refusing an offensively small raise, a lying boss, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. How to resign when my boss will lie and tell everyone I was fired

How should I tender my two weeks notice to a dysfunctional workplace with egomaniacal bosses who will likely tell everyone that I did not leave for a new position, but rather they fired me? This is academia, and these bosses are PhDs who are used to having the last word, even if it is self-serving and untrue. Other staff / graduate students will probably believe whatever they say or at least act as if they do to protect their own interests.

If you think your managers are going to lie about the situation, I’d let the rest of your colleagues know that you’re resigning to accept a new position at Employer X doing Job Y as soon as you tell your manager. When someone says that they’re leaving to take a concrete, actual job, it’s much harder to make it look like they were just fired. Hell, you could even tell them before you tell your manager — hit send on a group email on your way into your manager’s office. As long as the email is gracious, there’s nothing wrong with doing that in a context where you expect your resignation to be misrepresented.

Also, since this is academic, there’s an HR department and it probably has its share of bureaucracy and rules. If you’re concerned that your managers are actually going to defame you, it wouldn’t hurt to check in with HR to see how you can head that off.

2. Can I refuse an offensively small raise?

I have not had a raise since 2005. I have been with the company since 1999 and have taken on more responsibility and two more departments. I just received a great evaluation from all of my managers, but when it came time to give the raise, they only gave me 58 cents. Will I lose my job if I refuse that little amount?

Well, refusing a raise because it’s offensively tiny is a bit dramatic and adversarial. Instead, why not advocate for the raise you want, explaining why you’ve earned it?

3. Can I ask my employer to hire a replacement for my boss, who left?

I’m the poster from a few months ago who asked the question (#4 at the link) about whether I should quit my internship. Because I know my fellow readers love an update, here is one: I decided to take the advice of some of the readers and decided to remain at my painstakingly boring internship. Luckily for me, I was shortly after offered a full time position at a nonprofit doing exactly what I want to do.

Now I’ve been here for almost three months and I’ve run into some issues. The organization I work at is very small. Due to internal issues, the previous director of my particular program quit, so now my small program within the small organization is being overseen and “managed” by the organization’s executive director, who is, to put it mildly, a hot mess! She is disorganized, rude, abusive, etc. She is also running the program I work in into the ground. So much so that one of my three-member team — the most senior member of our team (the other 2 of us have worked here for less than 3 months; she’s been here for a couple of years) — is actively searching for employment elsewhere. Since my position and my colleague’s position are grant funded, I’m worried that this poor leadership will leave me unemployed sooner rather than later.

Can I ask my boss (the executive director) if we (or I) can post a job announcement for a real program director (and a replacement for my quitting coworker)? Does the fact that I’m still on my 90-day probation make this request reflect poorly on me?

It’s a reasonable thing to bring up, but that’s not how I’d frame it. Instead, ask if there plans to hire a replacement for the program director and what that timeline is. If the answer is anything other than “yes, very soon,” then I’d explain more about why you think there’s a strong need (focusing on things like team workload, skills gap, and program needs, not the ED being a hot mess).

That said, I’d also be job searching, because whether you get a new program director or not, you’re at an organization being run by an awful manager, and that rarely points to long-term stability or satisfaction.

4. Do I have to have a performance evaluation?

I have worked as a in-home health care aid for about one year. I have noticed that many of my coworkers and I have not received the annual performance review promised at hire. I am moderately concerned about my performance review, as I have had some issues with the schedulers (ignoring my availability, attitude when I tell them my availability has changed), to the point I am rather uncomfortable even calling into the office.

Since this position was offered to me as one that would work with my school attendance and family life, I’m concerned that these issues are going to take light in my performance review if it ever happens. Is my employer required to do performance reviews? And am I allowed to present evidence of the company’s misconduct in regards to my performance? The clients I work with generally have no complaints and I fear that their feedback (which I feel is important, seeing as I’m never in the office with coworkers) will not be taken into account.

No law requires employers to do performance evaluations. If your company does do a performance evaluation and you feel you’re unfairly assessed, you can certainly explain why (but “presenting evidence of the company’s misconduct” is an adversarial approach that isn’t likely to get you the outcome you want; it should be more a collaborative conversation about your concerns and theirs).

However, rather than waiting for an evaluation that may or may not come (and which might be too late to impact much by the time it does), you should talk to your manager now. Explain the issues that you’ve had with the schedulers and check in to see how your manager thinks things are going. It’s far better to handle things proactively than to sit back and worry about how this all might play out.

5. How long should I wait if I can’t get into my building to start work?

If my employer does not show up for a scheduled shift and I do not have access to the building, is there a reasonable wait time before I leave? If I do leave, do I qualify for any sort of minimum pay?

I’d find half an hour reasonable, but if you have reason to think this will happen again, I’d talk to your manager now and find out how she wants you handle it.

You do need to be paid for the time you were waiting. Some states also require “reporting time pay,” where you have to be paid for a minimum of X hours for showing up for a shift ready to work, even if you were sent home (or couldn’t access the building). For instance, California would require you to be paid for half the usual or scheduled day’s work, but not less than two hours and not more than four hours.

{ 69 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    #2 Don’t ‘refuse a raise’ — advocate for a better one and take this as your wake up call to find another job. If you are worth more, go prove it by finding a better job. If you can’t because of the local economy, well then take the raise if you can’t get more and abide your time. There is no scenario where ‘refusing a raise’ gets you anything but contempt. Dramatic gestures generally have no place in the workplace — but if they do, it is as you hand the letter of resignation to your boss with the announcement you are leaving for a better job since the lack of raise made it clear it was time to go.

    1. Steve G*

      This question just lowered my spirits. I wish the answer was “tell them the raise is bad and they’ll never offer such low raises again!” But for many reasons, people now are accepting low salaries, and employers are offering low salaries. It’s really unfortunate……….many of the people I know that “live well” and have what sound like high salaries really live very normal lives and don’t really have that much money. I mean, if you live in the NYC suburbs, you can have 2 spouses earning 70k and they still live on only 1/2 an acre in an ok town and they have a mortgage they can barely afford, too little saved for retirement, etc. etc…..yet many of the people I know who have 10+ years experience in NY are making around 50K, which nowadays means that you share an apartment…………….so yeah, 58 cents/hr raise is ridiculous when you look at those costs of living – its not ridiculous though if you are look at a job meant for a college or very entry level person.

      1. Artemesia*

        Couldn’t agree more. Economic policies in this country that have resulted in this poor economy are exactly what those who hold the whip hand want. They want a compliant labor force willing to work for next to nothing. Not likely to change any time soon since we are due for another round of tax cuts for the super wealthy and safety net cuts for the rest.

      2. MK*

        #3, I notice you also ask about and finding a replacement for my quitting coworker. This coworker hasn’t quit yet and they may not do so soon, or ever, if they can’t find a better job. Unless they have actually resigned, you bringing up their plans to leave will be completely inappropriate.

      3. MK*

        “tell them the raise is bad and they’ll never offer such low raises again!” would only work in a scenario where the employer is so clueless that they don’t realise the raise is inadequate. I hardly think that’s usually the case; most often, they offer tiny raises beacuse that what they can actually afford or that’s what you (or the job) are worth to them or that’s what they think they can get away with, etc. The employer presumably didn’t pick a number out of a hat, they knew what they were offering and that it was low; the OP can hardly hope to shame them into more money, if they felt the offer was something to be ashamed about, they wouldn’t have made it.

        That said, I think refusing a raise has a primadona vibe about it. Register your disappointment and start looking for a new job and, when you find one, explain calmly that you are leaving because of the compensation.

        1. en pointe*

          Agree, but I would couple “register your disappointment” with advocate for a better raise. She can job search and advocate for herself at the same time. And given that, as AdAgencyChick notes below, the OP’s salary is likely below market, she could also use that as part of her case about why she’s earned / is worth more. If they’ve been underpaying her partly because she’s never called them on it, a veiled ‘I could do a lot better elsewhere’ might help, without her actually having to walk. (If she doesn’t want to, that is. If I were her, I’d be walking anyway.)

        2. Bunny*

          THIS. If you’ve not received a wage in a decade, you have 15+ years experience in the role, have a track record of taking on and expanding your responsibilities and you are receiving glowing performance reviews, there is NO reason to put up with a poor salary in return. At this point, even with the economic situation chances are even the starting wage for your position will be higher in other companies.

          I’d do it like this:

          1- Research what the current market rate is for your role.
          2- Advocate for a raise in line with this, giving your reasons and emphasizing the ways in which you are an asset.
          3- Meanwhile, begin looking for vacancies in the field.
          4a- If your current employer offers you a raise you consider reasonable, yay! Job done.
          4b- If they do not, revisit the matter when you get a job offer elsewhere. See if work will be more willing to renegotiate your wage then.
          5- Depending on the results of 4b, either enjoy your new, better paying job, or enjoy your raise!

          1. bob*

            If it was me I would skip 4b and just hand them my notice with a solid offer in my pocket like that. Most likely they aren’t going to do much anyway if they haven’t since 2005.

      4. Emily*

        “Only” 1/2 an acre? Having a detached single anywhere near a city is quite a luxury, even on 1/4 or 1/5 of an acre. I agree with you about how awful it is to try to live in NYC for $50k…but the couple pulling $140k chould be renting an apartment or buying a condo in Jersey if they want to have disposable income for other luxuries.

      5. Obagiwa*

        Tell me about it. We live in about 1.5 hours from NYC on Long Island. My husband makes $55K and we sometimes barely have money to put food on the table after just paying rent, utilities, car/insurance. It’s a super high cost of living area and somehow employers get away with paying barely livable wages or wages similar to much cheaper areas of the country for the same work. And then you’re trapped here because its too expensive to save anything and leave.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yeah, 58 cents is absurd, even you are paid hourly. Refusing a raise would be seen as adversarial. A dramatic gesture like that would be like peeing your pants–it’d feel good immediately afterwards, but the lingering effects will be bad.

      At FirstJob, people would refuse promotions (we were on quotas and a promotion meant more pay, but also more work when we were already overworked) and that would be seen as very adversarial. I don’t *think* it was a fireable offense, but it didn’t speak well to your tenure at that job if you weren’t willing to take on more cases to review.

      1. Artemesia*

        Great metaphor. And yes, there is generally no scenario where a prima donna turn and hissy fit gets you anything no matter how justified you are in your disdain.

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Yes, on #2 – “I did everything I could, but it’s apparent my work and talent aren’t appreciated here. I don’t want to leave but my hand is forced, it’s much better that I move on now.”

      Then wait and see what happens… but do keep in mind, that your manager thought the amount of your increase over, and if he/she knew it was going to be insulting , put in for it anyway , either not caring what your reaction would be – OR – thinking “if she leaves, we’ll give her the raise then.”

      1. Colette*

        I don’t think resigning will help the OP – and that’s what this is. What is she going to do if the manager says “We’ll miss you, good luck?”

        Refusing the raise is nothing but an attempt to “show them” … by saving them money. Quitting is the same thing – it has no benefit for the OP, and the business will not “learn their lesson” – they’ll just hire someone else.

  2. A Teacher*

    #1–my first job out of grad school would do the same thing. When I started, it was a small company, when I left we were a mid-size company but they grew too big too fast and suffered for it. When people resigned, our bosses would bad mouth them excessively. After a while the method around this was to send a department wide email to everyone within 10 minutes of emailing/talking to your manager that explained what you planned to do. It was amazing how much it shut down management from being complete asshats to employees.

    1. AnotherTeacher*

      This is all good advice. If it’s appropriate, let your contacts outside of the department and organization know as well.

  3. Lillie Lane*

    #1: Ugh, “PhDs who are used to having the last word” — this can be so true. The department-wide email is a great suggestion. Also, if you are friendly with any support staff, make sure they know right away. They can generally see through the academic BS and will set the record straight (quietly) if anyone says otherwise. Also, look extra happy and cheerful. Believe me, people will notice.

    1. Artemesia*

      I am surprised by this. Not that PhDs are not jackasses on a regular basis but that they would think twice about staff moving on. Most of them have always seemed to me to think that staff are low level workers easily replaced; have never seen one of them badmouth a staffer for moving on. Now a fellow PhD researcher who leaves for greener pastures might get dinged through the informal network; I have seen some real viciousness there — but usually staff is well below the radar.

      1. fposte*

        The exception being the fixtures. You don’t want to be the professor who’s made the 20-year department secretary unhappy.

        1. Artemesia*

          LOL good point. I once watched a department of Organizational Leadership (PhDs who supposedly were experts on how organizations work, right?) where a new program director managed on her first day to utterly alienate the AA who was in control of pretty much all the departmental logistics. PhDs don’t allocate supplies, get rooms, make sure books get ordered or any of the other things a professor or program director might need. In the same department, there were regular shouting matches between the chair and subordinates — again, these people were all ‘experts’ in organizational behavior. Totally weird.

          1. fposte*

            Oof. Yeah, sometimes it’s true that those who can’t do, teach. I’ve known front office lifers who could probably make faculty silently disappear from the planet and erase any evidence that they were ever there.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            As an aside is this a thing with Organizational Leadership PhDs? Are they all trying to lead at the same time? How come everything is a personal attack BUT they don’t seem to fully understand anything that is said? I got caught in this pit when I returned for my degree. One prof refused to submit paperwork so I could get credit for the course. I never got credit.

            1. DolceVoce*

              That’s appalling! You should have filed a complaint. Was that a viable option?

              On the other hand, I have heard / seen profs taking credit for ideas / work that was actually generated by grad students / research associates / technical staff.

              Why is a PhD a licence to be an arrogant jerk ?
              Often it only means: Expert in one tiny, narrow area but a complete moron in every other aspect of life.

              1. Lillie Lane*

                Not to pile on the PhD-hatin’ bandwagon (my husband and I have them), but one of our friends in grad school had an idea stolen from him by his advisor and her husband. They patented the idea without his knowledge. Luckily, the dean of research (an ethical man) found out and read them the riot act. However, they were never professionally tarnished by it at all — it was just whispered about in the hallways. So disgusting.

                1. en pointe*

                  I’m disappointed to learn that so many PhDs are jerks! I don’t know how it works in the US, but at Aussie universities, we have lectures with professors, and then smaller classes of 20-25 called tutorials, for each course. Most of the tutorials are taught by PhD candidates at the university. (They’re well-paid, hourly positions so that’s how they earn money while they do their PhD).

                  Anyway, they’re mostly really nice! Like super knowledgeable, and will often make time for students, or will suggest grabbing a coffee if a student needs to chat about an essay. It’s weird to think that some might end up being jackasses in the future.

                2. Lillie Lane*

                  @en pointe — Oh, don’t take my grousing too seriously! There are plenty of perfectly decent, ethical, nice, upstanding people with PhDs (I count myself as one, of course :). But unfortunately it is set up to be a haven for some people who are inept/incompetent/bullies/harassers/psychopathic/compulsive liars/etc. They get into the system and sometimes it’s nearly impossible to get them out.

                  Again, though, based on the letters to Alison, we can also say that there are *plenty* of non-PhDs that fit into the inept/incompetent/bullies/etc. categories as well, especially in management.

      2. Lillie Lane*

        Most of the time I would agree with you, but at my last job I was employed by a guy that fit the OP’s description to a T. He was a compulsive liar and when one of his students left the program (due to his incompetence and lying), he took it very personally and pretty much sabotaged her. He also spread a lot of lies to other faculty members about her and other people that have left. He’s lied/talked about me and other PhDs behind our backs as well (I was staff, not faculty).

      3. Maureen P.*

        At my last academic job, one of the senior PIs said flat out – publicly, at an all-staff meeting – that she doesn’t like people to progress in their roles because then they leave for a more advanced position, and then she has to go through the hiring process. So, staff are not below the radar, but they are kept firmly in their place. There were multiple excellent people on her staff who had not seen a promotion for well over a decade, and were performing the same job tasks with no career progression at all. They were all passionate about the work, but it seemed to me that they could be passionate and advance their careers at the same time.

  4. Stephanie*

    #1 – Oh academia. Alison, do you have an “except in academia” disclaimer to go along with your “except in California” one?

    I wouldn’t worry too much about your colleagues. They probably all know the faculty are crazy as well and not to take their word at face value. Plus, if you worked directly with others in the department, they’ll know you were a good admin/lab tech/instructor/whatever. A nice update email before you resign should help as well. OP, do you think it would be possible to negotiate a reference with your bosses before you leave? I imagine you wouldn’t list Dr. CrazyPants as a reference, but I’m sure some manager or background checker might call him anyway.

  5. Sherm*

    #1-I think you’ve been given good advice, but to soothe your mind a little, let me say: I’ve known of two professors who bad-mouthed, untruthfully, people who had moved on; the thing is…no one believed them. Reputations get around in academia. The nice ones are well-known to be nice. The liars are well-known to be liars.

    1. BRR*

      I was thinking the same thing. Usually when these types of professor do their thing people just roll their eyes and mutter why does tenure happen to bad people.

  6. Jman4l*

    #2. Assuming the OP is full time, 0.58/hour is over a $1000/year raise. I wouldn’t turn that down and we don’t know what her base pay is. That is a 3% increase if she is making $20/ hour.
    The issue I would address is the long time between increases

    1. Juli*

      That’s what I was thinking too. If this is an annual raise for COL, depending on current annual salary it may be right on par with what most people get. It’s hard to say if it’s unreasonable without more info.

      1. en pointe*

        It’s her first raise since 2005, so not annual. And she’s taken on increased responsibility, including two more departments, so it sounds like she deserves more than just a COL raise.

        1. Traveler*

          In some fields though, government entities for example – COL is all you’re going to get and you’re lucky if you get it as they often suspend COL if the government is having issues. And if you turn up your nose at that, people are going to get upset at the fact you think you’re too good for it. This was my first thought when I saw that. It may be a situation where s/he’s going to have to fight this on a larger scale because its happening to other people in the organization as well.

        2. HR Manager*

          If she hasn’t received an increase in almost 10 years, it sounds like finances or the business is not strong enough. That in itself may prompt folks to want to leave, but it shouldn’t be looked like $0.58 is intended to be cover 9 years worth of increases.

      2. doreen*

        I agree that there’s not enough information to say if it’s unreasonable. We don’t know what the OPs current pay is, or what the job is or even what “more responsibility and two more departments” means. It could mean that the OP is managing two more departments or it could be a retail job that formerly assigned one sales associate in each department per shift and has now cut back to one associate per three departments.

    2. en pointe*

      I don’t know. I mean, is there really that much she can do about the long time between increases now? I think the time to address that would have been during the long time between increases, because I doubt a company that only gives a $0.58 raise for that much extra responsibility (she’s managing multiple departments so I doubt she’s only making $20/ hour) is really going to compensate her retroactively. So I don’t know if that’s the issue I would be centralising. I think she should focus on why she’s earned a larger increase now. The long time between raises could form part of that case. Like in terms of her increased responsibility over that time frame and her great performance, as indicated by her evaluations.

      I don’t know – the OP talks about when it “came time to give the raise”. There’s not much detail so this is an assumption, but the impression I got was that she hasn’t advocated for a raise for herself since 2005 either; like it’s all being done on their timeline. Maybe that’s the way it’s done at her company and asking for a raise isn’t okay, but if so, that seems wildly unreasonable. It shouldn’t “come time” for a raise after nine years, especially given the growth in the OP’s responsibilities. It should either “come time” sooner or you should be able to make a case for yourself.

      So if she does decide to focus on the long time between raises, I would do it in the context of looking forward rather than back. Like sure, if there’s a culture around rarely giving raises or increasing compensation for increased responsibilities, then that’s super shitty on the part of the company and is going to be a hard thing to challenge. But she could be proactive about advocating for her own raises more frequently in the future. And if she’s not able to convince them to give her more / they can’t afford to now, maybe she could talk to them about revisiting the idea of a larger increase in a year’s time. Obviously, that may or may not result in a bigger (or any) raise at that point either, but at least she’s got it on the table that she’s not interested in going raiseless for another nine years.

      I could certainly be wrong and she has, in fact, been advocating for a raise in the time between 2005 and now, but really, if that’s the case, then that means this company is either too cash-strapped to give her a raise for nine years (and only a $0.58 one now), which is concerning with regard to job security. Or they were taking advantage of her loyalty, or didn’t think she was worth more for nine years, despite added responsibility and great performance. Either way, I’d be looking elsewhere.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Agree. They paid OP the same wage for almost ten years because they could. Either they knew they could because there’s a buyers’ market for that position, or they weren’t sure but they’re a company that prefers to continue underpaying people as long as they can get away with it and OP never called them on it with another job offer.

        OP, if you start job hunting — and in your shoes, I would — do as much research as you can about what the market rate really is, because if you’ve been at the same place since 1999 and had only a 2005 raise and a crappy raise in 2014, chances are your salary is well below market rate. Some companies will try to take advantage of that and offer you an increase that doesn’t get you to market rate. If that happens and you like the company otherwise, negotiate like hell!

  7. Not So NewReader*

    #4. Sadly, this is a fairly common problem with a lot of jobs. The employer will say that they will work with your schedule and they don’t. Additionally, when your school schedule changes the employer goes into meltdown because they did not expect changes to happen. I am not clear on why this happens but I see it happening on a regular basis.

    Just like OP #1, you see a problem on the horizon (in your setting it’s your eval, in OP #1 setting it is about being bad-mouthed) you both can take steps to prevent the issue from going way out of hand.
    I can understand that you might be angry about the company’s “misconduct” but as Alison says coming in on that level will not help you at all. Matter of fact, it could hurt you. Address it in a lower key. You will gain more ground that way. “Boss, I am concerned about some stuff I have been seeing regarding scheduling and I am wondering how we can fix this.” For an employee to wait for an eval to discuss immediate problems is just as defeating as a boss that waits for an eval to discuss immediate problems. Don’t let stuff fester and grow, nip the problem by addressing it ASAP.

    To OP#4, the email blast and talking with key people will go a long way to diluting the power of the liars around you. Annddd, probably other people will copy what you do when they resign. This means you will leave a bit of a legacy because you will be showing people how to cope with this type of situation.

    1. Bunny*

      Yeah, this sadly re: #4. I remember when I was a student, looking for part time work in a student town, and I naively assumed that company employing full-time students in a student town wouldn’t ask questions like “If you had lectures on a particular day that you needed to attend, but we needed you to come in last minute for a shift, what would you choose?”. Turned out it was a standard question, with the expected answer being “Yes of course I will sabotage my long-term future for a minimum wage temporary job with zero advancement prospects.”.

      It’s not fun, but it’s the way things are. Employers want people who can do the job to their schedule and needs. It’s a rare employer that will work with you on availability (I’m lucky to have found one recently, and they are absolutely wonderful for it, but that is FAR from the norm).

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I understand that some employers genuinely want to employ students and help them get ahead. I think an obvious choice would be to place the student in a non-critical position.- something that has some flexibility to it. I just don’t get why employers cannot figure out the recurring problem.

      2. Kathryn*

        The only time I quit a job without notice was when my manager for a retail job in college scheduled me over one of my engineering finals and refused to adjust it. I had told him at the beginning of the semester what my finals schedule would be, along with my class schedule, and reminded him a month and again the day before he made the schedule.

        When I told him I could make that shift, because I would be in a final exam, he told me he needed me there and that he expected me to “think about my priorities”. Somehow, the engineering degree won and I decided I needed the next week to study before finals as well.

        On topic, I second bringing the issue about scheduling up with your manager sooner rather than later. They could be a total jerk, or they could have ideas to help get everything worked out, and either way, you want to know where you stand.

        1. Anna*

          I was very fortunate to work for employers during college and grad school that understood I was a student first and an employee second. But I also knew people struggled with their managers all the time to get the schedule right so they wouldn’t miss class or finals or study groups. It baffles me that anyone managing students would tell them they need to “think about their priorities” because I always knew the answer to that question! I approached it as “School is my job. This helps pay the bills, but school is my priority”. I never had to actually say that to an employer, but I often wonder if it was a combination of luck and the attitude I gave off that they worked with me.

  8. Ed*

    #2 We once acquired a company where the employees hadn’t received raises for 10 years. When evaluation time came around, they were all demanding 45% raises. I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way. First, if our company gives 2-3% raises, it would be a stretch to get anyone even a 5-6% raise and that person would need to be essential. Second, if you stayed for 10 years with no raise, we have zero fear you will leave now if we don’t meet your demands. This was during the recession but you stayed with no raise for years before the economy went south.

    To OP, I would never turn down a raise of any amount but I would have a talk with manager or HR about my low pay. Then, depending on your local economy and skillset, I would try to get a new job. Being dramatic never solves anything. You will feel better for a few hours and then the reality will set in that you just said FU to your manger which will not have a good ending.

    1. Monodon monoceros*

      If the employees are all making 45% below market value, I don’t see a reason why they can’t tell their employer that. Sure, I can understand that your company probably can’t give everyone a 45% raise, but then management should probably be aware that most of their employees may (should) be looking elsewhere.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Except that, as Ed said, the company assumes those people have nowhere to go or they would have gone already. It’s the same mindset as described above: companies will screw their employees because they can.

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          That was my point, really. That the company is screwing over their employees. I understand they can do this, but they might as well start calling it what it is.

    2. Artemesia*

      You are probably right but it is bad management to not adjust pay scales. I ran a department after a merger where the employees from one setting were grossly out of line with those from the other and from newer hires. We had one guy who had initiated an important program that had been a major contributor to our solvency — and he was paid a fraction of what newer hires and old hands from the other company were paid. I got him 10% raises 3 years in a row which still didn’t make him paid what he was worth to us but at least got him in the ball park. My own boss gave me a 25% raise — again it didn’t make me well paid, but it brought my salary in line with similar newer hires and peers.

      Yes companies screw over employees if they can on a regular basis. And employees who don’t advocate forcefully for themselves are often seriously mistreated. A surprising number of these issues do get resolved when one is assertive. And if they don’t, then the employee knows for sure it is time to leave if they can.

    3. Mike C.*

      This is a terrible attitude to have. The idea that you should just continue to press and squeeze your employees just because you think you can get away with it is incredibly immoral.

  9. Anon Accountant*

    OP2- I’d recommend working on finding s new job as it sounds like you are very unserpaid. There’s great advice in the archives on resumes, cover letters, interviewing, etc.

    I’m interested in learning why there wasn’t a raise in so many years. Is the company known for paying low wages? Took advantage of loyalty? Employee felt shy about advocating for herself or management shut down Raise requests by the OP? Some managers are like that unfortunately.

    However I’d recommend working on job searching.

  10. Eric*

    #5: Someone can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe you would be entitled to pay for however long you were waiting at a minimum.

  11. Seal*

    #2 – Can’t tell if the OP works in the private or public sector, but as a public sector employee I can safely say that this has unfortunately become the norm in recent years. At the large public university where I work, no one got raises for 5 years. This year, they finally came up with money for raises; everyone got 3%. As someone pointed out up thread, for those making around $40,000 a year that comes out to about 58-60 cents an hour. It’s not merit-based and there is not way to turn it down, although after 5 years without raises it is unlikely anyone would turn it down. Beyond that, managers have few if any options for rewarding outstanding performers monetarily. That’s just the way it works in the public sector, at least in my experience – you trade job security and good benefits for higher salaries and merit-based raises.

    1. doreen*

      Because sometimes you have no better alternatives. I work for a state government , and this past April, the non-union employees received a 2% raise, the first one since April 2008. Although people always say that government employees take lower pay in exchange for better benefits and security, that’s only true up to a point. It also depends on the exact field, how long you’ve been in that field and what level you have reached. I can’t leave my job without taking at least a 50% pay cut.

    2. MK*

      Also, it could be that this is the market rate for the job. If the OP was hired and got a raise in more affluent times or negotiated really well or for whatever reason had a higher-than-average starting salary, it’s not actually a given that there is a higher paying job to get, at least where they live.

  12. Basiorana*

    I worked in a job where the maximum allowable raise was 17 cents per hour. 58 cents is pretty decent IMO

  13. Student*

    #2) They didn’t give you a 58 cent raise (presuming we are talking about 58 cents per year, and not 58 cents per hour, which would be more like a reasonable $1.2k per year raise).

    They changed their accounting in some small way. The system now rounds the numbers in some very slightly different manner, which resulted in the $0.58 salary “increase”. They probably can’t change it back to the old salary even if you request it.

    Do you understand inflation? If you don’t get a raise every year that is at least equal to inflation, you are actually making less money than you were when you started, because it buys less stuff.

  14. super anon*

    #2 reminds me vaguely of my first job in the way back. You only got raises after working a set number of hours -in my case it was 1000, which is only half a year at a full time job, but when you’re 16 and only working 10 to 15 hours a week, hitting that bench mark takes forever. When I finally hit the 1000 hour mark I was super excited to find out about my raise, only to learn it was a whole 5 cents. Then, a month later minimum wage went up, overriding my raise and I had to start the 1000 hour process all over again for another 5 cent raise.

  15. DolceVoce*

    Hello Everyone, OP#1 here.

    Big, big thanks to Alison and everybody else who put in their $0.02

    My concern about slander / defamation is not entirely allayed yet.
    Besides which, there are also two other issues to think about now: references (thanks for bringing that up, Stephanie — seriously) and my new job being poisoned by these people.

    You have no idea how toxic and dysfunctional this place is….What you have read is “tip of the iceberg” stuff.

    Tendering Two Weeks Notice

    The email blast to all staff – before handing in a letter of notice / resignation, not after – was what I originally had in mind, but I guess I felt a little hesitant and that I needed “permission” or outside validation.

    Most advice sources say to tell the bosses first (in person) and then the co-workers, but these particular bosses are @sshats who will very likely take advantage of the situation if I did it the “regular” way.

    These PhDs are b@tsh!t crazy enough, though, to still lie about it even if I send out an email blast beforehand. They could still say that I knew it was coming and that I just happened to quit before they could fire me.
    What then?

    There is indeed an HR department here, but they are just management puppets and informants.
    The union rep / bargaining unit is pretty good, though.

    Artemisa – A department of experts on organizational leadership. Goodness, the irony. But wait until I tell you what field * this * department is….

    Another Teacher – I hadn’t thought of letting outside contacts know, thanks. I will include as many people as possible in the email blast and be sure to tell as many people as I can with a gigantic smile on my face.

    Lillie Lane – I will be very happy before I go, and it will show. Hey, sounds like we worked for the same PhD.

    Stephanie – You raise a couple of good points. However,

    The staff does not necessarily know the faculty are crazy. Many have been here for decades and have relationships that go way back. Many have, at most, a(n) associate’s degree / bachelor’s degree and have not invested in professional development since graduating 20 to 30 years ago, and have spent the majority of those 20 to 30 years in this institution at the same job. They are lifers. Lifers have a limited frame of reference for what is normal and what is not. Furthermore, are lifers mobile or employable elsewhere? Their job security depends on their (blind) loyalty. This is why I am concerned about efforts at slander and defamation.

    Negotiating a Reference Before I Leave
    Ha! That sounds like a good idea, in theory. I’ve been a strong performer for the entire decade that I’ve been here, but the organizational culture is a significant obstacle. Management does not like recruiting and training; it is regarded as extra work that they do not need. They believe current staff should be grateful and obedient for the jobs they have – or else. Leave and they will do their best to make you pay for it. The only way to leave on good terms is to retire or die.

    I don’t know what to do about references from this place….
    I’ve been here for 10 years. Not having a reference from here would be a red flag, right?

    Stephanie raises a good point about potential employers in the future calling this place.

    I’ve already lost out on a great job opportunity because the potential employer (same field, same city, former employer of one of these PhD bosses too; this is a very specialized and small field) contacted someone here who must have nipped it in the bud. I was exchanging emails with the potential employer about scheduling an interview, and then the email exchange went dead. They just stopped answering by email and would not return my phone calls. Then the very next week Dr. CrazyPants made an oblique reference to being content with a current job while speaking to someone else and then, for no reason, turned to stare strangely at me for a long moment. I was not part of that conversation, except for the bizarre stare.

    New Job Being Poisoned by Old Workplace
    New job is with government. This jurisdiction has a policy where public sector employees making over a certain annual salary are listed on a public website. Anyone can look it up: name, organization, contact information (address, telephone, email), salary to the last penny.

    These soon-to-be-former colleagues are busybodies who will no doubt make it their business to find out about my new position. I have no intention of keeping in touch. Dr. @sshat and Dr. CrazyPants might locate this information (or tell one of the obedient lifers to do it) and then try to poison my new position. One or both of them already cost me that great job opportunity a while back. How to I prevent this from happening? If it does happen, what do I do?

    Light at the end of the tunnel. Is it sunshine or an oncoming train?

  16. Lillie Lane*

    DolceVoce, are there any sane faculty members besides Drs. @sshat and CrazyPants? Anyone that does not have loyalty to them? If there are, you might try and approach them. However, this can be risky — the student I mentioned told another faculty member (that I would have trusted as well) about our boss but was thrown under the bus by him. Apparently grant $$$ buys loyalty over ethics. Grad students will likely believe you but have little power to do anything, and once they leave, your place of employment will be a bad soap opera that they will complain about in hindsight to other colleagues — they might sympathize with you if they ever see you again, but that will be it. Current staff will think what they want to think, but again they have little power to change the status quo. Some will grumble quietly to other staff, some will be ostriches, and others will toe the department line. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I think you’ve already come to the inevitable conclusion that there is sometimes little you can do. The system is set up this way. I wouldn’t be worried about the salary information being available — they likely have other former colleagues in similar government positions. If these people are truly reprobates, they will likely move on to a new target soon.

    If I hadn’t experienced the same treatment (“HR management puppets and informants”, “belief that current staff should be grateful and obedient for the jobs they have”, “busybodies trying to poison a new position”), I would think you’re being overly dramatic or conspiratorial. Unfortunately, I believe absolutely everything you say!

    Good luck and just do your best to minimize any backlash with the advice here — that’s the best you can do. Keep telling yourself that. My coworkers and I spent years getting angry about a similar situation, wondering why karma hadn’t crushed some of these people, but the bitterness started to eat us up. Don’t let them live rent-free in your head. Do what you can, move on, and enjoy your new life!

  17. Sabrina*

    I once got a $.14 raise. I really wanted to tell my boss to keep it since the company obviously needed it more than I did. My boss felt really bad, but there wasn’t anything she could do.

    1. HR Manager*

      *sigh* I wish managers would stop doing that (assuming you don’t mean .14/hr). I have managers who try to send a message with a below $100 / yr raise, and I always have to ask them…why not give them zero? Wouldn’t that send a better message? Some managers feel compelled to give something, regardless of circumstance.

      I realize this is not your case, but a super low raise like that is demoralizing, so I’d rather the managers just note appreciation with a message that everyone needs to tighten their belts and hang in there. Or get creative, and bring in lunch for everyone. That is worth more than 14 cents. :(

    2. Vicki*

      Seven and a half cents doesn’t buy a hell of a lot,
      Seven and a half cents doesn’t mean a thing!
      But give it to me every hour,
      Forty hours every week,
      And that’s enough for me to be living like a king!

      I figured it out
      I figured it out
      With a pencil and a pad I figured it out!

      Only five years from today!
      Only five years from today!
      I can see it all before me!
      Only five years from today!
      Five years! Let’s see..thats 260 weeks, times forty hours every week, and roughly two and a quarter hours overtime.. at time
      and a half for overtime! Comes to exactly.. $852.74!
      That’s enough for me to get
      An automatic washing machine,
      A years supply of gasoline,
      Carpeting for the living room,
      A vacuum instead of a blasted broom,
      Not to mention a forty inch television set!

      Seven And A Half Cents from The Pajama Game Musical, 1954

  18. Cassie*

    OP # 1 – does it really matter what the PhD bosses tell people? I assume they wouldn’t lie if contacted for a reference, but so what if other staff or faculty think you were fired? Tell a couple of your close coworkers/faculty where you’ll be moving on to and if they hear any misinformation, they can speak up. In a day or two, people will have moved on to some other issue (like professors fighting over office space, etc).

    All of our faculty have PhDs and most of them believe they are the smartest person in the room – you kind of just let them ramble on about any given topic, nod at intermittent intervals and try not to roll you eyes at what they are saying. They may be geniuses in their given field but they aren’t the gods that some of them think they are.

  19. Jamie*

    Even if the state doesn’t require an employer to pay you X number of hours if you show up and are sent home or no one is there to let you in, etc. your employer might have it’s own policy. Make sure to check your handbook.

    Typical in my industry is paid for 4 hours if you’re sent home or can’t begin work due to factors beyond your control (not enough work, power outage, weather and you weren’t contacted in time to know to stay home (and you were available via the phone numbers you provided) etc.

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