I ask candidates their salary expectations and don’t feel bad about it

A reader writes:

You regularly talk about how inappropriate it is for employers to ask candidates about their salary expectations without giving any salary information out themselves.

Well, I am a medical professional, and, along with my partners, employ two staff in our small office. I became a small business owner/employer having received no training in that aspect of things, but learned early on when I am hiring to ALWAYS ask the candidate their salary expectations before giving any information out about the range I am willing to offer. Why?

Firstly, the money comes directly from our pockets and frankly if we can get away with paying $20/hour instead of $22/hour, why wouldn’t we? It also gives us room for raises, bonuses, etc. without taking too much of a financial hit. You always advocate that employees look out for their own interests. Why should that be so different for me as an employer? Maybe we tend to think of employers as BIG CORPORATION, but at least in our case it’s just hard-working individuals hoping to keep expenses in check.

The second big reason I want that information first is that if I were to give my range — say $20-22/hour — a candidate expecting $24/hour might well say, “Ya, sure, that’s fine” while planning to take the job and keep looking for something else. Frankly, I want to know if they’re likely to be unhappy with that salary! Hearing that they expect $24/hour is very valuable information for us to have! And if I can get it, I will.

So there you have it from a brazenly unapologetic employer who plans to continue asking the question. (For what it’s worth, we are excellent employers whose current two staff have been with us for about 15 years and eight years and both seem very happy).

Well, I’ll happily tell you why you should stop.

First, your current practice is likely to lead you to break the law. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 makes it illegal for you to pay a man and woman differently for doing the same work. So if you have a man who negotiated a higher salary than a woman did, and they’re doing substantially equal work, you are violating federal law. The law is clear that it doesn’t matter whether or not they negotiated differently and it doesn’t matter whether or not you intended to engage in wage discrimination; the fact that you’re paying them differently is itself illegal. (There’s an exception if you can prove the difference in pay is due to a seniority system or a merit system.) This is true if the genders are reversed, too — you can’t pay men and women differently, period.

So if you want to look out for your own interests, ensuring you don’t break the law — with the significant fines and penalties that go with that — is a pretty good baseline to start with.

Second, there’s tons of data showing that setting pay the way you’re doing disproportionately harms women and people of color, who are less likely to negotiate. I’m sure you don’t want to be perpetuating a system that keeps women and people of color’s wages depressed.

Third, if you’re worried about losing candidates once they hear your range, then either your range is too low for the market and the candidates you want to attract or those candidates aren’t well matched for the role you’re filling. As the employer, you need to figure out the value of the work to you and to the market, come up with a range that reflects that, and be able to explain to people where they fit into it and why.

Fourth, you’re far better equipped than your candidates are to know what the job should pay. You’re intimately familiar with the role’s responsibilities, pressures, and challenges in a way an outside candidate never can be. You’re asking candidates to name a number first when they’re not the one with the deep understanding of those factors — which can result in new hires who discover the salary doesn’t match up with the job after they start, which can mean they don’t stick around or don’t go above and beyond in the way they might if they felt fairly compensated.

And last, the world is increasingly scoffing at employers that operate the way you do. There’s increasing awareness that it harms workers generally and women and people of color in particular, and more and more employers are jettisoning the practice. When you refuse to disclose your budgeted salary range and insist on the candidate naming theirs, you’re sending a signal about your culture that will increasingly turn off your best candidates.

I think the reason you’re “brazenly unapologetic” about a practice that hurts people (and you really are — the subject line of your email to me was “I ask candidates their salary expectations, so there”) is because it’s what you’ve done in the past and you don’t want to change something that you’ve grown comfortable with. But it’s a crappy and harmful way to operate and at some point will have you violating the law if you haven’t already.

The times are changing. Change with them — and don’t gloat about doing something that hurts people.

{ 1,481 comments… read them below }

    1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      Exactly. It’s times like this when I wish emoji reactions were enabled on this site!

        1. Ben*

          Joke’s on them – I guarantee this approach is warning off a lot of good candidates. LW says they only have two staff but writes as though they have interviews regularly. If their turnover for the positions is high, they don’t seem to have made the connection between approach and results.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m staggered by the original letter. I knew people thought this way, but I’ve never seen someone revel in it.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I’ll admit, I read the original letter and thought “I’ll bet this person is a -real peach – to work for.”

  1. Stephanie*

    If a $2/hr difference is going to make or break payroll, there may be bigger issues with how you run your business.

    The upside too, is if you can’t go above $22/hr and someone has requirements for $30/hr, this also lets people bow out and saves you the hassle of interviewing someone only for them to decline you because of a too-low offer.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Yes but employers like this are counting on getting a $30/hour candidate so emotionally invested that when the lower offer is given, the candidate will be more likely to overlook the lower pay and say yes. We see that all the time on AAM!

      A candidate who would be duped by this strategy is not one you want working for you.

      Oh the irony!

      1. CW*

        “A candidate who would be duped by this strategy is not one you want working for you.”

        I agree completely! I was duped in the past and I became a disgruntled employee. Ending up, I stopped caring about my work and went into the office pissed off as hell every day. I haven’t fallen for it since.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        Is that the pro strat going on? The letter kind of makes it sound like LW is inexplicably super-invested in being the one to reject any candidate who’s not willing to do the work for the seekrit pay range rather than let anyone see the job ad and not waste their time applying for a job they wouldn’t take. It’s a power move to intentionally obfuscate relevant job information and punish candidates for making a mistake based on not having that information. I don’t understand the overall point, if there even is one.

        Kinda reminds me of the dudes on dating sites who would send me messages that said we’d matched but they’d never go out with me since I’m not their type or whatever and then something about how I probably wouldn’t even respond to their message. Dude. You messaged me to say you’re not interested. If I was interested before, I wouldn’t be now. What is your end game here?

        1. minuteye*

          And they’re punishing those who guess too high based on the assumption that they’re somehow super tied to the amount and would be disgruntled… but would lie and say the lower range was fine?

          It’s weirdly paranoid to think that a candidate who is really tied to $24 is going to see a $22 range, and then take the job and keep looking, rather than self-selecting out of the process. And what about the candidates who say $24, but actually *are* okay with $22? Because you’re unnecessarily getting rid of those people.

          It just has this weird feel to it that the candidates applying are trying to get one over on you, and you have to use dirty tricks to weasel around their inevitable tendency to lie. It doesn’t have to be so adversarial.

          1. Clisby*

            Yeah, what if you want $24 and the job is in the $22 range – but the employer pays the full cost of the health insurance premiums? Or provides generous vacation/sick leave? Or actually pays for some parental leave? Or, or, or … Salary important, but it’s not EVERYTHING.

          2. Ryan*

            I think the issue is how this guy describes himself. Medical professional, and given the pomposity here I’m going with everyone’s worst idea of a physician. He didn’t have business training, but he’s had some extensive math and he’s been trained to have disproportionate confidence in his choices. So bro is over here trying to A Beautiful Mind game theory the thing without having any actual clue about the real system he’s working with, which requires knowledge of business, people, economics, law, to know the right way to handle the situation. Guy is strutting like an MBA but he’s acting like he got a C in micro-econ, then dropped out to be an “entrepreneur”.

      1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

        This is what strikes me. Several of LW’s points could be served just as well or better by BOTH sides knowing each other’s ranges. Particularly, saying that LW wants to know if the candidate will be unhappy with the salary range… the best way is to state the salary range, and hear what they expect in return. It’s not like you DON’T get the candidate’s expected range if you tell them yours. You can still ask, but it’s a mutual exchange.

        All the other justifications are so based in trickery, that hiding behind the mantle of “good, hard-working people” is just dishonest. You budget an amount for the position. You’ll pay a bit more for a more experienced person, and a bit less for a less experienced one. If you want to work with someone for 15 years, starting that off by getting one over on them and paying them less than you were willing, if only they had guessed the right number, honestly sounds like you’re planning to be enemies instead of colleagues.

        1. OldButInexperienced*

          “If you want to work with someone for 15 years, starting that off by getting one over on them and paying them less than you were willing, if only they had guessed the right number, honestly sounds like you’re planning to be enemies instead of colleagues.”

          Honestly, this. This.
          I wanna print this out and put it in a folder with my resume, so that any time I’m going for interviews, I’ll be reminded of this absolute sheer genius truth.

          Thanks so much for putting it so clearly!

        2. TootsNYC*

          If you want to work with someone for 15 years, starting that off by getting one over on them and paying them less than you were willing, if only they had guessed the right number, honestly sounds like you’re planning to be enemies instead of colleagues.

          I was once given a range of what I could pay a new employee ($X–$Y).
          When I made the offer to the woman I wanted to hire, I said, “I’m offering you $Y. It’s the top of the range they gave me, so there isn’t anything more I could negotiate up to. I’m giving you this top range because you are a highly skilled candidate, and I want you to be enthusiastic about coming to work with us. And I want you to know that I’ll go to bat for you.”

          I don’t know if that was a stupid move or not–it did mean that I couldn’t give her a raise later when she asked for one (because she wanted to earn more, but not because she had a change in responsibilities); she was already at the top of the range for the position. And, the argument for the raise wasn’t one the corporation would have accepted. So I probably wouldn’t have been able to give her a raise even if I -had- offered her $X.

          1. Nesprin*

            An old boss did that for me once. It was a great working environment- I knew that I was valued as a top performer, and that my boss would be a shield so that I could focus on my work. Importantly, I made sure he got his moneys worth.

        3. Parenthetically*

          YES, that last paragraph, YES.

          “I want to somehow start a long and collegial working relationship with someone… by hoodwinking them into accepting less than I would have paid otherwise, muahahaha”?

        4. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I mean, OP kind of said the quiet part out loud.

          A lot of people’s assumption about this practice is that employers do it hoping prospective employees will lowball themselves and the employer can get away with paying the employee less than they’re worth. And this letter writer straight up says that’s why they do this. This is not a good look, OP, and it’s not something that’s going to make a potential employee excited about working for you.

          1. Mookie*

            I have to say, I’m pretty grateful to all the small business owners who write in to AAM bragging about unreasonably high expectations of “loyalty” held for employees lowballed beyond belief. It reinforces the need for more regulation; Small Business Heroes won’t always do it themselves, as they happily attest to what they can get away with under the guise of freedom [for some].

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Not just regulations, but adequately funded enforcement and harsh penalties! The shadier sort of Job Creators generally don’t care whether something is illegal. A lot of fines are less than the money the company saves doing whatever illegal thing they’re doing, so they just keep doing it. Why wouldn’t they?

              1. Mookie*

                Absolutely. And one way or the other, have ALL employers of any size meet these regulations, with grants/subsidies/some kind of tax write-off for the slimmest operations to afford the costliest accommodations and regulations. Robust labor rights and protections are not a punishment for employers, we should not treat them as such or apologize for them, and they benefit everyone, including employers, in the long-run. This business of owners treating employees as though their wages and benefits are literally taking food from the lips of the owners’ children needs to end.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  Yeah but if all employees have to be paid a living wage than there’s less of a chance that the company owner could accumulate more money than god and we just can’t have that. /s

        5. Not Rebee*

          My last employer was a total nightmare of a place and I will never want to work there or anything like it ever again – but I can say with all honesty that the ONE thing they did right was pay me more than I asked for because I had no idea what to ask for. It made me so impressed and made me want to take their offer specifically because they were not looking to skimp on paying me what they knew they should. It’s a level of moral integrity that is really attractive to employees, and I think every employer should have this. (This was the first position of it’s kind this company was hiring for, and my experience was for a similar role but in a different industry, so I didn’t know what to ask for. My then current employer had been lowballing me but I was young and didn’t know, so when this company asked me I legitimately just guessed, raised my annual salary by 5k, and used that as the base of an honest to goodness 10k salary range as my expectation. (What was I thinking??) They didn’t have a range or weren’t willing to give it to me at the time. In the end, what they offered me was higher than my top number by about 3k.)

        6. Librarian1*

          Yeah, this is what I don’t get. If an employer tells me their salary range upfront and it’s too low for me, I’ll say, thanks, but no thanks and we all move on with our lives. No one invested any time beyond the employer looking at my resume and a short phone convo.

          If OP wants to avoid even that amount of effort, then they should put the salary range IN THE JOB DESCRIPTION and people who think it’s too low just won’t apply.

          1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

            You can even put something like “pays $X and up based on experience,” if you don’t want people to know the most you’re willing to pay.

        7. Emily S*

          Agree with all of this. OP is getting plenty of feedback so I won’t pile on except to say that “looking out for your own interests” is the middle-ground between “being a doormat” and “being ruthless.”

          Yes, you should look out for your own interests, but if the way you look after your interest is by deliberately taking advantage of someone else, that’s going beyond “looking out for your own interest” into being the kind of person people don’t want to work with/for because you can’t be trusted not to take advantage of people.

          Yes, every $1 you pay your employee is $1 less in your pocket. And the reverse is also true: Every $1 less you pay your employee is $1 less in their pocket. But they aren’t dollars “out of your pocket” because the dollars don’t really come from you as an individual – they come from the value you and your employees produce together as a company. You’re not doing them a favor by paying them, you’re compensating them for value they produced. “Looking out for your own interests” doesn’t mean “trying to put as few of the dollars produced by everyone into employee pockets as possible in order to put as many of the dollars produced as possible into the employer pocket.” It means “don’t keep underperforming employees on the payroll just because you feel bad for them,” or “don’t tell the board you’ll take a pay cut from your market-appropriate salary so they can apply the savings to the junior employees’ salaries.” It means that it’s reasonable to advocate for yourself and not put yourself in a financially insecure position. It’s not license to be deceptive or duplicitous because doing so would make more money.

        8. bluephone*

          Honestly, this sounds like Tomato Can Jack’s argument that shoplifting a $1.99 can of tomatoes is striking a blow for human rights. Are we sure Jack didn’t decide to open a medical office in the last 20 years?

    2. Classic Rando*

      And not listing a salary range in the ad means many good applicants simply won’t apply. During my last job search I skipped over postings that didn’t provide any info on salary. Why waste my time applying for a company that’s probably going to offer minimum wage when I could focus on ones that were upfront about what they could offer?

      1. MonteCristo85*

        I think this is a big deal. My company doesn’t post salaries, and basically refuses to discuss it until the offer state. I firmly believe this is hampering us in getting good candidates. We pay well (extremely well) for our area, and we could likely pull in a lot of well qualified people who might not be really looking otherwise. I wouldn’t have applied here if I didn’t have a family member who was already here and told me about the salaries. It literally doubled my salary when I came here. Yet when we try and hire, we refuse to discuss it. Some of the old school types believe that salary shouldn’t be a decision making point in picking a job (yeah, I know). Sure, we might get a bunch of unqualified people applying that we have to weed through, but guess what? We already did, and not only that, barely got any actually qualified candidates. I don’t have the authority to change the way we handle things, but I am constantly speaking up for the need to be more candid about salary across the board.

        1. LadyL*

          “Some of the old school types believe that salary shouldn’t be a decision making point in picking a job”
          Oh, so those people would be happy to volunteer their time then? Good to know.

          1. ampersand*

            This boggles my mind. We’re not all working out of the kindness of our hearts—how do employers not understand this?!?

            1. Chicken Situation*

              I literally had a C suite exec tell everyone in a townhall meeting that we shouldn’t be in it for the money when he was making a salary more than 10 times larger than mine. I loathe people like that.

              1. ampersand*

                Oh man. That would not sit well with me.

                Also: he can say that because he doesn’t have to worry about money.

              2. Sharbe*

                Right? How does he think that mortgages, car loans, food etc. are paid for? Sure, we all want to love our jobs, but it’s hard to love anything if you’re living in your car and showering at the Y.

              3. tink*

                This is right up there with the “congrats team we had record profits this year… but we’re on a hiring and raise freeze unless you’re part of the C suite!”

                1. veggiewolf*

                  I had no idea I had a colleague on here!

                  Record profits, and I’m doing the job of 2 1/2 people.

              4. Tip Tap*

                Reminds me of the letter of the new executive who showed a slide show of his horses and vineyard to his employees and than quizzed them on it, in an effort to get the employees to know him better.

                This tactic of the OP seems like a way to “get more for less”. I’ve worked jobs where everyone was paid differently and we were “forbidden” to discuss our salaries with our co-workers (it’s was a firable offense)

                This OP justifies this by saying his company is small and how happy his two employees are. It’s all a smoke screen for OP’s bad behavior.

                1. Violet Rose*

                  Isn’t it illegal to prevent workers from sharing their salaries?! I do not know if this is federal or state law, or whether this applies to hourly or salaried workers or both, but I am confident that it’s at least broadly illegal.

                2. Coder von Frankenstein*

                  To Violet Rose – Yes. It is illegal under federal law. Hourly, salaried, doesn’t matter. You are not allowed to forbid workers to discuss their wages.

                3. Kisses*

                  Ooh I hated that. Working retail, I found that to be the case more often than not. Talk about how much you make, fired. Talk about someone who was fired, fired.
                  I found out eventually that even though I was a supervisor, I made 8.50, there were 2 men who worked there that I managed who made 9.00.
                  I decided to leave.

                1. Tip Tap*

                  This was back in the early 80’s and it was a small family owned business. The owner was all about “saving money” and telling employees how lucky they were to even have a job…

              5. Parenthetically*

                “I fckin warned you guys about this, I tried to tell you, bro, come on” — Karl Marx from beyond the grave right now, probably

                1. Wrking Hypothesis*

                  The really horrible side effect of the collapse of communist Eastern Europe is that a certain class of American businesspeople decided that there was no longer any reason to fear American workers rebelling and creating a communist country — so they could treat their workers as badly as they felt like, with no worries and no scruples.

                2. Urn*

                  I’m always in these comments waiting for someone, anyone, to recognize that the problem with so many AAM quandaries is capitalism writ large, and it soothes me whenever I find one. Thank you.

              6. DarnTheMan*

                I work for a non-profit and one of our directors just pulled the “think of how much more you could donate back to our programmes if you just skipped your daily Starbucks run” line at a recent meeting. I haaaaate that line.

                1. Kisses*

                  I get tired of that too. So I might buy myself a treat every now and then to prevent the overwhelming encroachment of depression and hopelessness. Doesn’t mean you pay me enough to pay all my bills. And I don’t even really HAVE bills. Rent, car, insurance. No phone right now, and I leech my internet from our apartment clubhouse. (Shh!)

                2. SeluciaMD*

                  AAAARRRGGGGG.

                  “Sure boss! And on that note, think of how much more we could donate back to our programmes (which, sidebar: WTF) if you guys paid for our daily Starbucks run? Or, call me crazy, paid us what we’re worth??”

                  I do not understand this corporate mindset that somehow employees (particularly those in nonprofits/human services) should only want to do these jobs for the karma points and not to, you know, pay for the things you need to live. Like food. Or a roof. Or even a little Starbucks or Dunkin from time to time (as if wanting to have Starbucks is a moral failing!)

              7. Blushingflower*

                There are plenty of jobs where I want someone there because they care more about the work than the money (education, the arts, medicine, politics) but those people still need to be paid a fair wage in order for them to be able to continue doing the work.
                For most other jobs, we do them because the system requires that we sell our labor in order to afford things like food and shelter. I’ve had many jobs that I liked, but I would have quit any one of them if I’d won the lottery and didn’t need to work to pay my bills.

                1. ArtsNerd*

                  So many people working multiple jobs and still don’t make a living wage — and doing worse at all of their jobs because of it.

        2. Veronica Mars*

          I am genuinely shocked to hear that they competitive salaries aren’t using that as a selling feature.

          I generally assume that if the company isn’t willing to tell me their salary upfront, its because its not high enough and they are trying to emotionally bate me into a crappy deal. I haven’t been proven wrong yet.

          1. MonteCristo85*

            I know, right? I think that’s why we aren’t getting the applications I’d expect. But it’s not like that, it’s just some weird idea that I can’t seem to unstick yet. When I interviewed they asked me my salary requirements, and then offered me nearly 35% more than what I asked for, so not trying to undercut (at least in my personal experience). They really do seem to want to sell the job on it’s own merits, but in general, people want money!

            1. Alexander Graham Yell*

              If I saw a job ad that listed out a job that seemed really interesting but no salary range, I’d be sad but I’d pass it by. If I saw the same job ad that listed a very generous salary range, I’d be send the most custom, thoughtful, posting-oriented resume of my life.

              I really hope you’re able to get through to whoever needs this particular light bulb turned on in their brain because a number like that makes me think they’d be able to have their pick of employees if they wanted it.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            It’s like selling things for a secret price. Well before the seller reveals the price, I assume it’s too much and walk away.

        3. Red5*

          “Some of the old school types believe that salary shouldn’t be a decision making point in picking a job…”

          Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

        4. Math and Taxes*

          I’m in a position where I won’t bother putting together an application packet for a job that doesn’t list a salary range. I figure that if they’re not willing to tell me whether it’s worth my time, it’s not.

          I shouldn’t have to be coy about pay. It’s why I work. I don’t work for PTO, although I do factor that into my is this job worth it?” calculations, along with insurance and other benefits, but I work for money. This is not unique.

          It’s not a privilege to work for you. I am good at what I do, plus, I spent a lot of time and money to earn the degrees that help qualify me for what I do.

          I deliberately avoid applying to places who are coy about what they expect to pay.
          You want a bargain? Cool, hire someone without my experience and education, proven work ethic and reliability. You want a long term employee who will make sure her work gets done on deadline whenever possible, communicates about challenges and seeks and implements efficiency? Pay me.

          1. OP*

            How do I know if I disclose my range first, that someone expecting more won’t take the job for now, and leave when they have a better offer? It’s in my best interest to know.
            You may think that this way of doing things would lead to a hostile environment, but it doesn’t really jive with having such long term employees.

            1. NW Mossy*

              Here’s the thing: people leave jobs all the time, for reasons that may or may not be foreseeable. Trying to control for all the various future scenarios that might cause someone to leave is an exercise in crazy-making on your part, and your energy would be better directed towards having clear systems in place for how to deal with a departure. It will happen, so prepare!

              The other bit is that you’ll be a lot more likely to keep someone if you offer them market-competitive pay at the outset. If you demonstrate through your actions that you’re not trying to underpay and to get a good employee on discount, you’ll be more likely to attract the kind of capable, professional employees who consider their options carefully and don’t commit unless they’re willing to stick around.

              1. Veronica Mars*

                By filtering only for people who don’t have a better option… you’re filtering for people who don’t have a better option. Sometimes its worth $2 more an hour for a more desirable candidate.

            2. Diahann Carroll*

              How do you know that if you continue on the way you do (asking for salary expectations upfront) that someone won’t just accept the job and keep job searching anyway? You don’t – that’s the risk everyone takes. But don’t start off your hiring process assuming every applicant is out to screw you – that’s a very negative way to begin a business relationship.

              1. Works in IT*

                Or that they’ll be initially happy until they realize everyone else negotiated $22 when they lowballed themself. Then they’ll DEFINITELY want to move on.

                1. Grapey*

                  Not necessarily, sometimes other benefits/working environment/commute is worth more than a few bucks an hour.

            3. Dust Bunny*

              You don’t. That’s part of the inherent risk in employing people.

              The thing is, even if you pay more than they’re asking, you don’t know that they won’t leave. People leave for reasons other than pay–family needs, changing careers, lots of stuff. Don’t take it so personally.

                1. Jen S. 2.0*

                  Coming to say this. If you are not trying to screw them out of extra money, and if you are paying them very fairly, then they are less likely to leave you because the salary is a problem.

                  $2 an hour is not usually what makes people leave a job. Employers who are trying to get one over on the employees is what makes people leave a job.

                  Also, as others have stated, you can’t make somebody stay in a job for decades over a couple bucks an hour. People will leave for a variety of reasons, and it’s not a betrayal or huge problem. Then, sometimes people stay with you even when things aren’t ideal. But nickel and diming is not the way to keep your employees.

            4. Triplestep*

              You NEVER know that someone won’t leave for something better. Why don’t you just commit to being the the best choice you can be by being forthright and respectful from the start?

              You call yourself an excellent employer, but I tend to doubt it. Perhaps your 8 and 15 year veterans are just used to you and don’t realize other workplaces have better cultures. But someone who explains away his hiring practices (yes, I assume you’re a guy hiring women in admin roles) the way you do is definitely playing other games and keeping score. Yech. I escaped a manager like you and I’m shuddering thinking about it.

                1. Lu*

                  Wild to call someone pointing out common patterns of misogyny as “blatant disgusting sexism,” and then go on to dehumanize human beings as “supplies.”

                2. Triplestep*

                  Yes, I figured out later that the OP is a woman. Are you actually calling me disgusting sexist for pointing out that more men are hiring managers and more women are in administrative roles? Is Alison a disgusting sexist for telling the OP in her response that the practice of not disclosing salary range tends to hurt women as a whole? Is she racist for pointing out that it hurts people of color at a higher rate?

                  Thanks for posting as much as you did, though. I’ll consider the rest of your content when deciding how much gravity to give your opinion. (hint: none)

                3. LowerLevelLawyer*

                  I get it, at some point it’s a black and white business decision that’s about the numbers. But that’s what you use to set the range. And to set the range, you need to know market rate for the services. If you know that the market cost of Office Supplies is $300 per month, you’re not going to budget $200 or $500. The cost of those supplies doesn’t change DRASTICALLY month to month, so you can forecast the cost and budget accordingly.

                  The same is true for people. You want someone to fulfill X tasks with Y experience. Odds are a little research can tell you what the going rate for that kind of person is. You budget accordingly, so you have a range, and then you tell the person in the interview process, “Hey, this is our range”. Another thing to consider is that if they were willing to work for a lot less than market rate, there’s *likely* something wrong with the employee. A $300 box of staplers may be the same as a $500 box of staplers, but at the end of the day you don’t have to wonder why the salesman was able to take such a price cut to sell them to you. The fact of the matter is, it’s terrible business on his part and he’s probably not going to be around next year when you need more staplers. That’s the problem with taking the employee willing to work for the trickery rat

                  Tldr; it’s ok to think of employees as supplies when you’re looking at the dollars and cents and bottom line, but your hiring practices and your approach to interviewing should reflect that employees are people, not staplers, so you may need to do a little more work when you’re calculating related costs and then searching for new ones.

            5. SomeoneSomewhere*

              People can always leave for a better offer regardless of whether you disclose or not. I’m not sure why the risk would be minimized by asking an applicant’s salary range.

              1. Artemesia*

                When I bargain badly and end up paid less than peers and I find that out which I will then I will be offended, furious and feel stupid — and be looking for a better job forthwith as I will feel betrayed by the hiring manager who put me in that position. Lowballing new hires doesn’t make them grateful or loyal, it makes them feel abused.

            6. Allonge*

              The only way to know that is to pay more than anyone else, in any other business. In other words, impossible – so you don’t.

              Why is people should not leave because of a higher salary (so I lie) your business model?

            7. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

              You don’t know. That’s not something you can reasonably expect to know. Your argument is essentially that your potential hires should absorb all of the potential issues. What you are telling us is if I do X then it could POSSIBLY create a situation I don’t like for me so it’s reasonable for me to do something that creates issues for my potential employees in order to compensate for that possible situation. There are costs of owning a business that you don’t want to shoulder yourself so you’re pushing those off on others. What this tells us about you as an employer is that you’re ok with doing the wrong thing if it’s easier for you.

              You also don’t seem to take into account that you’re creating the same issues you’re worried about. When an employer forces someone to tell them a salary range, most people are going to give a higher figure than they would actually take because they’re afraid you’ll lowball them if they don’t.

              And who knows, maybe your employees really are all happy and content, but this site is full of executives who think their company is a “family” and everything is great but are always super surprised and offended to find out that people will put up with a lot of mistreatment from their employer because they have bills to pay. It’s ridiculous to believe that your employees will be completely honest with you especially when you’ve demonstrated that they are not your first priority.

              1. TootsNYC*

                When an employer forces someone to tell them a salary range, most people are going to give a higher figure than they would actually take because they’re afraid you’ll lowball them if they don’t.

                Or, they’ll give an artificially low figure because they’re afraid they’re going to price themselves out of even having a chance at it. And if that’s the case, then they ARE going to leave earlier when they realize they can’t swing it on that salary, or that they could earn more elsewhere.

                1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

                  Exactly Toots. That’s the line you walk when a job prospect asks for a salary expectation. How do I give a number high enough that they don’t lowball but low enough that I don’t end their consideration of me?

                2. Sparrow*

                  And perhaps they originally are fine with the lower rate they give, but life circumstances could change six months later and suddenly the $20 an hour isn’t sustainable. OP seems to think they’ve found a loophole that will keep employees there long-term at a price that’s cheaper for the OP, but that’s simply not the case.

            8. Anonnnnn*

              Pay people what they’re worth and don’t cheat them. Hard stop. The rest doesn’t matter. Long-term employees don’t indicate lack of toxicity in an environment.

            9. ADHSquirrelWhat*

              what worked five years ago might not WORK as well now. times do change, and so do conventions.

              Also, how do you know someone isn’t effectively planning to temp for six months and then go back to college? or gave you their absolute minimum with the idea that it would get them /something/ while they kept looking? you never know.

              If you say the range is $20-22 an hour, and I’m thinking $24 as my minimum – why would I apply anyway? That keeps me from taking up your time and resources when I was already out of range! If you pre-post, your applicants pre-select themselves OUT.

            10. LunaLena*

              How do you know they won’t, even if you are offering a fantastic salary and benefits? There is always a better-paying job out there, or one that is more appealing for all sorts of reasons. You don’t know why they’re applying to work at your office, or what would or would not motivate them to move on. There will always be external factors outside of your control, and if the perfect combination of them come along at the right time, they would tempt even the most loyal and devoted employee into leaving.

              As for “but my employees are clearly happy here,” again, you don’t know why. Maybe it’s just easier and more convenient to stay than to find a new job, maybe the commute is easy, maybe you offer enough flexibility in their schedules that it’s worth it, maybe they simply like the patients and enjoy working in the environment or think they won’t find anything better. I’ve worked in places like that – I was woefully underpaid and had minimal benefits, but I stayed for years because I was getting great experience, was given a lot of flexibility and opportunities for professional development by my employers, and, because of my husband (he was military at the time), I was living in a place that had very few options short of a two-hour commute one way, so I was grateful to find any employment in my chosen and also very competitive field that was a mere hour away.

              Maybe your employees are genuinely happy with your arrangements and the way you do things, and good for them and for you if they are, but that’s no reason to not try to be better. Besides, by your own words, you haven’t hired anyone in at least eight years, so why are you so certain that your way is still the way to go now? Things change a lot in eight years, after all.

              1. Mimi*

                I’m currently working in a somewhat toxic job because it’s close to my house and offers great insurance, plus that “Devil You Know” factor. I’ve been here 8 years! Longevity definitely doesn’t equal satisfaction.

                1. Properlike*

                  Working a job that’s close to my house. I love my colleagues and students, and I’m very good at what I do, but I’m woefully underpaid compared to other colleges and with an administration that looks for ways to bring you down. Six years. It’s convenient, but my internal dialogue is very much, “If you don’t like how I do this, then fire me.”

                2. Third or Nothing!*

                  MMmmhm! My workplace has ISSUES but dang those 5 weeks of PTO/vacation, free insurance (that’s actually good!), 401k matching, flex time, decent salary, and short commute make it really hard to leave. And in 2 more years I get another week of PTO.

            11. Worker Bee*

              Your comment has lots of red flags, you seem hostile that employees will leave you for better offers, so you trick them into lower salaries as a preemptive strike to punish them for something that might not happen.

              All this promises is that you won’t get the candidates you need, but a stream of candidates who don’t meet your criteria, but will work for peanuts because, YAY job.

              Just remember, “you get what you pay for.”

              1. Jen S. 2.0*

                Yeah, it sounds like the “better” offers have less to do with $2 / hour in salary, and more to do with the integrity of the other employers.

              2. Happily Self Employed*

                If an employer has decided that they want to hire only candidates willing to take a job that pays less than the top of the range for that area, they are probably driving off people whose skills and experience are worth more than that extra $16/day that OP wouldn’t want to pay. Imagine if they could get all your patients’ insurance preauthorizations on the first call instead of going back and forth–which you are paying them to do. Or if they can avoid having to resubmit bills to insurance. If they can process all those random forms patients need signed more quickly, that’s saving employee time and improving customer service. That 10% pay increase could get you more than 10% more productivity.

            12. Princesa Zelda*

              If it’s in the ad, the people who expect more don’t even apply and you don’t have to wade through them. When I was job searching recently, I didn’t apply to anything that paid less than $15/hr (nearly double min. wage in my state) because I knew I was worth at least that much. Since those companies disclosed up front, I was able to weed myself out, saving the hiring managers time and effort.

            13. Carlie*

              If that person expects a lot more, then either they are already a mismatch for what you’re looking for (they have more/different experience than what you’re willing to pay for) or they don’t know enough about that kind of job. Either one is bad on its own and will suss itself out no matter how you did the salary negotiations to start with.
              Someone who named the “right” amount could also be a mismatch, by either overvaluing themselves based on what they really know, or not understanding the job salary norms elsewhere, or undervaluing themselves… there’s no reason to think your way has any less capacity for error. Plus, don’t forget you have an incredibly small sample size of the number of people you have hired. You don’t have enough data to support your assumptions.

            14. DeeEm*

              I understand your POV, actually. My parents were small business owners, and YES, a buck or two on wages can make a difference. Small businesses often run near the margin. That being said, just state your range. It actually does make hiring a LOT easier. People self-screen out if the range is too low, so you aren’t wasting time reviewing applications/resumes and having phone calls with candidates who aren’t going to be interested once they hear the number. And, if you get a candidate that would have actually accepted a dollar or two less, but they are qualified and experienced enough that you hire them — they are likely to STAY longer because the pay is comfortable for them. You can still pay what you need to to stay afloat. Just decide what you’re paying and tell people up front in the ad. It makes the process easier all around and it’s less work for everyone. Try it once, and see how it works.

            15. Warm Weighty Wrists*

              Look, you can either pay someone at a rate where they’re unlikely to get a better offer, or you can pay them less and accept the risk that they will leave you when they get a better offer. Those are your two options, but it’s not realistic to expect to have both. Employees are allowed to look to their own best interests.

            16. Kalamet*

              Your bringing up this specific example multiple times makes it sound like this happened once and you’re making blanket policies to avoid it happening again. But here’s the thing: there are a lot of reasons someone might take a job and then leave it, and you can’t possibly control for all of them. So to make a choice that has all the downsides Alison listed just to avoid that one situation doesn’t seem like a good tradeoff. If you ask for their expectations, a candidate may lowball themselves to get the job and still leave for more money later, and there’s nothing you can do to stop that.

            17. TootsNYC*

              they would do this anyway.
              In fact, I’d think they’d be MORE likely to do that.
              They’ll give you a range that’s low enough that they think you’ll offer them the job, and they’ll keep looking.

              It won’t be different because you say $22/hour.
              AND…you can always advertise $22/hour, then decide that this great candidate might be great to retain, and you can either offer $25/hr, or you can give them $25/hr at the six-month mark to keep them.

            18. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Folks can leave for any reason, including a better salary, no matter if you let someone know your range. Someone might take the job then hear from a friend at another medical practice that their place pays $25 and leave. Or the practice next door might poach. If you are paying market rate, then your range will be competitive and you will be less likely to have people jump ship for pay (although they can bolt for other reasons). Not being open about your salary range will filter people out, but publishing it will not filter anyone out. Don’t you want the biggest and best possible pool of candidates?

              1. TootsNYC*

                Don’t you want the biggest and best possible pool of candidates?

                I wouldn’t necessarily want the biggest pool–but I’d sure want the BEST pool. Especially if I was worried people would leave me because the salary was lower than they wanted, that IS when I’d want to disclose right away.

                1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                  Oh yeah I phrased that poorly. “Biggest pool of the best applicants possible” is more what I was going for

            19. Librarian of SHIELD*

              If the salary range is listed in the job posting as $20-$22 per hour and I’m really looking for $26, I won’t apply. You’re saving yourself a lot of time at the outset by making it clear to potential employees what they can expect. The ones you think are so likely to take the job and leave when they get something that pays better will opt out from the beginning and leave you with the ones who are willing to do the work you need at the price point you’re offering.

            20. Close Bracket*

              That is a risk you run regardless of what you disclose your range. You *always* run the risk of someone leaving for a better offer. That’s the nature of doing business.

              You are telling yourself stories in your head about what people will do (“They will take a low offer and leave later!”) that are not necessarily reflective of how many people think in the real world (Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. Maybe they will stay for other reasons. Maybe they will decline to interview in favor of better paying positions. Maybe they will try to negotiate up. Maybe they will take the low offer bc they think it is fair and later leave anyway.).

              1. Happily Self Employed*

                Where I live, one of the big factors would be the commute. Even if you’re commuting between relatively close cities, there are traffic bottlenecks in specific places that you might not know until you tried to drive that exact route at the exact working hours. If I accepted an OK pay rate and then found out it would be an hour in bumper to bumper traffic just to to 10 miles away from home, I would start looking for a job closer to me or in the counter-commute direction. (After all, doctor’s offices aren’t always in the big commercial developments or downtown areas.)

                If I were getting paid a more-than-OK pay rate, I might stay or at least stay longer. After all, that $16/day would pay for a nice lunch once a week and the rest to help pay down my debts or buy an electric car so I’m not burning an hour’s worth of gas each way.

            21. Silly Goose*

              OP, you sound insecure about what you have to offer potential employees. If you offer market rates and a decent work culture, your employees aren’t going to flee at the drop of a hat. But if the issue here is that you don’t offer those things, and that’s why you want to play coy about pay, then not stating your salary range up front isn’t going to protect you from the thing you fear.

              If the job is worth $24/hour, but I undercut myself playing your game, and accepted the role for $20/hour, it won’t take long for me to realize I can get $24 somewhere else. You need to fix the root issue, not the symptoms you’re afraid of.

              Also, do you not care about perpetuating pay inequity? Because that’s what you’re doing. You’re hurting women and people of color.

            22. Well, there's this*

              It’s in your best interests to make the better offer. Saves you on time interviewing, hiring, and training, if you pay so poorly they leave quickly. Though if you’re afraid people will leave so soon after starting, you should look at other factors that contribute.

            23. Valprehension*

              Literally anyone will take another job if a better paying one comes along; their starting expectations are irrelevant. If you’re paying below market, people will know and they will look to get out as soon as they can, that’s just how it works.

            24. Mia 52*

              Im confused though because if you posted the range in the ad, you would literally only have candidates who are OK with it apply. So why not just put it in the ad and not even have to bother asking?

            25. blaise zamboni*

              You don’t know that. But the flip side of this is the much more common and double-edged dilemma where your applicant says “how do I know if I disclose my range first, this employer won’t pass me over for someone cheaper, or pay me less than they have budgeted for this role?”

              Which is exactly what you admit to doing. Which sucks. You’re the ultimate arbiter of what salary you offer and who you’ll choose for a role. Just say that shit up front. It’s like if the grocery store made you guess how much their produce cost and refused to sell you food if you guessed wrong—it’s ridiculous and unbalanced.

            26. Blushingflower*

              You can’t ever know that. Someone might take the job intending to stay for 20 years and then something better falls into their lap. Someone might think at first that the salary is fine and then their expenses change. Whenever you hire someone there is a risk that they will leave (or that you will have to fire them).
              But it’s in your best interest to list the salary range in advance, so that people who are good candidates won’t pass your listing by because it’s not worth their time to apply for a job that might not meet their salary requirements. And so that you don’t waste your time interviewing people who would be a great fit but whose salary expectations you can’t meet.

            27. Alexander Graham Yell*

              Do you also not hire people that may become pregnant and decide to stay home?

              I get wanting people that will work there long term. From an employee perspective, I want that too! I want to be able to have that kind of stability, it would be awesome. But you don’t know what life will bring and you don’t know how you’ll actually work together until you, you know…work together. And you’re ignoring the idea that an employee could find out that you operate like this, dislike it, and leave. Or literally anything else about how you do business/your management style. Hiring somebody isn’t a promise that they’ll be there forever, but you lessen the odds of getting somebody who won’t want to be there by being straightforward and letting people opt out if they want to.

            28. Not So NewReader*

              Part of being a good manager is having a replacement plan for everyone. Just assume anyone can leave at any time and know how you will handle that.

              Do you want prisoners or do you want employees? You can only have one, you have to pick. Right now you have prisoners.

              The attitude you show here in your letter is THE VERY reason people leave. They aren’t leaving because of what you pay them. They are leaving because of the way you view employees and your tone with them.

            29. bluephone*

              You could hire the best employee ever, for literal peanuts…and they might hit the lottery next week. Or their spouse is transferred to another job across the country. Or they realize they want to go back to school. Or they need to stop working because of a medical issue, or to care for a loved one with a medical issue, etc. Or they’re hit by a bus tomorrow. Or who knows what might happen. People are allowed to leave for whatever reason and it’s very weird that you’re taking *that* SO very personally.
              It’s actually not that weird that you’re so hung up on “if I tell them my budget for this salary, they’ll immediately leave for something better” because that tells me that you KNOW your salary ranges are actual [redacted] and that a tiny part of you knows that’s not okay. (If no part of you had any qualms about it, then you wouldn’t be so invested in hiding the salary range from candidates and going through these very unnecessary games–you’d put the salary right up front, refer to it frequently in the phone screen and interviews, etc).
              If you hadn’t specified that this is a 2-person office I would have assumed you were my PCP’s office. Most of their physicians are very nice. Most of their office staff are very nice. Most, if not all, of their office staff are also VERY incompetent and turnover among the frontline staff is nearly 100 percent. Making appointments, checking in for appointments, checking out after appointments, collecting copays, leaving messages for the doctors, requesting referrals, requesting Rx refills, etc etc etc are ALL a headache with this particular family practice. They were previously part of the local Big Hospital system but then became independent a few years ago. All that means is that when you get a mammogram, X-ray, blood test, etc at one of Big Hospital’s labs (or need to see a specialist at Big Hospital’s affiliated hospitals), it is very likely that your prescription or referral will be missing. And Big Hospital’s lab staff or mammogram technicians won’t be able to do anything about it (including complain to higher ups) because Incompetent Family Practice is no longer under their umbrella.
              But EVERYONE knows that as nice as IFP’s staff are, they just don’t know their elbows from a hole in the ground. And I have to think that a large part of it is because of salary. Medical office work is definitely a case of “overworked and underpaid” but my PCP’s office HAS to be underpaying their staff by a large margin because I can’t think of anything else that could explain both the very high turnover AND the stunning repeat pattern of incompetence. Maybe the physicians are monsters to the staff so only desperate employees take jobs there and/or stay. Maybe the office is a on a Hellmouth and they’re cursed to suffer bad help. But absent any evidence supporting those theories, I think they’re just not paying their medical assistants enough to get top-tier staff–anyone with options would and does exercise them so they’re left with the bottom of the barrel and/or desperate people who are choosing between working for peanuts or being on the street.
              If that’s how you want to run your practice, it’s a free country and no one will stop you. But you are absolutely sacrificing patient care, satisfaction, relationships with other medical practices in your network (professional and insurance-wise), etc. And the kicker is, you’re not even really doing it to save money! You say you are but again, your whole “I HAVE to hide the salary or candidates will screw me over!!” shtick means that you’re really just getting off on the power play. The balance of power for your job candidates is already disproportionately weighed towards you because YOU are the hiring manager. You adding all these weird salary puzzles to it has nothing to do with tightening one’s belt or economizing–it’s your kink. And that’s fine, no one’s here to kink-shame. But FFS, at least be honest about why you’re SO insistent that THIS is the ONE AND ONLY TRUE way you can get job candidates. Deep down, you know you’re being a jackass or else you’d plaster the salary info all over the job ad and during interviews.
              When your practice fails, you’ll only have yourself to blame and the malpractice suits initiated by your patients (and discrimination suits from your employees) will certainly put all the blame on you too.

            30. What is UX anyway?*

              I have found that the best way to do so is to offer a competitive range for your area, field, and responsibilities. That’s on you, as an employer to know and offer. People leave jobs all the time, they work for money, after all.

              I think that when (because it WILL happen) employees talk about their wages, you have opened yourself up to legal issues that could potentially sink your business.

          2. What is UX anyway?*

            Exactly. I know what I and my time are worth. It’s not my responsibility to suss out if an employer does.

        5. Sun Tzu*

          Some of the old school types believe that salary shouldn’t be a decision making point in picking a job

          Sure, salary isn’t the only factor. There are other factors which I consider important: the kind of job I will be doing, the work environment, possibilities for growth, opportunities for learning, commute time, work hours, possibility of working from home, and level of stress that comes with the job position.

          However, at least where I live, many employers are stingy and willing to concede as little as they can; so when I hear that a prospective employer is offering only the minimum salary, it’s a big red flag and I know that I shouldn’t expect much about the other factors.

        6. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

          My company has the same issue. They refuse to post salary in job ads and cling tightly to that old fallacy of “Money shouldn’t matter. The best candidates will be loyal regardless.” and I. Just. Can’t. Get. Them. To. Listen.
          Then we have to go through tons of unqualified resumes because the only people applying are the ones that hope they can stretch to meet needs, and/or are desperate for a job. Any job.

          They know we pay below market, and I think they’re trying to reel people in emotionally before talking compensation.

        7. BasicWitch*

          My last job wouldn’t disclose, AND my boss told me it would be “highly inappropriate” do discuss pay with coworkers (something workers have the legal right to do, btw), but in the exit questionnaire they had the audacity to ask what my salary at my new job would be… I told them I would abide by their policy of not discussing pay. ;)

      2. Wintermute*

        Exactly, in my experience my field is competitive enough AND wide enough that

        A) there’s a huge range of wages in what people call a Sr. network operations analyst, some are glorified helpdesk and get paid 18 dollars. Some are basically network engineers and get paid 30. I’m much closer to the 30 end of that side than the 18, so knowing how you are paying helps me decide if this role really is a step I want to take in my career.

        B) If you’re not posting it, it’s pathetic, I am almost certain. There is a reason you’re concealing the most basic attribute of the job from my perspective. I don’t work because I get bored, I work to get money to buy things like food, how much I’m being paid is the #1 consideration I have to evaluate when deciding if a job is even feasible for me. If you’re not posting it, I’m assuming it won’t even pay my rent and I’m not applying.

        1. Clewgarnet*

          I’m in a similar field and salaries for network engineers range from £20k to £120k. Job ads are rarely helpful in letting me know how senior (or otherwise) a job is, tending towards the, “Must have experience with BGP, OSPF, EIGRP” when this could mean anything from, “our ISP says the router they provide uses those things,” to, “You’ll be responsible for maintaining the routing on our international network.” A salary range lets me know whether applying would be a waste of time, whether that’s because there’s no way I’d take the job or because there’s no way the employer would take me.

      3. Diahann Carroll*

        During my last job search I skipped over postings that didn’t provide any info on salary.

        I wish I could do this, but my field doesn’t list salaries in job ads in general (there are some outliers), so I would have nowhere to apply to, lol. Luckily, more employers are becoming proactive about telling the salary range during the initial HR phone screen – if I don’t like the range, I can pass on the position and only have wasted a half hour for the call and maybe an hour or two for the application process.

        1. Wintermute*

          You should look at supporting local petitions, and politicians if you feel comfortable, that support mandatory salary range disclosure, among other pro-labor positions. If your field won’t get with the times, maybe the government can make them treat you better.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Oh, I do support those local petitions, but sadly, the jobs I apply for are all over the country, so even if my city and state got with the times, the next state over may still be far behind.

      4. Amber T*

        This is super important – whether or not it’s true on the employer’s end, by not offering a range up front, it makes the employer seem shady. It perpetuates that thought of “how low can we pay someone and get away with it?” Which… is exactly what the OP is saying they’re doing.

        And of course, not everyone has the luxury of doing of skipping over jobs that don’t offer salary up front. And if you’re purposely taking advantage of people’s desperation by paying them the lowest that they’ll accept instead of a healthy market rate, you’re a crap employer.

        So there.

        1. Anita Brayke*

          Amber T yes, the employer IS being shady, and IS a crap employer. If I found out my boss thought like that, I’d be gone. I can’t believe someone actually wrote this and sent it to Alison! It’s like they’re proud of embodying the worst employers out there. Yeesh.

      5. RUKiddingMe*

        Even when I was young (back in the dark ages) I always asked about pay/hours.

        I was mostly to naive to know that it “wasn’t done,” but looking back…I regret nothing.

      6. ursula*

        YEP. I’m a high performer with a modest but overwhelmingly positive reputation in my field and I don’t mess with jobs that don’t outline a salary range up front. Even for what is otherwise a dream job, I would hesitate. At this point employers should know better, and if they don’t, I’m happy to assume they either aren’t paying attention to good employment practices (because on some level they just don’t care) or they actively want to lowball candidates.

      7. Marzipan*

        I would not be remotely interested in applying for a job without knowing what it paid. It comes across as shady; I assume the worst and move on without ever applying.

        1. Kat in VA*

          I can confirm that every.single.position where the HR rep or recruiter was shifty about disclosing salary was because it was paying anywhere from $20k to $30k below market for my position.

          Some of them would even take the aghast / shocked route that I dared to ask for “so much money”. One recruiter baldly said, “What makes you think you’re worth that much?” (My response: Because I’m very good at what I do and that’s what the market pays.)

          Funny, I ended up getting a job where I am making well within the range I asked for so no, I wasn’t being audaciously greedy, they were being unconscionably cheap!

      8. Emily S*

        I stress this constantly. The inertia is strong with my current position because I’m good at what I do, I’m well-compensated, and I like the people I work with. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t be lured away, and I subscribe to various job alerts in my field just so I’m always aware of my options. But given that I like my current job it would need to be the equivalent of a big promotion with a big raise to get me to leave, so I try to find an estimated salary before I even decide to apply.

        Though to be honest, this isn’t going to affect OP because they wouldn’t be able to afford people like me anyway. The employers who lose applicants this way are the ones who pay at or above market rate but don’t advertise it. Like someone said above about “saying the quiet part loud” – most job seekers know that the reason employers don’t want to name a number first is because they want to get someone below market rate…which means that as more employers start becoming more transparent about this, more and more job seekers are equating “employer that won’t give salary range” with “employer that pays crap.” If you really are that employer, meh. That’s not really a big deal. But if you don’t pay crap, you’re honestly better off making sure people know it.

      9. Ace in the Hole*

        Same. I’ve worked in government long enough to know how nice it is to not mess with mysterious vague salary negotiations. I love knowing that at most, a negotiation is going to be whether I start at step 1 or step 2 of a clearly defined, publicly available pay table. If a job ad doesn’t state a range, I’m not even going to apply… it’s not worth the hassle.

    3. Antilles*

      Based on the OP’s own words, it doesn’t seem like it’s a make-or-break payroll issue that an extra $2/hour (~$4,000 annually), it’s just trying to minimize salary expenses as much as possible since “the money comes directly from our pockets” and “why shouldn’t we look out for own interests”.

      1. Jellyfish*

        The way I see it, it’s in a business’ best interest to attract qualified candidates at the level they need and then pay those people what they’re worth.
        It’s possible to be pragmatic and ethical at the same time.

            1. Thornus*

              It sounds like you have a small staff – specifically two long term employees. Why are you hiring and asking for pay expectation ranges then? Or do you keep hiring other people who only last for a short time?

            2. Aquawoman*

              No, you may appreciate them, but you don’t value them. If you valued them, you’d pay them what they deserve.

              Are you going to show them this letter and let them know it was from you? Do you think they’d feel valued?

            3. so many questions*

              You’re lucky, not skilled.

              Honestly, this seems kind of like you’re trolling. You had to know people’s responses to the over-the top things you said in your letter.

              1. yala*

                I’m wondering that myself. OP needs a snidely whiplash mustache to twirl. Or better yet, a power tie and some hair gel, because this reads like an 80s movie villain.

              2. Employee of the Bearimy*

                My current boss is like this. He lucked into several good employees using a really poor recruitment system, and so he’s reluctant to change to a more professional and consistent way of doing things, which makes it much harder to find good people on a regular basis.

            4. lyonite*

              Are the 8- and 15-year employees your only staff? Or have you had significant turnover in other positions, and you’re using them as proof that it’s not your management or pay that’s at fault? Because I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good assumption–people stay in jobs for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is inertia.

        1. Threeve*

          Yep–and I’ll answer honest crappiness with honest crappiness. I might take this job if I desperately needed it. But while I am capable of being a stellar, rockstar, loyal employee, that is not the employee they would be getting.

          You treat me like I’m nothing more than burden on your finances? I’m going to treat you like you’re nothing more than a burden on my time and effort, and lowball you as much as I can.

          1. pope suburban*

            Agreed. I overdelivered for someone like this LW, and not only did it not improve my lot within the company, but it nearly put me in the hospital. The amount of effort I expended trying to better my lot there (while trying to leave, for the reasons many people have outlined in this thread) was ridiculous, and not something I ever intend to do again. I much prefer performing at a higher level, simply because I find that more engaging, but now I know I need to meter my effort for people who will only take without giving. There’s more to life than work, and I will never again give premium work/effort for someone who resents every meager cent I’m paid, and thinks of me as a drain.

      2. Just wondering*

        If you are the owner of a business and you have staff, guess who is working to help put money in said pockets? In an ideal world, planning/hiring/ paying well means more money in your pockets at the end of the day.

        Viewing employees as *only* a drain on the budget is so wrongheaded.

        1. Aquawoman*

          This is such a great point. OP is basically saying that the help they need is WORTH $X per hour but they’re totally cool with cheating someone out of that value.

        2. Ice and Indigo*

          Yeah, ‘directly from our pockets’ makes it sound like the employees are mooching off you by, er, working to make your business exist. For Pete’s sake, get a better attitude.

          1. yala*

            I’m kinda wondering where they think the money that BIG CORPORATIONS (under)pay their employees with comes from.

            Like. Yep. Employee wages come from the money that you take in as a company. That is…that is how it do.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Right? I mean, you’re welcome to do my work yourself if you don’t want to pay me, but I’m going to assume that the reason I was hired is that you need me to be here.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            Well you could run a smaller practice, live more modestly and then you would not need employees and your problem would be solved. You wouldn’t have to worry about employees draining you because you would not need them.

            I just wonder how many patients you see that have various difficulties because they work for an employer who views them as a drain also.

      3. MV*

        I find that attitude infuriating, she wants to pay as little as she can get away with. She claims she is a good employer but that attitude says otherwise. To echo a prior commentator, I dont apply for jobs without any mention of salary, its a waste of time.

    4. anonbenon*

      And honestly, as someone who’s worked in administrative support roles for 10+ years, I think I can safely say this person isn’t paying their front-facing administrative support $20 p/hr considering the tone of their e-mail. People can and will always try to underpay administrative support staff whenever they can. The whole point of this person’s e-mail was a projection of their guilt at underpaying their staff and then trying to use this platform to justify it. You’re paying your front-desk support staff $20 p/hr? LOL. *show me the receipts Whitney Houston gif*

      1. Important Moi*

        I certainly don’t want to diminish your experience.

        I will just add the tone of LW ‘se-mail suggests they treat EVERYONE like that, administrative employee or not.

      2. OP*

        Front facing staff. One of whom does certainly get $20/hr.
        To answer Alison’s comment about the illegality of paying different people different amounts, the 2 roles are NOT equivalent. one is clearly more senior. So yes, they get paid differently but not for doing the same job

        1. Marny*

          The point isn’t for your two current staff members to be paid equally. The point is that if you have to replace one of your staff members, it isn’t ok to pay the replacement less for doing the same work as the old person just because he/she doesn’t give you as high of a salary expectation.

          1. TootsNYC*

            it’s not even that.

            It’s that when the employer puts the burden on applicants to negotiate or name the salary, the employer is very likely to hire male and female (or caucasian and POC) workers at different salaries, and THAT is illegal (there might be reasons one earns more, like more experience, or a slight difference in duties, but that risk is real).

            Our OP hires very few people, so the pattern is unlikely to show up. But that’s where the problem lies.

            1. Specialist*

              This is an overreach. This is a medical office. Those two employees have different positions. The OP has said that, and anyone familiar with the industry would agree. There is nothing in this letter or in the follow up comments that says this. This particular letter writer is actually less likely to hire a male and female at different rates for the same work because they don’t have two positions of the same thing!

              1. Ethyl*

                It’s not an overreach, it’s explaining (again) why this practice is crappy, for everyone, which is what the OP asked.

        2. Wait and see*

          This could cause issues down the line though. I have a friend who accepted a job and then found out later that the person who had the position before her had been making way more than her for the same experience/work. She was right out of school (just like the previous employee) and didn’t really understand what the appropriate amount of money to ask for was and was uncomfortable with this question. When she found out how much the previous employee had been making she realized she had way undersold herself and ended up leaving that job after a few months for one that paid her the market rate.

          So yes this could be counterproductive to keeping long term employees.

          1. TootsNYC*

            YES!

            This is the point I’ve tried to make. Sometimes employees low-ball themselves because they think they need to be desperate for the job. Or that the employer doesn’t want to pay (and not listing the salary/wage IS an indicator that the employer wants to “win” at this negotiation).

            And then they WILL leave.

            1. Anita Brayke*

              TootsNYC-yes! And defending oneself by asking why should (s)he pay $22/hour if (S)HE CAN “GET AWAY WITH paying $20 also is an indicator that the employer only cares about “winning” the negotiation. “Get away with?” Seriously. What a lovely practice they must be to work for (Not!)

          2. Kes*

            Yes – if you hire employees for lower than your range actually is, you are increasing the risk they later realize this and then leave for better pay elsewhere.

        3. Salsa Your Face*

          But Alison’s comment wasn’t about paying people differently for two different jobs, it was about paying people differently for doing the SAME job. The scenario is about hiring two front desk people with equivalent job descriptions and requirements. If you hired two candidates with the same qualifications and asked them each to tell you what salary they wanted, the two employees would find themselves paid differently for the same role.

        4. Princesa Zelda*

          The problem looks more like this:
          Charming and Tiana are all looking for a job as Llama Groomers. They’re otherwise identically qualified. Charming is significantly more likely to make more money than Tiana because of his being a white male. This is not any of their fault! It’s a combination of factors, many of which are out of their control. So if you ask each of them what their salary expectations are, and Charming says $24 and Tiana says $16, it’s not because that’s their actual market value, since they’re equivalent. If you then hire Tiana at $16, and she finds out the budget for that position was $24, she’s going to be upset and probably leave for another job. If she never knows but finds out NeverLand Inc is hiring for $20/hr, she will apply there and still not be paid what she’s worth, because you didn’t pay her what she was worth to begin with. Hope this helps illustrate the point.

        5. What is UX anyway?*

          It’s really starting to seem that you don’t care what the rest of us think and you don’t want to do any sort of reflection or inspection of your process. What are you planning to get from this interaction?

    5. TreeSilver*

      “Getting away with” paying a lower hourly wage is not doing you any favors in your budget. It’s not like vacancy savings. Budget the higher/full amount for your operating expenses, then in the case of staff turnover you’re not in a tough situation when you have to pay more to hire good, qualified candidates.

    6. some dude*

      This is especially true given how much variation there can be in salaries between companies. I’m willing to go 10-15% my current salary for an awesome new role. I would not be willing to go 30-50% below what I am making, and that is a real range that exists. Also, there have been times when a job pays so much I don’t apply because it signals that I don’t have the experience for it. A teapot manager at $200k is probably a much different role than a teapot manager at $90k.

      1. Kiwiii*

        Yes this! There are advanced roles in a similar agency with very very similar descriptions to mine (though — a few key phrases peppered in that signal to someone in the know that it’s Different than the job I do.) that pay a little more than twice as much as my current role. It’s not that we do the same work or that I could do or should apply for the 200% job, even if I could maybe spin in an interview to an inexperienced interviewer that I could — and the range helps tell me that.

    7. Kaaaaaren*

      Absolutely! Disclosing the salary range upfront saves everyone a ton of time, including the employer.

    8. Anon for this*

      I literally just bowed out of a second round interview because of a salary expectation mis-match. The job post didn’t give a range, but the app required that I input my expectation.
      My best guess as to their salary range, based on location + research, was acceptable to me. But, this ended up being way higher than the hiring range. They called back after setting up the second round interview to talk about salary b/c they went back to my app and saw the disconnect.
      Very frustrating. We all could have saved time and some emotional upheaval had the hiring range been listed. >:(

      1. ArtsNerd*

        I phone-interviewed for a job I’d really like, under a manager I would REALLY like to work for, but on our first call she disclosed the salary cap and it was way below what I could accept so we ended the process there.

        She’s a senior manager now at a different employer, and is hiring another job I would be interested in and qualified for, but posted the salary for that position with the listing, which was still too low for me. This saved BOTH of us even more time than the phone screen disclosure. No processing applications that were going nowhere!

  2. Crivens!*

    If you can’t afford to pay people what they’re worth, you can’t afford to be in business. No exceptions, I don’t care that you’re a “small business”, I don’t care that you have your own struggles. You don’t get to own a business at the expense of fair labor practices.

    1. MuchNope*

      I have a cousin who owns a driving school in a rural area and bitterly complains about having to pay fair wages, let alone any kind of normal leave/insurance. It’s like she expects employees to be extensions of herself or some kind of indentured servants. It’s really gross.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        “Maybe we tend to think of employers as BIG CORPORATION, but at least in our case it’s just hard-working individuals hoping to keep expenses in check.”
        So she, like OP, sees employees as adversaries who are trying to take money away from the poor, down-trodden, hard-working business owner, not as team members who are working to make the business succeed, thrive and grow.
        Healthy.

        1. DerJungerLudendorff*

          And employees are obviously not hard-working individuals hoping to cover their own expenses. They just want the money to make a big money-pile and sleep on it.

          1. Quill*

            If you employ exclusively dragons to work in a hospital or a driving school you are REALLY missing out on an opportunity to fully use their skill set.

              1. Red5*

                “Oh crap, Florence. I exhaled too hard and blew up another oxygen tank.”

                “Damnit, Jake. That’s the second hospital this week!”

                12/10 would watch this.

                1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

                  “Corbyn, you set off the smoke alarms again this week. What did the patient do this time to make you that angry?”

            1. Elsewhere1010*

              And this is why so many of us have sworn never to work in small businesses again, big-fish/small-pond owners with a manipulative streak. Not universally true of small-business owners, of course, but always something to think about.

              1. MuchNope*

                It’s also a reason why I have tried to manage my own businesses without employees. I know I would feel obligated to pay them decent wages & benefits and until I can absolutely do that without hurting other aspects of my business, I’m not going to jerk someone around.

              2. AmericanGothHick*

                I’m in one of those right now. A seven-person nonprofit with an ED who means well, but is VERY controlling and averse to giving responsibilities to her staff. Waiting until she retires in the next year or so…

      2. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

        I worked for a guy who would moan about having the pay EMPLOYMENT TAXES on our paychecks and hard earned bonuses and would do anything to save a nickel at our expense. We regularly worked 50-70 hours a week, salaried exempt and our hourly wage was pathetic. I can’t say I felt bad he had to pay the taxes on my once yearly bonus when he expected us to be available for the business 24/7.

        1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

          My friend’s boss is currently trying to finagle paying his employees to not get health insurance through his company, since he considers having to provide health insurance a grievous insult.

          1. Sara*

            My father in law has been complaining about paying for his employees’ health insurance for years. Recently he surprised the heck out of me by telling me he was in favor of universal health care. Apparently, he did the math and decided it would be better for his bottom line to pay taxes than insurance. …Good, I guess?

            1. Cat Boss*

              I had employer who decided, that paying our taxes/health insurance, etc was too much and announced at a town hall meeting that all employees were going to be transitioned into new contracts listing us as “independent contractors”. So we would have to pay our own taxes/health insurance out of our own pockets.

              His small business only last 6 months after the announcement and many employees quit without another job lined up. All because the owner wanted to “save money”

              1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

                I bet that was illegal, as well, if he didn’t change anyone’s job duties or working conditions.

            2. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

              Truthfully, those are not competing notions. The fact that we in the US get health insurance through our companies (a fluke of history) is one of the main things that has held us back from universal healthcare.

              But yes, if he cares about people’s health needs being met he should be more gracious about fulfilling his responsibilities as an employer.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                I suspect it’s also held us back from raising wages since insurance gets lumped in with “compensation” so employers can pretend they pay us more than they do.

            3. TootsNYC*

              I read an op-ed by a Canadian CEO who said he was amazed that American businesspeople were not clamoring for universal health care. That his business saved money even when it had to pay its share of taxes for it.
              And because his company could keep its FOCUS on the business, and didn’t have to divert time, energy, and payroll to negotiating health insurance plans.

              1. Quill*

                Historically I think a lot of people who are also against things like unions and safety standards are aware that health care access is part of what keeps underpaid and exploited workers in terrible jobs, and terrible employers afloat.

              2. kab0b*

                Well in Canada we still have health insurance plans through employers, It covers stuff like dental, prescriptions, extended medical benefits (crutches, physio, RMT, Chiro), ambulances, travel insurance, and things like employee assistance plans that offer counselling, crisis support, addictions etc, short term disability, among other things.

                These plans are usually covered at least 50% by the employer (and often the case with Top tier employers 100%) and can run around 100-150 per employee per month.

            4. MCMonkeyBean*

              I have never understood why all the big companies aren’t in favor of universal healthcare. I feel like the amount they are current paying for employee insurance must be higher than what they would pay in a tax increase to cover healthcare right? I don’t have any hard numbers obviously so maybe I’m wrong but that has always seemed so weird to me that more rich people aren’t on board with this issue.

    2. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      Imagine this for any other issue.

      “It’s too expensive to build this house with nails and wood. Why shouldn’t I just staple cardboard together in a house-like shape?”

      “If I advertise that I have $50k in unpaid and overdue loans, I won’t be able to borrow any more money (or I will but at a higher interest rate). I’ll just refrain from disclosing that to the banks to get better deals.”

      “It’s too expensive to hire actual doctors for our practice. Let’s just hire actors in costumes to pretend to be doctors because it’s cheaper!”

      1. Proofin' Amy*

        When I was 19, I worked a summer job for a dentist who was too cheap to hire a real hygienist, so he trained his secretary to handle some of the work. When she got sick, he got me in as a quick replacement while he looked for someone more permanent. I could handle answering the phones, mixing the dentist’s Crystal Lite (his preferred drink), and adding the instruments to the autoclave to get sterilized. But I used to spill the mercury when mixing the amalgam for fillings (this was 1990, so they still used metal fillings), and I learned (and I guess the dentist found out later) that if you don’t leave the developing X-rays in the fixative long enough, they dry blank (they were still wet when he showed them to the patient, which is why he didn’t find out right away; also, no digital X-rays yet). When he hired someone, he didn’t bother to tell me until I asked him directly (because I heard him make the offer; it was a small office); he told me tomorrow was my last day. Then the person backed out right before I left the next day; I did not stay on, however.

        (I had no interest in dentistry; I just needed some money to fund my train ticket into the city so I could also pursue a part-time unpaid internship in publishing. The dentist was a friend of my cousin (who used me as a better-paid untrained legal secretary the previous summer, which is also maybe not great, considering how much training legal secretaries need, too (I ended up picking up a bunch of that several years later.).)

        1. ampersand*

          Welp, all of that sounds like a dumpster fire and I hope you’ve moved on to better, less shady things!

          Also, spilling mercury: nooooooooo!

          1. Proofin' Amy*

            It’s 30 years and many jobs in the past; don’t seem to show any of the symptoms of mercury poisoning, so it’s all good.

      2. OP*

        great analogy with building a house. Why get bids for a job? Maybe because….you are hoping NOT to pay more than you have to???? Oooooh . Evil.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              My thoughts exactly. I’m thinking in a medical practice there might be a whole bunch of ways to supplement a below market salary, so lowest bidder might be the shadiest.

              1. Clewgarnet*

                I recently got a bunch of quotes for building a horsebox. I ended up going with the most expensive, for a number of reasons. Yes, it’s lower than I’d have been willing to pay, but a) it’s enough for the manufacturer to cover their costs and make a profit, and b) the manufacturer has an excellent reputation for charging fairly, rather than what they think they can get away with.

              2. Anita Brayke*

                If you don’t care about learning from the discussion you started, then don’t read the replies! Go about your business however you want to, squirrel away all the money you can, and here’s hoping you get caught!

            2. Sinister Serina*

              Jeez, no kidding. Best value for the money, yes. Lowest bid? Not necessarily and not when it comes to a house. Or people!

          1. Dust Bunny*

            I have it from at least one retired construction worker that lower bid = fewer nails holding your house together.

          1. HotSauce*

            I wish more people understood this. Maybe you can get a pair of shoes for under $100, but I bet they don’t last as long or are as kind to your back to the more expensive pair. You don’t have to break the bank, but if you think you’re going to get something decent for nothing you’re dead wrong.

        1. MV*

          Who takes the lowest possible bid regardless of quality? Basically what you are saying with your “question”.

        2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          Let’s follow this seriously for a minute. You are renovating your kitchen. You reach out to contractors and ask for bids with the goal of only accepting the lowest offer.
          “Hi, I want new kitchen cabinets, how much will that cost?”
          “Well, we have A, B and C lines, so the difference is $X, $X+1 and $X+3”
          “I’ll take A for $X.”
          “OK, but B offers these additional things, 1, 2, 3.”
          “Not interested. Just want A.”
          But maybe if you investigated $X+1, you would have gotten a lot more for a little less.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Or, this:

            I want to reno my kitchen. I only have $10,000 in the bank. I -could- come up with another $4k, but only if it will get me something really important.

            I call a contractor to get bids; he asks what my range is. I say, “you tell me what it will cost first.”

            He comes out and gives me a bid that’s way high–or way low. And I don’t have the info I need about what I can get for my $10,000.

            But if I’d said, “I have $10,000,” he can come and tell me what I can get for that money. (I can also call other contractors who will give me THEIR bids, so I have something to choose from.)

            It’s just so inefficient!

            1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

              I was trying to work through that, but kept assuming that OP would work from the attitude that the contractor would act in bad faith.
              “I have a $10,000 budget.”
              Contractor rubs hands together like silent film villain, and offers as little as he thinks is possible for $10,000 to see what he can squeeze out of a “hard-working individuals hoping to keep expenses in check.”
              Which must be fun at parties.

              1. TootsNYC*

                and of course, that’s why you get three bids. So they know they have competition, and that they may not get the job if they promise too little

        3. Wait and see*

          If you have a certain amount you want to pay, tell the candidate that and if they have different expectations they won’t take the job. If you don’t want to pay more than you have to, just give them the amount that you feel you have to and leave it at that. Better yet, put it in the job posting and people who won’t take it won’t even apply and it will save both of you time.

          Ultimately you’re in charge of how much you pay. If you don’t want to pay more, don’t. But be upfront about that and don’t try to trick employees into a lower salary in order to keep your expenses in check. You should be able to do that on your own.

        4. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I know that when I’m accepting bids for who is going to build my home, I definitely look for the person who is going to do it as cheaply as possible because why would I possibly want good quality work with good quality materials? Obviously it’s going to benefit me in the long run if they cut corners with cheaper materials. So what if the roof falls in on my family.

          1. Marzipan*

            And I’m in no way concerned if all the reviews I can find of their work are basically incoherent screaming telling me to run far, far away. I’m saving money, after all, so I’m definitely coming out ahead!

        5. Lyn*

          You know, there’s no one stopping you from staring into a mirror admiring your own reflection in the privacy of your own home. Why come here with this p*ss poor penny wise pound foolish attitude, try and fight Alison on her management principles, then bicker with us in the comments? Is it fun for you to be told all the ways in which you are wrong..? Ah well, none so blind as those that won’t see!

        6. yala*

          I mean, building a house is one-and-done. You’re not hoping to keep your contractors/builders on indefinitely, just for a single project.

          The difference of $2/hr bilks your employees out of something like $4k a year. That they EARNED. They just didn’t know the magic words to ask. If you *could* go up on their salaries later if they ask for a raise, then you could just…pay them what they’re worth now.

          Pay

          People

          What

          They’re

          Worth

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah, choosing to underpay them now so that you can give them a raise in the future is a weird argument to me.

        7. MuchNope*

          Wow OP. You are not a very nice person, are you?

          I got bids on a major roofing project and ended up going with the highest one. Not because they duped me into it, but because I needed craftspeople who understood how to work on a 100 year old cabin without turning it into garbage.
          The cheaper bids were from bigger companies who lowballed bids then upsold for ‘extras’ like a warranty or matching flashing.

          You get what you pay for.

        8. Salty Caramel*

          If you don’t want to pay more than you ‘have to,’ then you’re better off paying more for a contractor with good ratings who uses quality material and a good worth ethic so you aren’t falling into a money pit of essential repairs later.

          Do you understand that actions have consequences? I can’t quite tell.

        9. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          Yeah. OP is clearly not interested in hearing another perspective. Even though he/she. you know, reached out to a writer who, you know, gives her opinion on your situation. OP is obviously still convinced he/she is right and ALLLLLLLL the rest of us are wrong.

        10. No name in particular*

          Professionalism and attitude aside, I feel like the OP is actually making a reasonable comparison here that’s important to address if she can’t see the flaw in the analogy. Because yes, it IS ok when you’re hiring someone to renovate your bathroom, for example, to get a bunch of quotes from people telling you how much they want to get paid, and no one expects you to state up front what you’re preferred range is. So what’s the difference? It’s like Alison has stated in this post and others – in the case of a bathroom renovation, the WORKER is the one with the majority of the information. They know what to charge because they know how much time it will take, how much supplies cost, and they’ve done this before. As the owner of the bathroom, I have no clue. In an employer/employee relationship, the person posting the job is the one with all the information; thus, they should be the one providing the range.

          1. Classic Rando*

            If you called up a contractor and just said “how much for a bathroom reno?”, they wouldn’t be able to give you a number, because there are too many potential variables that they don’t have the details of. What dimensions? Half or full? Tile, vinyl, or wood floors? Etc. Etc.

            So in this example, the contractor would be in the same predicament as OP’s applicants, asked for a price without enough information to know what the best answer is. But if you instead say “I’ve got an 8×6 full bath and $10k, can I get x, y, z features for that budget?” they’ll be able to give you a much better and more complete answer. Disclosing the budget (or salary range) means everyone is on the same page in the requirements book.

        11. Not So NewReader*

          OP, you are in the people caring business.

          Please explain to me why I would want to be a patient in your office. I am not seeing it ATM.

        12. Sleve McDichael*

          My best friend just built a house. She got a lot of quotes from builders who eyeballed her block and said that’s flat so there will be no cost to level it. One builder came in and measured up the block and told her it was a 3 degree slope which would cost X to level. Yes it was a more expensive quote but she took it and has had a fantastic experience with this builder. You don’t take the lowball quote if you good quality and integrity.

      3. Specialist*

        “It’s too expensive to hire actual doctors for our practice. Let’s just hire actors in costumes to pretend to be doctors because it’s cheaper!”
        –you are aware that this is currently happening?

    3. Hills to Die on*

      “You regularly talk about how inappropriate it is for employers to ask candidates about their salary expectations without giving any salary information out themselves.”
      So you have been reading the blog and know why you should be a good employer but you just don’t care because there are more gains to you than not asking? Or you read that you should not ask people their salary expectations but you didn’t read why?
      It seems as though you have missed a step.

        1. Sparrow*

          Same. They clearly take pride in this attitude, so what did they think writing Alison would accomplish…?

          1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

            They probably felt attacked, but didn’t want to change their behavior, and thought they could feel better if only they justified themselves to Alison. But, as many people who call in to the Dave Ramsey show come to realize, their circumstances are not special. Advice stands.

        2. OP*

          I wrote because I hear non-stop how wrong it is for employers to ask about salary, and I want to explain my side of things.

          1. Ice and Indigo*

            The reason people think you’re wrong is not that it’s never occurred to them you might think, ‘Hey, paying my employees the absolute least I can get away with means more money left over for the business, ie me.’

            Everyone knows what your side of things is. They just think it’s a lousy side.

            1. Wait and see*

              Yes this exactly! The problem here is the attitude of “I want to pay people the least amount possible and this is the way I can do it.” That’s not a good side to be on.

            2. Dust Bunny*

              The thing is, with possibly a very few exceptions, we have all been on the underpaid receiving end of your side of things, which is how we know that you’re wrong.

          2. so many questions*

            Greed and paying your employees the minimum possible are not admirable or good business practices. As I said elsewhere, you seem to have been lucky in your employees, because you are definitely not skilled at this.

          3. Lance*

            If you’re comfortable using the words ‘getting away with’ in regards to what you’re doing, I’m confident in saying your methods are far from ideal.

          4. BRR*

            I think most people know your side of things, they just don’t agree with it for the reason Alison has spelled out.

          5. anonymouslee*

            All you’ve achieved is to confirm that the reasons employers don’t give a salary range are as self-centered and counterproductive as expected.

          6. Trout 'Waver*

            Surely you’re not explaining the things you wrote because you thought people didn’t know them?

            Most people are aware you can probably get away with taking $20 from the offering plate as it goes by. They’re choosing not to do so because they are decent people.

          7. NotAnotherManager!*

            No one was in the dark about your side of things. You basically want to pay people as little as possible to do the job, even if it’s putting you at risk of pay disparity or other issues, because you get to keep an extra $2/hour/week/year in your pocket.

            I work for a medium-sized organization, not a megacorp, and it is a partnership where many of the people who work here have an ownership stake in the company and paying people a fair wage rather than the minimum we can get away with DOES take money out of their pockets, as does providing health benefits and the other things that employees receive. (And, yeah, there is the occasional partner who gripes that we should all be working for gruel and a shilling – and, by the way, it’s always the low-performing partners who are hung up on this, because they’re not bringing in the business so margin matters more.) But it also lowers their risk of employment discrimination claims, attracts and retains better-quality employees, and has created a workplace where people generally feel they’re being treated fairly and are appreciated. We’ll never be top of the pay bracket, but we also don’t have to play used-car dealership games to save a few bucks.

            It’s not that people don’t SEE your position, it’s that they don’t AGREE with it.

          8. Spreadsheets and Books*

            Your “side of things” isn’t something job-seekers haven’t heard 87,000 times before.

            It’s just a slightly longer and more dramatic way of saying “profits over people 4eva.”

          9. Salty Caramel*

            I wrote because I hear non-stop how wrong it is for employers to ask about salary, and I want to explain my side of things

            You made your side quite clear (and you could use some help in professional writing). The important thing here is do you now understand why you’re wrong?

          10. Observer*

            A task which you have failed to accomplish, spectacularly so.

            And just doubling down with what sounds like willful blindness is not making much of a dent, either.

          11. yala*

            Sincere question: Now that Allison has thoroughly explained WHY it is wrong for employers to ask about salary, did…absolutely any of that make any difference to you? Do you *understand* why it’s a practice that contributes to systemic problems? Even if it does save you (and cost your employee) a few thousand dollars?

          12. Not So NewReader*

            Key words, “my side”. There’s a reason why you are alone on your side of the question, OP.

            You know. Our quality of life depends on our ability to seek advice of others and consider other perspectives.
            I am concerned here that you transfer this same type of thinking over to how you treat patients. If you get it in your head that X is good for Y health issue, are you able to change your mind if strong evidence says you should?

          13. MCMonkeyBean*

            Everyone knows your side of things. Saying that many employers would prefer to pay less money instead of more money is not some special secret we have all been too silly to think of.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      Never mind that employees who are worth more are worth more!

      Perhaps a higher quality candidate would bring value that the OP is not aware of and could save them money overall, but hey, they know everything already, so why bother?

    5. Wintermute*

      I call it the Uber problem but it’s really endemic in silicon valley in general. If your revolutionary idea for revolutionizing the snacks industry (Guacr– just open the app, select a local Guacr agent, and they drive to your house and make guacamole for you) requires labor costs to be under 5 dollars per man-hour, then your revolutionary great idea is not revolutionary, or great, it’s a crappy idea that can’t survive in the real world.

      The fact some businesses manage to abuse I9 status, use gamification to make employees work harder, and use confusopoly pay tactics so people can’t figure out how bad they’re being screwed, does not make this a viable long-term strategy.

      It’s like saying “I have a revolutionary idea for a great cheese business, but it only works if milk is fifty cents a gallon. Well it’s not, so you don’t have jack, with or without pepper.

      1. Double A*

        Yeah, I looked into Task Rabbit for a second because I thought it might be nice to make a few extra bucks. They suggest charging $15-20 for your labor if you’re new. And that you have to drive/get to the place, bring all your own supplies, pay taxes on your pay…. Uh, yeah, no. You don’t get paid for your time when you’re not working (i.e. moving between jobs). To be fair I live in a somewhat remote area, so driving for an hour or two of work isn’t worth it and maybe it makes more sense in a city, but also probably not because of higher cost of living.

        I also know that it’s completely impossible to get anyone to come out and do any sort of work in my area for less than $30-$40/hour, and that is frankly probably fair considering the expenses.

        1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

          All of these crowd-source companies launch with the concept that it is truly crowd-sourced, that people do it in their own time for a few extra bucks or out of the goodness of their hearts (think of the term “ride-sharing,” implying a kind of quasi-carpooling, when really it is a freelance taxi service), when the true business plan is actually to have a legion of underpaid contractors doing the work as their primary or second job, on which they depend for income. Sadly many of them do fill a gap that needs to be filled, but they are not a true solution, just someone exploiting the need to make a huge profit and then sell off the company.

    6. Elbe*

      Yes! Running a small business is challenging. But those challenges don’t entitle owners to a different moral code than everyone else.

      The people who are bearing the weight of the struggles should be the people who stand to profit when the struggles pay off. In 10 years, the LW is going to have a business. Her employees will simply have 10 years of being underpaid for their work.

    7. OP*

      Everyone is assuming that we don’t pay fairly.
      It doesn’t really fit then, that we would have 2 excellent long term staff that seem very happy in their jobs

      1. Thornus*

        What’s your turnover rate for the other positions that you keep hiring for and ask the candidates for their pay expectations without disclosing yours?

      2. Ice and Indigo*

        Two whole staff members? Wow. That’s, like, *everyone*. Oh, wait…

        Look, OP, think about a few things:

        1. Many people don’t rate themselves at full market value. You can take advantage of that without them noticing, sure. They might be happy. They almost certainly wouldn’t be if they had the full facts and an appropriate valuation of their own skills.

        2. People have personal circumstances that sometimes mean a lower rate of pay works for them – say, the location is convenient, or the hours work for them. They’ll accept being underpaid because it seems like a tolerable trade-off. Doesn’t mean you’re not taking advantage.

        3. You talk about employees like it’s a huge favor that you pay them at all. That’s not the kind of employer people let in on it if they’re NOT happy. You clearly don’t care about their wellbeing, at least as far as fair pay goes, so why would they assume you care about it in other ways? People can put on a professional face when they have to.

        4. Frankly, your insight into other people’s feelings does not come across as stellar. They might not be as happy as you think.

      3. so many questions*

        I suspect you live somewhere they can’t get other jobs, because you don’t sound like an employer anyone would stay with otherwise.

      4. Confused*

        You really felt the need to write this over two freakin people, get a grip. Even fairly early in my career I’d hired more than two people and managed not to be a complete asshole.

        You are hardly confirming that this works just because you’ve managed to keep two people. I’ve had a lot of jobs working for jerks for too little money that I stayed in because I didn’t have much choice. The fact that you’ve hired two people means absolutely nothing. I hope you can see how dumb you look acting like hiring two people is some sort of accomplishment.

      5. ADHSquirrelWhat*

        could you go up to either of your long-term staff, show them this letter, and tell them “actually if you’d asked, we would have started you at $.50 more an hour. Are you okay with that” and still have them stay happy in their jobs?

      6. A Teacher*

        Then why not post a narrow range of what you’re willing to pay? All I see is a bunch of posts defending what Allison told you isn’t a great practice. Be transparent and you’ll get some excellent applications.

      7. BRR*

        This isn’t unique to you and your staff, if they weren’t unhappy they likely wouldn’t say anything.

      8. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        2 long term staff out of how many? If your office has 5 or 10 staff, then a 40% or 20% retention rate is nothing to brag about

      9. TootsNYC*

        but if you pay fairly, then why wouldn’t you want to advertise that?
        You want good employees who consider your office to be a good place to work.
        Why wouldn’t you advertise the benefits it offers?
        When someone wants to sell a blender, they tout that it has 10 speeds, and comes with an extra jar.

        You want someone who considers your $20/hour to be a wage they’d really like to have. Put it out there.

        You don’t have to pay more just because you told the amount of money first!

      10. MuchNope*

        I’m a bit slow.
        I realize now you must not want to post salaries because your faithful servants will realize how hard you’ve screwed them over the years.

      11. LP*

        Two long term staff…that *seem* happy in their jobs. I needed a good laugh today!

        In all seriousness, any small business could point to 1-2 people who have stuck it out for a variety of reasons (dual income, waiting til retirement, etc.) That’s not impressive at all and not indicative of you as a good employer. These comments you’re leaving now, they’re *super* enlightening about the kind of person you are!

      12. Queer Earthling*

        Yes, and I’m sure they’d tell you if they weren’t happy, given what a reasonable person you seem to be, and with such excellent listening skills.

        1. pope suburban*

          I’m trying to imagine how the feedback process would go there, honestly. We’ve seen the response to a professional management consultant with a huge following and great record, as well as numerous working professionals in the comments, and it was basically “Um, think again sweaty, we’re the best ever and actually doing these people a favor, maybe try outright self-deception to see how great we are, huh? ;)” This does not fill me with confidence that an employee asking for a raise to market rate, or a decent amount of PTO, or manageable schedule flexibility would get a warm reception. I shudder to think of how any pushback against shady or illegal practices would go; perhaps an aggressively saccharine “pep talk” with undertones of “you can be fired, so be grateful and pipe down?” After this debacle in the comments, I worry for all current and future employees, and wish them speedy and fair job hunting. This is not an environment that considers workers’ needs or values constructive criticism.

      13. Not So NewReader*

        OP, employees laugh at their employers behind the employers back on a daily basis. It’s kind of naive not to believe that does not happen. Just because they stay does not mean they are happy. And the reverse is true also, just because an employee is happy does not mean they will stay.

    8. emmelemm*

      This. If you can’t afford to pay your employees fairly and/or well, you do not have a successful business.

    9. CastIrony*

      This reminds me of ToxicHotDogJob, where I used to sometimes have to wait an extra business day to get paid money that the owner had me count out in front of him. And that was the least of my issues.

    10. Alison for President*

      This comment is really important, OP. I’m the child of 2 entrepreneurs/small business owners, and I recognize your mindset. You’re expecting many things, one of which is sympathy for your self-imposed “burdens.” And yet at the same time, you show literally no willingness to accept feedback or advice in order to change/improve anything. Ownership of a small business is not a God-given right, and you shouldn’t be running one if you’re not open to new ideas…or capable of basic perspective-taking. Also, taking time out of your day to write this is bizarre, quite frankly, because it seems like your goal was to lecture an accomplished, insightful, generous person about something that was completely unsolicited. What gives you the right, out of all other owners and managers? How did you not cringe when you wrote the subject line to your email (I did)? As someone who has seen your brand of self-aggrandizement and cluelessness in their own family: dig deep for some humility and compassion and CHANGE (asking open-ended questions that invite others to share their experience and opinions is a good start), or reconsider your fitness to run a business.

      1. WheezyWeasel*

        Allison4President makes a good point about feedback and advice as a business owner. I spent the last year working as a software consultant for small businesses (3-5Million/yr in sales). There were two distinct camps: the owners who fought me on every single issue because ‘I know my business and you’re just a guy setting up software the way I want it’ and those who were keenly interested in how we could adjust their business to use the software to it’s maximum effectiveness. Looking at a financial balance sheet both types of owners appeared successful, but I bet if I went back in 2-3 years, the ones who were open to new perspectives and especially those who passed their cost savings from the software back to their employees would be way ahead.

        One of my colleagues said “You are dealing with a lot of people who simply cannot tolerate working for someone else and that’s why they start a business.” In this thread, when I see you patting yourself on the back and trying to discount other people’s evaluations of your comment because it’s not your own experience, I see a lot of that attitude.

  3. bloop*

    the tone of this letter is extremely not the tone of a business professional. i feel would have written an angry screed like this on my livejournal when i was a teen lol

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Right? The tone of this letter is ugly as hell – I can’t imagine what he’s like to work for.

      On another note, OP – just because your two employees haven’t quit yet doesn’t mean it’s because you’re a good employer. Employees stick around in toxic jobs every day because they need a paycheck, they need insurance, they can’t find anything else in their chosen field in their geographic region, etc.

      1. Mimi Me*

        YES!!! So much yes to the second part of your comment!!! Desperation makes reasonable people do things they don’t want to do. My husband still has nightmares about a job he had a decade ago – a job he kept for far too because our son had health issues and the insurance was good.

      2. Not Today Satan*

        There’s also a ton of people who just aren’t comfortable job hunting at all–from the resume to the cover letter to interviewing–so they stick around in a job they hate.

      3. AKchic*

        Exactly. Some people never learned how to interview well. Some people have such terrible anxieties about interviewing that they bomb nearly every interview they ever go on. Some people are career retail and either can’t or won’t leave it, for various reasons. Some people still get terrible advice from their parents and still try to please the unpleasable. Some people still buy into the whole corporate is your friend idea.
        Some people stick with bad small businesses because they feel that leaving is a disservice to the clients.

      4. Angelinha*

        Also…if there are only two staff and they’ve been there 15 and 8 years, you haven’t hired in 8 years. So it’s a little silly to say you “always” ask about salary expectations when you haven’t hired in almost a decade.

        1. OP*

          Um, there has been a fair bit of hiring over the 20+ years. But very happily, none for a while.
          And in terms of how HORRIBLE we are to work for, the office is actually a friendly happy one. Lots of joking around. We have dealt with accomodating long sick leaves when needed, always try to help our employees when we can in different ways, regularly give raises and bonuses.
          Awful place really. Quite justifying all the vitriol

          1. Ice and Indigo*

            OP, you wrote a letter in a confrontational tone, declaring yourself in opposition to what this site considers ethical practice. You are getting a completely predictable response, which is people telling you they think you’re in the wrong.

            Calling it ‘vitriol’ is self-martyring to avoid having to consider the points made, but even that aside, did you think people would actually go, ‘Wow, it never occurred to me that employee pay comes out of the business’s funds!’ and change their minds? You must have known what the likely response would be. What on earth are you hoping to achieve here?

            1. Allypopx*

              Some people get off on being the victim. The same logic “incels” use when they pick fights on Twitter.

              1. Ice and Indigo*

                Since the OP seems to be thread-sitting, though, I am curious to see whether she has an actual answer to that.

                1. Fieldpoppy*

                  I’m curious if she has an actual medical practice, given the amount of time she seems to have to be on this site.

          2. Anonnnnn*

            I have had several co-workers in past jobs who were MISERABLE with their employer, but that didn’t stop them from joking around. In fact, it was the only way they could keep hold of their sanity!

            1. Hills to Die on*

              Yep. We had a total mess of a boss/owner at a place I worked at once. She would make everyone miserable and crazy with her tantrums and then announce ‘We are a fun company! Have fun!’ and then look around expectantly at people to start laughing and joking around. She would occasionally go out of her way for someone once every few months but made everyone live in fear of their jobs and/or sanity all day, every day. She didn’t understand why there was a problem. We supported each other and joked around because WE bonded over the experience (and also were trying to keep her happy and not delve into a tantrum for who-knows-what). We all hated her behavior but she was too self-absorbed to see that.

            2. Classic Rando*

              Yeah, when I worked terrible retail jobs in my 20’s, there was lots of joking around… because we were all dirt-poor working crap hours for low pay and no/few benefits and that’s how we’re coped with it. Doesn’t mean we liked the job or company or upper management, we were just doing what we needed to get through the day.

            3. CastIrony*

              THIS. The other day, “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates was playing at my job, and when the line, “It’s a [beach], girl” I jokingly told the cook (my immediate boss), “Hey, they’re telling the truth about this place!” He chuckled and agreed.

              The cook has been miserable for five years and trying to fight the good fight, and I see enough to understand what he means.

          3. Salsa Your Face*

            You admit that you haven’t done a lot of hiring. Alison and many of the other people advising you HAVE done a lot of hiring. Don’t you think you should defer to their expertise?

            If I’m going in for heart surgery, I’m going to listen to what the cardiologist tells me over what the neurologist tells me, even though the neurologist did once do a cardio rotation however many years ago.

            Your hiring practice is not ideal. Listen to the people who know better.

          4. EmKay*

            Your attitude is what’s getting you the vitriol. You wrote in begging for a fight, and now that you have one, you play the victim.

            Gods, how insufferable. I promise you that your employees are not as happy as you think they are.

          5. bmj*

            if anyone here is justifying their actions… it’s the person saying “I have power, why shouldn’t i lean on people.” all the supposedly good things you do are just window dressing if your mindset is to constantly remind you’re employees who is really in charge and who is at your mercy. My father is a partner in a small professional business like yours. i get it. you want “credit” for the “good” things you do and you don’t want to take responsibility for selfish, crappy things.

          6. NotAnotherManager!*

            I find this self-righteousness at the “vitriol” to be hilarious considering the “so there” tag onto your email subject to Alison and your tone in general.

            You wrote in about something that has been discussed ad nauseum here. You provided no new information about why you don’t provide range in the add or before the candidate does – it is essentially to let employees “bid” for your job and to take the lowest offer from a candidate you are willing to work with, which is not new information for anyone and certainly none that has not already been addressed exactly as Alison has above, both in her columns and in the comments. It is specifically to keep dollars in your own pocket, which is exactly the reason most people assume employers chose to do this, so thanks for confirming something we already knew?

            If you’re happy with how this is working out for you, great! Maybe this is the only way in which you use your power over candidates and employees for your own financial gain, but it’s hard to give you the benefit of the doubt on that with the na-na-na-na-boo-boo tone you’ve elected to take both in your original email and in the comments.

          7. hbc*

            So why do you give all these nice things to the employees but are sticking to “getting what you can” at the beginning? Seems kind of like you want them thinking of you as benefactors when you can get credit, but you’re happy to take from them when they don’t know it’s happening.

            I recently took over a place where management would have been saying all the same things you are. The sick leaves and (pitiful, irregular) raises were what kept the long-term people comfortable enough to keep going with the jokes and pretend like they believed the “we’re a family” thing. Getting to know these people, I can assure you that most of them were performing for your expectations.

          8. Observer*

            Is joking around your indicator of what a good employment situation is? In that case you REALLY need some management training STAT. Joking around happens in the most toxic workplaces as much as in more healthy places.

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              David Brent, anyone? I mean, even moreso than Michael Scott, there was an Office wherein the people were miserable but the boss perceived it as everyone joking around and having a laugh.

          9. Not So NewReader*

            Yet when it comes to the bottom line, you like to see what you can “get away with” and you feel their pay is coming out of “your” pocket. OP, you have really personalized this whole thing. It’s called running a business and payroll is a business expense. You sound like you feel personally ripped off by employees. The upset here is the irony that you are in a people business yet you feel free to speak of PEOPLE in this manner.

            I hope your employees do not catch on that this is YOU on AAM. But I am betting someone will point it out to them.
            “Yeah, I value you as an employee but I could get away with paying you $2 less per hour all these years so I did it.”
            How will you explain that? “Not my fault you didn’t know how to negotiate a better deal for yourself.” Or “You could have left a long time ago, if you were that dissatisfied with the pay.”

            What if a boss said to you, “I could get away with paying you $X,000 per year, so I did’, what would your response be to that?

          10. Stormy Weather*

            You seem to like slipping in information only when it suits you. Maybe it would help if you tell us the following:

            –How many total employees at your practice?
            –What deviation from the median of market rate are you paying each of them in order to only pay what you have to?
            –What benefits do you provide as standard?
            –Do your raises keep up with the Consumer Price Index?
            –What is the dollar difference between the bonus your lowest-paid employee gets and the bonus your highest-paid employee gets?

            You inspired the vitriol by presenting yourself as someone who will nickel-and-dime a person to death, and as someone who uses price as the only decision-making factor.

          11. CheapCheap*

            Soooo….you sound like one of the worst bosses I ever worked for. Professional, owned a million dollar home (in a small town), took MULTIPLE glamorous vacations every year, had housekeepers, designer pets, trophy wives, private school kids. Talked about all that in front of his employees while underpaying us by (I later found out) a good $10/hr (nevermind the complete lack of benefits), dodging annual reviews so he never had to discuss raises, and WHINING ABOUT NOT HAVING THE MONEY when one of us HAD to bring up a raise because THE COST OF LIVING HAD RISEN BEYOND OUR ABILITY TO SURVIVE on his cheap salaries. Heck, you openly BRAG about what a great businessperson you are and what a great office culture you have, like him.

            Newsflash? His employees HATED him. We despised him. Him and his entire family. He absolutely did what others said – sought out and exploited the naive, the unconfident, and the desperate – and made sure they all stayed that way by keeping us too tired and to broke to afford decent living conditions or to put out the huge amount of energy needed for any job hunt – even going so far as to isolate us from the staff of other professionals’ offices in lest we realize how bad it was. The experienced ones who he accidentally got in the door saw quickly how shit it was and disappeared quickly. The rest of us? Well, we were nice to his face and laughed at his stupid jokes and grovelled over every stale crumb he threw us BECAUSE HE WAS THE BOSS AND SURPRISE, NOBODY ACTS SURLY AROUND THEIR BOSS. And it was worse than that – we didnt see better on our horizon even if we COULD score an interview elsewhere AND land a job. We had all worked in the same jobs for the same people before, changing jobs again just meant same shit different boss. Those types of jobs had changed us, warped our thinking – just like many posts here have pointed out can and will happen when we’ve discussed awful work cultures.

            This turned into a bit of a rant, so let’s end with: bless you for existing, Alison, because you taught me HOW bad it was and how to focus on getting out, and thank you comments section for having stories of normal workplaces I can think of when all my family members hear how bad it was (didnt even get into the multiple flagrant ongoing labor law violations) and murmur “well you know, every job’s going to have some bad parts” which, previous to finding here, gaslit me into thinking I deserved to work for someone who hired me as a stepping stone to their own golden parachute and resented my asking for enough to afford heat AND food.

          12. What is UX anyway?*

            But you aren’t paying them what they are worth and you very well may be breaking the law. I joked around a LOT at horrible jobs because I *needed* them.

            And even if we’re talking about best business practice, instead of the legal ramifications of what you’ve been doing, it’s poor practice to get the very best employees. I don’t understand what is so difficult about being transparent about salary.

            What would you do if someone said: “I’m sure that you understand the market value and will pay accordingly for my skills and position”? Would you simply not hire them?

      5. Morning reader*

        The LW says:

        “I became a small business owner/employer having received no training in that aspect of things, but learned early on when I am hiring to ALWAYS ask the candidate their salary expectations before giving any information out about the range I am willing to offer.”

        This makes me wonder, OP, what happened that made you learn that lesson? Is it possible that you took the wrong lesson from that experience?

        Sounds like someone led you on, took a job with you and then left it quickly for a higher salary. And, for some reason, you assumed it was because that person took the job you offered at a lower wage than the person wanted or was worth on the job market. So what would have been different? If you had negotiated and they had taken the lower wage offered, wouldn’t they still have left your employ it/when they saw a similar or better job with better compensation?

        Assuming further that this person left your employ suddenly and after only a short time, could it be that your office and this employee were a bad fit for some other reason?

        The lesson is that you were bad at hiring when you were new to it. The thing you did wrong was not in disclosing your salary range but somewhere else. (maybe you did nothing wrong, sometimes things just don’t work out.)

        This letter reflects so much that is wrong with the American medical system. It’s ridiculous that doctors have to also know how to operate a small business and are given zero training in how to do that. (and this one seems to think that’s a good thing, which is so stereotypically “I’m a doctor therefore I’m smart therefore I know more about everything than anyone else” that I can’t even.) Doctors should be good at being doctors. That they should also have to learn to manage employees and everything else that comes with business is absurd.

        1. TootsNYC*

          If you had negotiated and they had taken the lower wage offered, wouldn’t they still have left your employ it/when they saw a similar or better job with better compensation?

          The OP doesn’t even have to negotiate–Alison isn’t really saying that.

          They should disclose.

          But if they want to pay $20/hour, then don’t have to negotiate to a higher salary. In fact, they can flat-out say, “Well, I understand you think you’re worth more, but you knew when you applied that the salary was $20.”

          The only reason to make the candidate name the range is the hope that they’ll say $18, and you get to save $4,000 a year. In your pocket instead of in the pocket of the dupe who wasn’t smart enough to realize they could ask for more.

          Not a fun attitude to work for. Not patriotic either, in my opinion.

      1. Jdc*

        Calling someone a teen is now insulting? Okie dokie. Add that to the list of things that people find to be offended by.

        You act like a stubborn child you get called a stubborn child.

      2. Yorick*

        This isn’t an insult of the person based on their opinion. It’s a take on how their tone makes them come across.

      3. stem bem*

        I mean, I don’t think they insulted the person? They talked directly about how their tone was unprofessional. That’s not an insult, just a reading on “I want to depress employee wages proactively and I won’t stop, so I’m bragging about it to a management advice columnist.”

      4. MissBliss*

        Saying someone comes across not as a professional but as a teenager isn’t an insult, though*. It’s an assessment of how they are presenting themselves, and a professional should be able to take that evaluation and respond to it as they see fit.

        *I would argue that it’s kind of a dig at teenagers, which may or may not be deserved.

      5. Eillah*

        I don’t think it’s insulting to make a valid point about the tone of the letter, and how it’s a reflection of larger business practices.

      6. Roscoe*

        Its more than a difference of opinion. Its more that they are actively trying to not pay people what they are worth.

          1. BRR*

            Exactly. If the tone of the letter was different, I could sympathize more with the LW. I fully get that owning a small business is hard. But when the tone is, “I’m extremely proud of how I’m screwing over others” I’m struggling to find compassion for this jerk’s life.

            1. OP*

              Is looking after our own interests (the way Alison ALWAYS advises) really “screwing others”?
              My tone I guess was a reflection of the frustration i have often felt (and certainly do here) about how horrible it is to ask about salary expectations first. That was the reason for the”so there”.
              We care about our employees, we pay them fairly, treat them with decency and kindness. I just don’t see why it is so HORRIBLE of us to look after our own interests in the hiring process!

              1. Allypopx*

                It’s not. So pick a wage you can afford, and post that. That’s looking after your own interest. What you’re doing is deceitful and manipulative.

              2. Ice and Indigo*

                Looking after your own interests at the expense of other people’s, rather than working out a fair and mutually beneficial arrangement, is, in fact, screwing others. Pretty much definitionally.

              3. Well okay*

                You’re approach to this and explanation just don’t make sense. If you are looking out for your interests and that means not paying more than a specific amount then just set the salary to that amount! You’re trying to trick people into taking a lower salary.

              4. EmKay*

                “we pay them fairly”

                Do you, though? With the attitude you demonstrated in your letter, I doubt it.

                1. Smoosh*

                  I would be extremely dubious of what OP considers ‘fair’ for her employees versus what’s ‘fair’ for herself.

              5. Ophelia*

                The issue everyone is circling around here is that you seem to be conflating YOUR interests with those of the business. And it is in the interest of a business to pay workers fairly, be transparent in negotiations, and adhere to fair labor practices–what you’re talking about here doesn’t *necessarily* mean that you have cheated your staff out of fair payment, but it certainly shows that you haven’t put in place practices and policies that ensure fair treatment for anyone who applies.

                1. Ice and Indigo*

                  Yeah, the ‘directly from our pockets’ phrase doesn’t sound like OP distinguishes very well between ‘our business take, out of which we budget expenses’ and ‘my personal money which is mine and why shouldn’t it be mine rather than yours because I want it and it’s mine.’

                  It doesn’t come directly from your pocket, OP. It comes from your business, which pays into your pocket after you’ve paid your expenses. That ain’t what ‘direct’ means.

              6. Crivens!*

                By fairly I am sure you mean “the very least we can get away with and still have employees”, right?

              7. Parenthetically*

                Looking out for your own interests at the expense of your employees and contrary to ethical, open hiring practices, when you hold all the power in the employer-employee relationship is, yes, definitely screwing other people over. For sure. “I’ll get mine, whatever it costs you” is pretty much the definition of screwing other people over.

              8. AnotherAlison*

                The bigger issue is that you’re not willing to consider that your way isn’t the best way, or that perhaps you are could even hire a higher quality employee at a higher salary who would provide more value to your business. What if you have someone that you pay $2/hr more (a whole $4k per year), and they can upsell patients on some optional procedure? (Like my dentist now has his hygienists offering everyone get a $50 out-of-pocket laser treatment with their regular cleanings.) Sales isn’t a skill everyone applying in a med office has, but finding someone who does can be valuable. Of course I don’t know what roles you’re filling specifically, but I think that trying to find the lowest cost employee is not always the right approach. (Or, another approach would be to push any work down to the lowest level…maybe you can hire a $12 P/T person for some work and a $30/hr P/T person for the higher level tasks). You just seemed unnecessarily locked into what you’re doing now.

              9. Elbe*

                It’s unethical to pay less for work that you know is worth more. You’re taking advantage of someone’s lack of knowledge about the job or market in order to pocket money at their expense.

                If $X is the market rate for what you’re asking, it’s ethical to pay $X even if someone is willing to take $Y. Figure out how much the job is really worth and post that range. Stop trying to find people who are desperate enough or uninformed enough to take less.

              10. TootsNYC*

                but if you pay them fairly, why are you not telling them that as a sales pitch when you advertise for a new worker?

                With a number.

                Which is more appealing? “Low price! Put it in your shopping cart to see the price”? or “30% off; now $199”?

              11. Close Bracket*

                My tone I guess was a reflection of the frustration i have often felt (and certainly do here) about how horrible it is to ask about salary expectations first.

                The reaction you are getting is not due to asking about salary expectations first. The reactions you are getting are to your stated goal of paying bottom dollar.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  Adding it’s kind of concerning that you, OP, would write an advice columnist who has millions of readers and then wonder why so many people jumped on here to say they disagree.
                  You kicked a hornet’s nest here, OP and now the hornets are doing what hornets do. It’s basic cause and effect.

              12. MCMonkeyBean*

                You may be kind to your employees to their faces but your own words make it clear that you objectively do not pay them fairly and have no desire to try to, and that certainly is not treating them with decency.

              13. Scarlet*

                You sound really happy, OP. Because happy people spout nonsense then get upset when people call their BS and certainly, happy, confident people are the ones who then try to defend their BS tooth and nail. /s

                Maybe re-evaluate why you’re so “happy”? Just a thought.

      7. Jedi Squirrel*

        It’s not an insult. It’s saying they behaved like we would expect a young, inexperienced person to behave, rather than a seasoned business professional.

        OP’s opinion is a bad business practice, and their tone is rude, insulting, and entitled. They should be called out on it.

      8. Jadelyn*

        Not all opinions are worthy of respect. “Having a different opinion” is not some sacred state of being that protects a person from being called out for the quality of that opinion.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          “Having a different opinion” is not some sacred state of being that protects a person from being called out for the quality of that opinion.

          Oh, lordy, I need this on a t-shirt!

      9. so many questions*

        It’s not an opinion, it’s a terrible business practice and calling it such is not an insult.

    2. Jdc*

      Wish we knew the name of his business so we could warm everyone. I’d never want to work for someone with that mentality as it surely would bleed over into other areas.

      1. Wintermute*

        Exactly, this is the kind of business that would break the law rather than pay for very reasonable ADA accommodations. This is the kind of business that will stiff freelancers and independent contractors just because they can due to the difference in power dynamics. This is the kind of business that will say things like “if they don’t have the money for a lawyer there’s no reason not to break a contract, they can never enforce it.”

      2. SW*

        Exactly! I’d wonder what else the OP is being penny wise pound foolish about, which is super concerning as this is a *medical professional.*
        Also I read the reviews of doctors before I go to them to see how their front desk is run, and I stop going to doctors whose staff is unprofessional or unorganized. It’s a risk to your bottom line to hire the public facing people for as cheaply as you can when they can have such a huge effect on patient retention.

        1. Jdc*

          I had a doctors nurse tell me my baby no longer had a heartbeat, in the waiting room in front of dozens of people! Needless to say my ex walked into his office and lost his mind on him. Sad. Great doctor and he was livid that happened but lost my business. I ran into the doctor at the airport and he gain apologized. Glad to know he’s a nice person. Frankly it wasn’t my first negative experience with his staff but clearly the worst.

    3. pope suburban*

      Agreed. I worked, for three hellish years, for someone who absolutely would have done something like this. The tone here sets off all my warning bells; I wouldn’t get near a job at this company for any money. That said, the tone is something that can be changed, if the LW listens to Alison’s feedback and makes appropriate changes. I don’t know what kind of person this LW is, in their heart or soul or head or whatever, I just know that this letter is not a great showing and that it has a lot of offputting elements.

      1. OP*

        Once again, happy long term employees.
        Maybe the (admittedly snarky) tone of the letter is not a reasonable way to judge every aspect of our office, and of us as employers!!

        1. Allypopx*

          We’re mostly judging you as employers based on the content of your letter, the tone just pushes it over the edge.

        2. Starbuck*

          Of course people are going to judge you based on the words you’ve written, what else do we have to go on?

        3. so many questions*

          I’m judging you by your ongoing responses, which are quite honestly over the top snarky and self-satisfied at how much you have managed to save by treating your employees badly. It’s gross.

        4. Princesa Zelda*

          I mean, what else are people supposed to judge you on? That’s how you chose to present yourself, and from the tone of your comments, how you continue to choose to present yourself. Based on what you’ve written in both the letter and throughout the comments section, you sound like an unpleasant person. If that doesn’t square with the way you see yourself, it’s probably time to reflect on why that might be.

        5. (insert name here)*

          How do you know they are happy? You don’t. You know they are long term, but that doesn’t mean they are happy. It takes a lot of trust to get employees to be willing to tell about problems, and you don’t build that trust by playing games with their wages.

          1. pope suburban*

            This is a great point. I think that many employees, even those working in healthy, functional organizations, can feel hesitant about bringing up grievances or concerns. I think there are also identity/background factors that can contribute to this; Alison mentioned women and PoC often feel less empowered to negotiate (and may receive different responses to negotiation than, say, a white man), and another commenter mentioned that graduating into a recession strongly motivated them to undervalue theirself (I feel this in the atoms of my being, class of 2007). It can be difficult to communicate about happiness even at the best of times, and I think employers and managers need to be aware of the power difference and the way it might influence or inhibit employees’ communication. That’s not to say that employees can never give honest feedback, just that it’s not an easy, simple proposition, and that ensuring good communication takes a lot of time and work- the specifics of which can be learned on this blog, if one cares to do so.

        6. pope suburban*

          Well, there are certain standards for professional behavior, and a great many of them are being violated here in the letter and the comments (Again, just like the employer I mention). The odds of that behavior being exclusively confined to the letter are not good, especially given the volume of unprofessional, rude, arrogant, and dismissive responses people are getting. One might benefit from considering that the world does not necessarily fall into two bins: people who 100% agree with me, and people who are intractably wrong/stupid/ridiculous. There’s no shame in a mistake, after all, but what’s considered good practice is doing better once you know better; doubling down on bad policy is never a good use of time and energy.

        7. TootsNYC*

          Maybe the (admittedly snarky) tone of the letter is not a reasonable way to judge every aspect of our office, and of us as employers!!

          Hye, you’re the one who put it out there.

        8. Well, there's this*

          ‘Snarky’ implies a degree of cleverness. If that was your intent, in my opinion you utterly failed. Because of your tone, you come across as defiant, as knowing you’re being unethical, and downright gleeful at the idea of saving $2/hour.

          If you read for content, you’ll see that there can be many reasons why employees stay at a job where they aren’t happy. You may see joking around, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. They may like their co-workers.

          Being a good employer isn’t something you should be calling yourself, if you ask me. It’s a description you earn and it’s given to you by your employees.

        9. CastIrony*

          With all due respect, I can work hard and stay for a long time with a happy attitude, but it doesn’t mean I’m happy at a job. It’s just good customer service.

        10. Agatha_31*

          The absurd amount of wilful, privileged ignorance on display here is dripping from every word of your letter *and* every response you’ve made. Maybe a reasonable way to judge whether you’re as good an employer as you think you are is to openly tell people who are NOT reliant on you for a bad living in a bad economy your employment practices and see how many people still laugh and joke and are HAPPYYYY!!! vs. how many people tell you some views of you you’ve clearly never heard before?

          Maybe you should invest in another shovel, as the one you’re currently using has worn down to a nub.

    4. Not a dr*

      It’s also very scary that someone who is a medical professional is not factoring in race and gender into their thinking. It makes me worry about other actions they may take.

      1. Well...*

        Medical practitioners can have an awful blend of ego and blindspots that make it really hard for them to fix their problematic attitudes

        1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

          A lot of professionals who start their own firms can have this attitude, especially. Doctors, engineers, architects, etc. often know their content area very well, and don’t know as much about running a business. Many rise to the occasion with good judgment and fairness. Others try to brush off their duty as business owners, considering it not as important to treat their employees fairly and do business above-board as it is to accomplish their professional duties. Both are important.

      2. Well Then*

        Unconscious bias is a huge, documented problem in medicine and it leads to women and people of color (and particularly, women of color) receiving substandard care. Lack of pain medication, missed diagnoses, and more. I would not trust this LW as a doctor for a hot second, based on this arrogant attitude.

        1. Allypopx*

          Seriously. Women and POC deal with these issues in their medical care as well as their employment. I would take this knowledge as a huge red flag – if it’s popping up in one area chances are…

        2. EmKay*

          Yep, just look at the mortality rate of WOC mothers during/shortly after giving birth. It’s terrifying.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Exactly my thought. A person in a medical field who is THIS blind to how their hiring practices actively perpetuate bias against women and BIPOC, holy hell, how are they to be trusted to care properly for their women/BIPOC patients?!

    5. Yvonne*

      I greatly question your claims of being a “great employer” when you are so happy about “getting away with” paying someone something that you know is less than they deserve simply because you were able to outmaneuver them. One wonders what other ways you shortchange your employees in order to save a buck, even when you know it’s unfair. And frankly if I knew any medical professional I dealt with treated their employees this way, I’d find a new one immediately.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yup – no way in hell would I have a doctor who loves to cut corners and brags about doing the bare ass minimum. That’s a quick way to die, lol.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Not for medical office staff. I have a bunch of friends who own their own practices or are members of a group, and the range is pretty narrow for given roles (e.g. front desk reception, billing clerk/claims wrangler, office manager) . Now the range between front desk and billing clerk or front desk and office manager are very wide, but from front desk reception to front desk reception it really isn’t.

          Have you ever asked around other practitioners in your area what their different staff are paid? It might help you get an idea if you are below market rate. If you are at or above, publishing the salary can only help you attract applicants.

        2. PollyQ*

          And therefore what? Still doesn’t stop you from stating a wider range of salaries up front, and saying that it depends on experience or extra skills.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          Oh, look – another argument for posting/disclosing your pay rate so people can not waste their time applying for a job that doesn’t fit with their salary requirements.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Not just medical. If I caught a business person talking that way about the employees I would definitely take my dollars else where.

    6. blackcat*

      I mean, it takes a certain level of chutzpah to write into an advice columnist/business professional to tell them that everything they’ve ever written about a particular subject is wrong.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Based on hiring two people, most recently nearly a decade ago, and without any sort of hiring training or, I’m assuming HR guidance.

        But they’re saving dollars an hour that go into their pocket!

    7. nom de plume*

      Absolutely. Alison is too nice when she states:” I’m sure you don’t want to be perpetuating a system that keeps women and people of color’s wages depressed.” OP sounds perfectly content to be the person who dies on that hill.
      Vile.

      1. Aquawoman*

        I laughed at that because she frequently suggests this kind of phrasing when a person needs to say something about someone’s outrageous behavior. So, “stop sleeping with the interns, you scumbag” becomes “I am concerned for the legal exposure to the company of you sleeping with the interns.”

        1. motherofdragons*

          Yes!! I noticed that too. The “We’re all reasonable people here” approach. Like, “I’m sure you don’t want to expose the company to legal issues by continuing to organize a sex club in the office after hours.” #quack

  4. The Original K.*

    Alison: “Well, I’ll happily tell you why you should stop.” Me: “This is about to be good.” And it was.

    Also, “so there?” The OP sounds … unpleasant.

    1. Cheese_Toast*

      OP definitely sounds unpleasant. On top of what Alison said about getting comfortable with outdated practices, it also seems like OP doesn’t have a lot of hiring experience. It’s great that their employees have stayed a long time but that means they haven’t hired that many people.

      1. Anonomoose*

        File under “businesses that, given the option, I would rather beat myself to death with my own 1.5 page CV than work for”

        Does two dollars an hour honestly stack up against retraining someone who asked their co-worker what they made, decided they were being short changed, and went for a different job?

    2. Anonnnnn*

      “So there” is such a childish statement. I immediately had this mental image of LW sticking their tongue out and pouting. Not a good look for a “professional.”

    3. AppleStan*

      When Alison started with “Well, I’ll happily tell you why you should stop.”, I *LITERALLY* paused reading, got up, reheated my coffee, came back, closed my office door, sat down, and slowly sipped this heavenly goodness while I continued reading.

      Worth it.

    4. Elbe*

      “Well, I’ll happily tell you why you should stop.”

      I actually considered stopping to get popcorn before I read on.

  5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    Your letter is the reason people are hesitant to provide you with salary expectations. You are hiring, and it is your job to provide people with a range to see if you’re both in the same ballpark.

  6. Sunflower Sea Star*

    One key phrase in your letter:
    “if we can get away with”
    You’re not trying to play fair, you’re trying to get away with being unfair. And you know it.
    We have always known why employers do this. WE KNOW you’re trying to take advantage of applicants to see how close you can keep them to the poverty line. So this letter feels like mansplaining periods to a woman. We know employers do this to “get away with” something that isn’t fair and kind to employees.
    But at least you’re “brazenly unapologetic” about it?

    1. Crivens!*

      And you know he’d (I will bet you cash money this is a he) flip his lid about anything he thought his employees were trying to “get away with”, like leaving on time or taking a full lunch break.

    2. Scarlet2*

      Yes, this LW is basically saying “I’m doing this to screw employees over”.

      I guess at least they’re… honest about it? /s

      1. OP*

        Not screw anyone over. Is it really so terrible to hire someone for less than we might otherwise have been willing to pay if we had to?
        So NO-ONE here has ever paid less for a service or product. No one has ever looked for a bargain and squealed with delight that they paid very little for something they found at a garage sale that the owner didn’t know the value of????
        What? You have?
        And of course no one will connect the dots that they paid less so…someone got less??? Of course you don’t think you screwed anyone over right?

        1. Allypopx*

          “Is it really so terrible to hire someone for less than we might otherwise have been willing to pay if we had to?”

          Yes. This isn’t a service or a product, this is an ongoing business agreement. You need to stop looking at your employees as commodities, they are performing essential business functions for you.

        2. Carlie*

          So then why not just advertise the job with the lowest rate that you would like to offer to start with? You will get applications from people who are already happy with that salary, and you won’t have to do the dance of the salary question. Or, you will get qualified applicants who will ask if there is any room to negotiate the salary up. If you don’t get any qualified applicants, that’s your answer that your rate is to low, and you re-advertise with it listed as little higher. Still not sure how it has to be on the applicant to do this rather than you.

        3. Well okay*

          Do you honestly not see the issue with comparing employees to a garage sale bargain? That’s just gross.

        4. Anonnnnn*

          I am a human, not a clearance item. I am not “used goods.” Your mentality that “of course no one will connect the dots” is asinine, toxic, abusive, and is really going to kick you in the butt one day.

          At least clearance items are marked with the price that needs to be paid. Furthermore, every garage sale owner knows the value of something–they are selling it based on the value that the item has to THEM. You want a contractor who offers cheap service? It probably shows in the quality of their work.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            That’s like, basic Marketing 101. Goods and services are worth the value people assign to them.

        5. Parenthetically*

          You know what? If I found a Klimt painting in a garage sale for fifty bucks, went and got it appraised, and realized it was worth $500,000, you bet your ass I would be a shitty person for not going back and offering several thousands of dollars to the person who sold it to me for fifty bucks.

          Also, people are not garage sale trash. They are humans. The value of the job is X, and it should be a matter of integrity to you to pay that amount, not hope that someone with no knowledge of *correct* pay for the role, or someone insecure, naive, socially disadvantaged, or desperate enough will come along and take the role for as much less than X as possible, so YOU can save a few bucks. You’re not entitled to anyone’s labor, and you certainly aren’t entitled to it at the cheapest possible rate when you’re doing your damnedest to keep people in the dark about what their work is worth.

        6. CaliCali*

          People aren’t commodities. If I find a THING that is a bargain, that’s great. That thing isn’t trying to eat or house itself. The thing doesn’t have feelings or goals. The thing isn’t going to realize I’m not paying its market value, and roll over to a house where it is purchased for market rate.

          This is a bizarre and inaccurate comparison that does, however, reveal a lot.

        7. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Not when hiring a person for a job. If they were willing to work for significantly less than market rate, I would worry about what kind of worker they were, if their references were real, etc.. Someone who low balls their pay is a risk

        8. yala*

          “Is it really so terrible to hire someone for less than we might otherwise have been willing to pay if we had to?”

          I mean. You’re the one who phrased it as “getting away with”–that implies that you’re doing something you know they would be upset by. If I found out I could’ve been making $4k more a year if I’d just said the secret word, I’d be pretty pissed off.

          Yeah. Hiring employees for the long-term and paying them less than you feel they’re worth is a pretty lousy thing to do.

        9. anonymouslee*

          You’re delighted to pay people (whom you claim to care about) less than they’re worth because they don’t know their own value? You don’t see why people think that’s scumbag behavior?

        10. TootsNYC*

          It’s because the person paying the money has the power.

          And it’s important for the person with the power to use it responsibly.

          This argument is over whether it is ethical. And perhaps whether it’s a wise business practice.

        11. Just a frog sitting on a log sipping tea*

          Just some friendly advice. You can’t let every negative experience influence how you run your business.

          Being a small business owner is rough, stressful, and comes with a host of problems. But one thing I learned about opening my own small business was taking time out to take care of my own health (mentally, physically, and spiritually).

          At one point my negativity was getting in the way of my business and how I treated my employees. It wasn’t until a good friend sat me down and told me I needed help to deal with all the stress and issues.

          I got a therapist, who helped me separate my personal vs professional feelings, and ways to deal with setbacks. It helped me become a better boss. (Just my opinion and experience)

          It never hurts to reach out to others for advice or resources that may help or your business.

          Just my two cents

        12. These Old Wings*

          But you also have to consider the implications on the employee. When you start off a job at a lower salary, you will make less money over the course of your employment. It’s not a one-time bargain price you are paying for an object. Plus, as a small business owner, you also “get away with” not needing to offer things like FMLA or retirement accounts.

        13. Citizen of Metropolis*

          Yes, it is different. You are equating a “thing” found for a good price with something people *require* to live on. What you pay determines where someone lives, what kind of food they eat, how they educate their children – and not just immediately, but for the future as well, as in whether or not they can save for retirement. A vast difference.

          1. Tipping Point*

            I’ve had my share of working for small business owners. Yep, working 80 hr shifts so my boss and his family could live in an affluent neighborhood, send his kids to expensive private schools, so his wife could be a stay at home mom, and the wonderful vacations all over the world that he would bragged about.

            While we, his employees were severely underpaid, little to no benefits, no bonuses, laughable raised (got a whole nickel raise once) and most of us were on government assistance. But to hear my old boss talk, you’d think he and his family lived in a shack, while we, the employees were robbing him blind……

        14. Not So NewReader*

          So… you pick up employees at garage sales?
          And you squeal with delight when a potential candidate when they say a number lower than yours?

          OP, this is really, really, awful.

        15. TrashPanda*

          You are comparing human beings to an inanimate object found on sale or at flea market.

          You need to step away and think about that.

        16. Melody Pond*

          Is it really so terrible to hire someone for less than we might otherwise have been willing to pay if we had to?
          So NO-ONE here has ever paid less for a service or product. No one has ever looked for a bargain and squealed with delight that they paid very little for something they found at a garage sale that the owner didn’t know the value of????
          What? You have?
          And of course no one will connect the dots that they paid less so…someone got less??? Of course you don’t think you screwed anyone over right?

          You’re approaching this in your thinking like an individual consumer. But you’re not a consumer in this context – you’re running a business. Look, I agree with everything everyone else has said about this being an unethical practice, perpetuating a problem that hurts mainly women and people of color. But based on your responses I’ve seen so far, that doesn’t seem to be a concern for you, so let’s instead look at this from YOUR perspective.

          You need work done to support your business. You will need to hire staff to do that work. To maximize the effectiveness and/or efficiency (i.e., profit) of your business, you want to attract and retain employees that perform well in the work and are a great fit. To be able to do this, Alison is telling you that first you need to identify an accurate market range for the work (which is adjustable within your range depending on the experience and exact qualifications of your candidates). Having done this, if you want to get the largest possible pool of the best candidates, Alison and many others are trying to tell you that you should stop making candidates state their salary requirements, and instead just post the salary range in the job description. By refusing to do this and insisting on your current practices, you are HARMING YOUR BUSINESS by missing out on the best candidates and PUTTING YOUR BUSINESS AT RISK of losing good employees that you may already have, for reasons that could have been easily avoided*.

          You’re not just hurting other people. You’re also shooting yourself in the foot.

          But if you don’t care about hurting other people, and if you’re perfectly happy with the quality of the business that you’re already running (even if it’s running more poorly and, I would venture a guess, producing less profit than similar, better-run practices in your profession) – by all means, carry on what you’re doing.

          *People leave jobs for tons of reasons that are unavoidable. Your fear of employees leaving your business is extremely odd, for a business and medical professional.

        17. Salty Caramel*

          Did you really just compare a person to consumable goods? That says a lot about you as a person.

      1. Annony*

        And if they do want to “get away with” only paying $20/hour, why not list that? The applicants she gets will be the ones who are happy with that salary which seems to be the goal.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Because if they advertise $20, people who would have taken the job for $19 will “get away with” an extra $1!

                1. Sigh*

                  She’s been given some very clear, very solid advice, and just does. not. see. it.

                  Doesn’t want to see it. Her arrogance will be her downfall.

              1. Adalind*

                +1
                People leave jobs all the time for a variety of reasons. Chances are if the salary is posted they know what to expect and they’ll most likely stick around until one of those reasons comes up. You can’t keep all the people forever… it’s close minded to think so.

            1. Salsa Your Face*

              Or someone might take the job for $20 then realize after the fact that other companies are willing to pay $23 for the same job and leave regardless.

            2. Aurion*

              Even if you don’t advertise the salary range, what’s stopping this qualified candidate wanting $23/hour to take the job and leave six months later? If they don’t find out the pay at the interview, they’ll find out once they take the job.

              I’m not understanding how being coy about the range is keeping the employee there. If your pay rate won’t meet their needs, they will leave irrespective of when they find out.

            3. EmKay*

              Maybe the people leaving after 6 months left because of you and your shifty underhanded ways, not your lowball salary. Just a thought.

            4. (insert name here)*

              Someone really wanting $23/hour will probably not apply. which saves you both time and money.

            5. Parenthetically*

              Or they won’t apply in the first place.

              Or they’ll take the job, realize the working environment is great, and stay.

              Or they’ll take the job, and get hit by a bus two weeks later.

              Or they’ll take the job, quietly earn the same degree you have for a few years, and start their own business just like yours, but where they don’t play bullshit games with their employees’ salaries. Ideally.

            6. Antilles*

              Or, more likely, they’d self-select out of the interview before it even happens, thereby saving you time. Per your posts, you are a medical professional and a small business owner. Most small business owners I’ve known (including the owner of my company) tend to be wildly busy. Wasting an hour on an interview just to end with a “wait, you want $23/hour? sorry, but the best we can do is $21, welp, guess this is going nowhere” seems like an inefficient way to use your highly valuable time.
              Also, just as a question: Is this “leave six months later” that you’ve now mentioned several times an actual occurrence you’ve experienced? If so, I’d love more details if you can provide them, because it seems to me like you may be over-correcting based on a single failed hire. Which is very normal, but definitely something that can be a huge problem long-term since (a) it means you’re missing the holistic view of the problem and (b) potentially using medicine that’s way stronger than is justified.

            7. TootsNYC*

              Or, they might lie when you ask, and say they’d take $19/hour, either because they really need a job, or they’re hoping that they can get you to raise the amount after an interview. And if they were desperate, they’d take the job. And then they’d leave because someone down the street is offering $23.

              The secret to not having people leave is to offer the market rate. Then there’s no incentive for someone to jump employers over money, because the money is roughly the same.

              1. Pommette!*

                Offer the market rate, or make up for it by offering other things that make up for the lower salary. Small medical offices often have paltry benefits; some people will happily put up with a lower salary if they get decent paid time off and sick leave (that they can actually use guilt-free) in exchange.

                The trick is to be completely upfront from the start.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  Once the pay is roughly equal, you can keep employees with the atmosphere of your office, your flexibility as a boss, the niceness of your office space, the amount of vacation you offer…

                  (I had a boss who said that for most office jobs, giving vacation was pretty much free for the boss, especially if you didn’t have to hire a temp to cover. People work hard before, they work hard after, and they cover for one another)

            8. Quinalla*

              Has this happened to you? Or to someone you know? You seem REALLY stuck on this point. Are there people that will take a lower paying job while continuing to look for a higher paying job or a higher paying job falls in their lap, sure, but generally this is not a huge problem for anyone. Have you not considered that someone will lowball a little thinking they might scare you off and then still be unhappy when it would have been fine if you just gave them your range or even just your starting salary for little to no experience? It is EXTREMELY difficult for employees to judge from the outside what wage a position should be making, they just don’t know nearly as much as you do.

              As another commenter said, the more likely thing is people will self-select out and not interview or will interview and then ask for a higher wage.

            9. Sunflower Sea Star*

              If you want to keep employees long term, you pay market rates, not as little as you can “get away with”
              But you’re clear you are here to exploit people who don’t know their value or what market rates are. So that’s the consequence of being the kind of employer who wants to screw people over for as much as they can get away with. And is brazenly unapologetic about it.
              Simple cause and effect.

            10. Midwest Writer*

              I am super curious — you’ve mentioned this several times as your biggest concern — that people wanting a higher salary will just up and leave in six months. How often has this happened to you? Also, if you’re hearing multiple people say “I’m leaving for $1 more an hour” after six months, I wouldn’t be shocked that they’re giving that reason because it seems impersonal, whereas “I hate working here and would rather bail now” is very personal.
              For what it’s worth, I’ve been in my industry for 20 years. I’ve never left a job because of salary, although my salary has generally increased with each job I took (except for one, but that was going from a super high cost-of-living area to a MUCH lower one, so my standard of living was relatively steady). I leave jobs when they suck (this is 100 percent always a management issue) or when I get an offer to do something I like in a cooler place or with new responsibilities.

            11. petpluto*

              My question is – do you think having the person offer the salary they are willing to take, and low balling themselves, somehow binds them to their employment with you forever? “Oh, if only I’d known I could have been making $23 an hour, and I only offered $19! I shall make $19 an hour forever here, and be shamed for asking for so little for myself!”

              If I underbid my own worth, and found out 6 months’ later I could be making $23 an hour elsewhere, the fact that I was the one who offered the initial range wouldn’t keep me at my current job. I’d just think my current employer was either also woefully misinformed about how much I should be making (incompetent but not a jerk), or someone who went into this deal looking to pay me less than I was worth (jerk), and go off and apply for the job where I could be making $23 dollars an hour.

            12. Rusty Shackelford*

              and someone really wanting $23/hour might take the job and leave six months later.

              I don’t understand what you think you’re accomplishing. Do you think the people you hire for $20 don’t really want $23? Someone who finds out, after you hired them, that they could make more elsewhere, is very likely to leave. What makes you think you’re preventing that by paying them less?

            13. Stormy Weather*

              Every time you hire someone it’s a risk they’re going to leave. Your job as a manager is to mitigate that risk by providing work your employees want to do, leadership with integrity, benefits and that includes a competitive salary.

              Your practice of withholding salary info is really shooting yourself in the foot. Put what you’re willing to pay in your ads. People who want more won’t bother with you.

            14. Observer*

              And someone who SAYS $20 because they are afraid to say more might take the job and leave in six month as well.

              It happens all the time.

            15. JustKnope*

              You are so weirdly focused on that ONE scenario, and ignoring every other scenario people posit here. Maybe set aside your fears over people leaving in a short time and actually listen to others’ perspectives?

            16. Not So NewReader*

              Why are you so afraid of people leaving? This is weird. People leave, there is nothing abnormal about that. Honestly, you mention this so much, OP, I don’t think business ownership is for you. You seem to be focused on this fear of people leaving and fear of people ripping you off.

              I am MORE concerned about them STAYING at this point. These preoccupations of yours can’t be healthy.

              1. Melody Pond*

                Honestly, you mention this so much, OP, I don’t think business ownership is for you.

                +1000

                I’m having a really hard time seeing this OP as an effective business owner.

            17. I'm a medical consumer*

              I find it really, really weird that you think someone is LESS likely to leave for $23/hr if you pay them $19/hr than if you pay them $22.

              I mean, people hate change but most of us would risk it for $4/hr.

            18. common sense sometimes makes sense*

              You really seem to think this is happening all the time. It happens once in a while, but only if a really outstanding opportunity presents. After all, jumping around a lot from position to position looks bad on a resume. You can probably get a better idea of their dependability based on their resume and work history.

      1. Anonnnnn*

        I read that as an example. Like a metaphor. Not that the OP was accusing LW of mansplaining. It’s basically just someone who assumes that the recipient of the explanation doesn’t know anything, even though the recipient of the explanation is actually an expert on the subject.

      2. anonymouslee*

        It’s an analogy. It could as easily be said that you were quick to jump to implied defensiveness.

      1. Sparrow*

        Yeah, I feel fairly confident that the employees aren’t as thrilled with him as he thinks they are. I found him insufferable just in writing, and even if this tone/attitude isn’t his norm, I highly doubt he’s able to keep it in check all the time.

      2. Queer Earthling*

        You mean you wouldn’t love working for someone who compares you, a whole human, to an excellent garage sale find?

  7. CaliCali*

    If you have two staff who have been there 8+ years, you haven’t even had to hire anyone since ~2011. You were last hiring in an economy that was crawling out of a recession. Good candidates won’t put up with this in a stronger economy. You’re bragging about the benefits of a system that only works when employees don’t really have options.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Such a good point – the recession made people desperate. And if these employees are older (and I’m guessing they are based on their tenures), they may also still be there due to hiring discrimination or the fear of.

      1. OP*

        It doesn’t really explain why these (presumably) underpaid employees are still sticking around though does it?

        1. so many questions*

          I bet you’re in an area where it’s difficult to find jobs. You sound just so relentlessly smug about how you’re thrilled to be underpaying people to save a little money. How do you not see that’s kind of disgusting?

          1. Imadeanametodothis*

            “Relentlessly smug” is perhaps the best description of this kind of person that I will ever hear. Kudos!

          2. Alison for President*

            Yes to this. OP needs to keep in mind that there are lots of people who don’t have the ability to move out of an area with minimal employment options; they take what’s available, and things can be even more limited depending on their level of education, experience, and qualifications. Family, limited financial resources, and plenty of other factors could make your employees stay due to necessity, not because they’re happy. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to change jobs to suit their interests whenever they want– that’s the hard truth.

            OP, your thought process is nauseating. Grow up.

        2. ADHSquirrelWhat*

          Yes, actually, it does.

          The act of job-hunting is quite a bit of work. LOTS of people will stay where it’s /good enough/ over going through the effort of job-hunting, even if they’re not happy with it. The hidden costs of job hunting are high. Plus, they’d have to search around enough to know whether or not they’re compensated fairly for the market, and if they don’t KNOW you deliberately underbid, they wouldn’t necessarily know they could get more. Not until they started looking.

          And we’re presuming they’re underpaid – because you’ve made it clear you’d be fine WITH underpaying them. Maybe these two staffers are paid fair market rate. Then again, maybe they’re not. We don’t know. We DO know that if they were being paid under-market, you’d be okay with that. That’s the problem. You would be okay cheating people you know, that you’ve worked with for close to a decade, out of money to line your own pocket.

          1. Sal*

            THIS. Job hunting sucks. Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” which suggests at least one exchange rate.

          2. Glitsy Gus*

            Absolutely this. At this point the number on their check isn’t the problem, it’s the way you talk about these human beings who work very hard for you. If they knew that you were talking about them this way, how do you thing they would feel? Would you actually NOT start looking for a new job if you weren’t already? Be honest with yourself for a minute and really think about it.

        3. Elbe*

          If you pay your employees the market rate, then why wouldn’t you advertise that?

          I’m not sure what your argument is here. If you’re paying a fair market wage, then what are you “getting away with” by not just posting wage? If you ARE paying your employees less than they would have gotten elsewhere, then their apparent lack of awareness about the issue doesn’t absolve you.

          One time I found out that I was being paid 30% less than my male coworkers. My company was taking advantage of the fact I was young and, at the time, had no way of checking to see if I was being treated fairly. The fact that they were friendly and nice to my face doesn’t make what they did any less wrong, or illegal.

        4. Bazinga*

          People get comfy at places. I’ve worked in doctor offices where people weren’t treated well. But they liked the patients/hours/coworkers/familiarity.
          I mean maybe you’re nicer than you came across but reading your neener neener letter makes me want to run screaming in the opposite direction.

          1. Elbe*

            Right. People also stay because they need the health insurance, or because they are having family issues and can’t afford any economic instability, or because their area is economically depressed, etc.

            Someone remaining in a job and being pleasant day-to-day is absolutely not an indication that they are either happy or well paid.

        5. yala*

          Presumably? Didn’t you straight up say you were underpaying them? That you considered their work was worth more than you wound up paying them because they didn’t ask for more?

          Or maybe they’re not anymore because they asked for that raise and got the money they should’ve been getting all along.

          At any rate, you know people calculate things in more than just money, right? Time, effort, commute, etc.

        6. Jh*

          Oh lol… Dead weight tends to stick around and stifle innovation. Bet if you took a deep dive you’d discover all kinds of inefficiencies.

        7. animaniactoo*

          For some people, things like commute and job stability are factors they really need to consider before looking for something else.

          Right now, the valuation on their end that one or more of those factors may be important enough not to fuss over being slightly (or more) underpaid. It does not mean, however, that what you’re doing isn’t still unfair to them. It would just be a trade-off they’ve accepted.

        8. LP*

          There are a ton of reasons you are intentionally ignoring, actually! I’ve been job searching to leave my underpaying job for a while because I’m in a really niche field with a lot of competition. Doesn’t mean I’m happy and it doesn’t make this ok!

        9. WellRed*

          I’ve stuck around at my job too long, slightly underpaid, because I’m lazy, there aren’t a ton of oppos in my line of work and they otherwise treat us well. I can’t imagine if you start off a relationships on such an adversarial note that there aren’t other workplace issues as well, but I will give you the benefit of the doubt.

        10. Brett*

          My last job was horribly underpaid. They froze _all_ raises (merit, step, or cola) in 2008 and still are in a freeze.
          One of my friends in the industry runs one of the largest salary surveys in our industry, and at one point he contacted me personally to let me know that I was the lowest paid person in the country for my role and experience.

          Despite this, I stayed 8 years. And when I left, I had the _shortest_ tenure of any of the employees in the two units I worked in. There were employees who had been there over 40 years, despite the fact they were badly under market and not receiving raise.
          Why did they stay? Why did I stay?

          One, loyalty (and identity). Even if the employer is not showing loyalty with pay, long-term employees often have built up an identity and loyalty to their employer. Their long term job is such a component of their personal identity, that it makes it difficult to imagine making a change that takes away that identity. _This_ was by far the biggest reason people stayed.
          Two, effort. Job hunting is exhausting, even more so when you already have a stable situation even if the pay is poor.
          Three, time. When you are working a full time job, it is difficult to find the time to job hunt.
          Four, fear. Will job hunting get you fired? Could you lose your insurance and stability? Will you find out that you are not worth more after all? Will you get discriminated against because of your age?
          Five, uncertainty. Even if you have the time and energy to search, and you are safely able to find a new role, what happens if it doesn’t work out? What happens if you switch jobs for higher pay, and you cannot do the job or you end up in a toxic environment? Now you are suddenly job hunting a second time in a short period, impacting your job history, your stability, and exposing you to all of the things that came up with fear.
          Six, career inertia. When I did start looking for new roles, I know for certain there were cases where I was passed over because my current salary was so far below their pay range (so they assumed I was badly under-qualified). And because I had been at my current role too long, causing them to think I was unable to develop my skills and advance to a new role. Combined with all of the other issues, this made it that much more difficult to move on.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            Yes to ALL of this. I am kinda sorta looking right now and my biggest hold ups are pretty much everything you say here (that and not really finding anything that is a good step forward yet, which I’m holding out for at this point.) Your employees may be happy with you, or they may just prefer the Devil they know for the moment.

            If you are fine with being The Devil You Know then just keep on with your attitude, just know you’re still a devil, not an opportunity.

        11. nom de plume*

          People stick around for lots of reasons that have nothing to do with satisfaction. Inertia is a force of physics, you know.
          Here are just a few, though: 1) no time to job search; 2) living at subsistence wage level (this is a fascinating Marxist concept that still applies); 3) not having the tools to successfully job search; 4) rigid economic or family circumstances that don’t favour moving (for now); 5) I could go on.

          OP, your answers here are deeply defensive, but they’re also misguided: you’re basing your “reasoning” on incorrect metrics. Your analysis is flawed.

        12. Not So NewReader*

          Do you make all your ethics decisions in the same manner with the same criteria of “getting away with something”?
          Are normal things that everyone in society faces a personal affront to you, the same as employees pay coming out of your personal wallet?

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      I would strongly suggest those two employees start job-searching. There are likely greener pastures out there.

      1. EmKay*

        Seriously. I hope beyond hope that they read this letter and realize it’s from their crappy boss, gleefully announcing to the world that she can screw over her employees by even one dollar, by golly she will, so there!

        Ugh.

    3. DerJungerLudendorff*

      Good point!

      And that also means they’re bragging about something they haven’t actually done in almost a decade. It’s like the employer version of outdated advice from your parents. Except not even with good intentions.

      1. OP*

        Actually – a clarification
        One employee did actually leave about 3 years ago (for health, family reasons) and we hired someone else. Who only stayed for about a year, and then left. But happily, old employee was then able and keen to return!
        Which doesn’t really fit with the image here of us as arrogant heartless ogres……

        1. Anonnnnn*

          Doesn’t matter. You’re still taking advantage of people. The employee isn’t aware of your manipulation, and that’s sad, but it doesn’t prove anything.

        2. Kiwiii*

          Sounds like you’re a little jaded by the employee who left after a year, poor you :( Using an example of an ex-employee who’s gone through a crisis and willing to come back at whatever you deign to pay them isn’t the shining star you seem to think it is.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Exactly – she probably came back if it was the only place she could work and needed a check (medical bills are not cheap).

            1. Kiwiii*

              I know I’ve gone back to Terrible jobs, because I was in a place where I 1) needed the job right that second and 2) figured it was easier to deal with problems I already knew about than figure out a whole new company

        3. yala*

          Hey, question:

          how thrilled would your Awesome And Happy employees be if they found out that you had been willing to pay them $4k a year more, but just decided not to?

        4. MuchNope*

          It’s the image you have presented here. Maybe you should be having this ‘conversation’ with someone who can help you. I don’t think painting a target on yourself and crying about the hit points is going to solve your problem with hostility toward normal business expenses and living wages.

        5. PollyQ*

          As a medical doctor, what would you think of a study that had only 4 participants over 15 years? Would that seem like a valid sample size to draw any reasonable conclusions from? No? Then why in the world do you think your conclusions about your hiring experiences should carry any more validity?

          1. Cassandra*

            LOL. This doesn’t seem to me like a doctor who actually practices evidence-based medicine, because they’re not really referring to evidence when supporting their hiring practices.

        6. Tallulah in the Sky*

          I love how you “forgot” to mention you’ve had recently an employee who decided to leave only after a year, but used repeatedly your two long term employees as proof that you’re not so bad… The fact that you didn’t even mention why they left makes me very suspicious, since your post and comments have shown us you like to use details to your advantage. Could it be that the reason that other employee left was because of your unethical practices ?

        7. DerJungerLudendorff*

          So you did it once in a decade, and that employee left in a year.
          That is not a track record I would build my business philosophy around, or feel satisfied about myself.

    4. Betty*

      I know, I was really confused by this! The LW “always” hides salary information but hires about once a decade? Huh?

      I won’t apply to anywhere that’s cagey about salary if I have any choice about it. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and I am just totally fed up of it. It reminds me of when that book The Rules seemed like actual dating advice.

      1. so many questions*

        Right- this woman is confident enough to say she has a total comprehension of hiring practices, based on three employees in 15 years. The hubris is overwhelming.

    5. BRR*

      I noticed this as well and was going to leave a comment if nobody beat me to it (it’s so hard to catch something new and important here :( ). The LW’s approach is awful but also inapplicable in my opinion. It’s like someone giving job search advice from someone who hasn’t job hunted or hired in the past twenty years.

      “and both seem very happy.” Frankly, given the LW’s views on pay I have to wonder how happy these employees are? And would they still be happy reading this letter?

      “The money comes directly from our pockets.” No, the money comes from the business’ pocket. You’re no personally paying them. I know it’s easier said than done and to think of the business separately (and it’s also complicated because you can’t always think of the business separately like employees at a larger employer), but I’m rarely left with a good taste in my mouth from people who see their business and them self as essentially the same entity. Yes you’re the owner and that inherently makes it different, but your staff things of the business as just a business. There is risk and reward with ownership.

      1. Sparrow*

        But even if it was coming from their personal pocket, why are they more deserving of having it in their pocket than the (I’d imagine much lower-paid) employee, who presumably does work – work OP probably lacks the time or perhaps expertise for – necessary to keep the business functioning? If OP needs them to keep the place running, OP should pay them accordingly. Without them, OP would have no money coming into their pocket, either.

    6. snoopythedog*

      I was waiting for someone to point this out!

      Dude (98% sure this is a dude based on tone alone) hasn’t hired since a recession but think they can preach their outdated hiring practices and shitty employer attitude.

    7. Double A*

      Sadly their workers have probably lost tens of thousands of dollars in compensation due to this. They were probably hired for fair recession pay (i.e. after a desperate job search they took what they could get because A job was better than no job), and then have stuck around partly because they are still somewhat traumatized from the recession and are in the mindset that job hunts are terrifying and desperate, and their wages have grown from that depressed base, if they have grown much at all.

      I hope this employer’s employees start looking and realizing they can probably get a big pay bump if they move on.

    8. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Unleeeeeeeeessss…

      LW currently has two employees, with long tenure, and is continually hiring for the other two empty spots, which she often fills, but only for a short time before the new hire leaves for greener pastures. LW has not joined the dots.

      1. OP*

        Huh? what 2 empty spots?
        And there are a lot of (at times rabid) assumptions. Like that we haven’t regularly given raises (we have) and that our employees are traumatized . Jeez.

        1. Ethyl*

          It really concerns me that you are a medical professional, because your reading comprehension is extremely lacking.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          we hired someone else. Who only stayed for about a year, and then left.

          You posted the above after I posted mine. I don’t consider it a rebuttal.

    9. Willis*

      Even discounting changing economic conditions, two hires in 15 years is a really small sample size to be drawing conclusions enough to email them out to as fact. Maybe the ranges these two hires stated was within market rate for the job and something OP was willing to pay (and hopefully not arbitrarily paying one more than the other). But that’s two people. It hardly extrapolates to every hiring instance to even make it worth stating (other than, I guess, to see some weird reasons employers use to rationalize not telling people salary).

    10. iglwif*

      Yeah, this is an important point. Anyone who did their last round of hiring between 2008 and 2012 almost certainly has some stuff to learn about hiring in 2020…

    11. Malarkey01*

      THIS! It’s like my neighbor who remodeled his deck and now thinks he’s so experienced that he can provide advise on my $100 million dollar commercial construction projects. Yes Jerry I understand your deck came in on time and under budget but I do not have time to go to Home Depot and personally supply all the nails for my skyscraper during a Black Friday sale.

      It’s a little outrageously funny that someone who has hired 3 people in 10 years thinks they have valuable hiring advise to share. Bless their hearts.

    12. LookingAgain*

      Right?! “The last time I went to see a Broadway play was when Obama was first elected …. let me tell you ALL about how to get great Hamilton seats!”

  8. ChemistryChick*

    I wish I could issue responses like this as well as Alison does. Respectful and on-point, but with that unmistakable edge of a rebuke.

    1. ChemistryChick*

      I also wonder if this employer tries to forbid their employees from discussing salaries and benefits with each other. In my experience, the salary question and this behavior go hand in hand.

      1. MayLou*

        One of my favourite parts of my job is when I have to write forceful, factual and slightly acerbic letters explaining that someone has done something unacceptable which damages my clients’ interests, and what they should do to put things right. I definitely have honed my writing skills by reading this site!

    2. CoveredInBees*

      Yes! One of the reasons that I read her stuff is balancing rebuke with thoughtful response. Sometimes deeply compassionate to people who I wouldn’t be as kind to. Lots for me to learn from.

  9. Count Boochie Flagrante*

    You ask –

    if we can get away with paying $20/hour instead of $22/hour, why wouldn’t we?

    And then in your same letter, you mention a candidate agreeing to $22 per hour but continuing to job hunt because they wanted $24 per hour.

    I feel like you answered your own question. The reason you shouldn’t pay people the absolute minimum you can “get away” with is retention. If you pay less than they’re worth, they will leave — and you’re not going to fool people into thinking they’re worth less because you play stupid games with what your position can pay.

    1. fposte*

      Expand that to other skills, too–if you’re paying $20, what candidates are taking your job if $22 is available elsewhere? Not the most knowledgeable or capable ones.

    2. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      This is an excellent reply. You are absolutely right that the key to retaining good employees, is to pay them what they are worth. The best measure of an employee’s worth is what others will pay them to do the same work.

    3. Oh No She Di'int*

      Agreed. This is why you actually want to pay as close to the top of your range as you sustainably can get away with, not the bottom.

      1. TootsNYC*

        actually, advertise for $20/hour, and hire someone good for $22. And then they won’t leave right away.

        1. TootsNYC*

          or advertise for $20/hour, hire for $20/hour, and offer a shot at a raise to $21 or $22 at six months.

          Pay market rate, and disclose first.

    4. Kate R*

      Exactly. That line stuck out to me too, and besides just, “You should respect your employees and pay them what they are worth”, why would the OP think convincing people to accept lower pay means they are going to stick around? Giving people less information to work with just delays their ability to make a decision about what works for them. Allowing someone to self-select out early in the process requires less investment from the OP than actually having someone start the position, go through training, and then realize they can be making more money for the same job elsewhere.

      I also wasn’t sure what her point was regarding candidates wanting $24/hr but accepting $22/hour unless she meant if a candidate says $24/hr upfront, the OP can then be the one to tell them it isn’t going to work rather than allowing that candidate to bail later in the process. That’s a great way to lose good candidates. People factor in a lot more than just salary when deciding to take a position, location, experience, flexibility, etc. So good candidates may actually be perfectly happy with a lower salary if the other compensation is beneficial to them.

      1. Clisby*

        Yes – which is why those other factors should be mentioned in job postings also. It doesn’t have to be exhaustive. Something like 401k, employer-provided health insurance, X number of holidays and Y amount of PTO, and Z amount of sick leave. Flextime, possibility of remote work, parental leave, etc. All of those matter, and even if the candidates don’t know exactly how much they’re worth, they could figure into whether they want to proceed with applying.

    5. MonteCristo85*

      These kinds of statements raise serious concerns about the person’s character. The question boils down to, “doesn’t every do whatever they can get away with?” Do you want your employees to only put in the smallest amount of effort they have to not to get fired? Getting away with things shouldn’t be the goal.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        THIS. It’s like the people who do something shitty, but try to justify it by saying, “Well, it’s not illegal, so…”

        Completely misses the point. Character matters.

    6. Triumphant Fox*

      Yes. My father owns a small business. The money he pays his employees also, in theory, comes “directly from his pocket” yet he pays way over market rate for every position. Why? He hates training, loves his people and cares a lot about his company’s reputation. They have all been there 20 or 15 years and he gets them the absolute best he can manage, especially great health care. His office is crazy beautiful in a blue collar industry where most places are dens of sadness and fluorescent lights. He doesn’t see his employees as family – he knows they aren’t – but he does see them as really essential to his business’ success. My dad is the personality and the salesman, but they are all the ones who make sure the trains run on time and every customer who calls gets a lovely, competent person on the other end willing to solve their problem.

      This LW’s attitude baffles me. People don’t stay in bad jobs, or at least they don’t stay happy. I don’t want to go to your office and be greeted by a beleaguered front desk person. I want them to be happy to help me because they are satisfied with their job.

      1. Salsa Your Face*

        Yep. I think people often forget what “human resources” means. The humans who work for a company are RESOURCES. Just like supplies, just like equipment. Business owners who know not to skimp on machinery that will easily break or ingredients that will taste bad often don’t consider that skimping on their employees leads to employees who don’t care about their jobs.

    7. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      Really, the question OP is asking there is “why should I give myself a $4k paycut when a prospective employee is seemingly happy without that money?”

      And the answer here is: diminishing returns, and a sense of ethics. Truly.

      I speak from a place of personal experience here because my husband and I own a business, we pay employees, and the net income from that business supports our family. At the end of the day, making an additional $4k (less, after income tax) in a year is not material to us, given that our business gave us a net income of over $200k last year, not to mention my own personal salary at my corporate job. We don’t need that money. It is worth SO much more to the people we employ.

      Of course we have our own financial goals (children’s eventual college, retirement, buying a “forever home” in a decade maybe, expanding the business and needing liquid cash to do that etc…) but for us there is a cap of what makes sense for us to take home. The rest can go to higher employee salaries, being able to provide healthcare, giving back to the community. Being a successful business owner to us comes with a moral imperative to take care of the people involved in that business, be they the employees who help make the business successful or the community who patronize the business and keep it going.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Everyone is going to be checking to see if they actually know this person or do business with this person.

  10. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

    Alison, you are a real treasure.

    LW, your ideas about out-gaming your potential employees here really makes me question your claim about being such a great employer. I’m sure you have plenty of experiencing managing your budget, so why not let that drive your starting point for a salary negotiation, and then engage in good faith? You can look for a good deal when you order post-its and syringes, but there are no 15% off coupons in hiring.

    1. Mama Bear*

      This letter also makes me wonder what else they are cutting corners on. Do the only offer high deductible junk healthcare? Do they get away with 2 weeks’ PTO a year? Do people get raises? (Which is problematic in itself if they were lowballed upfront.)

      One of the reasons I applied for my current job was I knew they had a history of fair pay and good benefits. People stay where they are valued.

      1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

        Others have pointed out that the LW hasn’t actually hired anyone in 8 years, so I think we’re seeing a holdover attitude from a time when employees were desperate because the job market was saturated and employers held all the cards. I think in the current job market, this attitude is likely to turn away more candidates than it attracts and lead to serious employee retention issues.

          1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

            again, easier to reach out to previous employer to go back to what worked than go into a full search.

            You said yourself they left for family reasons – not another job. Entirely different dynamic.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Also, when I worked at Evil Law Firm many years ago, I had a coworker leave and we all celebrated because she had been there four years as a temp (no joke) and that place was a hellhole – she came back a month later. Why? The new firm she went to work for had much higher metrics for quality than our firm did, and my coworker was known for her speed, but not for her accuracy or quality, and she couldn’t keep up at her new employer. Had she stayed with them, she would have been fired after her probationary period, so she cut her losses early and crawled back to Evil Law Firm.

            2. Anonnnnn*

              For all OP knows, that employee came back with the intention of using it as an interim job while they continue to search for new jobs.

                1. Anonnnnn*

                  It’s taken me longer than that to find a replacement for a job. You aren’t convincing anyone here.

      2. blackcat*

        Or…. is their medical equipment adequately up to date? Do they pay for record systems that make it easy for patients to access their information? Do they overbill in hopes of making more money?

        This attitude gets a lot scarier when you realize it’s in health care….

    2. nom de plume*

      “There are no 15% off coupons in hiring.” Everything you say is so, so right.
      This reply is outstanding!

    3. Triplestep*

      I don’t wonder about these things, but I DO wonder if this OP is one of those employers who behaves as though the employees should be thanking their lucky stars that they get to work there, all while keeping score around things like arrival times, leave times, break and lunch lengths, etc. All while telling the 8 and 15 year employees “We’re a family!”

      1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

        Oh yeah, I imagine LW believes she is the only one who is allowed to cheat in this game. The idea that employees might “steal” from her by taking a 5-minute-too-long lunch break has surely come up.

      2. OP*

        Nope. No “family” nonsense. But we care about them, have dealt with significant sick leaves over the years, regularly give raises and bonuses.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Providing sick leave (including extended leave) and raises is kind of a minimal bar there. I realize a lot of businesses still don’t clear it, but this isn’t the glowing endorsement you seem to think it is.

        2. Triplestep*

          You care about them but you knowingly undercut them on their starting salary. The reason starting salary is so important is because every raise is based on it. That’s why people are advised to negotiate because you can never really make up for starting low unless you change jobs Your employer is not going to give you a 20% bump, for example, but a NEW employer might. For someone who is worried about losing employees, I would think this would have occurred to you.

          It’s odd to me that your letter is written as though you have read this blog and know Alison’s position on stating salary ranges, but you don’t seem to be well-versed in the kinds of things that are discussed here. You seem like my sister-in-law – before marrying my brother (a doctor) she held retail jobs. After marrying him she had kids and stayed home with them, and then after two decades she became his practice manager. She never in her life interviewed for an office or salaried job and has this very skewed view of “what a boss is”. She, too, would say she is self taught, but she’s missing a critical piece of life experience.

          If this describes you – someone who was thrust into this role by virtue of your relationship with the doctor, but have never been in the shoes of the people you interview and hire – I would suggest reading this blog while trying to place yourself in the position of the staff – not managers. Consider it part of your education.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          You care about them.
          Except when it comes to paying them.
          Except when it comes to respecting them. (they are ripping you off and comparable to garage sale bargains)
          Except when it comes to talking about them on the internet in a space that is read by millions of people WORLDWIDE. So now the whole world knows you think they came down with yesterday’s rain.

  11. Youngin*

    Yikes. Me thinks the letter writer wont change, and he/she seem…unpleasant. Their attitude is exactly why the shift is happening. Her letter just reads like “If I can cheat them out of money they are worth, why wouldnt I?! Im not BIG BUSINESS I’m little business so it’s ok.”

    1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      right! This whole things reads, like “I am better at the game, so why would I consider anything else (like the law, fairness, market salary, general ethical business practices…)

    2. West Coast Reader*

      If you operate like this when you’re small, chances are that you’ll operate the same way if you’re a big corporation. You’d probably be better at cheating money from your employees actually. Money only makes you more of who you are.

      1. Youngin*

        Agree with both of you. Also after rereading it (for Alisons amazing response) this stood out

        “I became a small business owner/employer having received no training in that aspect of things”

        …we can tell OP, we can tell.

        1. Rebecca*

          Yep. And not only did she not bother to acquire that training in any kind of formal sense, she’s contacted someone who gives away reliable authoritative advice for free to gloat about how she’s ignoring that advice because she thinks she knows better. The arrogance is breathtaking.

        2. Campfire Raccoon*

          “I became a small business owner/employer having received no training in that aspect of things”

          You don’t say?

          1. Fieldpoppy*

            Um, any number of programs that teach leadership and small business management, including, in my province, the College of Physicians and Surgeons?

      2. Not So NewReader*

        A hard agree WCR, how we handle the small stuff is a predictor of how we will handle the big stuff.
        A person either strives to be ethical in everything or they fail to be ethical in everything. One or the other.

  12. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Your biggest mistake here was announcing you are “getting away” with something.

    You literally admit you know what you’re doing is wrong, but you’re doing it anyway because you can.

    You are not an honest, ethical employer.

    1. Amber T*

      Right. This line makes my skin crawl.

      If market rate is $22, and you can truly only afford to pay $20, you’re gonna miss out on some higher level candidates but there are still going to be people who need the job. But if you *can* pay the $22, but hey let’s pad our pockets with the extra $2 because Sheila only asked for $20… that’s highly unethical, in bad taste, and (to repeat what I already said above), plain ol’ crap.

    2. Triplestep*

      She is an EXCELLENT employer – she says so herself! Hasn’t had to hire anyone in 8 years, but is a self-taught expert and can’t wait to tell you all about it!

    3. Alison for President*

      Really makes you wonder how this mentality can coexist with one that allows them to be a successful “medical professional.” Yikes.

  13. Roscoe*

    Man, I’ll be honest, even if some of your points are valid, you sound pretty insufferable as a boss.

    ‘If I can pay them less than they are worth, why shouldn’t I’ is a pretty awful way to look at the people you employ.

    You also seem like the type to say “We here at the practice of Smith and Jones are a family”. Then at the same time not give raises, but get mad when you find out someone is looking for a new job. You seem look at this as you are providing them the honor of working for you, and not as a business transaction where you are trying to keep good people.

    But based on your tone and the subject line, maybe you are just the type of person to not care about anyone but yourself.

    1. Triplestep*

      Goodness, I said nearly the same thing upthread using different words. (I like yours better). And once it was disclosed further up that OP is a woman, I’m now getting “family business” vibes (As in OP is not the medical professional but she is related to him and manages the practice.)

      1. Elsajeni*

        The OP says in her letter that she is a medical professional. It is bizarre and sexist to decide that, now that you know she’s a woman, she must actually be the medical professional’s wife.

        1. Triplestep*

          I calls them as I sees them. Have you ever met a woman who never interviewed for an office job herself but now runs her husband’s office and becomes”self taught” about something with which she has little (or no) lived experience? I am related to one such woman and know a few others.

          Yes, I did think OP was a man because more hiring managers are men, and more administrative staff members are women. But I should have paid closer attention because the term “medical professional” was the tell. Doctors come right out and say they are doctors. And before you accuse me of generalizing once again, do a ‘net search on the study that showed doctors expect special treatment even AT HOME and a rather high percentage get up and walk away from the family dinner table without so much as clearing their own dish. An OP gloating about undercutting her employee’s salaries would most certainly have stated so if she was a doctor.

      2. dani*

        OMG . You are getting the vibes that she is not the medical professional? Why? Simply because you don’t like her business sense?

        Up-thread, she was so terrible she MUST have been a terrible MAN, now that you have been corrected it’s “Oh it is a woman? She couldn’t possibly be anyone of importance.

        Please stop it. This conversation has nothing to do with whether op is man, woman, or leper, and your constant comments regarding the gender of the op is gross.

        1. Triplestep*

          Yes, first I thought she was a man taking advantage of women, and then I thought she was a woman taking advantage of other women, and further, that she may not have that much experience being an office employee herself. And that makes me … what did you call me that got deleted? Disgusting Sexist. For wanting women not to be undercut in their salaries. Really?

          For what it’s worth, I believe that the OP is a “medical professional”. A practice manager IS a “medical professional.” They don’t see patients, though. I worked in Health Care but you just have to be an adult in our culture to know that doctors and nurses call themselves “doctor” and “nurse”. I am guessing OP is not the reason patients come to the office. It’s actually pretty common in family-owned practices for for a relative to head up the admin staff, and since administrative managers are disproportionately women … just do the math.

          I don’t know what is so terrible about pointing out the likelihood of this being the scenario based on the info provided. Sometimes things are exactly what they seem, even if they seem like an unfair stereotype; not everything deserves all the hand-wringing. And the only reason any of this matters is because it would explain the knowledge gap about good hiring practices. If the OP recognizes herself in what I’ve written as someone who hasn’t lived the experience of the people she’s hiring, then that’s a good thing ultimately, right?

          1. LunaLena*

            You can be sexist in one way without being sexist in a myriad of other ways, just like people can be racist to black people and Hispanic people while holding up Asians as model minorities. Your insistence that this letter must conform to specific gender roles is what makes your comment sexist. 93% of head chefs in the US are male, but that doesn’t mean ALL chefs are male, after all. I wouldn’t say your comment is a particularly egregious example and I probably would have passed it by if you hadn’t doubled down, but it’s still sexist.

            Dunno why you’re so insistent on arguing about the role the OP occupies in the office anyways. Regardless of whether she is a man, woman, doctor, office manager, or lucky relative who was given a cushy job, what she is describing is very unethical, and that is the point of this whole discussion.

  14. TechWoman*

    My tech company was concerned there might be pay discrepancies as it grew from a handful of employees to a few hundred. They commissioned an outside audit to come in and look at everyone’s salaries. Yep, they discovered, men were making more than women on average. (And this is a very fair and ethical company). They took immediate action in not allowing recruiters to ask salary history. They then established a pay band for each position and brought everyone to 75% of their pay band. They also don’t negotiate at the offer stage–either you accept or you don’t.

    All of these are reasons I plan on staying a long time and encourage other people to apply.

    1. Roscoe*

      I think a lot of that is good. But I’m not a fan of not negotiating at the offer stage. If they aren’t willing to even entertain ANY negotiations, that seems like being a bit too rigid to me. Like, its one thing to say “we can’t go higher than this on salary”. Its another to say “we won’t listen to any counter offers to show your added value to our company”

      1. TechWoman*

        It’s because studies have shown white males are more willing and more successful at negotiating. A lot of women don’t do it or are unfairly maligned when they do.

        They are confident their offer is fair. They communicate the range at the first screening. When I did my interview, they weren’t sure if their offer would come in at senior or intermediate level. I told them I wouldn’t accept less than senior. So I’m that way I negotiated but the final offer was firm.

        1. Roscoe*

          So maybe I wasn’t clear in my response. I don’t mind not negotiating on salary. If you tell someone your range is 60-70k, and you offer them 70k, I can understand not going above that. However, negotiations don’t necessarily stop there. After you learn more about the job, I think its fair to ask for other benefits. Whether that is more vacation, work from home privileges, signing bonuses, etc. So annual salary isn’t the ONLY thing that can be negotiated. But I think not being willing to negotiate ANYTHIGN is a bit much

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Agreed. I would at least want more vacation time if they couldn’t budge anymore on salary.

          2. TechWoman*

            True, but I have very generous PTO, complete work from home, insurance premiums 100% covered, stock options, bonuses and many other things. They are quite serious in making the best offer and making sure all their employees have the same benefits. There really is no negotiating on the big stuff.

            All of this is laid out in the screening so there’s no surprises at offer stage.

        2. mrs__peel*

          There was a recent study showing that women *do* ask for (e.g.) raises at similar rates to men, they just get denied them more often. The problem is not women’s willingness to negotiate, it’s devaluation of women’s abilities and work in general.

      2. Tuppence*

        To me, negotiating at offer stage when an organisation has been upfront about salary from the start, is kind of acting in bad faith? Like, if we say from the beginning the salary for this role is $60-65k, and you go through the recruitment process then say you want 75k because of your ‘added value’ – well, if we had advertised at 75K we would have had a different candidate pool from the start, right? You were competing against $65k candidates, and now you want us to flex for you because you came out at the top of that pool. That annoys me.

        Mind you, I’m in the UK nonprofit sector, so YMMV.

        1. TechWoman*

          Yes, for me the “negotiating” was at the initial screening. They clearly gave the range and they asked if that would work for me. They also laid out all the benefits so I had a clear idea of what I would and wouldn’t accept and if I should move forward.

        2. MonteCristo85*

          I would agree with you on this point, unless the candidate mentioned their additional level of experience at the time of the salary discussion and made it clear they would need more to continue. But I think bringing it up only at the last minute is acting in bad faith.

        3. Trout 'Waver*

          The difference is that you know the job and the candidate doesn’t at the onset. There are jobs where I would be happy working for $10k less than others that look the same on paper. If the candidate thinks $65k would be fair if everything else was perfect, but then learns some details during the process that makes them think they would need $75k, would you rather they speak up and say so or just slink away quietly?

          1. MonteCristo85*

            I would want them to speak up before the offer, as in during the interview when they were coming to this conclusion.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              There is a huge information disparity in play. It’s perfectly sensible for the candidates to get as much information as possible before possibly ending negotiations.

              1. MonteCristo85*

                I guess I’m seeing a space in time between the last interview and the offer. In my own personal experience that has been at least a week (one time it was 3 months). So I would have thought you’d have the time to get all the information to digest and determine if the stated salary works for you or not, before waiting until the letter actually arrives. During that time a lot of other candidates may slip away. But that’s my preference, I don’t think this is a character issue or anything, nor would I permanently hold it against the applicant.

          2. Tuppence*

            In my experience, when this has happened it’s not “now that I know more about the job, I believe the market rate is more like $X”, it’s been more like “oh yeah by the way I’m currently on $X so I’d need at least that to accept”. So they’ve known from the outset the salary they’re willing to accept.

      3. Jules the 3rd*

        My employer (large fortune 500 tech) does not negotiate when you are first hired by the company. Everyone who is first hired at a certain level (band) gets the same initial rate.

        If you are worth more, then you can apply for higher band positions.

        Internal is different, more room to negotiate, but it’s good to have everyone doing similarly-skilled jobs starting at the same pay level.

      4. Washi*

        I’ve always assumed that negotiation of an offer is not based on you suddenly giving the employer new information of what your value is (which presumably they already know from the interview?) but on the premise that the employer IS going to lowball you and you have to negotiate up. If there’s truly no lowballing involved then I’m not sure what the need for negotiation would be.

    2. Kage*

      The not negotiating at the offer seems strange. I mean, if they have a band/range, that clearly isn’t a set single figure. If we’re in preliminary discussions and you say the range is $60-65k, I’m going to be looking at that overall range for if it would work for me (including potentially the idea of getting up towards the top of it). But the realities of it working will always depend heavily on the benefit package/costs as well (which usually aren’t fully shared until the offer stage). I don’t think it’s bad-faith to say that the preliminary range works for me but then try to negotiate from your offer of $62k up towards the $65k cap (and/or once I get all the details)? For example, if I made $58k and paid $3k annually for my insurance (i.e. net $55k), I might not be happy/interested to jump to a place with an offer of $62k with paying $5k annually for insurance (i.e. net $57k) whereas I might be happy with the base being $65k then (i.e. net $60k).

      I feel like there has to be a mid-point/compromise where there’s a clearly communicated range/cap but then each candidate can potentially negotiate within the range based on their own value to the company…

      1. TechWoman*

        But that’s where the biases comes into play. You’re paying more based on a candidates willingness to negotiate versus their actual market value. Many studies have shown some demographics aren’t as successful at negotiating. Women are seen as overly aggressive versus men as knowing their value.

    3. miss_chevious*

      My company does an external audit every year to pin salaries to local market rates and to ensure gender and racial equity. It’s a great feeling to know that you’re getting paid fairly and so are all of your coworkers.

  15. Sadie D*

    Based on what you said, you haven’t actually hired anyone in several years.

    You are going to get a well-deserved nasty shock the next time you try.

    1. SunnySideUp*

      What I was thinking. Are you currently hiring, OP, or did you last get away with undercutting someone 8 years ago?

    2. OP*

      Clarified above. One employee did leave a few years ago, so hiring required, but then new employee left, and old one returned.

      1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

        and was there negotiation of the job, or simply a return at the same salary as before?

        Are their raises even keeping up with inflation?

      2. Sleve McDichael*

        Right, so you’re telling us that aside from the poor two people you employed during the recession and Stockholm Syndomed into staying with you, the only person you’ve employed with these tactics since the recession decided you weren’t paying them enough to stay (after all we all have a price) and then left? Ok mate.

      3. Des*

        But wait… according to your principle, they couldn’t leave for a better offer because they told you the payrate at the interview. Isn’t them leaving exactly what you were trying to prevent with your “method”? Looks like it’s not fool proof!

  16. Clare*

    This isn’t preaching, at least from my UK perspective. The writer appears to have been boasting and challenging a more balanced viewpoint that he at least is aware exists. Alison is doing him a favour explaining exactly why and how he’s likely to get bitten. Would it be better to allow his sense of entitlement to go unchallenged and get him into serious trouble, that will ironically cost him far more than getting it right in the first place?

    1. Preach it*

      I’m not 100% sure what you are trying to respond to given you’ve failed to nest your comment, but if it was the initial PREACH comment, you’ve clearly misunderstood the meaning. It’s a cheer not a rebuke!

    2. Marthooh*

      It’s just a bit of US slang: shouting “Preach!” is equivalent to “Bravo!” Or in this case “Brava!”

      1. (insert name here)*

        Or even, bravo, plus more. It means agreement, plus a bit of a “don’t stop, keep going”, like shouting “Encore!” at the end of a concert.

    3. sequined histories*

      The U. S. has a tradition in which the congregants loudly shout out their encouragement and agreement with the pastor as he preaches the sermon. This doesn’t happen in every denomination or every church, but it is a widespread tradition, familiar to many. To find a subgenre of jokes based on this practice, google “You done quit preachin’ and gone to meddlin’ now.”

  17. on the 3s*

    When I was being recruited, one of the companies asked for my CURRENT salary. I has just finished a professional degree, in order to make much more than I was currently making. I left it blank and submitted it. The recruiter called me back and said “just one little thing, we need your current salary.” She got an earful I’m not sure she expected, I covered that my current pay had nothing to do with the fair market salary for the job I was being considered for, that this policy is harmful to people who are already underpaid (POC and women) and perpetuates all the negative things certain populations have to deal with. I said I wasn’t even interested in working for a company with such a backwards culture, as it predicted other wildly inappropriate HR and policy issues. I withdrew my interest in the position and landed a job where my salary negotiations were handled in a systematic way, with a clear path to progression in salary and role.
    Keep saying no to these dinosaurs, they’ll die off faster that way.

      1. on the 3s*

        She said her hands were tied, this was the company policy, etc. I said you will only find subpar and/or desperate candidates with this policy, so I would petition HR to consider WHY this is being asked, and the ramifications. I didn’t even know the equal pay act angle or I would have hit her with that.
        As an aside, she tried to play up the great company culture of them all getting drinks together, which is my idea of VERY BAD company culture.
        I purposely got an advanced degree in an in demand field, so I don’t know what they’re playing at with that silliness.

        1. mrs__peel*

          What a sales pitch.

          “Well, the pay is terrible, BUT you’ll get to spend every day in a drunken frat house!!”

    1. Stormy Weather*

      Good for you. When I moved from a southern state to the northeast people kept trying to pay me based on the salary in a state with a much lower cost of living. I got very tired of explaining they should be paying me the market rate for where I was currently living.

      I ended up with a great job with a considerable increase.

      1. Miss May*

        I’m so scared of this! I’m looking at rent in the area I want to move to and its DOUBLE what I’m currently paying (admittedly, I live in a very low COL area). Its super fun to see that there might be employers out there trying to scam me out of my rightful pay.

        1. Ella bee bee*

          I moved from a rural area in the Midwest with an extremely low cost of living, to a big city where my one bedroom apartment costs twice as much as my three bedroom duplex in previous state. When I was asked salary expectations I knew there would be an increase in living costs and asked for a number that I thought reflected that. Turns outs I did my research wrong and the number I gave was $20,000 less than what the position paid! Thank goodness I work for honest people and they immediately told me that the position paid way more. Once I moved I realized that the amount I initially asked for wouldn’t have worked at all.

      2. LCH*

        in the event of this, would it be fair or shady to use a COL change calculator to come up with the number, assuming it is an online form that won’t let you submit without? or use that number with the caveat that it has been adjusted for the new location COL?

        1. DerJungerLudendorff*

          If it’s about tricking online forms like that to get to talk to an actual human, then I wouldn’t mind a white lie every now and then.
          They shouldn’t be asking for this in the first place, and the new locations COL is a better reflection of your actual salary requirements.

    2. twig*

      Someone on a search committee that I coordinated actually said: “If we don’t know their current salary, how do we know how much to pay them?”

      I wasn’t able to pick my jaw up off the floor quickly enough to explain to them before the conversation moved forward. (also — this person had no say in what the new hire would be paid, fortunately)

  18. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Alison – you amaze me every day when you don’t reply to letters like this with incoherent screaming.

    I’d be willing to bet a significant sum of money that the LW is a doctor with a god complex.

    1. Well, there's this*

      A long time ago I worked help desk for a company that sold medical claims processing software. It was not uncommon for doctors with god complexes to call us in a screaming (literally) panic because their biller had ‘just quit and walked out with no notice’ and they had no idea what to do. It was hard to feel any compassion for the doctors. Sixty seconds on the phone with them and you knew why their biller left.

    2. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

      You know the difference between God and a doctor?

      God doesn’t think he’s a doctor.

  19. Candid Candidate*

    Tl;dr: “I’m a cheapskate who doesn’t want to pay my employees what they’re worth, so there”

    I wonder how your employees would feel if they knew you wrote this letter to AAM, OP. If you’re this stubbornly committed to hiring practices that harm candidates, I really wonder whether your employees love you as much as you think they do.

  20. annewithanE*

    i’m in a field that makes it necessary for me to know the salaries of others, and what alison said is true to my experience across three different companies. women and people of color are often paid less than men.

    as a woman in my twenties, this is why it’s so difficult for me to name the salary first. i’ve been in situations where men in similar positions, with similar education, similar experience, and similar performance reviews (also need to look at these for my job) to mine make a good deal more than i do.

    i just want to be paid what’s fair, not $2 less if you can “get away with it”.

  21. (insert name here)*

    The longevity of your staff is not a good way to determine if you are a good employer.

    One of the most toxic companies I’ve worked for had a significant portion of their staff that generally stayed 20+ years in the same role. They offered good benefits and many of those long term employees had been hired straight out of high school or college. They mostly didn’t job hunt because they didn’t know how. Everyone was miserable, but no one left.

    It was stagnant. Everyone was stagnant.

    1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      Hah, right? At OldJob, I worked in a department that had been largely unchanged for the last 9 years, and counted three team members who had been with that department (with very little career progression) for over 25 years.

      It was not something to boast about. Trying to make any changes or keep up with the times in even the most minor of ways was like pulling teeth.

      1. (insert name here)*

        Yes. And leaving that job after 9.5 years, I was so out of touch with professional norms that it was staggering. Long tenures can be yellow flags.

        1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          Yep. In hindsight, I count myself lucky that I was laid off after 4 years in that role. It was long enough that I’d gotten some process improvement achievements under my belt despite the massive inertia of the team, and not long enough for me to fall into that institutional rut.

          1. (insert name here)*

            Literally no one that I knew when I worked there has sense left that company. It’s not a good company.

      2. iglwif*

        Yep. Sometimes people stay for a long time because they’re happy, but sometimes they stay for a long time for reasons having nothing to do with whether they’re happy (inertia, fear of losing decent health insurance, convenient/accessible location, instability of spouse’s income, on-site daycare, etc.), and sometimes they stay because they’re not happy–because coping with their job literally drains all their energy and they’re too miserable and exhausted for the additional work of finding a new one.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      At my last toxic workplace (which I left many years ago), the people who had been there 10 + years were usually not the good employees – the good ones, like myself, were able to get jobs elsewhere and never looked back.

    3. CaliCali*

      This is like people who think the longevity of a marriage is a good indicator of its health. No, you can stay married and be in a toxic and miserable relationship! There are multiple factors that keep employees in one place — schedules, commutes, opportunity, personal fit for the work — that actually have nothing to do with how “great” of an employer you are.

    4. pope suburban*

      My toxic old job was that way too. It was another small business that leaned way too heavily on the excuses present in this letter, and as a result wickedly underpaid every single employee (save the boss and his favorite employee, argh). It was a lot of people’s first job out of school, which badly warped their perspective on what is normal and inevitable in a workplace. There were also employees who couldn’t get hired on anywhere else in their specialty (Construction) because they did not have the necessary skills. The whole place was an absolute mess and frankly, I don’t know how some of these people lasted 15-20 years because the place was full of bees…that were hybridized with velociraptors, and also on fire. No one actually likes it there, but I’m the only one who successfully made it out. I sincerely hope I never encounter any of them every again, in any context, but if I did and I asked? I’d bet nothing’s changed, simply because nothing ever had.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      This was OldExjob. One person in particular put up with the worst treatment imaginable because he was afraid he couldn’t find another job. It was so bad that I got secondhand anxiety from listening to his boss abuse him all day without being able to say or do a thing.

      Exjob had very long-tenured employees also, but the difference was like night and day. Individual managers could be an asset or a detriment; however, employees there were treated very well generally.

      This is why the “What happened to the person who used to have this job?” question is such a good one to ask in interviews. You can tell a lot about the company by the way they answer it.

      1. Scarlet*

        One time I asked that question in a job interview for an admin role and they got ALL OFFENDED like it was some massive faux pas to ask. Wouldn’t answer it, wouldn’t even entertain it. It was a “confidential personnel issue” and how dare I inquire. I was 17 and noted it in my mind “OK do not EVER ask that again”

        And then I started reading AAM and now I know (15 years later) that it’s OK to ask that question and the problem was with that one lady, never with me or my question lol

    6. Ashley*

      Yep I worked at a company like that. First job out of college. I stayed for 3 years when I should’ve left after the first year. A lot of the staff was miserable but felt that it would be too hard (or was too scared) to leave. Thank God I finally did.

    7. Wintermute*

      you know what else keeps things in place a long time? A grease trap.

      Companies can become like grease traps, you hire a crop of people, have a little turnover as the competent people with options leave, concentrating the dysfunction in the company/department. You hire a few more to replace the few that leave, and the best of those leave, and you get only the worst left.

      A few cycles of that combined with poor hiring (you know, like hiring at below market rates, basically ASKING for only the desperate or the incompetent that know a better-managed company would fire them one day) and you have nothing but people that either just plain suck, or ran face-first into the Peter Principle HARD and stagnated at a level where they’re marginally competent but can no longer advance.

      LW, is that the business you want? Populated only by people that are too incompetent to get a job elsewhere and too desperate to leave without one lined up?

    8. another scientist*

      That’s what I was thinking when I read this letter. OP, you aren’t getting away with it, you are getting by. There is an opportunity cost to this that you cannot see. Now, you didn’t mention whether your staff are both total gems, or barely do their job. But the quality of staff (both medical and clerical) so crucially affects the quality of treatment for patients in a small practice! You don’t know how many more patients you could reach, how many hours of headaches you could save with billing, how much happier/angrier patients could come out of your practice because they were expertly squeezed into the packed schedule or how the person taking their blood pressure was rude. Recommendations are gold. You have no idea how your business could take off (or how much easier your job could be) if you did some things differently.

      1. OP*

        GEMS both! And they know we think so. (the bonuses and raises help make that clear).
        There’s a lot of fantasizing going on here….
        I guess the tone of the letter was pretty snarky!

        1. another scientist*

          Thanks for responding, OP! Well, maybe it’s all good, and your pay is within market, and everything is just splendid. The tone of your letter was indeed implying a very different kind of work environment.

        2. Sigh*

          Look. This isn’t how you treat your employees once their on board. This isn’t about you trying to feel better about yourself because you offer the normal, expected benefits.

          This is about your willingness to manipulate people and treat them like OBJECTS. Be honest about salary, it doesn’t matter what the amount is. Decide what the position is going to pay, and respect people enough to decide if that’s enough for them. If you’re worried about someone leaving for a higher pay… well, that’s probably going to happen even if you DID raise it to $22/hr, because that’s a normal thing that occurs in business. Keep in mind that people also don’t mind taking pay CUTS to change their career or get away from an egotistical boss.

        3. AnotherAlison*

          I can see this. My mother recently retired from a 30+ year position because she liked a lot of things about it. She could have had more money and professional growth somewhere else, but she was happy.

          The problem I see for your office is that you don’t do much hiring or have a lot of turnover. You might have a blindspot to what you’re missing out on. I work in a very different field, but one example is that my former department heads insisted you needed all our engineers to be very experienced. My current department head has shown that we can utilize level 1 engineers for some of our work. It’s a broader discussion than just trying to cut the experienced people down a few bucks an hour.

          1. Willis*

            Yeah, honestly, discussing OP’s experience in hiring is pointless because it’s remarkably limited. One time 15-8 years ago she hired a couple people and asked them what salary they’d like. They gave a rate or range she agreed with and has since given them raises. Great. But, guess what, research has shown that on a macro-level, that way of doing things can screw people, particularly people of color and women. The OP can leave a million comments here saying how much these people love their jobs, how they are rewarded with great pay, etc. etc. It doesn’t make this a good practice on a larger level.

        4. Seacalliope*

          Hey, so OP, I get the sense from the tone of your comments that you have decided to laugh at all the comments that you perceive as pearl clutching and fantasizing. It’s entirely possible that your mean spirited and unethical low balling strategy for offering initial pay has actually netted out to mean very little in the long run — you compensated with raises, etc. But you still low balled them initially, potentially preventing your employees for building financial security, even if they didn’t realize it. It’s still an unethical practice that contributes overall to unequal pay throughout the country. And it’s actually really not funny that a large number of people are appalled by your practices, or that you have zero respect for the advice given to you today.

        5. Not So NewReader*

          OP, I think you are disconnected from the fact that you come across as having outdated thinking and you sound unwilling to even realize that people read you as being unethical.

          I think the fantasy started when you thought you could write a snarky letter and then nothing would happen. The fantasy continued when some of your replies are worse then your letter and you expected nothing would happen.

          Is this how your work place is? You say something snarky and nothing happens? I know plenty of places where people laugh on demand and otherwise tiptoe around the bosses because they need their checks.

          You felt free to be snarky with an extremely well-respected adviser, Alison. And you continued being snarky with commenters, saying things designed to provoke people.

          I am sorry, OP. I have to say this. You are the one with the fantasy. You think your employees will never see what you wrote here.

          Businesses that are set in their ways, set in their thinking end up going out of business. The businesses that survive are the ones that can flex with the times and adapt to current thinking. Period. And that is reality.

        6. Tedious Cat*

          The only fantasizing I see going on here is the OP talking about how she’s a great boss who values her employees.

    9. OP*

      Nope, not out of high school. Both experienced.
      One did have to leave for health/family reasons but then actually RETURNED

    10. Jh*

      Yep… I worked somewhere like that once. I was there for just over 3 years and it was insufferable.

      The people who had been there 10+ years were all miserable. Didn’t work efficiently. Complained about injustice a lot and got jealous if they didn’t get promoted or picked for projects. They held everything up and came in 2 hours late or were late for meetings.

      So glad I am out of there!

    11. 404UsernameNotFound*

      This. A friend of mine has been in the same company for over twenty years. Sounds great, right? Must be a fantastic company!
      Except, when I was in a role that was a particularly poor fit (read: I decided to quit when I had a breakdown at my desk), I was discussing next steps (i.e. leaving) with my mentor. I said, lightly paraphrased, “if I wanted the kind of experience this job is giving me, I’d go to [Friend’s Company].” Low turnover might mean you have a fantastic company that no-one wants to leave… or it could mean that there’s no room for career development, there’s personal circumstances that stop your employees from leaving, or the atmosphere of the company has them trapped via a sense of misplaced loyalty or survivor’s guilt.
      TL;DR – as mentioned above, low turnover doesn’t always equal high quality.

  22. archangelsgirl*

    If you go shopping for a pair of pants, does the store ask you, “Well, how much do you want to pay for the pants?” No. There is a price tag on the pants, based on the fabric, the design and the quality. It would be ridiculous otherwise. Now, you know the range of what you will have to pay, based on whether you are shopping at Target or Ann Taylor. But there’s a price tag on the pants.

    Salary is based on the elements of job you want done. The work that you want done has a value, and you assign that value to the work. So when someone comes in, and you say, “I pay $20-24 an hour for this work,” they know what the value of the work is. Sure, there’s a range, based on experience, or how well and quickly the person doing that job will be able to do it when they start. But it’s the job that has the value, not the needs of the person doing it.

    We are going through this in my school district, and it is making me crazy. People who live in large metropolitan areas want to make more than people who live in small rural areas. The job is: stand in front of 30 kids with zillions of needs, and teach. The job is the same, wherever you are. The job has to be compensated for what the job is, not for how much it costs you to get a mortgage.

    1. Gigi*

      I just had a job interview where they showed me a map and pay scale – if the business is located in this city, things are more expensive and therefore you get this pay. But that was in Scandinavia with lots of unions who negotiate on your behalf. I will say, though, that this was the first time I had experienced it. Also the first time I had applied not at a private business.

    2. londonedit*

      But if you need teachers in the large metropolitan areas, you need to pay them a wage that means they’ll have the same standard of living as the teachers in the rural areas who are paying vastly less in rent/mortgage/etc. I take your point, but in real terms you can’t pay everyone £30,000 a year and expect them to have the same standard of living, when a basic flat in the city might cost £1000 a month and one out in the sticks might be £500. Teaching jobs in inner London have a ‘London weighting’ on the salary offered, because the cost of living is so disproportionate to the rest of the UK.

      1. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

        Seriously! I live in a major city in the U.S., and here teachers are *required* to be residents of the city itself in order to teach in city schools. Just coming from barely outside the city to inside the city changes rent, taxes, food expenses, etc, and it’s not cheap to live here at all! Not to mention, the city is so large that it would be very challenging to live outside the city and make it to work if you were allowed to do so and worked in a school towards the center of town. So if I was being offered the same rate to work in a suburb with lower COL or in the city with higher COL (and frankly, a more chaotic school system), if I was a teacher that would be a no-brainer.

    3. Roja*

      Uh… yes, jobs do and should take COL into account when they set compensation. Are you really arguing that San Francisco schools should pay the same as Kansas City schools? That’s a pretty great way to ensure that there are no teachers in big cities!

    4. Morning Glory*

      It’s really normal for salaries to reflect geographic cost of living variations. Market value = the going rate of the work in a given location.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I realize you’re talking about a school system and not a private company, but the fact remains that if you want quality workers, you have to make it worth their while to work for you.

    6. Ferret*

      Just to be clear , you’d be completely happy getting the same pay as someone doing the same job as you in rural Afghanistan?

      I live in London. I make more money than I would if I worked in Belfast. This is not “crazy”

    7. Dragoning*

      Ah, but if the job requires you to live where you work (as does teaching), then the job requires more of people living in higher-cost-of-living areas. Thus you have to compensate them more.

    8. blackcat*

      “The job is the same, wherever you are.”
      Yeah, but the *value of the labor* and even the *value of a dollar* is different in different places.

      I live in a high cost of living area. It costs me more for a plumber to come to my house and do a job than it would if I was in a low cost of living area, because the plumber charges more for their labor. Teaching is the same–though, having been a teacher, I can tell you that the job *does* often vary a lot geographically. Teaching is different when kids have different challenges in their lives. Teaching 30 upper income kids is really different from 30 urban-dwelling poor kids which is really different from rural poor kids (even if they share other demographic factors, such as race).

      The real thing that is bonkers about teaching is that often just that are easier–teaching those upper income kids–pay substantially more than the jobs that are harder, even controlling for cost of living.

      You need to pay teachers adequately to get good ones, like any profession.

    9. Le Sigh*

      “People who live in large metropolitan areas want to make more than people who live in small rural areas.”

      This is very common and very logical. I live in a major metro area and making $45,000 doesn’t go very far here — it’s what mid-level professionals make in my hometown, but here, it’s what entry level employees make (and even then, it’s hard to pay rent, let alone a mortgage lololol). Part of attracting strong candidates is realizing that and creating a compensation package that takes those realities into account. You’re not going to get great candidates otherwise.

      Also, teaching isn’t the same everywhere — it is to a point but the needs and realities are very different depending on where you are.

      1. blackcat*

        I get the sense that they’re in a metropolitan area and want to pay teachers the same as other districts in the state.

    10. iglwif*

      Except, you do in fact have to consider COL in setting salaries, because COL is a huge factor in people’s decisions about (non-remote) jobs. If I live in Vancouver and I don’t like how much it costs to live in Vancouver, I can start looking for a job in Prince George … but I can’t expect the job in Prince George to pay as much as the one I currently have in Vancouver! And if I’m living in Prince George and I take a new job in Vancouver for the big salary, I can’t then be outraged at how much more it costs me to pay rent, buy food, and get car insurance when I move to Vancouver.

      (As a person who lives in a large city, I also think it’s disingenuous to suggest that small rural schools and large urban schools will always present the teacher with the same set of 30 kids [30 kids? YIKES] with the same set of needs. Really, your region has the same percentage of newly arrived immigrant and refugee kids who don’t speak the dominant language in large cities and in small towns? The same proportions of kids living in poverty in all settings? The same level of parental involvement? Because that sure isn’t where it works where I live.)

    11. Marny*

      Nooo. You can’t expect quality teachers to come to your area if they can’t afford to live there. I get that logic dictates that the same work has to pay the same, but unless the same apartment in metro city costs the same as apartment in rural area, you’re ruining your chances of getting good teachers who aren’t independently wealthy.

    12. Beth Jacobs*

      I mean, by this logic, a teacher’s salary should be the same everywhere: from a tiny village in Uganda to NYC. But there’s a concept of purchase power, because you don’t actually want to lie on your salary in single dollar bills: you want to purchase goods and services.
      I work so that I can have a place to live, things to eat and comforts to enjoy. For practical reasons, people aren’t actually paid in goods and services, but that’s ultimately what they want out of the transaction. And those goods and services cost different amounts in different places. That’s why we don’t have a worldwide minimum wage.

    13. Des*

      A worker in San Fransisco makes more money than a worker doing exactly the same job in Tennessee. It’s just how it is. The houses in TN cost $100k vs $1000k in SF. It’s odd that this perfectly logical thing makes you crazy.

  23. Mim*

    So they haven’t done any hiring for 8 years and seem confident their staff are in it for the long haul but still felt the need to defend this practice? I am so confused about their intentions here.

    1. Observer*

      I suspect that either they are in need of a new person and are having a hard time or someone had the audacity to leave.

    2. OP*

      I just get frustrated with the endless preaching about how it’s so awful for employers to ask about salary and I wanted to explain the other side.
      Especially, frankly about how I would like to know if an employee is looking for a higher salary and how I might well not know that if i didn’t ask first.

      1. (insert name here)*

        So you explained your side and everyone still disagreed with you. No one is saying “OP has a point”. Instead they are actively poking holes in your arguments.

        Does that make you re-examine your position at all?

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        If you post the salary, people looking for a higher salary won’t bother applying. If you’re willing to pay more for a higher-skilled employee, then post the higher salary and job requirements. I still don’t understand how making the employee name their salary first is avoiding salary mismatches.

      3. Parenthetically*

        You know how you know if they’re looking for a higher salary if you post your range? They don’t apply for the job and waste your time and their time prepping for an interview that turns out to be going nowhere.

        1. (insert name here)*

          At least 9 people have answered this exact question for the OP in this exact why. It’s not getting through. It’s like screaming into the wind.

          It’s perfectly logical to not waste one’s time apply for a position that pays less than what I am willing to take.

          I can only speculate that OP wants those people to apply. Maybe OP is hoping they do apply and that OP can somehow convince them they are worth less than they think they are worth and trick them into working for her anyway.

          That doesn’t provide the stability that OP is hoping.

          Someone *tricked* into taking a lower salary is just as likely to leave as someone who *knowingly* takes a lower salary.

          1. Parenthetically*

            “Someone *tricked* into taking a lower salary is just as likely to leave as someone who *knowingly* takes a lower salary.”

            This is just one of many, many things OP is not getting. She hasn’t even touched the discrimination/depressed wages element.

      4. ThatGirl*

        Most awful: Asking what their prior salary was
        Middle awful: Asking what salary they expect
        Best: Telling them what your range is and asking if that works

      5. anonymous 5*

        There…there isn’t actually another side. Well, there is; it’s just incorrect. It is awful for employers to ask about salary. You have a choice to do better. You have chosen instead to double down. The “frustration” you’re feeling is a direct consequence of actions you’ve chosen to take. Start treating your role as an employer, and your responsibility to disclose salaries rather than to ask for them, more seriously and you won’t be preached at.

      6. Elbe*

        It’s much more likely that someone will take the job, realize once they start that they’re underpaid for the tasks they perform, and leave. It’s baffling that you think that your ‘strategy’ would improve retention. Being upfront about the potential pay range is much more likely to result in a hire who is comfortable with that pay.

      7. Krabby*

        Except no one said it was awful for employers to ask about salary, they said it was awful for employers to ask about salary /first/. You can put your salary range in the job posting and then when you first contact them say, “X-Y is our range. Is that within your expectations?”
        My company doesn’t post ranges in our job ads (for reasons I disagree with), but we do state our range in our first contact with the candidate and find out from there what their expectations are.
        You also seem to be purposely ignoring the fact that the practice you are benefiting from disproportionately hurts women and poc. What’s your take on that piece?

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          My experience is that people with views like this generally are hostile to the very idea of racial and gender equity. It’s “politically correct BS” or something.

      8. Jessie the First (or second)*

        1) You have hardly done any hiring at all! You have no basis for any meaningful personal experience here – your reasoning is based on speculation, not actual expertise and experience.
        2) Your tone and words have been extraordinarily snarky and defensive, so it appears that you haven’t actually been able to pause and calmly think things through.

        You think if you state your range up front that someone who wants more will not only apply to your job *knowing* the pay is too low, but will then proceed all the way through interview and offer stage and accept your job. But- by stating your range as the employer up front, people who actually need to make more will self-select out. The whole point is it saves you time, and encourages applications from people who are on the same page with salary requirements. And the reason you divulge salary range first is because *you* know the job! Applicants know only what you’ve written in a brief blurb on the job posting, which is rarely enough to understand what salary might be merited.

      9. ADHSquirrelWhat*

        but would you show your employees the letter you sent in? including where it says you’d pay them less if they’d asked a lower number?

        Because if you think it’s fair, why not show them?

        Because .. it’s not in your best interests? Because it LOOKS like you’ve been cheating them even if you haven’t? Because it creates bad blood?

        gosh. imagine that.

      10. Sunflower Sea Star*

        You didn’t “explain another side”
        You brazenly and unapologetically declared that you will continue to use a manipulative approach to pay people as little as you can get away with.
        And those are YOUR words. I’m not overstating what you said.
        Don’t even try to pretend you were just nicely trying to help people see a different perspective.

      11. Mizzle*

        Why don’t you simply ask, even after putting it in the ad? “As you know, the stated range is 20 to 22. Does that work for you?”

        Your candidates are likely to take it as an invitation to negotiate, and won’t be very happy when you tell them they’re out of the running, but you’ll have the information you so desperately want.

      12. Observer*

        Well, as has been mentioned multiple times, you could post the salary range.

        There is an alternative if you REALLY cannot bring yourself to so that.

        You can actually ask the prospective employee if they find this satisfactory. If you think they are going to lie to you, then why are you even considering hiring them?

      13. Not So NewReader*

        You keep saying the same things over and over so people are getting a sense that you are not reading what they have written.

        In answer to your question, you can state the salary range and ask them if they would be okay in that range some where. It’s so simple and I do not understand why you are making it so hard.

        “I just get frustrated with the endless preaching about how it’s so awful for employers to ask about salary and I wanted to explain the other side.”
        No one wants to listen to anyone (not just you) justify STEALING from other people’s pockets.

      14. Salty Caramel*

        I would like to know if an employee is looking for a higher salary and how I might well not know that if i didn’t ask first

        It’s very easy. You disclose what you are willing to pay. People who aren’t willing to work for your posted salary will not apply.

        What astounds me here is that the practice you defend so vigorously costs you unnecessary time and effort when a line in the job listing would filter out people you don’t want to talk to anyway.

        It is awful to ask without disclosing any information. We have read your arguments and found you wanting.

  24. Lilo*

    I really wonder what motivates someone to write a letter like this. Why is someone like this even reading Alison anyway?

    1. Threeve*

      There was a character on 30 Rock who introduced herself with: “I don’t care what anyone says, I keep the 3D glasses.” Some people are just really proud of their suck-it-I-do-what-I-want behaviors.

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      Because something Alison said, somewhere along the line, hit a little too close to home. Rather than doing any sort of introspective soul-searching and/or examining her past behaviors with a critical eye with the intent of making changes to her clutched-purse ideas — the OP took that little hurt and molded it into an angry single-fingered keyboard-mashing letter where she double-down on her outdated ideas with self-righteous fury.

      Kudos if you made it through that run-on sentence. Apologies.

      1. mrs__peel*

        YEP. I don’t think she’d be tripling down like this and seeking reassurance about her POV if she didn’t know, deep down, that she’s doing something morally questionable.

        She wants validation that this practice is Actually Okay so she can continue to consider herself a good person.

    3. OP*

      I’ve learned tons from Alison, and continue to.
      I just really don’t get the disconnect between how employees should reasonably look out for their own interests, but it is so horribly wrong for me as an employer to do the same

      1. (insert name here)*

        Your looking out for your own interests doesn’t have to be *at the expense* of someone else. That is the disconnect. You don’t need to push someone else down to increase your bottom line. That may work, but it’s not the only way to increase your bottom line. There are other ways that are more ethical.

        1. MsSolo*

          Exactly! When Alison advises employees to look out for their own interests she isn’t telling them to steal the stationary, take four hour long breaks, and exaggerate their expenses. She’s never advising them to hurt the business, and if a business is hurt because it can’t afford to accommodate employees valuing their work appropriately, then it’s a badly run business.

      2. CaliCali*

        It’s not looking out for your interests to UNDERPAY YOUR EMPLOYEES. The argument is that if you’re paying your employees a fair market value, you’ll have more satisfied workers and reduce risk of attrition. You might actually BE paying your employees a fair wage, for all we know, but if someone comes in saying “I want $10/hr” and the work is valued at $20/hr, it is not good to take them up on that offer! It is penny wise and pound foolish. You will lose that person once they actually look into their market value.

      3. Parenthetically*

        But you’re not just “looking out for your own interests.” You’re trying to devalue the work of others at their expense, over a matter of a few bucks an hour. If the job for a person with X experience and training is worth $22/hr it’s worth $22/hr, even if Marcia was only hoping for $20/hr. Just like you don’t give Bob a raise because his wife has a kid, because the job is worth $22/hour regardless of his financial obligations. Anything else is a swindle.

      4. animaniactoo*

        You can look out for your own interests. It is the way that you are going about that here – from the power dynamic – that makes what you are doing unsupportable.

      5. PSB*

        Because. You. Aren’t. For goodness sake, how is this so hard to understand? You *aren’t* looking out for your own interest. People who are genuinely looking out for their own best interest are open to new ideas because they recognize that those ideas might be better than continuing to do things the same way they always have. You’ve completely discounted all the feedback you’ve gotten from Alison and the other commenters because you’re so invested in framing the issue in this one narrow way and taking anything other than complete agreement as an insult. You’re not looking out for your interest. You’re looking out for your ego.

      6. Sunflower Sea Star*

        When employees look out for their own interest, it’s in the interest of getting a fair market wage.
        Your letter described using a manipulatory practice that leads to illegal discrimination in pay to keep wages under fair market price and increase your own profit. I bet you try to tell your employees they can’t discuss salary among themselves, either. (Also illegal.)
        VERY different.
        You simply won’t see the difference because it’s hard to admit you’re not the nice person you like to think you are.

      7. Not So NewReader*

        If a parent puts their needs first ahead of a child, society will rain down on them.

        You are in a position of power and you are abusing your power. Making it worse, you come on here saying that you want to explain that you can get away with it. You can get away with using your position of power to deprive people of fair pay.

        Yeah, words are going to rain down on you. I have read hundreds of comments and you are still saying that you are totally correct in being unethical with your employees.

      8. WeepingAngel*

        If you want to look out for your own interests without being unethical, why don’t you state the salary ranges on your job listings, after carefully and honestly working out what you can afford? That way candidates can self – select out if your offered salary is too low for them and you’ll only have to interview those who could afford to work for you.

        Of course, if you don’t get any applicants after doing this, that’s a huge signal that the range you’re offering is below market rates and you should rethink your calculations.

        Frankly, I think all employers should do this anyway.

  25. Karo*

    Honestly all I can think about right now is how the OP’s stomach probably dropped when they got the “I will be publishing your letter” email from Alison. I mean, it takes a ridiculous amount of self-righteousness to write this letter so maybe they thought Alison’s answer would be “oh my, I didn’t consider that, thank you!” but I think I would’ve started vomiting immediately.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the woman who wrote this isn’t remotely bothered by Alison’s response and will, most likely, carry on as-is because she doesn’t believe she’s wrong. Arrogance is a helluva drug.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      OP will be standing before the Judge in court for legal charges or a bankruptcy case and still be saying, “But I could get away with paying the employees less. You know it’s like a garage sale, Judge….”

    3. Tomalak*

      To be fair I don’t think the letter was personally rude or anything like it. She expressed contrary views in a strident way, sure, but I don’t think the letter writer should be treated as if she wrote hate mail whose publication will embarrass her or something.

  26. MatKnifeNinja*

    The reason I’m leaving my current GP is he has 4 under paid lifers running his front office and billing. It’s a hot mess express, because those 45 year old + women are stuck making $13/hr. (I asked once) Their skills are stale. The office is running ancient Windows machine, voice mail issues, calling in script issues. The women would make more, get abused less and have insurance working at the car wash 3 doors down.

    The doctor is a gross, his on the cheap office is gross, and his over worked, under trained staff is heart breaking.

    I’d pay more money if my GP would actually pay for a real medical assistant that doesn’t ignore universal precautions.

    Anyway, have fun scrounging for nickels off the backs of your workers, while making your fortune. Karma does not forget.

    1. Lilo*

      My dad is a physician. A good office manager is worth their weight in gold. So is a good scribe. Huge difference in practice experience.

      1. feministbookworm*

        My dad was also a physician in private practice, and one of his most valued employees was an office manager who worked for the practice for 40 years. In an example of changing with the times, my dad was very embarrassed and apologetic (including apologizing to the office manager) in later years about some of the questions he’d asked her in her original interview (which must have been in the late 60s), related to how many children she had, whether she was planning on having more, and whether she was on birth control.

    2. Health Care Adjacent*

      Unfortunately, this is a pitfall of private practice. Providers get so hung up on being ‘small business owners’ that they forget to be clinicians.

  27. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Dude. DUDE. It is so simple. If you would prefer to pay $20/hour, offer that. It’s ok. You may lose out on some talent, but you’ll save all that green with much less hassle.

    1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      THIS! Be honest, the market will sort out the rest.

      The problem is that LW wants a candidate who is worth more than $20/hour, but at a discount.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Seriously, I say this all the time. Like, you want the harsh realities of capitalism? Then let the market decide FOR YOU TOO. But they don’t want capitalism, they want plutocracy.

  28. Fabulous*

    I will also add, as a millennial who entered the job market in the midst of the 2008 recession, I deeply have undervalued myself throughout the years. I’m 35 years old and JUST NOW reaching $50k a year. And I had to fight (hard) to get there this past year!

    About 5 years ago in my last job search, I was just wanting to reach $40k. I would have been happy seeing any 4 in my salary – because I never had before! Why would I be worth any more if no one’s ever paid me that much? Then I found out a family member 10 years my junior was making $20k MORE than I was looking for, and for similar work – wtf?! It had never even occurred to me to ask for more prior to that. That was a serious kick in the pants.

    You’re seriously undervaluing the people you interview by asking them what they’re looking for. They may not know! People don’t often share their salaries to gauge what they’re worth compared to similarly skilled people.

    1. Pretzelgirl*

      Right there with ya. I am 35, and haven’t crossed the 40k threshold yet. My husband just got a new job at 65k and we feel like we are rich (we are not).

      1. Kiwiii*

        This!! Boyfriend and I will break 100k on taxes this year (and we’re super excited!!), but with our jobs — had we graduated at a better time (even just 2 years or so later) or worked for fairer people in our first few years, we’d have been there a long time ago.

    2. Observer*

      You’re seriously undervaluing the people you interview by asking them what they’re looking for. They may not know!

      That seems to be what the OP is looking for.

    3. Leisel*

      This!!! I’m 32 and entered the job market in 2009 with a degree that immediately because useless because no one could afford to hire. My industry took a HUGE hit with the recession. I’m finally making over $50K as well.

      What adds a strange twist on my current situation is that I now make more money than my parents combined. I live in a city with high COL, but I came from a small town with very low COL, so obviously it’s never going to be apples to apples. It’s just a strange perspective to be thinking about how much I make compared to them, but I still can’t afford to own a home… I say this to point out that your perspective can be very skewed sometimes based on what you know and what you don’t know you don’t know…

    4. Quill*

      Millennial, but I didn’t hit the job market until 2014. The rise of the gig economy and permatemping / contract “to hire” has also kept people undervalued.

      1. Fabulous*

        Oh absolutely this too!! I can’t tell you how many contract jobs I worked from 2008-2016. I would tell the temp agency “nothing under $20/hr” and of course they’d send me out for a $13/hr job, which of course I had to take because I needed a paycheck.

      2. Anonymouse*

        Yup–will be 36 in a few days-I hit the job market 2009ish–my FAGI is hovering just under 50k (pre-Tax it is near 55k)

        1. Anonymouse*

          And I live in an area where COL is rising much faster than wages in just about all sectors. Chronic housing shortage.

      3. ItalianBunny*

        ^A.Freaking.men.
        Permatemping and CTH is like the recipe to keep people undervalued.
        It’s still A Thing here in Italy and, oh boy, it’s a HUGE problem.

    5. call centre bee*

      Oof. This 34-year-old suddenly feels very rubbish about struggling to find a job that pays more than £21k…

      1. Fabulous*

        It all depends on industry too. I was looking for nonprofit work before and struggled to find anything in the range I was targeting too. I think I had 3 or 4 (unsuccessful) interviews that met my salary criteria. Ultimately I ended up in a temp role at a large corporation (see the contract/temp-to-hire post below) where I got hired on permanently and that is literally the only reason I have the salary I do.

      2. Toiletcricket*

        Please don’t feel bad. I’m turning 33 and only this year breaking 40k/year, before tax, in local definitely-not-USD currency.

        We’ll both find better.

      3. ItalianBunny*

        I’m 36 and i struggle to make more than 22/23k so right there with you in this boat.
        All of my sympathy.
        We’ll find better and we’ll be better, someday.
        hugs.

        1. call centre bee*

          Thanks guys. Just got another rejected application for a job paying even less than my current one so I guess I’m just sensitive to the idea that I should be making some money in my thirties.

        2. Therese*

          Same I feel like going to college was a waste of time b/c I can’t even get a living wage job to help pay off my college loans :(

          I don’t even know what to ask for salary anymore. Last time I wanted $15/hour they gave me $13/hour…I was making $11/hour as a bookkeeper. They want to talk raises again idk what to ask.

          1. call centre bee*

            I feel this! I have my degree gathering dust and I feel like everything I’ve done since has been a waste of time. I see my peers making £50k a year, driving cars, owning their own homes and I’m still doing the sort of jobs they started in a decade ago and struggling to pay rent.

            And when you look for something else employers act like if you were worth more you’d already be earning it.

    6. AnotherAlison*

      I also think some people come from jobs with terrible COL raises and poor promotion opportunities, so since their salary hasn’t gone up, they don’t evaluate what they should be making properly. [My husband hasn’t raised his rates in 5 years!?!?]

      The cumulative rate of inflation from 2000 (when I graduated college) until now is about 50%. To make $100,000 like my managers were making then (my baseline of good money from my formative years), I have to make $150,000. Yet, that sounds like a big number to me now. It’s hard to really frame what your market value is.

    7. Alex*

      I also entered the workforce about that time but am slightly older than you, and just got over the 50k hump last year, in a very HCOL area.

  29. Marny*

    This employer seems to look at hiring as a battle. Perhaps if you stopped looking at your employees as an enemy who wants to take advantage of you (and who you want to take advantage of), you’d see the value in paying people an amount that will keep them happy and willing to work hard for you and your team.

    1. Diahann