working for a local business is and how they’d tooooooootally lose a lot of value in their working life if Superstore was allowed to come in. Those weasels hired me as a young (dumb) kid straight out of secretarial school and rewarded my ignorance accordingly – they paid me under the table and didn’t pay for any overtime (like at ALL, so I’d work 14 hours a day for 8 hours pay). And then when the campaign finished and they managed to keep Superstore out, despite all their glowing praise about what a valuable asset I was, and very blatantly dangling the idea of a permanent job in front of me as incentive to keep doing their work for them in an economy that quite frankly stank like old fish (and it was the store owner himself who hired me and praised me and bribed me with an imaginary future, mind you), I never heard another word from them from the moment the final decision was made.

            Joke’s on them though, Superstore just found another location and was delayed by maybe one year.

            Reply
        2. the gold digger

          Yes! My mom and dad are from a really small town (no stoplights). Everyone used to have to drive 2.5 hours to Minneapolis or an hour east to Wausau to buy t-shirts and underwear. There were only a few small local businesses and their products were expensive and not very nice.

          My husband is super anti-Walmart, but Walmart coming to the area meant that people didn’t have to spend all day Saturday buying clothes.

          Reply
            1. Required Name

              I don’t think it’s Eau Claire, but it might be a small town in that same region? I’ve been to Eau Claire and it definitely has stop lights, chain restaurants, and big box stores.

              Reply
          1. Bryce

            Ah, small town life. I live in the city now and I still mentally budget an entire day to go shopping and try to work everything into a single trip.

            Reply
        3. Rookie Manager

          Our local fishmongers shut. They spoke out lots on social media about how we (local community) lost them because we refused to shop local… they were only open 10-4 weekdays and 8-11on a Saturday. If I wanted to shop there I would either need to take a day off work in nearest big city or get up early on a Saturday. The fish was undoubtedly fresh but it was expensive and hard to get hold of.

          Reply
          1. Y

            I went to get a key cut at a local key-cutting place on a Saturday afternoon.

            There was a flying in the window exhorting people to support local businesses… right next to the ‘Closed’ sign that displayed their hours as 10am-12:30pm on Saturdays.

            I tried to support you. You are the ones who stopped me from giving you money.

            Reply
          2. Alli525

            A butcher shop near me just had the same thing happen. They were open a little later (I think until 6 or 7), but this was in an outer borough of NYC, so if you left work at 6, you still aren’t getting home until 6:30 or 7. And it wasn’t a long-established place either – they opened and closed in the span of about 2 years IIRC – so they just never gave themselves the chance to make money.

            Reply
        4. Bryce

          One restaurant by me is a nice Hawaiian place, local owners, long-time community member, all that stuff. Of course the owner was furious about a minimum wage increase, posted vitriol on their menus blaming the price increases on the waitstaff (hoping to encourage the diners to take it out of the tip), and has revealed himself to be an all-around jerk (something already known by people who had worked for him).

          Reply
        5. Annie Moose

          When I was in high school, the big thing was my hometown getting a Meijer! And it’d drive [local grocery store] out of business!! And the Meijer showed up, and it did drive [local grocery store] out of business… but in retrospect, I guarantee Meijer employs a lot more people, and everyone always said [local grocery store owner] was horrible to work for anyway. So I don’t know how sad I actually am.

          Reply
        6. yasmara

          My husband worked for a medium-sized family business for 3 years. Salaries in some cases had been stagnant for a dozen years. While he was there, the company was acquired (well, sold by the owneer) by a much larger company. He just heard this year that the acquiring company *finally* adjusted salaries to match their ranges. Some people got a $20k raise, it had been that bad.

          Reply
      3. Gazebo Slayer

        God, the delusional small business owners. I once interviewed (in 2002) to work for a woman who told me “maybe someday if you get really good you’ll make $5 an hour!” Really excitedly, like this was awesome and I should be so grateful.

        Honestly, I tend to assume small business owners are spoiled, egomaniac cheapskates until proven otherwise, and I’m sick of our culture’s uncritical reverence of them.

        Reply
    6. Danger: Gumption Ahead

      Not only peanuts, peanuts for 13 years. The LW has been working there for over a decade and is still qualifying for need based programs. That made me want to hunt down her boss and punch him. Or make him work for $9.00 and hour for 13 years

      Reply
      1. LW/OP

        I actually one of the better paid front-line (assistant/clerk type) people but it still isn’t enough to survive. I should note that I am in the southern US so cost of living here are traditionally lower. I actually made $22,000 a year which makes me eligible for food stamps and state medicaid for my son. I will make slightly more this year as they gave me a small raise but it won’t be over $550 and I am nervous because I have to be careful about how much I make or I could lose some of my social services. It is a strange balance that the people we serve are actually really use to. They receive SSDI and we encourage them to work in the community but they can’t make above a certain amount of they will lose benefits and unless that job will pay more than the benefit they are losing then they are in trouble. Which is kind of what my agency exists for , to advocate for them. Interesting story: I actually went to college. I have a degree but it really hasn’t helped me.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          Please believe me when I tell you you could double your salary, keep your PTO roughly on par, and work for people who appreciate your work, if you job hunt a little. Seriously. That is insultingly, egregiously, should-be-illegal pay for someone with your experience and education. You can and should do so much better than that.

          Reply
          1. Agatha_31

            “Please believe me when I tell you you could double your salary, keep your PTO roughly on par, and work for people who appreciate your work, if you job hunt a little. Seriously.”

            While I’m totally on board with encouraging people and bolstering their self esteem in the hopes it’ll help, it’s not fair to make statements like the above. It’s similar to the mindset behind “you should work for the passion rather than the money.” There are a ton of reasons why someone might struggle to find something better, and many of those reasons could be something they don’t want to discuss in a forum like this.

            Reply
          2. she was a fast machine

            That’s patently untrue, depending on where in the south OP works. I’m sorry but you’re kind of exhibiting the kind of behavior we’re railing against.

            Reply
            1. Ego Chamber

              How so? “Your job sucks and isn’t going to change. You should do whatever you can to improve your situation.” is one of the true commandments around here.

              No one is saying “Quit your job without anything lined up and the perfect job will materialize,” Snark was saying OP deserves better (which is true: $9/hr with a f#cking college degree? Unacceptable) and she should look around a little. Might not find anything, sure, but that’s better then missing out on a good job that ticks all her boxes because she’s assuming it doesn’t exist.

              Reply
              1. she was a fast machine

                The part about “Please believe me when I tell you you could double your salary, keep your PTO roughly on par, and work for people who appreciate your work, if you job hunt a little.” is untrue, not the rest of it. It smacks of knowing the op’s situation better than they do. Its intent is nice but it comes across very patronizing, especially because minimum wage is the best you’re gonna get in a lot of places in the rural south.

                Reply
        2. Danger: Gumption Ahead

          LW, oh I know that dance. It is why my mom worked under the table so much when I was a kid. The extra $50-$100 could have kicked us kids off Medicaid.

          You should seriously look at your options. I used to work at a non-profit in the Southwest (e.g. also low cost of living) and we paid our data entry temps, who required no experience and you didn’t have to have finished HS, $13.34/hour. You have 13 years under your belt in a role with far more responsibility. Even if you choose not to apply to them or, if you do apply, choose not to take any offers, it can give you some peace of mind to know that you have options if something happens.

          Reply
          1. LW/OP

            I will definitely keep that in mind. Enough money to make food stamps not a necessity with the same PTO would be so nice.

            Reply
            1. Anon Accountant

              Sometimes you can negotiate more PTO during hiring. It’s something to think about but you know what works best for your family with PTO and needing flexible schedules for appointments and such.

              Reply
            2. Anon Accountant

              Oh and I completely agree the job questionnaire session is insulting to lower paid employees. Especially when you are relying on state assistance to provide food and basic needs for your family.

              Reply
            3. yasmara

              And sometimes you have to leave to get a salary bump. It’s like they can’t appreciate you because you’ve been there too long. Would a new hire start where you are now after 13 years? Another voice of encouragement to seriously start job hunting because you sound awesome and worth far more than they are paying you.

              Reply
        3. AKchic

          I feel you. I was in this position for years working in non-profit with 4 kids. My medical insurance was free, but I still had to pay dental/vision for me. I couldn’t afford the medical, dental and vision for my kids ($1500/mo for all of it, plus the co-pays and deductible). We were on the state’s medical insurance for the kids. My husband was on my insurance plan, at an extra $700/mo. My last raise plus his $12.50/hr meant we were no longer eligible for food stamps. We brought home $2700/mo between the two of us for 6 people. Our rent was $1800/mo (remember – 6 people). My insurance refused to cover half of my prescriptions, so if I wanted to not have my migraines, I’d have to shell out $400/mo just for the generic of the medication that worked. Guess who no longer had migraine medication for the last year I was at that place?

          I loved the work. I didn’t love having 62% of my check going to pay for the medical insurances that barely covered even routine check-ups. I gave that company 8 years.

          Now I’m union and make 3x what I was making before. I don’t have as much leave time (2 weeks vacation vs. 4 weeks), but the financial freedom is so worth it. We were able to move out of the terrible place we’d been stuck in (it was literally falling apart around us and the slumlord wouldn’t do anything about it). The kids have real insurance and I don’t have to fight them about braces.

          Reply
    7. seejay

      I passed by a pedestrian today carrying a bag that had the pithy quote “friends are worth more than all the money in the world” and I thought “I wonder if my landlord will let me pay for my rent with friends?”

      It’s really easy to say that all the money in the world won’t make you happy or experiences are worth more than cash or blah blah blah, but that’s cause people saying that have it and aren’t worried about their next meal, their rent, the next emergency, or whatever. I’ve learned to never underestimate an emergency, when the next crisis will come from, how quickly your support network can fall apart (if you’re even lucky to have one) or if your job will be there the next day.

      It’s great to prioritize working in a field you love first over the pay but I’ll take the paycheck first and foremost and do something I like versus holding out for something I love and have passion for that keeps me in the poor house because I don’t have the resources to keep myself afloat otherwise. :/

      Reply
      1. Dust Bunny

        One of my FB friends griped the other day about her (hard and massively underpaid) job and got the reply, well, money can’t buy happiness!

        Which is about 97% bullroar. It can’t if you’re a fundamentally miserable person, but it buys security and freedom, and let’s not underestimate how much those make up of happiness.

        Reply
        1. paul

          I’ve been a pack of ramen and an egg a day poor and I’ve been middle class. I’ll take middle class any day of the year, TYVM.

          Reply
        2. Jadelyn

          Money can’t buy happiness. But it can buy housing, transportation, food, medical care, security, freedom…and that’s a significant mood booster, lol. I’ve seen stuff about research showing that money doesn’t buy happiness once you’re past a certain threshold – I think it was about $70k/yr? – but that up to that point income absolutely directly correlates with happiness.

          Reply
          1. Ego Chamber

            That’s a really important point/study. I vote that we amend the cliche to Money can’t buy happiness, but poverty is fucking miserable. It’s at least accurate?

            Reply
          2. Max from St. Mary's

            Money can also buy time. If I could pay for someone to clean my house, take care of the repairs, trim up the yard, etc…I’d have time to do all of those wonderful things that make upper-middle class people feel happy and fulfilled.

            Reply
        3. Kyrielle

          Yes. If you have a certain minimum level of financial security and income, more money can’t buy more happiness.

          But if you *don’t*, if your current income isn’t sufficient for stability and security, money can buy an awful lot of stress relief. Happiness is presumably easier to work on and find if you are not in crisis management mode often, and worry about ending up there more often, because of money issues.

          Reply
      2. Anon anon anon

        Yeah. And in those fields, there tends to be this divide between the people who have no other sources of income and the people who do (family money, spouse’s income, savings from a previous job, etc). There are an awful lot of people who kinda sorta need to work. They can get by without it, but they want the experience or they need a little extra income. In my experience, these people often go the creative or do-gooder route. That divide can be yucky, and ideally, organizations should find a way to mitigate it. The kind of thing LW described sounds like it would do the opposite.

        Reply
        1. hypernatural

          This was really clear in my wife’s previous job. She was a social worker at a nonprofit that paid crap and the majority of her coworkers had husbands who made $100k+ and they could afford to love the mission and work for passion only. I don’t make enough for us to both live on and pay off her student debt, so she quit for something that paid better, as did everyone there who worked for money. The only ones who stayed on for a real length of time were independently wealthy.

          Reply
      3. Jadelyn

        I always retort, when our leadership starts going on about wanting employees who are “mission fit” and who believe in the mission and are here for that not just for money, “Can I pay my mortgage with “mission fit”?” Like that’s all well and good but people need to be able to make a living first.

        Reply
        1. Decima Dewey

          If only. “Yes, we were going to raise your rent by $200 a month, but your passion for llama grooming made $150 more a month the figure we finally went with.”

          Reply
      4. Amber Rose

        I hate that. Back when I was making minimum wage I wanted to find a new job that paid more money. My dad was appalled, he said that with my benefits I should be happy.

        I was like, my benefits don’t keep the lights on or pay the rent. And actually they cost me over $100 a month. Perhaps if I was American it would be different, but since I don’t need to pay for doctors or life saving treatments and I don’t need expensive drugs, i’d rather have cash.

        Reply
    8. Wrench Turner

      It’s part of the reason why I transitioned from the non-profit white collar world to the for-profit blue collar world.

      Reply
  2. Granny K

    I read this and wonder if upper management is trying to gear what the reaction would be if they lower payroll costs all around.
    Note: nobody is so altruistic that they want to work for free.

    Reply
    1. Specialk9

      OP, consider looking at university jobs. They tend to pay lower compared to the private sector with much much higher PTO, but it sounds like it would still be a bump in pay from where you are.

      This job is for the birds. They do not have loyalty or compassion for you, so please don’t expect that.

      If you hadn’t already filled in your survey, I’d recommend you lie (and I’m a painfully honest person), or find technical truths that sound like they’re saying what mgmt wants to hear. It’s a lot easier to get rid of the person speaking hard truths than to fix things.

      Reply
      1. MilkMoon (UK)

        “It’s a lot easier to get rid of the person speaking hard truths than to fix things.”

        This literally happened to me two jobs ago – at a job where one (great) manager loved me and my candour but another (absolute harpy) really didn’t. They summoned me to a disciplinary the first (dubious!) chance they got and I responded on the morning of said disciplinary with a carefully-worded resignation letter telling them to go f- themselves – with immediate effect.

        Reply
      2. selina kyle

        University jobs or school jobs are good advice but it sounds from the letter that OP really feels connected to this place. It’s sad that they don’t seem to return that feeling back to her.

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          Mmm, I think there’s an element of this job is safe, and any jostle could tip her over the edge so she can’t risk any shift in balance. (And a good boss and generous PTO are valuable things.) From my padded seat I can say that OP looking at some other options might be good, but it’s safely abstract for me.

          (People who are just holding on by their fingernails don’t shake things up. To the mystification of wannabe revolutionaries possessed of a financial cushion that allowed every risk they ever took, and can’t grasp why people with less don’t go ahead and risk it all.)

          Reply
          1. selina kyle

            I completely agree – it sounds like this is “safe”, as you said, but I wish/hope OP would consider looking elsewhere. They sound like a valuable employee.

            Reply
          2. nonegiven

            At this level of pay, anything can tip the balance. Moving expenses, longer commute, bus schedules, the time between one job’s last check and the other’s first check, finding new daycare because the old one is the opposite direction from the new job, difference in insurance premiums and copays, etc.

            Reply
      3. LW/OP

        I have looked around and my options aren’t so limiting that I can’t move. The benefits are nice though. The ability to bring my kid to work if I have to is also nice. I’d love not to have to rely on social assistant programs and pray that my car starts every morning but I am so scared to make the jump. I had a few other small jobs in my first years of college and in high school but this is my first and only full time job. It is something I obviously really need to get over so having a lot of comments tell me to do this and move to another job help. Sometimes you just need a little bit of support to make that jump and universities might be it.

        Unfortunately I already did the survey and I did it truthfully. He hasn’t read the results yet so he hasn’t seen them (they are in sort of queue) but I get that chance Monday. It was definitely a hard choice to answer it truthfully but it is something I know could end up badly for me. He has always accepted my honesty and feedback before so I am hoping that is the case next week.

        Reply
        1. AntsOnMyTable

          I think a lot of people don’t want to leave their first real job because change can be really scary, especially when you are in such a vulnerable situation. I do believe with 13 years experience you have a good chance of find something that would work better for you, so throwing my support in.

          That being said I personally don’t think you need to worry about the survey. Will the boss maybe be upset about the reality of what you said? Yes. Are they going to fire a 13 year high performing employee (when they already struggle with turnover) based on it? I don’t think so unless they are *highly* dysfunctional which your letter did not seem to imply.

          Reply
        2. Not So NewReader

          If you decide to make that jump and would like more support, type in on the Friday open thread. You’ll get good inputs, maybe even some usable resources.
          I stayed at my for profit too long. It almost seems to be a common thing to believe that there is nothing out there that we could otherwise do. In all fairness, low paying jobs in the for profit sector have the same effect.

          Reply
    2. Koko

      Eh, I work in the nonprofit world (at an older established org where I’m well compensated and treated fairly) and there really is this phenomenon among people who dedicate their careers to a cause to want everyone else to share their passion. As a marketer one of the battles I constantly face is having to diplomatically explain to other people at my org that our membership doesn’t care about us as an org, they care about what we do. The other one is diplomatically explaining that even our members don’t sleep and breathe our issue the way we do and they’re not going to read long boring emails about minor events.

      I could see some of the people I fight those battles with getting a bee in their bonnet about making the staff members feel passionate about the work, not because they wanted to take anything away from staff, but because they personally care so much that they can’t emotionally distance themselves and don’t understand why other people don’t feel the same way. They think if the other people just had the right information – the right training – they’d have their a-ha! moment and then we’d all be sharing this passion together and wouldn’t that be grand! It’s still unrealistic and unfair to expect, but it comes from a good place of just really caring a lot.

      Luckily, the leadership where I am now has a different philosophy that passion is great but a nonprofit should be run like a business nonetheless.

      Reply
      1. Say what, now?

        I hope they listen to you. I used to get emails every 2 weeks from a drug-dependency organization I donated to. They were indiscriminate in what they sent me as well. I’ve never had a drug problem but they didn’t separate out their donor list from their interested in their services list so it was a really weird mix. I’d get 3 paragraph long emails about fundraisers and then I’d get emails with lines like “have you hit rock bottom yet? we’re here to lift you up.” Nice sentiment but dang, it’s presumptuous to think that those emails would be well received.

        Reply
      2. Not So NewReader

        It’s a fairly basic principle that we cannot preach to people whose basic needs are not met. I read of missionaries spending 9 hours a day procuring water. They had to. The people would not sit down and listen to them until the day’s supply of water was drawn. Likewise with employees, people who are busy thinking about how to pay the rent or worried about food are not going to be passionate about any cause.

        Reply
    3. idi01

      I think turnaround is high at this company and management wants to try every trick in the book before having to go ahead and give higher salaries.

      I found the OP to be extremely articulate, bravo to her for such a clear letter (or perhaps bravo to Allison’s letter editor?).

      Reply
  3. Turtlewings

    G o s h this kind of thinking makes me angry. People work in exchange for money. That’s what a job is. And you know why? Because people need money to live. You have to be an especially obnoxious kind of privileged to not understand that basic fact. And yeah, scolding (scolding!!!) your poverty-line employees for caring whether they and their families starve is going to lead to a really sudden surge in turnover. I would be sorely tempted to ask the boss, “If the company stopped paying you tomorrow, how long would YOU keep coming to work?”

    Reply
    1. Snarkus Aurelius

      When I make this point about nonprofits that have wide salary gaps been admin and exec staff, I hear nonsense about wanting to be competitive or paying for top talent. I get that, but this passion of pay crap never extends to execs.

      Reply
      1. k.k

        That paying for talent thing is such crap. Why does it never extend to the front line staff? Especially when those direct service positions often are working with a vulnerable population (children, seniors, people with disabilities or health conditions…), is it such a crazy thought that you would want them to be good at their jobs? If someone is under a lot of stress worrying if they can feed their families, they’re much more likely to be distracted at work, or worse lash out to those around them.

        Reply
        1. Annonymouse

          I understand it in some ways – if you don’t pay for someone sensible in higher roles there is more turnover and wastage that occurs at that level which has a bigger impact on the bottom line. And in Theory it’s much harder to get a higher level worker than a front line one.

          Source my sister works as a manager in a community mental health service. BUT we live in a country where minimum wage is $15 which goes up with age and position type. So people who work with my sister while not well off, don’t have to worry about food vs bills vs gas for the car.

          This letter is a whole different kettle of fish.

          Does OP’s boss know she (and presumably others that work there) are on the poverty line? That they earn so little that they qualify for government assistance?

          Yeah, it’s nice to work for passion but passion doesn’t make my lights or car work or keep my child from crying in hunger. Passion isn’t a currency my landlord accepts for rent.

          But any decent manager will fight for their team and make sure if they can’t get higher salary will at least try for something else – bonuses, gift card rewards or something.

          Reply
      2. SarcasticFringehead

        I feel like maybe they could apply “pay for top talent” thinking to their front-line people too? Like, it would actually maybe be cheaper to pay 10 people an extra $5k a year than hire the most expensive CEO? That would reduce turnover and probably lead to better services for the nonprofit’s clients, which seems like something this CEO would be really into.

        But I’m not C-suite, so what do I know, I guess.

        Reply
      3. Observer

        Passion instead of pay absolutely does apply to top staff in many non-profits. The best execs could make much better money in the private sector.

        That said, I still agree that this kind of discussion is idiotic, at best. Asking someone to give up luxuries for the sake of the mission is one thing. Getting huffy because someone will take the job that lets them get their kid a decent coat and the occasional treat over the passion job, is utterly ridiculous. And I’m not even sure you should WANT the person who would take the passion job over one that keeps the kids fed. Especially not in a direct care position. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want someone with no sense of humanity providing direct service to vulnerable people.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          Yeah, but there’s a big difference between “could make more money elsewhere” and “can’t make ends meet on this salary”.

          Reply
        2. Gazebo Slayer

          Any nonprofit exec who spouts crap about passion instead of pay at people making $9 an hour should cut their own pay to not much more than that. Even if nonprofit exec salaries are not as high as for-profit, they’re still obscene in the face of frontline staff in a difficult job making $9 an hour. I don’t care about “paying for talent.”

          Reply
    2. JD

      I never get this either. Of course people work for money. I mean, I could be eating Doritos in bed but I am at work. Which do you think is more fun???? Also, you can have excellent employees without them caring about your “mission”. They don’t have to be obsessed with your mission to be a great employee.

      Reply
    3. LBK

      Right – I would say that my day-to-day motivation does come from my work itself, which I find interesting, challenging, exciting, etc. It engages my brain in a way that I enjoy. But the only reason I’m doing my work here, for this company, is because they’re paying me for it; if I stopped getting paid, I don’t think I’d stop enjoying this type of work, but I’d have no reason to keep doing it here, where it’s primarily for someone else’s benefit and the fact that I happen to also enjoy doing it is just a nice bonus.

      Reply
      1. Kyrielle

        There are lots of things I enjoy doing! My current job is one of them.

        If my current job stopped paying me and just wanted me to do it for funsies, however, I would head home and do some of those other things I enjoy doing, for my own benefit and that of my family.

        Why am I here instead of at some other company? In part because I very much like what we do, and in part because this company is good to us (in terms of money and benefits).

        Why am I here instead of home, loafing about and being artistic and Mommy-ish all the time? Because money.

        Reply
        1. Annonymouse

          I do agree with this.

          I’m lucky enough to do a job that’s in an industry I love and that I excel at that pays me enough that I can pay my bills.

          Could I make more money working elsewhere? Abso freaking loutley. But both my bosses and I know that. You don’t work in my industry to get rich.

          If they suddenly decided to cut my pay I’ll decide to cut out of there with no hesitation.

          Passion doesn’t pay my bills, feed my child and make sure we aren’t living in a dumpster at my work.

          Reply
    4. Falling Diphthong

      One of the more insightful things I read on being a stay-at-home parent, or spouse–via Sondra Tsing Loh–is that most people who write about work-family balance have jobs that require a college degree, are intellectually engaging, and offer flexible working conditions. Writers, academics, editors, think tankers, journalists. It’s a very narrow view of “what work means to me.”

      Reply
      1. I just might

        It is the reason I intensely dislike Brene Brown and mindfulness. Someone well meaning gave me one of her books (does she have more than one?) and asked my opinion on it. I said it was for people with privilege and options largely because she talked about going part time at her job to reduce stress. The stress of not making my car payment and resulting consequences slightly outweighs the stress of my job.

        Reply
        1. CM

          Hmm, I see why that anecdote rankled, but I don’t think it’s what Brene Brown and mindfulness are about. The approach is more about having perspective on life and allowing yourself to be compassionate and vulnerable without judging yourself or others. Then again, I think most people who spread that kind of message probably have a level of privilege that makes it hard for them to see that “I went part time to reduce stress” alienates readers who don’t have that privilege. It’s hard to imagine someone saying, “I can’t pay the bills, but I’m a meditation guru.”

          Reply
    5. Collarbone High

      Someone on our local Nextdoor complained that the employees at a nearby fast food restaurant were “just there to get a paycheck” and I was like … yeah that’s why most people work.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        Given how badly fast food workers are treated, it seems especially delusional to think that ANYONE in their right mind would take such a job for anything BUT the money.

        Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          [snicker] Well they are not there for how kindly they are treated and they are not there because the free or discounted food is so nutritious. There no benefits, no thank yous and no light at the end of the tunnel.
          This eliminates everything except the paycheck.

          Reply
      2. Danger: Gumption Ahead

        Wow. I guess they are expected to work for funsies? Lover of the brand? The joy of customer service? WT-ever loving-F

        Reply
    6. Hey Nonnie

      Reading that letter filled me with rage. The sheer arrogance of the financially comfortable trying to dictate priorities of survival to those at the very bottom rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

      This is an example of everything that is wrong with capitalism. A system that’s set up to enforce work-for-money and labor-for-survival with no way to get resources outside the system; all the while those at the top criticize those at the bottom for engaging with that system the way it was designed to work, as of anyone actually had a choice. We talk about passion but don’t reward it unless it happens to be profitable, which rarely correlates to meaningful. So we play the game or we starve. The middle class continues to vanish while the financial gap between the Haves and the Have-Nots continues to get bigger. Why are poor people poor? Because capitalism is working to design specifications.

      Reply
      1. Annonymouse

        No, poor people are poor because they don’t work hard enough.

        Of course this has nothing to do with:
        1) Our current system only values a certain small percentage of job types with high financial rewards

        2) That those jobs generally need a lot of expensive education and/or connections with other privileged people. It’s very hard (if not impossible) to break into them from the outside.

        3) That even if 2 wasn’t true, the number of high paying jobs available vs the number of people that can or want to do them is more ridiculously high than 1 vs 100

        4) That even if there was CEO level jobs for everyone the whole system would collapse – a bee hive doesn’t have 10,000 queens and one worker for a reason.

        There was a great example used in a cracked.com article.

        Imagine there are 10 out of work 1920s style hobos in a train car. You put a single bottle of moonshine in there and have them fight over it.

        Afterwards you tell the losers “If you just tried a bit harder you’d be the one with the moonshine”. Yeah, duh! But you’re ignoring the fact there was only ever one moonshine available so of course most people were going to miss out. It’s not there fault for “not trying hard enough” when the system is so clearly stacked.

        Reply
  4. Ramona Flowers

    I think you’re awesome. You have written such an eloquent and thoughtful letter in a situation that could understandably have had you sounding frustrated and bitter. Which you don’t. Like I said: awesome.

    So no, you’re not a bad employee, just someone who has to work hard for things that haven’t come so easily to you, like money to keep a roof over your head, and who doesn’t want to be chastised for wanting and needing those things.

    You don’t instil purpose by making people feel bad! Why not suggest they try some morale boosting instead? We share quotes with positive feedback, and stats on how many people we helped, which makes people feel great. If you want to instil purpose, look at the impact and what you’re working towards.

    Reply
    1. lulu

      Agreed, such a thoughtful, well-written letter. I can see why your boss values your input. I hope that he listens to you in this case as well.

      Reply
    2. Specialk9

      Agreed too! OP sounds like a thoughtful intelligent person with a lot to offer. They don’t deserve you, it seems.

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        That particularly don’t deserve the LW for the little they are willing to pay! They are getting a Lexus for the price of a Kia.

        Reply
    3. No Parking or Waiting

      I did post something below, but I want to jump in here as well and reiterate what Ramona is saying. Regular readers of AAM have reviewed your letter and judged that you are an eloquent (first word that came to my mind), hardworking and valuable employee. And we are a tough crowd. I imagine having been told FOR OVER A DECADE that this is not enough would dishearten me, too. Go elsewhere. Seriously.

      Reply
    4. Ms. Meow

      Agreed. Being a good employee is about HOW you do your job, not WHY you do your job. As long as you deliver on your tasks (and it sounds like you tend to go above and beyond and not just go with the status quo), then you are definitely a good employee.

      Reply
    5. Agatha_31

      I’ll jump in and add to this, as well. OP sounds like a fantastic worker that would be a valuable employee to any sane person. It’s a huge shame that circumstances can make it hard to fight one’s way out of a bad job.

      Reply
    6. Koko

      Really great point about impact.

      One of the things I have to remind myself to do is to tell the colleagues who are sort of in-house service providers the impact of the work they did for me. I thank them for delivering the work in advance of the campaign, of course, but it used to be that was it. Several years ago it came up that they’d all love to hear how the campaign that they helped work on did, which sounds so obvious when you hear it out loud but we had just never thought about it before. Now I try to make a point to always share the campaign stats with those service providers so they know that the code they wrote or the ad creative they designed helped us raise an extra $X,000.

      Reply
    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Very much agreed. I also don’t think OP is “just in it for the money,” despite describing their commitment that way. It sounds like OP has fairly assessed that money is necessary for survival in most of the U.S., and it’s totally normal/appropriate to acknowledge that there is a limit on what a person can sacrifice in the name of “passion” for the cause.

      I am passionate about the work I do, but I would walk away in an instant if my pay did not allow me to meet my basic needs (nevermind the needs of a child, too!). I’m lucky because I have a bit of market flexibility, now, which I did not have when I was first starting out, making well below a living wage and watching 50%+ of my paycheck cover transportation costs to get to work.

      OP, you sound thoughtful and great at your job. Your comments about this “evaluation” feeling chastising/guilt-tripping, or discouraging employees from being honest about their experiences, are all on point. It reminds me of when McDonald’s put out their guidance on “how to live responsibly on minimum wage” (hint: you can’t in most parts of the country). You’re very kind to let your boss know how tone deaf and callous the higher ups are going to appear if they impose this on the rank-and-file. You can’t berate someone into better morale, especially if they’re struggling to make it.

      Reply
    8. LW/OP

      That is extremely gracious and kind of you and everyone below who agreed with you and also wrote nice things about me and my letter.

      Because of my position, I often have to take the minutes to meetings and bring and set up the lunches where they roll out this sort of thing (but not this exact thing) that often makes them seem out of touch with the other staff. I was there when all the upper managers had a big meeting talking about this and their frustrations with staff turnover and not “caring” about anything but the money. It is weird being in the room with that sort of thing but you get use to it in a way. I smiled and did my job that I was paid to do and I stayed later that day because the meeting kept going on and on. I don’t get to leave until they do so I stayed and I was quiet about it because they pay me to be quiet about it. I was actually late picking up my son from the person who watches him for me after his school ends sometimes. I had to pay her $20 extra because she had to be late to her thing. So I actually didn’t make $20 for that extra hour and a half that they stayed to talk about how money shouldn’t matter. I got paid but it all went to my childcare. I actually lost money for being late.

      My point to that story might have gotten lost because I am wordy but I didn’t complain because they pay me is the point that I really think they understand.They didn’t thank me for staying late but that is what they pay me for so I just did it. I didn’t do it for some profound reason or because I was really passionate about what they were talking about. I stayed because they pay me to stay.

      I think morale boosting is really the way to go. Also incentives and better access to resources and training that make the jobs actually easier or free training. Free training would go a long way for the direct care staff since sometimes they have to pay for CPR and all the other required certificates they have to have. The office clerks and assistants would love thank yous or the ability to actually work overtime instead of being forced to cram 10 hours of work into 8 hours a day.

      Reply
      1. Rookie Manager

        You should tell your boss that story. I strongly suspect that they wouldn’t have a clue that that extra time would lose you money.

        Reply
      2. RVA Cat

        The point about how you lost money for staying late and about the training costs are definitely something you should take up with the CEO. All this turnover has a financial cost, too, and it is likely to be more than if they paid for the CPR courses and paid people fairly. It sounds to me like they are not paying market rate even for the non-profit sector in your area.

        Reply
      3. Observer

        Tell your boss this story. Also, tell him what you think would actually be helpful, since you’ve clearly thought about this.

        I don’t care WHY you are doing your job – if your boss has any sense he’ll realize that you are a really valuable employee, because you are paying attention to more than the immediate task handed to you. The fact that you’ve taken what you see and extended this to understand wider patterns is gold to a smart executive.

        Reply
      4. Not So NewReader

        They are paying for CPR training? Will Red Cross come and do it for free? Or will they train a trainer in your company?

        Reply
      5. Clinical Social Worker

        If you lost money staying late they actually didn’t pay you to stay and sit quietly, if you catch my drift.

        And please share that with your CEO. They seem totally clueless.

        Reply
      6. disconnect

        But they didn’t pay you to stay. They gave you some money, which you had to give to your sitter. If you had left on time, you would have had an extra 90 minutes with your child and still had the same amount of money in your pocket.

        Reply
    9. SarahKay

      Couldn’t agree more. OP, I really hope your boss takes on board everything you have to say, and really rethinks this whole plan.

      I also hope he fully realises how lucky he is to have such an amazing and dedicated employee.

      Reply
  5. Roscoe

    Yeah this is especially true for me with interviewing. Its like “why do you want this job?”. Its because I need money to live, and your job will give me money. Even at my current job, I feel like an outlier because I don’t have the “passion” that a lot of my co-workers do, or at least pretend to.

    I wish we could all just look at jobs like they are. You need a service, I’m providing you that service, you are paying me for the service. If I perform it well, why does it matter how much I care about the mission?

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      I know, right? “A regular paycheck” is a perfectly fine answer but then some busybody in HR mumbles about how that feels too “mercenary”.

      Reply
    2. LBK

      I said something similar above, but I think there’s a difference between being passionate *in* your work and being passionate *about* your work. I pour a lot of energy and enthusiasm into my work that probably reads like I’m very passionate about it, and I do often describe myself as a passionate worker. But I’m passionate when I’m doing my work – I’m not passionate about the work itself, if that makes sense. I think people who would truly continue to love doing their work if they stopped getting paid are extremely rare. Like, saint-level rare.

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        Here is the thing, I’m objectively good at my job (sales). This year, I have the highest numbers in the department. But I wouldn’t say I do the job with passion, even though I do it well

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that passion and performance are correlated (rather, I think most people who do their jobs with passion do tend to be better at them, but it’s definitely not a prerequisite). I was saying that there’s a nuance to it – that just because your coworkers do their jobs with enthusiasm doesn’t mean they’re inherently enthusiastic about the work itself.

          Reply
    3. Annonymouse

      That’s my base understanding of why you want a job. I just want to make sure you aren’t going to run off on me five minutes after I hired your for a different job or you only took this one because of pay but really can’t stand/aren’t good at the role.

      If your answer is “I’m interested in Teapot Inc because I think I can do good work here and I hear you take great care of your workers” – a nice way of saying “You want my skills and I want your money” I’m not going to object.

      Reply
  6. Hc600

    I worked at a very poor school district before law school and now work at a firm. One of the things I DON’T miss is being told that we shouldn’t complain about longer and longer hours because we should always do “what’s best for the children.” Like, school from 6:40-3 and then working the concession stand until 11 once a week with no lunch break making 30k a year. F that noise. Don’t try to dress up being cheap (admittedly mostly the fault of racist voters and Republican legislators) as somehow in the ultimate interests of the students. Martyrdom is not a sustainable model for closing the achievement gap.

    Reply
    1. Justme

      My kid’s old principal said once in a meeting that “We love this job so much that we’d do it for free.” I HATE IT WHEN PEOPLE SAY THAT. Especially about teachers who are so chronically underpaid that they work other jobs.

      Reply
          1. Agatha_31

            Don’t blame you in the least. It’s a pretty tone-deaf thing to say. Funny how I’ve never heard that phrase coming from someone who actually has to make hard decisions about budgeting.

            Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I only hear this from people with money (or with other economic security). I often wish that folks who say these things could live in the conditions they impose on others for a few months (or years) before they say such stupid things.

        Reply
      2. Julianne

        I’m a teacher who works with a lot of excellent, committed teachers. Not a single teacher I know would do our job for free.

        (Also, when I think about my husband [accountant], or my sister [therapist], or my best friend [computer programmer], none of them would do what they do for free, either. Teachers: We’re Just Like You!)

        Reply
        1. Lily Rowan

          I’ve just realized that I really won’t do it for free — I work in the nonprofit world and am now on the board of a nonprofit that needs what I do for a living. Have I gotten around to it? No! Because I would need to do it in my free time, and I don’t feel like it then! Even though I care a lot about the organization AND really like what I do!

          Reply
      3. Kyrielle

        ARGH. I want my kids’ teachers to be well-paid. Not just because the ones with other options, no matter how deeply they care, may have to leave otherwise. But….

        “I want you to love this job so much that you don’t want to see it undervalued. I want this job to love you so much, and our community love you so much, that we value what you do and pay for it accordingly. When you are teaching and caring for our children, I want the room and that moment and the goals for and with the children to be occupying as much of your brain space as it can, with none of that squeezed out because you are worried about your finances. I want us, as a society, as a community, to pay you enough to show the real value of your services, and allow you to actually do that.”

        Honestly, I don’t know how the amazing people who teach my children make it happen. But I’d rather we paid better and also paid for all the needed classroom supplies, so that they could take some of the time/energy/focus they use on money and put it toward our kids, and take the rest and put it towards themselves and their family.

        I couldn’t do that job well; it’s not suited to my strengths. I couldn’t do that job well if you paid me twice what I’m making now…and what I’m making now is far enough over their average that I suspect it’s also over their maximum, even though I don’t know the latter number. I value people who can do it well a *lot*.

        I wish we could fund it accordingly.

        Reply
      4. RVA Cat

        The question of people having to work for free was settled at Appomattox 152 years ago, after half a million people had died.

        Reply
        1. Starbuck

          I’m sure Alison doesn’t want us to get into this- but people do still work for free. Some are even forced to.

          Reply
      5. cornflower blue

        That’s particularly bad in education, because it demands that any teacher who is also a parent will put the needs of a stranger’s child above the needs of their own child. In what world is that a viable moral code?

        Reply
    2. Susan Milligan

      Yeah, my sister’s a teacher and my dad, a retired teacher. And they are/were expected to not just teach kids, but raise them. And got blamed if a kid didn’t do well (maybe the kid’s not studying? Or has a rough home life? Or isn’t that bright?). My sister told me a turning point was when they wanted her to give up her lunch periods (25 min anyway) and evenings to help kids with extra tutoring – no extra pay – when she couldn’t even spend time with her own kid. Then they say teachers should accept the salaries and put up with cowardly administrators and whiny (even abusive) parents because they care about the kids. But CEOs? Gotta pay ’em millions to “attract talent.” Funny how the jobs where they think dedication to the cause should be enough are female-dominated.

      Reply
      1. Gazebo Slayer

        The “attract talent” stuff is garbage – there are many, MANY more people who *could* be C-suite executives – and want to be – than people who *are* C-suite executives.

        Reply
    3. AntsOnMyTable

      I am a nurse and I swear when I go on nursing forums and such people talk about how nursing is a calling/a passion/life’s work/whatever. And that if you are doing it “just for the money” then it is the wrong job for you. I am in it 100% for the money and I definitely know I am one of the better nurses. Maybe because I do it for the money so on the days that “my passion” is lacking I actually still get up and help my aides or answer the call lights because THAT IS MY JOB instead of ignoring them.

      I also think when people say it needs to be a calling then it makes it harder to advocate for better pay and benefits because you aren’t suppose to care about those things. It really upsets me because this is a field that was criminally underpaid until men started joining it, and honestly I think is still lower than what it should be based on the level of skills and knowledge we are expected to have.

      But I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life (and once in my 30’s I could not longer try and figure it out) and this job does let me support myself since I don’t think I will ever have a partner to help out. I don’t hate my job. But I love not working more. I would never do this job for free and I would not do it if I was making half as much. I was an aide beforehand and I only did that because I was in nursing school. The fact that people literally clean up human feces (and other things) and make minimum wage is just outrageous to me.

      Reply
    4. she was a fast machine

      As someone else who works in cheaply run education…yes, your last sentences, so much yes. Administrators at the state and national level keep upping standards and cutting budgets and then ream out teachers and schools for not meeting them. It’s insane.

      Reply
    5. Piano Girl

      My husband is a teacher. He announced his retirement in front of his principal last weekend (in the middle of a theatre festival we have run for more than two decades). His principal announced that she was certain she could talk him into staying longer. No, if you had wanted him to stay, you would have listened to his requests for updated equipment and adequate funding. Too late now….

      Reply
  7. Tobias Funke

    I am seeing legit red at your employer right now, OP. It is criminal what care providers and people in our field are expected to live on.

    It’s a hell of a lot easier to have “passion” for the “mission” when you aren’t trying to ignore the gnawing in your stomach or your gas light being on for two days.

    Reply
    1. AndersonDarling

      I’m thinking of the Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. People can’t think about their connection to the universe if they have to use their time worrying about eating and paying rent. If people can pay their bills, sleep in a safe place, and fill their bellies, then they can start thinking about a higher purpose.

      Reply
      1. No Parking or Waiting

        Yes, this exactly.
        “Do you think a weekly standing meeting or a weekly video would inspire you to work harder and be more engaged?”
        I think not deciding between my meds and my meals would engage the sh!t out of me. Thanks.
        =

        Reply
        1. Laoise

          I have the absolute privledge of having a genuine and meaningful connection to the work I do at my job. The fact I know I’m changing people’s lives in a way that matters to my personal beliefs is a huge motivator.

          But, like, I’d still be a better employee if I could afford to see my dentist about the chronic & distracting pain my jaw is in.

          Reply
  8. Justin

    This sounds like my life in the nonprofit past.

    Be honest, but as AAM says, use what you said here. How can they expect the best from people when they won’t support them?

    I know had I had a child in my nonprofit days I would have qualified for a whole lot of city agency help.

    Reply
    1. Justin

      I also remember that when we were looking for someone to hire, my boss had me try to calculate very specifically how much she was making with the unspoken assumption that we’d be offering her only barely as much as she wouldn’t turn down.

      And they wonder why everyone in management there was from a privileged background (myself included when I was there, of course).

      Reply
  9. AndersonDarling

    Ugh. You can’t train employees to be engaged and connected to the organization’s mission. If management wants to connect folks to the mission, then they should be sharing stories about how the organization has changed people’s lives for the better. They should make sure every employee knows how their job supports the mission. And every employee should be honestly told they are valued and how they improve the community. (I’m assuming this is a hospice or in home aid kind of company.)
    Having people watch generic videos will drive employees away from the mission because it shows how poorly management understands their staff. That’s just sad.

    Reply
    1. Specialk9

      Yes. I work in the decidedly for-profit megacorp world, and those stories of everyday workers who went above and beyond and helped X mission keep going, they actually are balm even to my cynic’s heart. We all need to know how our work helps make things better. (After we make enough money that our kids aren’t hungry, cold, etc)

      Reply
    2. Annonymouse

      So on board with this.

      I don’t work in my industry to make big money (regular money for bills, food and the occasional movie out are enough for me) but because I love what I do and I’m damn good at it.

      My previous boss never told me he appreciated me, that I did good work or that I was important or valued. And I worked for him for 4 years and was vital to his business (he lost 25% of clients when I left).

      That was a big part of why I left. Intellectually I know I was important but I was never told that. It’s hard to see value in what you do if the people you do it for don’t.

      My current bosses appreciate the hell out of me (especially since I’ve been out for almost 5 months on maternity leave) and are counting down the days until I return (9 right now).

      Reply
  10. Morning Glory

    If your boss is set on this having an org-wide rollout, perhaps you could suggest it be revised as an anonymous employee survey instead. If this is overall a manifestation of concerns about performance, maybe include with open-ended sections for employees to suggest improvements, e.g. more gift cards, or opportunities for professional development/upward growth for high performers.

    That would allow the nonprofit’s leadership to get a candid look at how their employees feel, and also give them feedback on how to improve something they see as a problem. It’s also more open-minded and less prescriptive, so less likely to upset employees.

    Reply
    1. LW/OP

      That is actually a really good idea. I am going over in my head some of the more popular incentive programs we did in the past and what worked and they usually all came about due to suggestions so an employee survey would be great. I am going to put that on my suggestion list.

      Reply
    2. sstabeler

      and make it properly anonymous, as well- far too many ‘anonymous’ employee surveys are far too easy for the employer to figure out who said what.

      Reply
  11. Snarkus Aurelius

    If the whole reason you come to work is the employer mission and not a paycheck, then that’s a fantastic reason not to pay workers anymore than is required. That’s what this training is *really* about.

    Plus it’s not one or the other all the time. Passion versus paycheck fluctuates depending on so many other variables. That binary thinking is reductive and misses the point.

    Until I can pay my bills with passion, there is no other way around paying your workers fairly and competitively.

    Good grief this whole thing is so insulting.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Educator

      that’s a fantastic reason not to pay workers anymore than is required

      Considering they’re working below the poverty line, I’d say even that low bar isn’t cleared yet.

      Reply
    2. Mike C.

      This is a point I wish more folks understood. I live a much less stressful life when I don’t have to worry about my basic needs. We all do!

      Less stress means I can care more about other things. It’s not that hard to understand.

      Reply
    3. Julianne

      “Passion versus paycheck fluctuates depending on so many other variables.“

      This is such a good point. Compared to this point last year, I have a lot more challenges at work, and I think I’m much more motivated by my paycheck and my passion for my work itself (like, the noble ideal of my work), as opposed to the passion I feel for or satisfaction I derive from my actual current job.

      Reply
  12. No Parking or Waiting

    First thing I thought of: Alison’s outstanding letter about the privilege of “doing what you love.”
    And a very close second, as I read your story: you are not being paid a living wage AFTER 13 YEARS and they have the absolute hairiest sagging balls to tell you that you aren’t giving enough?
    With all due respect to you, get a new job. You have been gaslighted, stockholmed and brain-freaking-washed into thinking that you can’t do better. You can. Really. You can.

    Reply
    1. Jen S. 2.0

      “…absolute hairiest sagging balls…” Thank you for making me spit diet Mountain Dew onto my keyboard. That was…quite a visual.

      Reply
    2. TCO

      I also want to echo this: OP, there might be another job out there for you. You sound like a great employee who isn’t being treated with the respect she deserves, and while I understand that your job has stability, PTO, and other perks–when was the last time you looked at other options? A lot of companies, including nonprofits, have really improved their PTO packages in recent years and that’s often negotiable as well. It’s possible that an organization like yours that isn’t paying competitively isn’t way ahead of the curve on PTO, even for a long-tenured employee. Or, if you got a significant raise could part of that help cover childcare costs for days that you can’t miss work?

      Looking around a bit doesn’t obligate you to leave. It’s fine if you decide that you prefer to stay where you are. But you might be pleasantly surprised at what else is out there for an experienced and dependable employee like you.

      Reply
      1. LW/OP

        After reading all the comments and really thinking about it, I might actually start seriously looking around. It is just always such a scary thing. I’d love not to have to worry about my car breaking down and losing my food stamps but I am nervous about if something happens and I take that leap and it doesn’t work out. I could end up homeless.

        Reply
        1. Lily Rowan

          You have the luxury of looking carefully, because you do have a job now. But seriously, it sounds like you have great experience, and looking doesn’t mean quitting right away. You can start by seeing what’s out there — I would be surprised if you couldn’t find a better-paying job, unless you’re in a really small market.

          Good luck, OP!!!!

          Reply
        2. Jen S. 2.0

          I also want to encourage you to realize that yes, making more money well might mean you have less available time. But with enough money, you can pay someone to do some of the things you currently need your time to do. Don’t underestimate that.

          Reply
        3. Emily S.

          LW: Just jumping in quickly to say that one of the reasons the prospect of a new job is almost always stressful is the fear of not knowing if it will work out, and be a good fit. Alison has a lot of information on the site about the importance of checking out a potential employer for various things (including culture fit) before you accept a job offer. If/when you get to the interview stage, I’d recommend taking some of that advice (this site has a good search function you can use) to do that research.

          As one of my therapists once said, “a lot of people let fear run their lives.” So true. Which is not to say you shouldn’t be careful – ABSOLUTELY be cautious – it’s a major life change we’re talking about. But don’t let fear hold you back from something better.

          Reply
        4. Annonymouse

          I know this feeling.

          I compare it to being at a circus on a small tightrope platform – barely enough room to stand on. How you got there? Not sure but there is no ladder down and no net.

          Across the tightrope is another platform – bigger, safer and possibly with a way down. But to get to it you need to cross that net less tightrope.

          There’s a risk this might not work out and so you’ll stay on the very tiny platform thank you very much. But you could slip off the platform, it’s only just big enough for you.

          But what can’t hurt is to at least look at the rope, see how thick it is and even give it a little shake to see how sturdy it is before you decide what to do next.

          Don’t do what I did which was start walking without “testing the rope”. I almost fell off because I didn’t get a good grip or make sure my position was right before walking. I did eventually make it to the other platform (my current job) but not without a few close calls.

          Reply
    3. Andy

      FROM THIS DAY FORTH LET IT BE KNOWN!
      when something is truly terrible, I will forevermore refer to it as HSB.
      It has been decreed.

      Reply
      1. No Parking or Waiting

        aw man, I read that and was thinking, “I wonder…oh wait…”
        and spit my own well, spit, on my monitor.
        May your days be free from HSB!

        Reply
    4. LW/OP

      I think I am just scared, maybe, to take that leap. The encouragement in the comments to take that leap have been overwhelming and extremely helpful though and sometimes all you need is someone to support you by saying that you can do this. It is definitely something I am going to look at going forward.

      Reply
      1. KC without the sunshine band

        If you aren’t at a living wage after 13 years, take the leap. Your boss may be nice, but certainly doesn’t value you as much as he should or you would be making better money by now. Geesh. Take life by the HSB (I couldn’t resist) and go get more money (and respect)!

        Reply
      2. Clare

        Change is definitely hard, but in this situation sounds like it will be worth it. I was laid off from my first job out of college, and sometimes I wonder if I would have had the courage to leave on my own if that hadn’t happened. Many people are still there and it’s been almost 10 years. I think leaving your first “real” job is hardest, and harder the longer you’ve been there. But after you get that first change over with, hopefully you’ll discover other good places to work and other good people to work with.

        Reply
      3. Not So NewReader

        One thing I have learned is that people can’t help us when we stand still. It’s when we start to move about, that people can get in and give us random helps. If you decide to move forward, let trustworthy people know. These would be thinking people whose opinions you respect. You don’t need a ton of these people. If you find a few good ones you probably have enough help.
        Look for people who feel like they are a “fan” of yours, notice who always has something encouraging to tell you. Start with these people.

        Reply
    5. mf

      This x 1000.

      It’s a huge red flag to me when companies say, “We don’t want to work for money,” because what that usually means is, “We want to exploit you by not paying a living wage.”

      Reply
  13. Some Sort of Management Consultant

    How insulting, OP! Of COURSE you work for the money; you need it to survive!

    Jesus, I hate stuff like this!

    (I like my job. It pays a good wage. I still wouldn’t do it for free or even for less money than I get now.)

    Reply
    1. Julianne

      I am lucky to be paid quite well for what I do, and moving to another employer in my field and geographic area (really, any geographic area) would involve a minimum 20% pay cut, most likely with identical benefits. Depending on the specifics of the job, I could see myself accepting that, but I’d feel hard-pressed to go lower than that. My husband is interested in eventually moving closer to family (an interstate move for us), and it really does make me think twice about whether I would stay in my field, since the pay cut would realistically be more like 35-50% outside my current geographic area.

      Reply
  14. Jen S. 2.0

    You are in NO WAY a bad employee. Almost by definition, we work for money. Otherwise it wouldn’t be work. I do not know why there is this fiction that we don’t need money to live. Work is how we get that money, and thus they are irrevocably tied together. It is not greedy or selfish to want — need! Hello, Maslow! — to eat, be clothed and warm, and have a roof. Your job is how you get those things. Staying alive is a primary motivator.

    I maintain that, in general, it’s pretty much only people with plenty of money who act like money isn’t all that important.

    That said, I agree with the common wisdom that there’s a threshold above which more money isn’t making that big of a difference. Once you’re solidly comfortable, another $1,000 a year certainly is nice, but isn’t making or breaking you. BUT that only applies once you’re comfortable. For people who are struggling to keep the lights on, having someone behave like $1,000 is only money and shouldn’t matter is utterly condescending. If it doesn’t matter, why don’t you hand it over?

    OP, I concur with Alison that you might want to make it clear how close to the bone you are cutting it on your salary. They really might not know. A lot of people on lower salaries have other sources of income to supplement their salary (family help, a spouse with a higher income, a side job, a rental property that generates income, child support, a settlement from a lawsuit, a military pension, et cetera), so they get by on a small salary with a smile, making the higher-ups think that’s plenty to live on. Tell them where you’re coming from.

    Reply
    1. CAS

      I completely agree. In fact, presenting the CEO with a copy of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, pointing at the lowest rung in the hierarchy, and saying, “Here is your problem,” might be informative. He should know better given that it’s a nonprofit human services agency. But he may have forgotten since he is no longer in the trenches and money isn’t a personal issue for him anymore. The front-line staff may struggle to invest in issues at a higher level when their most basic needs are not being met.

      Reply
    2. Specialk9

      I believe the data says that, on average, the amount above which money doesn’t equal happiness is $50k to $60k. (Which of course in places like San Fran/NYC/Boston is twice that, eg $100k.)

      So are they paying you at least $50k?

      (Ok you can stop laughing now, we knew that answer was no.)

      Reply
        1. Purplesaurus

          That’s interesting. My spouse and I both have salaries in that range, though his salary is a recent increase. Maybe more money wouldn’t buy happiness, but it would help pay off our house, cars, cc debt, and massive student loan debts.

          Reply
          1. Jen S. 2.0

            Although I brought it up, I don’t disagree with you and in fact feel similarly. BUT I readily admit that while I would love a few thousand dollars, and would use it to pay student loans and credit cards (and would do a happy dance while doing so), it wouldn’t change my quality of life. I’m fortunate to have been solidly upper middle class my whole life, and while I’ve had an occasional month where I was broke, I’ve never been poor. I have the luxury of never really having wondered where my next meal will come from, thanks to my relatively lucky life. I have a roof of my own and a full refrigerator and too many shoes right now, and less debt or a few thousand dollars wouldn’t change that for the better.

            Like I said, more money would always be nice, and I will happily take it, but unless we’re talking millions, my life and level of satisfaction would not change permanently or appreciably because of the money, because it would not provide any necessity that I don’t already have. I’d be **thrilled** to get a windfall of, say, $25,000, but by the next month, I’d be doing exactly what I’ve always done.

            OP is in a wildly different situation. $25,000 probably would change her life in ways I can’t even imagine.

            Reply
          2. HA2

            Those things are absolutely not hard lines. 50k/year to someone with no debt is very different than 50k to someone with lots. And of course it varies hugely based on cost of living.

            Reply
          3. Mike C.

            So I found the paper here in PNAS, and it does say that

            When plotted against log income, life evaluation rises steadily. Emotional well-being also rises with log income, but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of ~$75,000. Low income exacerbates the emotional pain associated with such misfortunes as divorce, ill health, and being alone. We conclude that high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.

            So unlike what was widely reported, there is still utility to the increased income.

            Link in the reply.

            Reply
          4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)

            I’d imagine that the actual amount doesn’t matter as much as it being sufficient to meet your needs and main desires without too much sacrifice. We don’t live high on the hog and sometimes have to worry about money, but in a typical year we have some sort of vacation, if we really want to buy a relatively high value item once in a while we can, we have internet access and smart phones and go out for dinner a few times a month on average. In our city we did this on £25k, now it is twice that but the cost of living is much higher here.

            Reply
      1. Persephone Mulberry

        IME, this is reasonably accurate. My husband and I (and 2 kids) finally got to about the $70K mark between us (suburban Midwest) and it is amazing the weight that is lifted when you’re not holding your breath the last two days of every pay period and checking your bank balance with one eye closed.

        Of course, then we got divorced and now I’m back to weighing gas vs groceries. Sigh.

        Reply
      2. Snark

        It was $70k, I think. But that squares with my experience. I felt like my sense of actually getting ahead economically stalled when I hit that salary level.

        Reply
      3. Christmas Carol

        I have a vague memory of a study that concluded people at almost every income level estimated that monetary happiness would equal 10K more than whatever they were currently making, no matter how much or little you currently earned.

        Reply
    3. Ruthie Rather Not

      You are so right about outside support! I work in a female dominated industry where the expectation from higher-ups is that we are all working as a hobby. Therefore no need for decent wages or benefits since our husbands are really paying the bills. And yes, I have literally heard it said, out loud, in public meetings several times.

      Reply
      1. CAS

        I have heard the same. In fact, at one point when we were hiring a new case manager, I happened to notice that all the applicants were women. I mentioned that to my boss. Her response: “Of course, they’re all women. Men won’t apply because they have families to support.” Honest to goodness, she said that out loud. I actually did ask her if she thought the rest of us were working there for a hobby. We had crummy pay, and the board refused to cover health insurance because they assumed we had husbands who would provide it.

        Reply
          1. SarahKay

            Yes, it’s just all so horrific you don’t even know where to start in correcting their appalling assumptions.

            Reply
        1. hypernatural

          I think you worked at my wife’s old job. Which she quit because I don’t make enough for her to work as a hobby. And all of their long-term employees did have high-earning spouses because everyone else left. But they didn’t see that for the self-fulfilling prophecy it was… *sigh*

          Reply
      2. Salamander

        I worked for two years in an industry like that. It was assumed that everyone who was working there was doing so out of love for the work, for the joy of public service, and that everyone was working recreationally. Getting full-time work was nearly impossible. I gave up. I really liked what I did, but the leadership was really, really out of touch. Every time they did the United Way fund drive and insist on 100% participation from a bunch of part-time people making minimum wage, I bit my tongue so hard it bled.

        Reply
    4. AnotherAlison

      In my experience, the threshold was a lot higher than $70k. While there is something important that happens with not worrying about food or the light bill, there is very important relief and joy when you don’t have to worry about a broken down car, a new furnace, or kids college, and you don’t get there at $70k.

      Reply
    5. AntsOnMyTable

      I think there is merit to letting them known how close to the bone it is if they are receptive. I think people who never had to work low paying jobs or worry about money have zero idea what people actually make. For example I have two friends who are doctors. Neither of them had a real job before becoming doctors – their only “job” for both of them was being a TA in college. They have no idea what people make or what it is like living like that.

      One of them though that I made, as a nursing assistant, something like 40k a year. I just started laughing, I was making less than half of that. The other one was saying how people in Indiana thinks she makes so much money but it isn’t back in old day’s when doctors made a killing. This comment was started because a patient was surprised about where my friend lived. My friend has a very nice three story, 6 bedroom, 4 bath house. Granted because of where she lives what she paid is about equal to a single story 4 bedroom, 2/3 bath house where I live (but I live in a city known to be more pricey) but that also means her salary goes farther. I explained to her that in almost every place in the world her quarter million salary (starting as a new doctor) DOES mean she makes a lot and frankly the 80k her husband makes alone would put them in the higher percentage range since it is just the two of them.

      Seriously, I get that she is actually making less than she could because she works with poorer patients, but sometimes it is so obnoxious to hear people who make tons talk about money when it is to someone who doesn’t make a ton.

      Ultimately this long rant was to say that people sometimes are so absolutely clueless about money that they might not know. If they found the money to pay people above market, even if just a little bit, they would probably get substantially less turnover and find people who can afford to be “committed.”

      Reply
  15. Buffy Summers

    I used to work for a very small nonprofit that had a really great mission, but I always felt so guilty because I wasn’t actually passionate about that mission. There was a lot of pressure there and everyone always talked about the mission and how that’s why they were there and I did too b/c it seemed like The Thing To To, but in my heart of hearts, I really just didn’t care all that much about the mission.
    Once they were talking about a time when money was so tight most of the staff agreed to work without a paycheck for a few weeks and they all laughed. Someone said we may just have to do that again if this situation doesn’t improve and I remember thinking, “I hope you all will be very happy without your paychecks, but I, for one, will not be employed here during that time.”
    I would love to have a job that I loved coming in to work every day and truly enjoyed what I do, but it’s just not in the cards for me, so I work solely for a paycheck and live for the day I can retire.
    OP, I said all that to say don’t feel bad about this at all. Like Alison said, even most people who love their jobs will not work without getting paid.

    Reply
    1. anonymoose

      I’m in this position right now. Working at a mid-size non-profit and while the mission is noble and whatever, I just could not care less. It feels like everyone else is getting drunk on this particular koolaid and I think the koolaid is poisonous.

      Reply
    2. SAHM

      I actually had a job like that, fresh out of college, it wasn’t even a non-profit, it was a micro-bio company. During the recession the owner (small company only 5 people employed when I worked there) told everyone that she wasn’t going to pay them for 3 months during the summer to keep the business afloat. One person, ONE person quit. The rest worked for free all summer and she paid them the 3 months pay at the end of it. She was super proud about it, how “loyal” everyone was and she “paid them all back”. Ummmm, idk about you, but I’d be out that door the minute you said you couldn’t pay me. At least I’d get unemployment. She had the whole lab brainwashed. A) it’s illegal B) she didn’t pay them any interest! She did a lot of shady things like that though.

      Reply
    3. k.k

      Major eye-roll to those people. I work at a nonprofit and luckily it’s one where most of the higher ups seem to get that people here don’t make much. Even still occasionally during brainstorming sessions someone will throw out an idea about staff volunteering their time for an event, and while those ideas quickly get squashed, they always make me laugh internally (while thinking, “You all know you have to pay me to go to this right?”)

      Reply
  16. Shoe

    I think that it is also worth noting that value is a two-way street. People want to feel like their work matters, and part of that is feeling valued by the company, and part of THAT is being paid fairly and given opportunity for growth. For example, I work in a non-profit environment, and while I think the overall mission matters, I sometimes feel I have a hard time seeing how MY work matters. The fact that I’ve been told no when I ask for fairness in pay and promotion opportunities makes me feel like I am not valued, and that affects how I feel about my overall experience at work. Spoiler alert: I’m job searching!

    But I do have a big ridiculous crush on someone so that definitely makes it easier to come in to work every day! lol :)

    Reply
    1. BRR

      Such a good point. Earlier this year I was passed over for a raise/promotion and we had to move from cubes to tiny desks. Both make me feel incredibly under valued. The raise thing honestly makes me feel angry when I think about it. Guess if I’m looking for a new job?

      Reply
      1. AntsOnMyTable

        We still don’t know if we are getting raises this year for my company. I mean it is mostly a COLA with a little bit extra if we do get it. Usually we know by now so I am worried. Financially we aren’t at all where they want us to be. It is really depressing to think I might be doing the same job (with less resources) for less money than I was last year because of inflation. Yah, it sure isn’t going to make me feel valued.

        Reply
    2. Kj

      Yes. I’ve been willing to work for a lower salary because a company did other things to make sure I knew I was valued. Money isn’t the ONLY way to show someone they are valued, but it goes a long, long way too. And you have to be paying enough so no one is living in poverty. If I’m being paid poverty-level wages, I’m not staying, not matter how much I care and no matter how many other things the company does to show they value me. But I’ve stay for a lower salary than I could have gotten elsewhere because the company did other things to show they valued me. Of course, when those things stopped, I walked almost right away. I’m not staying without feeling valued in some way.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        Money isn’t the ONLY way to show someone they are valued, but it goes a long, long way too.

        No one ever lists ‘watching inspirational videos’ as one of those ways.

        Reply
    3. Not So NewReader

      The irony is not lost on the employees. “You have to value our clients, but we don’t have to value YOU.”

      Reply
  17. Sarah

    Ugh, this is beyond obnoxious. I actually am one of those lucky people who loves my job and finds a lot of purpose in it…but I still wouldn’t work for free! And monetary incentives they provide for doing those “above and beyond” activities work on me, since I do have bills to pay! Until we have a UBI, these types of trainings/surveys need to go away.

    Reply
    1. Specialk9

      Yeah, me too, I love my job. But I would be super unamused by suggestions I be paid in my own enthusiasm. “Cheer louder, and smile harder. This is your pay.”

      Reply
    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead

      Exactly. I am passionate about my work, but if they were not paying me I would be giving it the same time that I give my volunteer work (i.e. not 40+ hours a week) on a schedule that mostly suits me.

      Reply
  18. BRR

    Ah, the old nonprofit passion scenario. I currently work in development at a human service nonprofit that heavily focuses on believing in the mission and I honestly hate it. My last job was in higher ed and while people approved of what was happening at the university, there wasn’t an eat, breathe, and sleep the mission aura. I think we end up hiring people who show more passion for the cause than people with the best skills.

    I don’t think you should say money is your main motivator but you can defitniley raise the point. Passion doesn’t pay your bills and you can support your organization’s mission while earning a living wage, the two aren’t exclusive. Would you be able to ask for a raise?

    Reply
  19. Antilles

    I always like thinking of this kind of thing as an inverted scenario.
    Imagine tomorrow, your boss/CEO/whatever calls a company-wide meeting and announces that due to unforeseen issues and a surprising change in labor laws, your company will no longer be providing salaries or benefits. Effective immediately, your duties will remain the same, but you are now all unpaid volunteers.
    How many people do you think show up next Monday? How long do you think your ‘not-about-the-money’ boss is going to work for free before leaving?

    Reply
  20. Sigrid

    Yes.

    OP, I’m a doctor. I’m well-paid even within a profession that is paid far more than most people will ever make, and I’m in a specialty that I adore. I *love* my job. I’m excited to wake up and go to work every day (or evening, or night). I am extremely lucky, and extremely privileged.

    And I still wouldn’t work for free. Yes, I volunteer, and I would continue to volunteer (as a doctor) if I won the hundred-million dollar jackpot, but I would *work*. I wouldn’t go to work every day the way I do now. I’d volunteer sometimes because I love it, but I wouldn’t work at my job.

    Everyone works for money. Really lucky people get to get paid for doing a job they love, but if they weren’t getting paid, they’d be doing another job. Anyone who says you should work for love rather than money is either delusional or is trying to get something for nothing from you. You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. From your letter, it sounds like you are doing an amazing job in a difficult situation, and that is something you should be proud of. If you feel you can safely be candid with upper management, tell them that, and tell them everything you’ve told Alison.

    I hope things go well for you. I’m rooting for you.

    Reply
    1. Specialk9

      Exactly. Exactly. So this!

      OP, please feel morally buoyed by our utter outrage on your behalf. Don’t let them gaslight you. This is classist nonsense.

      Reply
    2. Anon for This

      This!!

      I have a job I like a great deal. I deeply believe the mission. However, I wouldn’t do the work for free. Because i’m not a volunteer.

      Reply
    3. Snark

      I’m an environmental scientist. I do work on habitat protection, climate change, and regulatory compliance. I think it’s possibly one of the most important fields in the world right now.

      STILL WOULDN’T DO IT FOR MINIMUM WAGE BECAUSE MISSION.

      Reply
      1. MamaSarah

        Agreed!! I just posted a similar thought -I am a health inspector. I know my job is purposeful, but if I wouldn’t do it if I had to pick up pennies.

        Reply
    4. (Mr.) Cajun2core

      Exactly. If I won the lottery I would give my two weeks notice the next day (if not the same day).
      Even at my previous job which I *loved*, if I won the lottery, I would have given my one month notice. Seriously, I loved the previous job. To use a term that Alison is not very fond of, it was my “dream job”. In case anyone is wondering, I got laid off.

      Reply
    5. LW/OP

      Thank you for rooting for me. All the support and encouragement and all the advice really are helping me know where to go and how to approach him and also to look at my job options.

      It is nice to know I am not the only one who sees money so importantly.

      I don’t think my boss would work for minimum wage either. His job is hard and there are long hours and a ton of dealing with government regulations and I think if he didn’t get paid he would definitely stop showing up. I doubt he would admit it though.

      Reply
      1. Jen S. 2.0

        OP, we are all rooting for you, and we ALL see money importantly. I promise you, the people (like your boss) who hand-wave about money not being important would change their tune if they regularly had to choose between food and electricity. I guarantee you that he would not work for free, and money would suddenly be HUGELY important if he stopped getting his paycheck. He likely would make a really terrible broke person.

        Just because the people in your office say these things with confidence does not make them universally true. Don’t drink the kool-aid.

        Reply
  21. Backroads

    I’m a teacher. I also used to work for a nonprofit. Loved both jobs.

    However, it drives me crazy when people suggest the “teacher martyr”, the fellow who teaches out of love for the children and gives up all free time to work on teaching. Oh, and should be paid less.

    Again, I love teaching. I’ve also gotten good at sticking close to my contract hours most of the time. Then I go home to be mom/wife/crazy neighbor.

    I’m fine with my paycheck and benefits. But… really, it’s just a job. A job I love and that is important to me, but still just a job.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      As a parent, I roll my eyes so hard at the tales of teacher martyrs who just move into their office and sleep on the couch because SO MUCH DEDICATION. Like, yeah, you can staff (any operation) long-term with people who discovered going home to shower just took too much time they could be dedicating to the cause.

      At back to school night, one of my kid’s teachers explained that he used to tell people to email him any time because he lived in an apartment with roommates and had a bunch of free time. Then he bought a house, got married, and had a kid, and “call me whenever, I can probably drop what I’m doing” really wasn’t true anymore.

      Reply
  22. Hey

    “You believe that I’m only here for the paycheck? I’m sorry, how much of your time do you volunteer to work without pay?

    Reply
    1. Snark

      I’d love to see this CEO take a pay cut to OP’s salary. Hey, he’d do it, right? No problemo! Because we believe in the mission around here, right, asshole?

      Reply
  23. Parcae

    My boss once made an off-hand comment about me not being motivated by money. I told her, as gently as I could, “Of course I’m motivated by money. That’s why you have to pay me.” She was surprised– I honestly think she thought I’d work here for free if I didn’t absolutely need the money to live– but took it well, and we eventually had a really great conversation about pay, job satisfaction, and what it means to work for a mission. I think you have a great opportunity to open your boss’s eyes here, OP. I hope you’re able to take Alison’s advice and that your boss is receptive to the conversation. Good luck.

    Reply
  24. CAS

    I worked for about a year for an agency that provided direct care. I was the case manager. We had an administrative meeting once in which the CEO lamented how disappointed she was about the turnover in direct-care staff and that she wished they were more dedicated to the work and to the mission. I looked the woman straight in the face and told her that if she wanted loyalty, she should increase the hourly rate for the direct-care staff. She stared at me for a minute and then said, “I can’t do that. We’d take staff away from our competitors, and they would hate me for it.”

    Seriously. She could afford to pay them more, but she didn’t want to because she might hack off her colleagues? Okay, fine. So, they’ll keep going where they believe the grass is greener, and she’ll continue to have a revolving door of direct-care staff. Fix the actual problem. Don’t blame the problem on the staff who are too underpaid to worry about being mission-driven.

    This woman paid herself six figures, took extended vacations, lived in a huge house, drove a fancy car, and begrudged people who were making $6.50 an hour for not being more loyal to her.

    Reply
  25. oleander

    If your boss is the kind of person who likes management theory and business-school stuff, you might bring up to him Hertzberg’s Factors. (Look in Wikipedia for Two Factor Theory.)

    Basically, it’s a psychological framework that says that there are two types of factors that determine workplace satisfaction. The first set are those that, when they’re inadequate, cause dissatisfaction: salary, benefits, co-workers, etc. The second set are those that increase job satisfaction and fulfillment, *but only after the first set of factors are at acceptable levels.* These second set of factors include purpose, meaning, autonomy, etc. But they really only come into play *if* people have enough to money to live comfortably and without worry, if they’re bosses aren’t utter jerks, etc.

    Pretty basic stuff, as many of these commenters can attest! But if you want to make it sound official and studied (which it is), you can turn to the documentation.

    Reply
  26. Anon for This

    I work for a non-profit. I care deeply about the mission. But, I am not a volunteer. If my salary was cut I would definitely be looking elsewhere. And I make a comfortable salary that doesn’t require me to access supportive services. Mission is great, but part of the mission should be treating your employees like they are professionals and then pay them accordingly.

    Reply
    1. Ms. Minn

      Exactly! I care a lot about social causes, but I deliberately don’t look at non-profit jobs because I know they don’t pay well. I can’t sacrifice my own needs for a cause at this point in my career – I’d like to save enough for retirement so that I don’t have to rely on non-profits and their assistance.

      Reply
  27. Snark

    “I could possibly make more elsewhere, but there is no guarantee that would work out and I have a young child and can’t really take the chance. I also need that generous PTO and other companies might not offer that. As a single parent, PTO and the ability to use it are gold.”

    Yes, you can take the chance, you must take that chance, because these people don’t value your labor and time, and f0r some reason feel compelled to demand what little mental energy someone scraping by at the poverty line can spare for rah-rah causes. And thinking cynically, my guess is they’re looking to cut payroll expenses here. There’s never a guarantee that anything will work out, including this job, but I can almost guarantee that a competent, efficient, and conscientious worker can find a position that offers generous PTO, more generous pay, and leadership that aren’t a bunch of out of touch energy vampires.

    Reply
    1. SarahKay

      And OP, just because we all want you to take that chance, it *doesn’t* mean we think you should take it NOW! As in, hand in your two weeks’ notice NOW!

      What we want is for you to start thinking about what else you could do. Start looking around at what else is out there, start putting together a resume, start looking at the job ads. Take your time, be picky, be fussy – because you have a job right now, and even if it doesn’t pay well, it does *just about* pay enough. But make that start!

      I totally get the need to be careful because you can’t afford not to have a job, but that doesn’t stop you looking. Snark is right, there are totally jobs out there that will give you the generous PTO, and still pay you more than you get right now, and will be absolutely thrilled to have you turn up every day, smiling and doing a good job.

      Reply
      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        Exactly! At least dip your toes, OP. Set your LinkedIn profile to signal that you are open to new opportunities. Keep an eye on the job listings and apply when something catches your eye. You’re not obligated to interview or accept an offer, but you should at least see what’s out there!

        Reply
  28. selina kyle

    It is beyond frustrating to hear someone work so hard and so loyally and still be given so little respect in response. OP, you deserve better, whether at this company or another. AAM’s advice was spot-on and I hope things change for you.

    Reply
  29. Lady Jaina

    Here in San Diego my career field gets “Sunshine Dollars”. We are paid around 15k less than our East Coast counterparts because “it’s a privilege to live in this weather”. Yes, the weather can be great, but GIVE ME THE MONEY.

    Reply
    1. wickedtongue

      But, but…California is EXPENSIVE…just as expensive as the East Coast! I can’t believe you get paid less because of the WEATHER.

      Also you get forest fires, earthquakes, and mudslides…

      I am flabbergasted.

      Reply
    2. Jen S. 2.0

      …wait, what?

      I like San Diego very much, but I might move to Detroit and take the money. Oh, and do they also give you the Potential Earthquake Pay Cut, where they pay you more because California could snap off into the Pacific Ocean any day now?

      Reply
    3. hbc

      I’d have less of a problem with it if was a natural consequence of location/job/whatever. Kind of the opposite of getting extra pay for living on an oil rig or in the tundra because you can’t get people to do it without throwing money at them. But not tying it to local salary norms or recruiting strategies and just being openly, “Desirable weather is worth $X”? No.

      Reply
    4. Artemesia

      Sheesh the cost of housing along in California makes it almost impossible for families to afford a decent lifestyle.

      Reply
    5. Starbuck

      That is just so backwards. Yeah, it’s a nice place to live- which means it’s MORE expensive, not less! My jaw would drop if someone tried to make that argument to me in person. Yikes.

      Reply
    6. Not So NewReader

      Wait. What?!
      East coast here. “Oh we have to pay people on the west coast more because their COL is higher.”
      What a shell game.

      Reply
  30. LawBee

    I work in a field where people tend to get really committed and passionate about what we do. And I am there. But no lie – pay me enough and I’m out. I can 100% be bought.

    Reply
    1. Dan

      When I look at things that pay more than what I make, I want to know how much headache comes with it. I work a 40 hour week too, so going somewhere that pays a bunch more but wants 50+ hours from me isn’t so cut and dried.

      My career goal is to make the most amount of money for the least amount of headache.

      Reply
  31. JCrane

    This is how I felt when I joined the Navy. One of the main reasons I did it was for the money. I never really liked it when people paint us as some self sacrificing heroes because most of us signed up because we couldn’t stay home anymore and we needed money. I mean I did have some pride in doing what what I did, but in the end I got out at the end of my initial enlistment.

    Reply
    1. Bridget

      Yup, my husband is a dentist in the army and feels the same way whenever someone thanks him for his service. He’s still repaying dental school and often wants to tell the thankers that he should be thanking them, since their tax dollars sent him to dental school…

      Reply
  32. Anonymous Educator

    If the CEO wants to lead by example, he can say “I believe so much in our mission that I’m going to make sure I’m the lowest-paid employee here, and the difference between my previous salary and my new salary will be evenly distributed to the rest of you. I’m not in it for the money after all. I just believe in the mission.”

    Reply
  33. AdAgencyChick

    I assume that anyone who talks to me about “not being in it for the money” has an agenda of paying me or others less than they’re worth on the market.

    Reply
    1. Dan

      My company flat out tells us that if we want to get rich, it won’t happen here. But I also make six figures as an individual contributor, work a 40 hour week, get a month of paid time off, and a 10% 401k match. When they do comp adjustments every year, they also include a scale for our position and where we fall on it.

      I’m not going to get rich working here, but I can certainly be comfortable, and have a pretty good QOL. But I’ll be honest — even though I like what I do, I come here as often as I do *for the money*. If I stopped getting paid, I’d go find somewhere else that would pay me for my time.

      Reply
  34. Anonymous Educator

    I also need that generous PTO and other companies might not offer that. As a single parent, PTO and the ability to use it are gold.

    While it may be difficult to find a workplace with such generous PTO, it also isn’t impossible. I think it’s worth you looking into it, especially since you are primarily concerned (as you should be) with paying your bills and not the org.’s mission.

    It may take you a while (hopefully less than another 13 years), but you can probably find another place that will pay you more and provide generous PTO. In fact, you could even negotiate for more PTO if the new employer doesn’t initially offer you it.

    Reply
  35. JeanB in NC

    I have absolutely had a job where I showed up every time because I had a crush on a coworker. I had my best attendance ever at that job – I think I called in sick once in 2 years. (And it’s been 31 years now and I still have a crush on him!)

    Reply
  36. TotesMaGoats

    You aren’t a bad employee. Never think that.

    I’m working in higher ed. It’s my passion. I sincerely love what I do and the mission of higher ed. However, I’m not going to do that for peanuts.

    Reply
    1. Emily Spinach

      Ha, I DO work in higher ed for peanuts + the ability to use institutional letterhead when I apply to other jobs that, I sincerely hope, will pay more than peanuts and offer me more security. It’s frustrating that you can put in years–in my case eight years–for post-graduate education to be qualified to do this job, and your compensation is worse than if you’d just taken the first job you saw straight out of undergrad.

      I guess, though, since my academic area is pretty niche, I do also work for less pay than I could make in other types of jobs because this is one of the only places where I’m surrounded by other people who know and care about what I care about. But every day I ask myself if that atmosphere is worth the $30k+ I’m leaving on the table by staying here instead of switching sectors.

      Reply
  37. voyager1

    LW,
    Before I work at where I do now, I worked at a credit union. Credit Unions are technically non for profit. Today I work at a fortune 500 bank. I enjoyed my job at the CU but when I was passed over for a promotion I left. Upper management was sad to me go. My VP who passed me over pretty much iced me out those last two weeks. I got a 20K salary increase and the ability to work from home with the bank.

    Right before I left two things happened. The CU tried to do a charity where you could park in the CEO’s parking place for a month. Price was 100.00 for a ticket. Mind you my take home after tax /benefits/401K was around 1000.00 a check every 2 weeks. I did get a nice EOY bonus ( usually around 2,300).

    Getting back to the raffle though. Nobody out of 200+ people volunteered. Management was SHOCKED. I and many others then realized that the management really had no clue how the tellers,loan officers and staff lived.

    We did have awesome health/dental insurance.

    Anyway I am just saying all of this to say, LW I with you and it is okay to be in it for the money. Just because the place you work is a non for profit or charity doesn’t mean your household is.

    Good luck and if you are looking I hope you land an awesome job!

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      You could park in the CEO’s parking place for a month. Price was 100.00 for a ticket.

      Squirming so hard in shared cringing.

      Reply
    2. LW/OP

      Thank you! That must have been some frustrating for you and that seems like such a terrible fundraising idea.

      We have a big event every year that is a $200 a ticket dinner event to raise money and they let staff go at a discount of $75 a ticket. That seems more affordable but I could never go because I don’t have $75 to spare. It would also mean paying a babysitter.

      Every year a board member or two will ask me why they didn’t see me at the event and I always have to make up some lie about not being able to find a babysitter, having a sick kid or some other reason. I really just always want to tell them that to some people $75 is a lot of money to be out.

      Reply
      1. Squeeble

        I mean…COULD you tell them? Not in a snarky or rude way, but just cheerfully say “Oh, I’d love to have come, but unfortunately I can’t afford it,” and let it drop.

        Reply
          1. Clinical Social Worker

            Hm. It’s inappropriate for you to mention you can’t afford things but he thinks it’s totally appropriate to condescend to his actually poor employees that they shouldn’t care about money? Wow.

            Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Will you say more about why you think that? Even pretty bad bosses wouldn’t normally be offended by that, and you say your boss is good about hearing candid feedback.

            Reply
            1. LW/OP

              Sure! Our board is an entire different animal to him. He encourages open discussion among a ton of positions/departments and pay levels but he does not like people approaching the board, aside from HR and the CFO, without him knowing and approving of it first. Most of our board members are retired and well to do so for a long time most of the board meetings had a joke in them about millennials and workers nowadays but in the last 2 years we have added some younger, working women and men and those jokes have stopped. They have definitely been more interested in revisiting what we offer employees in terms of benefits but there has been push back about if that is truly their “job” and some internal debate in finance and program meetings. It is just a sore subject for him right now because he doesn’t want the board to think we are doing a bad job at keeping employees happy and HR feeds into this by saying “we looked into wages and we pay fair market value and no one has told us they are unhappy”.

              If they told my boss I said that the ticket price was too high for my salary I feel like that would be surprising him a way he would not like. I could probably tell him.. I could even mention it to him monday but he would definitely hate it hear it from a board member.

              Reply
              1. Observer

                Well, in that case you REALLY need to tell the boss that this is happening and that he needs to get the Board of your back.

                It’s not your job to protect the boss from the Board. Obviously it’s not a good idea to blindside your boss if you can help it. But, you shouldn’t protect him at the expense of being chastised by the Board.

                Reply
            2. Someone else

              I thought the premise was saying it to a Board Member asking, not the boss? Boss might be receptive to hearing it, but might not be chill with saying something that direct to the board.

              Reply
          2. Shoe

            It isn’t inappropriate to tell your boss you can’t afford an event. I feel like maybe what you mean is…you feel like you have to protect him from feeling uncomfortable? Because saying that MIGHT make him uncomfortable, but it’s not your job to make sure that he doesn’t have to experience any discomfort from realizing people around him are less privileged than he is.

            You don’t have to say it accusingly or rudely, like “Oh well I WOULD HAVE attended but SOMEONE doesn’t pay me enough MONEY” + eyeroll and stomping away. A simple “I can’t afford $75 + a babysitter for a night out. It isn’t in my budget,” is not rude or adversarial. It might make him uncomfortable, but that discomfort is not coming from you.

            Reply
            1. Shoe

              Oops, I see now that you responded upthread that I misread the situation. I read it as though you can’t tell your BOSS you can’t afford it.

              Reply
      2. Dan

        F@#$#@. I make six figures a year and I’d wince at spending $75 at a “reduced” rate for a work event.

        At a previous job, there was a big work related conference downtown. The company charted a bus for us to go (slightly odd, as it wasn’t all that necessary) but told us that the time spent at the conference itself would be on our own. I’m not sure how many people went…

        A day or two later, a bunch of us ran into the CEO at happy hour, and he asked, “Why didn’t I see you all at the conference?” My first response was, “What was the charge code for that?” Him: “What’s a charge code?” Me: “That’s what it takes to get anybody to do anything around here!”

        I don’t know if he honestly didn’t know what a charge code was, but as a government contractor, we had to account for every 0.1 hours in a time keeping system.

        Reply
      3. Observer

        Why NOT tell them you can’t afford it?And if they give you a line about the organization “being a priority” point out that if it’s a choice between feeding you kid or going to the dinner, feeding the kid HAS to be your priority.

        Reply
  38. Ms. Minn

    To give this training/test to the lowest-paid employees reeks of management being completely out of touch with the reality of the rest of the world. (Sadly, much like so many privileged people in big business and government these days.) This can only build resentment for the frontline and patient-facing employees.
    It’s like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – it’s hard to care about or succeed in other things if you don’t have the basics taken care of, like housing, food, childcare, healthcare.

    Reply
    1. nonegiven

      Also, will they be paid for the time the training takes? or is it like the CPR cert?

      DH’s work has safety training once a month and they are regularly trained on the Annie doll and other first aid type things, along with safety best practices.

      Reply
  39. Rookie Manager

    One of the things that enrages me is the way people who provide care for the most vunerable in our society are paid poverty wages and expected to do so without training or support because it’s ‘natural care’ work. It is work and should be rewarded. Rewarded well.

    One of the reasons I left former job was they were starying to provide in home care services and the carers would not be paid for travel between appointments. This us what made the service profitable, the carer was at work for 8+ hours, we paid them minimum wage for 5. I did ask if care managers/other staff that travelled between sites would stop being paid for travel time. The HR department laughed. I was serious.

    OP, you have spoken eloquently and passionately about the need to recieve money for your work. I hope you feel empowered by some of these awesome responses to talk honestly to you manager, and maybe to think about whether another employer would reward your work better.

    Reply
    1. Stranger than fiction

      It angers me too and I don’t get it. My mom had caregivers coming to the house for several years before he passed. She paid $20-25/hr to the agency and they told her they only get $10, which is minimum wage here. The overhead couldn’t have been that high because whenever I googled the business address, it was either someone’s home, or a tiny office in a rundown strip mall. Besides staff for scheduling and liability insurance, it seems to me there’d be a lot of profit leftover.
      Anyway, a couple of them begged her to hire them full time for like $15/hr so they could quit the agency, but my mom was too leary because of the lack of insurance if anything were to happen. :-/

      Reply
      1. Rookie Manager

        Sounds about right. My MiL worked as a carer for years and the office staff didn’t even really do the scheduling… if she was sick or wanted to take her annual leave she had to arrange her own cover.

        They were also always kept at p/t hours.

        Reply
      2. dawbs

        know something really terrifying?
        A lot of states, until 2015, let home caregivers get paid LESS than minimum wage. They were exempt from fed and many state laws on it.

        I do NOT understand why it’s somehow reasonable to think that we have a minimum wage that isn’t a living wage, but we pay less than that for some jobs that work with vulnerable populations. I just…I will sputter and be glad it’s fixed for the moment.

        Reply
        1. Rookie Manager

          Many law makers just don’t think of it as real work. It’s an extension of maternal/caring instincts. Which is, frankly, outrageous. But if something goes wrong the carers are slated in the press/online for their callous behaviour because this should be a calling/vocation. It makes me so mad.

          Reply
  40. Luna

    How can your boss think people are in it for the money when they are literally paying employees so little that they need social services? Your bosses sound completely clueless and very privileged.

    Reply
    1. Rusty Shackelford

      That’s what I find mind-boggling. How can you look at people who you are literally paying the least you’re allowed to pay them, and say they’re in it for the money?

      Reply
  41. AnotherAlison

    First, I completely agree with the OP’s view and Alison’s response, but I did want to comment on the multiple comments saying effectively, “Well, duh, we *all* work for money. . .why can’t companies realize that?” I’m no psychologist, but from what I remember of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we do work for different reasons. Folks at the bottom are working to survive, but folks at the top aren’t. Whether they’re working for a nonprofit or an F500 company, they’re more driven to meet their personal satisfaction at this point. Even though I’m paid fairly well, I would not want to do my current job for 20 more years, even with raises, because I “need” new challenges. I can quit and go somewhere that’s more personally satisfying because my family can survive that turnover.

    I completely get that plenty of people are working for the money, and I think we’re all in agreement on that the boss is misguided in trying to apply this training to the front line team. I think they do need to be challenged on what they’re doing because it is easy to sit in your privilege seat and remember what drove your actions when you were at the bottom of the ladder.

    Reply
    1. Scarlet

      Lots of people have already pointed out that money can only be lower in your priorities if you have a certain amount of privilege. Unfortunately, having a fulfilling job is a luxury these days.
      But if CEOs and executives are working “for their own satisfaction”, how come they’re the ones being offered obscene amounts of money in order to “attract the best talents”? Surely, if it’s all about the challenge, they would not need crazy high salaries.

      Reply
    2. Artemesia

      The argument for paying CEOs of non-profits obscene salaries and flying them first class is that you can’t get the talent without paying for it. But the people who provide the services are supposed to work for ‘passion.’

      Reply
  42. OhSoAnonymous

    OP, you are not alone!

    In a past life, I implemented these types of “purpose” programs at companies. No one outside of upper management ever likes them. They are almost always rolled out as a band-aid for real issues that the management doesn’t want to do the hard work to address — if it’s not money, it’s bad management, or brutal hours, or a culture of unethical behavior. Management likes them because “purpose” is a relatively new corporate buzzword, and this makes them sound like they are innovative managers.

    Your CEO should take the money he paid to whoever to design this and raise all your pay.

    Reply
  43. Susan Milligan

    How is it even possible to be “in it for the money” when the money is so low? That’s a phrase you use when, say, someone offers you a job for $400K a year for a job taking puppies away from little kids.
    Honestly, I’d re-evaluate working for someone who pays staff so poorly but puts the onus on *them* to say how much they love it and how devoted they are. It’s the workplace equivalent of domestic abuse.

    Reply
    1. Doreen

      I’ve never actually heard “in it for the money” used about low-paying jobs before. Or even about most high-paying jobs. I’ve usually heard it referring to people who take certain types of jobs because they pay relatively well even though they have no interest in the job itself or even hate it. And for some jobs, it makes a difference- if you take a teaching job even though you don’t like kids or teaching because the top pay is $120K ( the actual top pay here) , you are probably to be as good at it as someone who likes kids and enjoys teaching.

      Reply
  44. Andy

    Alison: Can we hear from a non-profit CEO on this? I think I remember you mentioning that non-profit was your previous life and I would LOVE to hear what’s going on with that from the other end.
    What’s the thinking from the people who decide pay?

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      The thinking is really just that you want to hire the best people you can for the amount you can afford to pay. It’s not complicated! Nonprofits make it murkier because there can tension between the money you put toward salaries and the money you put toward supporting your programs, and there can be legitimate questions about “do we pay $20K more for an excellent person when we could get a “good enough” person for $20K less and put that money toward serving the populations we’re here to serve (or advancing our cause, or whatever it is they work on)?” Smart nonprofits with enough money to do it* figure out that they will get better results in their programs if they pay competitively for excellent people.

      * But for a lot of nonprofits, “with enough money to do it” isn’t a box they can check.

      Reply
      1. saf

        Don’t forget the blowback you get from donors – “If you can afford to pay the staff THAT well, you don’t need MY money!”

        Reply
    2. Lil Fidget

      Well, to be fair, a good, national nonprofit is a complicated organization and it takes someone with experience to run. And to find those high end people there’s a surprising amount of competition. Could you just promote your Assistant Director to Director for $60K? Sure – but they may not be able to fundraise multimillion dollar awards from major donors, attract important people to the board and wrangle those cats, coordinate complex national initiatives, or effectively oversee a staff of 200 people. If you want someone to do that well, it takes experience, and if you want to attract people from other fields you have to be willing to pay. Sure, some executive pay is egregious but ours earns over 300K (I make 60 and work my a** off) and I think he probably deserves the money.

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        Note however, this in no way justifies paying your front-line staff $9 an hour after 13 years of experience!!

        Reply
  45. hbc

    “…my workplace feels people are just in the job for the money (my boss says this all the time) and not for our mission.” If you have a good relationship with the boss, I would ask him why and how this is a problem. Like, is it the general “commitment is good” mindset, or do they have high turnover to higher paying jobs and are trying to stem the tide, or are they thinking they shouldn’t have to incentivize excellent performance the way they have been?

    Then you can engage with him on the particular concern. “Well, if you want people to stay, you might want to emphasize the flexible hours.” Or “I’m not sure you’re going to be able to find a deep well of potential employees who are financially secure enough to get by on less than $1200 a month and want to change grown people’s diapers.”

    If he’s got a bad answer or no answer, I’d not engage too deeply. “I’m guessing there are a lot of passionate people here, but it’s hard to be passionate about helping others when your own family is below the poverty line.”

    Reply
  46. Anon for This

    OP, you sound like a great, dedicated employee who is driven by what 99% (a guess) of us are: money and other benefits. I don’t *hate* my job, but out of 20 workday mornings a month, I’d say for 19.5 of them, the reason I get out of bed is “I need the money.”

    Reply
  47. Sans

    Heck, I’m paid reasonably well and my motivation is still 100% money. Yes, there are parts of my job that I like and I do take pride in doing a good job. But I am here because I need the money. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d give my notice the next day.

    I remember I said that to someone once and they said in a shocked tone “You’re a mercenary!” I replied that yes, I certainly was. My talents can be bought. That’s the point of having a job. Sure, I won’t do ANYTHING for money, but there is no other reason I am currently sitting in a cubicle instead of on a beach.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Yeah to be fair I have always worked nonprofit my entire career, because I figured I wanted to spend my 40 hours a week doing something that was meaningful to me. However, within those parameters I want to be paid as much as I can possibly get for my time and experience, and I’m not especially ashamed of this! I know I’d likely make MORE in the corporate world but I still want the maximum nonprofit equivalent (plus all the bennies).

      Reply
  48. Xay

    OP, I symphathize with you. I used to hear the “in it for the mission” justification for low front line worker salaries when I worked in state government. It was especially galling coming from state legislators who complained about their low salaries when they only worked 3 months out of the year. Your letter is eloquent and I agree with Alison’s response.

    It’s hard to be mission focused if you are constantly struggling with economic insecurity. I hope that your CEO is receptive to your comments and I also hope you can find a better paying job.

    Reply
  49. LW/OP

    Alison, thank you for the amazing advice on how to approach him. My meeting is Monday so I have a draft on what to say and some response to the questions/comments he might bring up. This advice and the comments are really helping me form a plan. I respect my boss and I know he respects me and my opinion so I hope I can give him some kind of guidance on this. At worst, he rolls it out anyway and things stay the same. At best, maybe the leadership team head back the drawing board and come up with new ways to tackle employee morale.

    Also thank you for saying that what I feel in relation to my job and the money is normal.

    I am might go ahead and mention my own situation and being tight on money so that he has some sort of idea that his own assistant of 13 years works really hard and it is still just about the money for her. He has no idea. I have always sort of hid that fact from him. I actually started working here when I was in my last year of college (in HR) and eventually got promoted to his assistant so he might not understand just how stagnate my wages (and probably the wages of our lower paid employees) have been.

    Again, thank you. I am so much more confident going in there and meeting with him now. I am actually looking forward to it.

    Reply
    1. WeevilWobble

      Good luck! I agree with the general sentiment here but also it seems like your boss basically has good intentions and is just kind of blinded. So, I’m sure it will be fine.

      Reply
    2. Heather

      Best of luck to you! I know that money is such a personal/potentially awkward thing to talk about, but I’m glad that you’re thinking about mentioning your own situation. He should know, I suspect he’ll be very surprised.

      Reply
    3. SAHM

      Yes! Mention it to him!! At best he might raise your pay to above poverty levels/to no longer need govt assistance! At worse? You’re in the same boat you always were.

      Reply
    4. Mainly lurking

      LW, we’re rooting for you!

      When you meet with your boss, I would recommend (as have other commenters) that you have some really SPECIFIC examples about how difficult you find it to make ends meet, as otherwise it will be too easy to brush off (however well-meaning your boss is).

      Tell him that you have relied on gift cards to be able to light the home where you live with your small child.

      Tell him about the time you had to stay over with no notice, and though they paid you a small amount of overtime, the excess childcare costs exceeded that money.

      Good luck on Monday! And if your boss still fails to respond in any useful way (ie a pay rise), there’s no harm in finding out what other jobs are around. I completely understand the fear of taking any kind of risk, so I’m certainly not telling you to take the first job you see (or are offered). But you can start to look …

      Reply
  50. mf

    OP, they are under paying you. I’m just an admin (not even an EA!) for a big Fortune 500 corporation in the healthcare industry in a major US city, and I make $50k/year. The PTO is average, but my boss lets me take additional unpaid time off, which I can afford to do because my salary and benefits are good.

    You are experienced and good at your job, have more years on your resume and a fancier title than me–you could make a lot more money elsewhere if/when you’re ready to move on.

    Reply
    1. mf

      Regarding your sit-down with your boss, I think you should tell him essentially this: “Their employees are often struggling to make ends meet and don’t really have the luxury of being in it for just a purpose.”

      Or in other words, “I would love to be able to be show up to work for the sake of our mission every day, but frankly, my salary is such that I’m struggling to make ends meet, so I don’t have the luxury of being in it for just a purpose.”

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        I think this is good phrasing. If he seems responsive I might say “at nine dollars an hour, I don’t really have the luxury NOT to worry about the money.” He’s being insensitive here.

        Reply
        1. mf

          He totally is. I think the OP can support the idea that it’s a good thing when employees work for the mission while still being honest about the fact that she and others like her really can’t afford to think that way.

          Reply
  51. Anon anon anon

    I had a similar experience as a volunteer once. They didn’t think my income-generating job was consistent with their mission. It was a for profit company, and, yes, they were in it for the money. And so was I. I couldn’t have made ends in that area on a non-profit salary. I thought volunteering would be a good way to support something I wanted to support.

    They we’re so weird at times, I started to get kind of curious about them. I looked up some of their bios. Top tier private universities followed by doing lots of great things that don’t bring in much actual income. They lived in a high COL area, drove new cars…. Not to judge, but it seemed like maybe working for money just wasn’t on their radar? I still wonder if they’ve figured out by now that even most people in professional level jobs are doing it for financial reasons and not pure self expression. And passion. Almost forgot about that one.

    Reply
  52. dawbs

    This is also a topic that people within the nonprofit community who are paying attention to the broader conversations should be becoming increasingly aware of:
    http://www.chicagonow.com/the-nonprofiteer/2014/04/a-nonprofit-living-wage-because-nonprofits-should-serve-poor-people-not-create-them/

    http://nonprofitaf.com/2014/09/all-right-you-guys-we-need-to-talk-about-nonprofit-salaries/

    (I know I have better links, but I can’t find them at the moment)

    Reply
  53. Liz T

    This was the most frustrating things about interviewing to admin at non-profits when I am also a theatre person. Sooooo many of them had the attitude of, “Well it’s okay to have a hobby outside work, I guess, some people here do” with a little pursed mouth. As though I majored in answering their phones and can dream of no higher honor.

    Reply
  54. phedre

    This makes me so mad. I work for a nonprofit (thankfully I’m well-paid for nonprofit work, but I spent years working 2 nonprofit jobs to barely make ends meet so I know the struggle), and I love my job and believe in the work. But if I won the lottery tomorrow I’d quit immediately! I like it, but it’s still work. And my landlord doesn’t accept my job’s mission and outcomes in lieu of cash for rent.

    You want high-quality nonprofit workers who make a difference in the world? Pay them like the professionals they are!

    Reply
  55. Free Meerkats

    Certainly people have varying degrees of passion, and there are plenty of people who are motivated by the work itself rather than the money — but (a) that’s a really privileged position to be in, and those people are lucky, and (b) even then, most of them wouldn’t continue to do their jobs if they weren’t being paid. (Some would, so that’s not true across the board. But it’s true for the vast majority.)

    In my close to 5 decades working, I’ve known exactly one person who would keep working for nothing. And she walked the talk, donated her entire salary back to the organization. But she had family money, and her husband was an early Microsoft employee back at the beginning, to boot. The nonprofit provided services that two of her children were directly benefitted by. So she (a) didn’t need the money, and (b) the cause was her life.

    Reply
  56. Green Tea Lover

    LP, I feel you. I don’t have kids but I also used to work in non-profit. The pay was low that a married colleague (with a kid and being the only bread winner of the family) had to receive help from the government as well. He tried to explain to our boss why the pay was low and he was not shy about that, but the boss could not do anything. Eventually he left (partly because of pay) but he’s much, much better off now.

    I agree with what everyone says that you should be honest with your boss. And I’m happy that you are considering looking around. With 13 years under your belt I believe you have options out there! It could be scary but you should. I wish you the very best of luck :)

    Reply
  57. evilintraining

    It’s one thing that the pay at nonprofits is low. It’s something else when they try to justify it in this way or some other way, like the “total compensation letters” we all just got.

    Reply
    1. Cafe au Lait

      I was on the other side of this recently, and it was very eye-opening to hear what people expected vs. what could be delivered. While I think the University could stand to pay us more, our salaries do meet the median pay scale for institutions of similar sizes and demographics. We’re not the best paid, nor are we the worst.

      At the same time, our benefits and retirement match is top-notch. I think it’s somewhere in ball park of 26-30% of our salaries. I’m willing to put up with a median salary because the benefits alone. (Seriously. I pay $44/month for my health care plan. After kiddo arrives, it will go up to $157/month. It’s amazing cheap, and my health plan pays for practically everything). Plus the University provides a 2:1 retirement match. I’m planning on staying here for life because of the benefits and retirement contributions.

      At a recent department meeting (which I helped coordinate), we had HR come in to explain how compensation was factored, and how the pay bands were developed. Some of my coworkers were incredibly incensed at the meeting’s content. They felt the University should pay a salary which could cover rent, entertainment and other incrementals. The problem is that we live in a fast growing, expensive town. Rents were raised by 40% in the last year alone. That’s not the fault of the University; that’s the fault of the city for not having rent control and other stop-gags in place to prevent such leaps.

      Like I said, it was pretty eye opening.

      Reply
      1. Scarlet

        “They felt the University should pay a salary which could cover rent, entertainment and other incrementals.”

        Well, yes, it’s pretty normal for people to expect their salaries should cover their cost of living… Sure, the city should be the stepping in with rent control, etc. but in the meantime, it doesn’t absolve the employer of the responsibility to provide a living wage.
        What are employees expected to do? Eat ramen noodles every day, hoping (probably in vain) that the city will one day enforce rent control?

        Reply
  58. she was a fast machine

    Wow OP, do you work at my last job? Degreed people made $11, and us peons without them made between $8.50-9.50. When I managed to score $10.13 I was strictly informed that I could not tell a soul because it was so close to what degreed people made. It was literal hell to work there, and I don’t know how any of the staff survived, between the insane caseloads, irrational rules, and terrible pay, and unsurprisingly, turnover was high. Thank god they never tried to shove any of that “love your jobs more!” bs down our throats; there would have been a revolt.

    Reply
      1. she was a fast machine

        Definitely. And I knew it. But it wasn’t the kind of culture where money came up often because everyone just assumed you made the same wage and they were all across the board crap.

        Reply
  59. Greg M.

    the people paid the most criticizing the lower paid employees for only being in it for the money speaks volumes about the ones in power.

    Reply
  60. Maya Elena

    Isn’t this sort of thing – poor pay and condescension – traditionally the province of the for-profit market?
    I am sorry for your situation. :(

    I echo that there may be another job for you out there, which incidentally might make the lesson stick that your organization’s salaries need to be higher.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Educator

      No, I’d say the opposite. In the for-profit market, everything is usually about the money. In the non-profit market, it’s easier to exploit idealism and people’s belief in “the mission” in order to pay them less.

      Reply
    2. Temperance

      Oh no. Nonprofits can do this exact thing, with the added message that you should be grateful for the crap hours and low pay because MISSION.

      Reply
  61. Drama Llama

    In response to “why did you apply for this job?” I occasionally hear “the pay is great.” That, to me, is a perfectly valid response. That’s the number one reason why we all work. My company deliberately pays well and has all sorts of incentive schemes to retain good staff. If an applicant is happy with the pay rate this is an indicator they’ll stay long term, since it’ll be difficult to find another company that matches what we offer. It seems silly that money is such a taboo for some hiring managers, as if we should all be working for the unadulterated joy of work.

    Reply
    1. McWhadden

      I previously worked at a big lawfirm and one of my co-workers got so mad when an interviewee mentioned the pay as a reason for applying.

      There was literally no other reason to ever want to work there! The hours were terrible, most of the people were terrible, the clients were terrible. The only reason anyone ever goes there is to make money.

      It was such artificial outrage. And I even understand what the law student interview was thinking. That they’d just be honest. And he also mentioned the reputation and other stuff.

      Reply
      1. Drama Llama

        That’s so silly. Some jobs really do suck – I’m the first one to admit the hours at my company are crappy and the job itself is demanding, too. But that’s why we compensate by paying a lot. I even discuss this openly during interviews because, understandably, some people don’t want to work stressful hours no matter how high the pay. There is a financial cost associated with new hires resigning before the company recoups the expense of their training, so I warn people honestly about the down sides of this work and make sure they are mentally prepared for it. I want people to consider all the information carefully and accept the job if in their view the pros (good pay/promotion opportunities) outweigh the cons (bad hours/difficult work). Informed consent.

        Reply
  62. Temperance

    LW, you could probably make more money doing a job share or working part-time as an assistant at a more functional org. There is no reason for a professional assistant to the CEO (which would be an executive assistant anywhere else!) to make $9/hour.

    Reply
  63. SelenaAcademia

    My dad (a clergyperson, a sector famous for emphasizing the mission if ever there was one) always used to say, “Nothing says lovin’ like a check in the mail.”

    Reply
  64. Tea, please

    Look up Maslows Hierarchy of Needs. Foood, shelter and safety is at the bottom of the pyramid. Self-actualization is at the top. This theory argues that if your basic needs aren’t met, it is significantly harder to be fulfilled at the next level up in the pyramid.
    So don’t feel guilty you are working for the paycheck. If you follow this theory, because shelter is insecure, it’s much harder for you to get up the pyramid to self-actualization, which is the tier where I think working passionately for an organization’s mission would fall.

    I spent 9 years working for an organization where I was significantly underpaid and overworked. I bought into the mindset that if I didn’t put the needs of the community above my own that I wasn’t working hard enough and this was a bad employee. Huge kudos to you for not going there and thtinking about setting appropriate limits. I hope your boss has a wake up call and you get what you need to be fairly compensated.

    Reply
  65. PNW Jenn

    I worked in higher education nearly 20 years. When you work in the nonprofit world, you, too, are nonprofit.

    I left earlier this year for a job that literally pays me 20k more than I was making before. Sure, I loved helping students during formative life transitions but $20k made it a no-brainer to leave.

    Reply
    1. Ghost Town

      I’m also in higher education administration. I moved from a unit that was directly related to my degree in the humanities to the business school for about $17k more a year. No-brainer. Better for my career trajectory, check book, and quality of life.

      Reply
  66. Working Rachel

    I think I am alone among the hundreds of commenters in that I would actually do my job for free. I could afford to do my job for free. I work for a struggling nonprofit, and I am very underpaid.

    My number one priority is getting our salaries up. If we can’t do that, at a certain point, I think we should shut down. Because to do otherwise–to run an organization where people are consistently underpaid, and where only very privileged people could afford to work without government assistance–is both dishonest and wrong.

    Good luck, LW!

    Reply
  67. Rich

    In the past, I worked in different individual contributor and management roles at a healthcare non-profit. It was in an area of healthcare that was … intensely mission driven. I loved it. For a while, I reported directly to the CFO, and I learned a very important lesson (actually, many, but this was one of the best).

    No margin, no mission.

    As a company, we couldn’t deliver the mission if we weren’t financially successful. More importantly, being more financially successful meant we could deliver more of the mission.

    Implicit in that understanding was that employees also had to be financially successful personally and we had to pay competitively. We couldn’t get the right people to be most mission successful if we didn’t pay correctly. And, if we didn’t pay correctly, we couldn’t expect our teams to be able to fulfill the mission well.

    That doesn’t mean we paid lavishly. We paid well for a non-profit, but there were certainly more lucrative positions I could have had. Quality of life and mission satisfaction made up for that — but it was only possible because we hit a certain financial baseline.

    In the same way that our need to be profitable didn’t mean the company was in it for the wrong reasons, OP’s need to be financially successful doesn’t mean they’re in it for the wrong reasons.

    Reply
  68. Been There, Done That

    Money is a powerful motivator and incentive. There’s no shame in doing a job simply for pay. A job is how you support yourself.

    Of course, it’s nice if you love what you do and enjoy your coworkers, but “psychic rewards” won’t put a roof over your head or food on your table. Recently some things happened at my company that left a lot of people feeling demeaned and slapped in the face. A higher-up ran the guilt trip about how money and titles weren’t important to us worker bees, it was “the satisfaction of a job well done.” No sale.

    Reply
  69. MamaSarah

    Honestly, I work for a paycheck. That’s the point. There are some really cool things about my job – promoting a greater good, keeping kids safe, ensuring the basic sanitation that is a hallmark of a developed nation. I can settle into a flow that makes my heart super happy and fills me with love. (I work in public health.) But this is my job – I do it so I can have an income. Everything else is a bonus.

    Reply
  70. Leenie

    I wonder how much they spent on that training program. Maybe that money could have gone toward a living wage for the people actually doing the work to carry out the NPO’s mission.

    Reply
  71. Brandine

    I wonder how much this training is costing the organization. Enough that it could have been divvied up among the staff as a wage increase? This is potentially a lot of money to spend to get “confirmation” you’re justified in underpaying your staff. Ugh.

    Reply
  72. Marley

    What an illuminating letter. I hope you offer your boss the thoughtful candor you’ve offered us.

    OP, I know you need the generous PTO and the flexibility, but if you’ve done good solid work for 13 years and you’re still making what you’re making…start poking around for other options. I see in your letter someone who undervalues herself. You might be surprised what’s out there.

    Reply
  73. ElinorD

    What wonderful advice, Alison.
    I *love* my job. If I ever won the lottery, I’d keep doing it because I love what I do. BUT – I haven’t won the lottery. I need the money and the pay is pretty iffy for what I do. I absolutely do it for the money and I think most people do. It’s great if we get a psychic paycheck in addition to the actual one, but joy doesn’t pay for groceries.
    I wonder if the boss is unaware just HOW bad the pay is, and how hard it is to make ends meet at that rate. For example, one of my first full time jobs out of college paid terribly. Really, really awful. But our owners were all and the end of their careers and believed our pay was great, based on what they were paid early in *their* careers. They meant well but were completely out of touch.

    Reply
  74. Imaskingamanager

    This letter and these comments are about the best discussion I have ever seen on this topic. Should be required reading for all executives and policy makers.

    Reply
  75. NewBoss5000

    We’re going through a “culture change” at my organization that has included some surveys asking about how people feel about the mission of the institution and what motivates employees (similar questions to what the OP was asked). At various informational sessions during this time the outside consultants have basically said “and don’t mention pay; that’s not what we’re here to talk about.” I’m sitting there thinking “the people at this institution are notoriously underpaid while living in one of the most expensive cities in the United States–so very many are living below the poverty line– and I myself am living basically paycheck to paycheck on a faculty salary, but we *can’t talk about pay* when asked what would motivate us?” It’s amazing, and awful.

    The senior administration *knows* that one of the main issues is low pay–they know that this is precisely why turnover is high in our department and across the institution, and they know that low employee engagement is absolutely directly related to low pay–but instead of admitting “hey, we know the pay isn’t great, but we can’t (or won’t) do anything about that,” they just pretend we’re all money-grubbers who don’t care about the “mission” when we talk about having trouble paying our bills.

    Reply
    1. Scandinavian Vacationer

      There are many amazing discussions on income inequality, the difference in pay between highest and lowest salaries in an organization, and what that means. Search out “income inequality” or “GINI index” for much well studied research on this issue.

      Reply
      1. Imaskingamanager

        I think what makes this discussion different it’s that it’s real people talking about their real lives in their own voices, not edited or “interpreted.”

        Reply
  76. Juneybug

    First of all, you are awesome and I would hire you in a minute. Second, I would suggest reading the book Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin . It’s a great book about how others should pay for your services and efforts (in this case, your outstanding work, experience, and loyalty). As one Amazon reviewer said “Part of it is about shifting the way you think about success- if you think that it is immoral to make money you won’t be committed to wealth creation. If you think you can only “win” or “get ahead” if someone else loses, then you will not want to cause too much harm. To be truly successful, people MUST benefit others.” You benefit others with your great work so they should honor you with great benefits/pay.

    Reply
  77. Half-Caf Latte

    OP you are awesome. This rubs me the wrong way for all of the reasons people mentioned above, but also:

    I tend to be a better worker when I’m not “heavily invested” in the outcome. It’s weird, I know. Being too heavily invested in the outcome can lead me down all sorts of rabbit holes, where I’m spending tons of time and mental energy trying to overanalyze or devise the perfect solution. I’ve had a few experiences where I have been approaching burnout, and start to check out and try to just get the work done, and give up on the emotional attachment, and my productivity has gone up!

    Being able to mentally flip a problem from being “my” problem to being “Job’s problem which I am paid to solve” helps me prioritize and recognize what is and is not in scope for me.

    Reply
    1. ElinorD

      This is interesting, Half-Caf. I’m exactly the opposite. If I feel invested in the outcome, I’m a better worker. This came to a head at a previous (awful) job, when I had a situation with a customer that I was upset about. Customer wasn’t getting the help they should have received. My boss instead gave me a lecture about shareholders. I knew then it was time to go, because if my company is more invested in shareholders than customers, it was a bad fit.
      Great points you made, above! Now that I’m in my current field (higher ed), there are times where I have to separate like you describe, in order to avoid getting swallowed by the responsibility.

      Reply
  78. Anita

    Ugh, I had a “rah! rah!” cheerleader kind of boss would was infamous for giving speeches to us about how we are here for the clients! and the science! and the world! There was one particularly memorable meeting when he was finishing up his speech about how we aren’t in this industry for the money (he of course had a 6 digit salary), but for the pure purpose of supporting science. And in the next breath he told us that we weren’t getting raises or bonuses that year.

    Reply
  79. Mrs. Fenris

    I get accused of being “just in it for the money” every single day (I’m a veterinarian). Too bad none of these people realize I’m not getting rich. Good thing I do mostly love my job, because it’s hard and no way would I do it for free.

    Reply

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