guilt about applying for a new job, new hire didn’t negotiate, and more

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

1. I feel guilty about applying for another job

I work in a department of three — me, a coworker with the same title and responsibilities as me, and our manager. Recently my coworker was out on maternity leave and was expected to return after five months. My manager really doesn’t know how to do a lot of the tasks we do and so a lot fell on me, although my manager did try to help here and there. Well, my coworker decided that she wasn’t going to come back at all. My manager has made some comments that seem to imply that we don’t need to hire someone else to replace her and that perhaps we can make some changes to ease some of my workload without hiring anyone else. There hasn’t been any discussions yet on what those changes would be and I’m feeling very burnt out.

I noticed a job opening with a different company that is very similar to what I do now. I’ve heard it’s a great place to work and they are transparent about their salaries, so I know I could be making at least $8-10K more per year if I were to interview and get the job. My guilt is holding me back from applying though. If I leave, my manager will be the only one left and there’s so much that he can’t do. I know he would be disappointed and upset. The thought of even telling him I’m leaving for another position fills me with dread. I like where I work. It’s a great atmosphere and I have a great manager, but I just don’t know how much longer I can sustain this. Do you have any suggestions for how to move past my guilt? It just feels like a crappy thing to do to leave my manager high and dry when we’re already understaffed but I also need to do what’s best for me as well. I’m really struggling with this!

Apply for the other job. If your manager is concerned about being left alone without knowing how to cover your work, he has lots of opportunities to mitigate that risk — like cross-training, ensuring your processes are well documented, and not removing the only other position that does what you do. But even aside from that, this is just not something that should control what career decisions you make. You need to do what’s in your interests, just as your company will do what’s in its. If your manager is in an inconvenient position when you leave, he will get by — people always do! He can hire temp help or all sorts of other possibilities. It’ll be fine. (And even if it’s not fine, it’s not a reason to put your career on hold. That is not the sort of sacrifice you are being paid for. But it will be fine.)

Meanwhile, though, in case this job doesn’t pan out, speak up about your boss’s plan not to replace your coworker! Say that covering for her has been difficult and you were willing to do it while it was temporary but it’s not something you can do much longer-term, and it’s important to you that her role is filled. (And if your boss doesn’t act on that, you should move forward with even less guilt!)

I am positive I didn’t used to get as many letters as I do now from people feeling guilty about leaving their jobs! I’m going to write a book called You Can Leave Your Job Without Guilt, and it will just be that sentence repeated in a variety of fonts for 200 pages.

2. New hire didn’t negotiate

I just hired my first-ever direct report. I’m very excited, but the process was not without bumps.

We offered the position to one strong candidate who tried to negotiate for a salary over 30% higher than what we had offered. That … didn’t work out.

But when we offered the job to our second choice (who was also an incredible candidate), she didn’t negotiate AT ALL and took the salary we offered her immediately. While I am extremely pleased that she’s going to be working for us, I’m wondering if at some point I should say something to her. We did have budget to pay more than our original offer (not 30% more, but a few thousand more). I don’t want to bring it up immediately, of course, and it’s awkward when I’d have a say over negotiating future raises and promotions, but I feel like this woman deserves a pep talk about arguing for what she’s worth!

It’s surprisingly common! A ton of people don’t negotiate when they get a job offer and just accept the first salary offered. More women than men, as we so often hear, but men too.

It would be a professional kindness to encourage her to negotiate at some point, but I’d wait until you have a natural opening at some point — a conversation one day about hiring in general, or a discussion of negotiating with a vendor, or whatever gives you an organic opening to bring it up. (In part that’s because you don’t want it to land too pointedly as, “I had more money to give you if only you’d asked, too bad!” … which could be a demoralizing takeaway, especially when the job is new.)

3. Recruiter asked me to re-take a test on camera

I’m in the middle of job hunting, and recently took a CCAT assessment for a job. The recruiter reached out for a first-round interview a few hours after I took the assessment and requested I retake the assessment on camera with another recruiter watching. I’ve taken the test before but never had this come up. Is this standard practice?

Nope. That’s a recruiter who for some reason thinks you might have cheated and is trying to verify that you took the test without help or cheating.

Feel free to say, “I’m happy to redo it, but was there a concern with my original assessment?”

4. Job opening gets reposted every month

Last year I applied to a job through a third-party hiring organization on LinkedIn. The job was for a company I know and respect. I don’t know the third party contractor, but they seem legitimate (I found them through a trusted aquaintance). I got a polite automated email several weeks later saying they appreciated my interest but were not going to interview me. No big deal.

I put an alert on that particular job title, since it was exactly what I was looking for. Since then, I’ve noticed that exact job posting gets posted every four or six weeks, only on LinkedIn, only by that third party. The opening doesn’t appear on the company’s website. Because it is an area with a high turnover rate (we live in a military town, and this is normal — not really a red flag), my husband suggested they like to keep a pool of applicants ready in case of an unexpected opening. My father, who works in a position where he often does hiring, suggested that it’s an automated system and nobody is looking at the applications at all.

Is this weird? Have you seen this before? I guess I could reach out to the LinkedIn page where its posted, but they’re a large company that has probably hundreds of postings for multiple agencies. I could technically reach out to the company itself, but I’d prefer not to look like a fool in case I end up applying there again. What’s your take?

They could indeed be keeping a pool of applicants if it’s a job they have to hire for frequently, either because of turnover or because they have multiple slots and/or keep increasing the size of that team. (I used to hire a for a position that was posted nearly constantly, because the team kept growing and it was hard to hire for, so we were willing to consider applicants all the time and hire anyone we found who was right.) It’s also possible, though, that this is a weird thing the outside recruiter is doing — that the company doesn’t consider this position currently “open” but the recruiter is advertising it that way to collect resumes … which could be for the legit purpose of being ready to pitch those candidates to the company when the role does open again or could be for the sketchy purpose of finding candidates to pitch to other companies for other openings, which is a thing that happens. The fact that it’s a third party posting and isn’t on the company’s own website, if their other jobs are, might point to that. But it could also just be a coincidence.

That said, I would just ignore the postings! You applied and they appear to have considered your application and concluded you’re not quite what they’re looking for. That can happen even when they’re continuing to actively (and constantly) search for other candidates. I wouldn’t worry about what’s going on with it or contact the company about it; just assume this position isn’t a match right now for whatever reason.

5. Should I send my references gift cards?

I’ve been interviewing for a job. The hiring manager wanted to hear from two past managers. For me, this means reaching 5+ years into my past and asking old coworkers who live in different cities to be references. If they were local, I’d take them out for coffee to say thanks, but they’re across the country. I want to send them a token of appreciation, but does it seem weirdly transactional to send them a coffee gift card?

Yeah, don’t do it! Giving references for colleagues whose work you respect is part of work life; if you offer a gift in exchange for doing it, it risks coming across as … not payment exactly, but not quite in the spirit of references either. Send an enthusiastic thanks and let them know if you get the job — that’s all people really want or expect!

{ 418 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Please no comments criticizing the OP#2 for her company’s offer practices. It’s very likely that she is constrained by her employer’s policies and criticizing her for that is not useful. (I’d argue it’s also unrealistic, since it is incredibly common for employers to be willing to go up by a few thousand dollars if someone negotiates — a point I make all the time in encouraging people to ask for it — and not inherently a sign that they are paying below market.)

    The OP wants to encourage an employee to negotiate in the future, and that’s a good thing.

  2. Artemesia*

    #1. Oh PLEASE please please apply for that job. Your organization is not supporting your work and expects you to burn to the ground with overwork. They would fire you in a thrice if it were in their interests to do so. ALWAYS put your own business interests first. It isn’t personal; it’s business.

    1. Reluctant Manager*

      My dad’s 2 best pieces of career advice: Always max out your 401k match, and don’t fall in love with the company–because the company’s not going to fall in love with you.

        1. Midwestern Scientist*

          When I first entered the workforce, my cousin (who is 5ish years older and in the same line of work) offered only one piece of advice – don’t be afraid to quit. He stayed in his first (awful) post college job far, far longer than he should have. When he finally moved on, he found a new job quickly, made 10k more, and left behind a toxic workplace that overworked him for a normal workweek and sane manager.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            Yup. I tell people “You aren’t married to that job.”

            I stayed at a shitty job for WAY too long, let myself be mistreated, tolerated bad behavior, and put myself in physical danger. That job didn’t care about me one lick. They cared about their bottom line. It’s like I read so often here, it isn’t person, it’s business.

            1. I could never get the hang of Thursdays*

              One I hear when I get over-invested, “it doesn’t say you’re name on the side of the building!”

    2. Tired*

      I second this. OP #1, I was in a similar situation. Department of 3, one person left, then I got another job and left too. I felt so awful leaving the last person in my department to handle everything by herself. But they hired a contractor and managed just fine. A week into my new job, I forgot all about my former job and was so happy with my decision. I didn’t even realize how much the old job had ground me down until I left. Please do apply for that job!

    3. The OTHER Other*

      #1 You should apply and not feel guilty, both for reasons others here state but also because it really sounds as if your manager is terrible.

      He manages TWO people, loses one of them, cannot do any (or hardly any) of their work, and expects you to do it? What does he do all day, watch you do the work? He sounds useless. He should have gotten a replacement while your coworker was on leave.

      The department may well fall apart if you leave, but that will be his fault, not yours. Maybe whatever larger organization this is should replace him.

      1. Lucy P*

        Yes to this. It is not OP’s fault if their manager doesn’t know how to do the work.
        Plus, if OP is the pillar that keeps their company/department in good shape, then they should be paid accordingly.

      2. Anon for now*

        What I have found is often when someone says they don’t know how to do something it’s not that they aren’t capable of learning or truly don’t know how they simply don’t want to. I worked for a boss like that. When I went out on maternity leave a few years ago, she pawned all my work off to my direct reports. Some of the work pawned off on them they simply didn’t the experience and skill yet to manage. But, she pawned it off on them, because it was easier.

        1. PT*

          It does depend on the sort of job, though. I had a job where the structure was that, say, a Program Director ended up supervising all of the program departments beneath them: the Teapot Department, the Porridge Department, the Llama Department, etc. Now of course, the Program Director would themselves have been promoted from one of those programs, which means you would have a former Porridge Director now in charge of the Llama Department and the Teapot Department….and they would have to scramble to learn all about Llamas and Teapots so they could successfully supervise those departments and their directors.

          Of course they couldn’t- there’s too much to learn- and they’d have rely on their department directors being trustworthy in teaching them the ropes and their own bosses being trustworthy in imparting information downward, and themselves having good judgement in the situation. (Often, there was a weak link here, and this broke down spectacularly.)

          Quite often you’d run into a situation where, say, the former Porridge Director turned Program Director literally couldn’t do anything in the Llama Department that they were now responsible for grandbossing- they were allergic to llamas, and anyway, they had a bad back, and couldn’t pass the certification class to be allowed to work with llamas in the first place because of it. If both Llama Directors quit, the most they could do was call around begging other people in the llama field to help them out, or hire temps/contractors.

      3. TootsNYC*

        yeah, that is a VERY bad manager.

        A good manager is always recruiting, always preparing for someone to quit.
        Not that you are looking for them to leave, or shortchanging them “just in case.”
        But you have to always be prepared for losing an employee. Maybe they want more money, shorter commute, and less crummy/stressful boss. Maybe their spouse got a job in another town. Maybe they got sick, or had a family (or a family crisis).
        A good manager always knows where to find a new employee, and is always working to maintain documentation, knowledge, etc.

        That said, if our LW finds themselves a bit tormented, maybe they can quiet that voice by starting now to create documentation for how to do the job.

        Also: Starting to make noise now about this understaffing not being acceptable IS a way to prepare the manager for the LW’s leaving. Because the LW should be looking to leave–that’s a LOT of money–no matter what.
        And by resisting, the LW is warning the manager about the potential problem.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          It doesn’t really sound like OP has time to document stuff, since they’re doing the work of two people…

      4. Frenchie Too*

        Exactly! I’m amazed at how many business owners/managers live off of the work of their staff, and are not productive themselves.
        As my jerk cousin likes to say “the (former) “A” students do the work and the (former) “C” students are the bosses.” OP, go after that job!
        I’m especially offended by the fact that your manager is not even willing to hire a replacement for the employee who left! In his mind “oh, I’ll just pile on the work to OP, and make more $ for myself.” He is 0% concerned about your workload and 100% concerned about his own benefits.
        If his business will fall apart because you leave, then it’s not a viable business model.
        Also, please update us.

    4. AnonInCanada*

      Yes, this, OP. You shouldn’t be held hostage by your manager’s poor planning and thinking they can put the whole burden on you. Set yourself free, and don’t feel the least bit guilty about it!

    5. Rayray*


      I was in a similar situation once. I was doing the r work of two people cause they fired my coworker out of the blue and just had me do everything. I pleaded for them to either hire someone else or allow me to cross train someone. I was wanting to leave desperately but having no luck. Eventually I did get a new job and was able to give my two weeks notice. However they dealt with my workload was not my problem. I did the work when I was employed by them but I gave my adequate notice and wrote up basic how-to manuals. They had plenty of time to create a plan so I had backup and they didn’t. I once went on a vacation and came back to absolute mountains of work and I was furious. It was al because Rh why refused to even consider allowing me to cross train someone if they weren’t going to hire someone. They created their own problem and it was not my fault at all. I was looking out for myself and found a new job that paid me better.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        “Lack of preparation on your part is not an emergency on my part.”

        I swear some companies have decided the best course of action is to just suck every employee dry and when the withered husks of the people leave, they scramble. I feel like it’s better to invest in an employee, but I’m not a business major.

    6. Nanani*

      #1, you do not have a great manager and the atmosphere is not great.
      In your own words, you are overworked -because your manager isn’t willing or able to step up- and you are near burnout -because the atmosphere is overwhelming you-.

      You can just stop. Apply for the other job. Apply for a lot of other jobs.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Agreed. You may like your manager but your manager is not willing to solve your work overload situation in a realistic way, and that is them doing a crappy job.

        Go for the job that pays you better and gets you out of a known overwork/burnout situation!

        1. TootsNYC*

          a pleasant person is not automatically a good manager.
          This person is not just a bad manager from the employee’s perspective, but they are an abysmal manager from the company’s perspective. Every good manager should be prepared to properly manage a workload, and prepared to replace every employee whenever necessary.

          Sure, you need to recruit and interview candidates, but you should be prepared to do that. You should have a job description; know where you would advertise or who in your network/industry you would reach out to, and have interview questions, etc., ready to go.
          Ideally you’d have been collecting any interesting resumés that crossed your desk, looking for other companies to recruit from (not “poach,” because poaching is a thing)

    7. Noblepower*

      I’m suffering from a major case of this as well. Pre-pandemic, I was already looking at retiring in less than 5 years and anticipating that (knowing my company’s practices) I would not have a chance to onboard my replacement despite being the only person who does what I do here; 2 years on we are down several employees and added significantly to my workload. I’m so burnt out that I go home and crash and started talking to a therapist; I know I need to give notice, but the guilt at leaving my manager and coworkers is really challenging me right now.

      1. TardyTardis*

        I hope you can manage health insurance–a lot of people close to retirement are trapped by not being able to go onto Medicare till they’re 65 (in the US), because the price of individual health insurance is so high for people in that age bracket (had to retire early anyway, I found out the hard way how much it cost).

        But then, you have to be alive to worry about it, too.

    8. Ismonie*

      100% this! I also feel like the manager is benefitting from his mismanagement—if he managed well and replaced LW1’s colleague, she wouldn’t be so afraid that leaving would put him in the lurch, nor would she be as likely to leave. LW1, he created this situation. Don’t let the fact that he is overworking and underpaying you tie you closer to him and this company.

    9. Sara without an H*

      OP#1 — You never, never make up for lost income.

      Your employer is both overworking and, apparently, underpaying you. Apply for that job. In fact, you should read the archives at AAM and start searching in a serious way for your next position.

      That your manager won’t fill the other position AND won’t pick up enough basic skills to help cover the gap — is their problem. Not yours.

      Repeat this until you believe it.

  3. Emmie*

    Please sign me up for that 200 page book AAM talks about. I feel the same guilt about leaving my job too. I actually felt relieved when I did not get a higher paying job recently. My boss is fantastic, but there’s not enough time to do my job right now. I also feel guilty applying because I just hired a new employee three months ago.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I suspect that the influx of letters about this is due to employers trying to get the same productivity out of fewer people. The “If I leave the workplace will fall apart” sentiment is a lot more common when the employees are already overworked and overextended, but employees are more likely to actively try to leave when they’re overworked and overextended, with no end in sight.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yep, this. It’s a big part of my own struggle – I feel very stale in my work right now but we are a three person organization and I am LITERALLY the only one who does the work in a specific area. I am still looking (but being choosy) but I know that when I do move on it is really going to rock that org’s world because even with documentation etc. I’ll be walking away with almost 10 years of institutional memory dating back to just after its founding. That’s a hard thing to reconcile sometimes.

      2. Kathlynn (Canada)*

        I’ve been given a lot of guilt from management for calling in sick or taking time off and “leaving my coworkers short handed”.
        Of course these are jobs where they schedule the absolute minimum of employees they can get away with (which is why using the self check out doesn’t actually cost people jobs. Because they already don’t have more then x number of cashiers)

    2. Daffodilly*

      I want the audio version – but only if instead of different fonts Alison does a bunch of different voices instead!

      1. Allonge*

        I would suggest at least one chapter with ‘feel guilty but leave anyway, the guilt goes away pretty fast’.

        But yes, voices, fonts, all that.

        1. Artemesia*

          And there should be an appendix in which chapter X is about leaving personal relationships. I have counseled many young women who wanted to leave their partners but ‘felt guilty’ because ‘I am all he has’ or my friends think it isn’t fair. etc etc. I have seen people marry others out of misplaced sense of guilt and loyalty when they wanted to break up. The only reason you need to leave a job is ‘I want to’ — it is time for me to move on. THAT is also the only reason you need to leave a relationship where you are not married.

      2. Walk on the left side*

        …or gets 200 different voice actors to each say the same sentence. Then just play it on repeat all night while you sleep until your brain internalizes the message.

        1. Morticia*

          I think it would be too much of a derail to start making a list of actor requests. Maybe we can do that on Saturday.

            1. Phoenix Wright*

              It should include his legendary monologue from Shawshank Redemption:
              “I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my old job.”

    3. Liz*

      I wonder how much of this rise in guilt is to do with workplace culture following a recession. Much like the “grateful” notion earlier this week, at times of economic crisis, people do feel grateful to their employers for giving them jobs. The stagnation of wages and downsizing to a smaller staff has led to a rising workload for many, with less compensation, and so employers are having to find other ways to retain people (if indeed they even bother at all). So rather than upper management offering fair compensation and benefits, it falls to middle and lower management to retain employees by encouraging emotional investment in the work and fostering a “we’re all in this together” culture to keep the team going – or, in the case of a more toxic environment, the dreaded “we’re family!”

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah it feels like the people who have kept their jobs feel trauma-bonded to their employers and that’s just not sustainable

        1. gmg22*

          This really resonates. I’m trying to push myself, like today, to apply for a couple of openings I just spotted. But the trauma-bonding is real, especially after the past 18 months we’ve had. The only people who have left my nonprofit since the pandemic started were members of a particular regional team that we aren’t able to fund anymore, and that transition has been in the works for months to give all those people time to find new gigs. But I CAN’T be the only one feeling fed up and uncertain about the future.

          1. Ashley*

            Please start applying. Remember just because you are applying doesn’t mean you are leaving. Give yourself time to find the right job and not just another job. It was hard at the end to wait for the right job to come through but it has been so worth it. Also the guilt left during my resignation conversation with my boss when it showed just how out of touch they were. (And it was laughable when a 40% problem of my old position was finally let go a few months after I left.)

          2. Allonge*

            Whenever I see the question ‘am I the only one who’ the answer turns out to be no.

            Also: you get to leave even if everyone else is deliriously happy. The only, single thing you need to consider is whether you want to leave.

            Also also: feelings are not facts. You feeling guilty does not mean you are guilty.

        2. no name today*

          I’m trauma-bonded to the 16 hours of leave I accrue each month, and the health insurance. My state agency has been losing folx throughout the pandemic, but esp now that they are reeling remote workers back in. I’d love to walk, but retirement is starting to be a glimmer on my horizon, and I was just given the biggest office space in the entire building, complete with lovely water/mountain views. I also get to work a hybrid schedule a bit longer (if not indefinitely).
          And I am not interested in leaving my home for a job in other locations, so here I stay.

      2. pancakes*

        Wage stagnation has been a trend in the US for at least three decades. I’m much more inclined to think the frequency with which people talk about feeling guilty about leaving jobs here (and in other corners of the internet) has to do with the cultures represented by readers.

    4. Walk on the left side*

      Agree, would pre-order multiple copies for various friends and family (and former colleagues)!

    5. High Score!*

      I think we all need this book. Even when it’s tough to move on bc you know all you bring to your employer and you usually like at least some of your coworkers. I’ve turned in a resignation with my hands shaking more than once.

    6. Legally Bored*

      I’m definitely in the guilt camp because I’m really the only admin support person for my attorney and after slightly less than 2 years, I’ll be leaving to go to law school. He’s supportive of that decision and what doors it will open for me but I just feel bad because this job has taught me a whole lot.

    7. Em*

      Just jumping on this band wagon to commiserate too- I am in the final interview stage for an ammmmazing job (that is permanent remote!) that would take me away from my volatile workplace and give me the work/life balance my family desperately needs….and yet I feel so conflicted! I am practically talking myself out of accepting the job if offered because “what will my boss say?! she will be so unhappy!”. Ugh. This was the kick in the pants I needed today.

    8. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      I hereby and forthwith issue everyone their own, personal Invitation to Flounce

    9. TootsNYC*

      I would add some chapters, though:

      One of them would say “A smart manager is constantly prepared to replace any employee that leaves; that is their job” over and over in different sizes, colors, fonts.

  4. CatCat*

    #2, “I feel like this woman deserves a pep talk about arguing for what she’s worth!”

    Alternatively, you could have just make that the offer instead of playing this game.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yeah – the employee who negotiated got passed over for asking for too much, the employee they hired got lowballed on salary for not asking at all. ​Offer what you think the employee is worth paying, and don’t expect them to figure out the magical formula of just how much to ask for.

        I’d be very annoyed if my new employer sat me down for a talk and explained how they were underpaying me because I hadn’t played their game right, and really angry if it werw in the form of a pep talk about understanding my own worth. I’d wonder what else they were pulling over on me.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m going to ask that we not do that. It’s very likely that the OP is constrained by her employer’s policies and giving her crap for that is not useful.

    2. Willis*

      This. And OP could do that when considering raises and promotions too – offer people what they are worth (or whatever you’re actually anticipating to pay them) rather than lowballing expecting a negotiation.

  5. ENFP in Texas*

    #1 – remember that It’s Just Business, It’s Not Personal. He’s your manager,not your best buddy, and it’s a workplace, not a family.

    Also realize that if the company had to cut costs, they could – and would – lay you off in a heartbeat without any guilt whatsoever.

    Good luck with the job hunt!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, plenty of managers feel terrible when they have to lay people off. I’m not a fan of the “they’d get rid of you without thinking twice” framework — often they would agonize over it and feel terrible about it (that’s true of every single manager I know who’s had to lay people off, including me). Plus if it doesn’t ring true to the person receiving that advice, they’ll be less likely to listen to the part that is true — which is that this is work and you can put your own interests first.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Thank you for this. I’ve had to lay people off a couple of times in my career and you are absolutely right. We agonized over the decision, did everything would could to avoid the necessity and felt awful about it, but sometimes it is not avoidable, and if you are having to lay someone off, you have to remember that however bad it is for you it’s worse for them, so the last thing you do is tell them how difficult it is for you as a n employer or how you feel about it.

        I do accept that there may be some employers or companies who take it lightly but I think many, if not most, and certainly many individual managers, do find it incredibly hard and do feel a lot of guilt, but they don’t unload that onto the people who are losing their jobs!

        (I totally agree that OP1 should look for a new job, unless her boss is very receptive when she explains that she is close to burn out and that not replacing her coworker is not viable in terms of the work needed)

        1. Skippy*

          In a functional workplace, this is absolutely true.

          But I’ve worked in some very toxic workplaces, in a field that is rife with them, and it’s a very different situation. Layoffs were often seen not as an agonizing decision, but as an opportunity to rid the organization of workers that management didn’t like. It’s a terrible way to do business, but it definitely happens, and I can’t really blame people for walking away from situations like that with a certain amount of skepticism about the entire process.

        2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Yes, but after the layoff is done, you shrug your shoulders, get in the car and drive home, and say to your spouse “oh it was a bad day but we did the layoffs. Hey, what’s for dinner?”

          The guys and gals who were let go usually are facing major life-changing decisions. You just move on.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            You can read this site, and the number of managers who’ve written in asking how to possibly justify letting go a good person who isn’t *doing the work* and agonizing about the need to do so, and you assume they go home and stop thinking about it?

            NOBODY, including our host, has said they have it worse than an employee who’s let go, but there’s a fair amount of space between that and your depiction.

            1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

              No, I don’t assume that, Lenora. They do not stop thinking about it .. well, not for awhile, anyway…. they also worry “did I lay off the WRONG people?” “Could I have done it better?” “Now, how bad is the aftershock gonna be?” and “one of my key guys told me privately that I screwed up, and now I realize that I have….”

              And in MOST cases, there is a degree of separation. But the manager still survives to live on another day…

              On that note, I did have a close family member who worked in management at a large food manufacturing concern. He had to make a series of layoffs and restructurings. It literally killed him. He had a heart attack and died within a ten-day period.

              Conversely, I worked at one company – they had a crew of hatchet men/women come into the building, flown in from HQ. They methodically carried out their work during the day. At the end of the business day, I went to a nearby restaurant to get some take-away and the ax crew were in a party-like atmosphere, having drinks and dinner. That DID spare the managers from having to do the firings themselves, which is bizarro. But… well…

              I guess it depends on the circumstances…

              So it all depends.

        3. quill*

          Usually the person who has an actual relationship with you (your manager) is not going to enjoy laying you off, whether it’s because of guilt or because you leaving puts the rest of the team in a bind. But it’s not always your manager making that decision, and that’s where the callousness of employment tends to come in.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            Been there done that. (It wasn’t a layoff, it was a term position ending early because the money ran out, after sometimes being really slow to renew in the first place… my immediate manager definitely gave me the impression she didn’t want me to go.)

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Yes, but the comment was about “the company,” not “the manager.” The manager may feel terrible about it, but will do as they are told.

        1. BRR*

          I think Alison’s reply applies to a company’s management as well, not just a person’s manager. Layoff decisions are still made by people at the end of the day and many will feel awful about it (of course the degree of guilt will vary).

          1. Annie J*

            I disagree, usually layoff decisions are made because the company is not meeting its expected financial targets, but I’ve never yet heard of A manager, supervisor, or CEO taking a pay cut in order to prevent layoffs.
            There’s always something Management can do to prevent a layoff, but of course they choose not to do it which is their choice of course but we shouldnt minimise it.
            Besides, I don’t think feeling guilty makes a decision better, if anything it makes it worse because deepdown the person making it knows it’s not fair, but makes the decision anyway.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              My manager took a pay cut in 2020 to retain all her staff. She’s the Executive Director of the organization. There, now you’ve heard of it.

              Moreover, the people who read this blog are rarely the people making layoff decisions and Alison’s point is true – if they feel othered, antagonized, or misunderstood, they’re less likely to find the advice overall helpful. This blog is uniquely positioned to create better workspaces and dismissing all bosses as unempathetic is counterintuitive to that goal.

            2. Anononon*

              Shrug. All of the higher ups at my company took pay cuts to limit the number of people we had to furlough during the pandemic and to have more money to pay for benefits for the furloughed people as long as possible.

            3. Oh No She Di'int*

              I’ve never yet heard of A manager, supervisor, or CEO taking a pay cut in order to prevent layoffs.

              Really? I am going to presume then that your work experience is limited or that your exposure to the inner workings of companies is limited. Because this sort of thing happens constantly.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                “or that your exposure to the inner workings of companies is limited”

                Yes, it’s worth noting that bosses don’t always broadcast this because it creates a weird dynamic. When my boss did it last year she told me because it was relevant to my job to understand how the budget was moving around, especially then, but she didn’t tell the other staff.

            4. LQ*

              …so in your mind has no company ever gone under? Or do you just think that not having enough money to pay these people is the same as not meeting expected financial targets and it’s fine for people to not get paid? Sometimes the money just isn’t there. I mean I guess you can say that management should just …”be better” but that’s not helpful either.

              There isn’t always something management can do, and sometimes not laying people off is worse overall. (I say this as someone who had to actually ask to be laid off because the other option was not paying a bunch of other folks, laying me off they could close the doors more gracefully and pay more of the contractors or local vendors. Trust me they did not want to make that decision.)

            5. fhqwhgads*

              The entire C-Suite of my company took 60% paycuts in April 2020 to prevent layoffs. This is not a situation where people have $$$$$$ of stock and their salaries are a tiny fraction of their income. The highest paid voluntarily took the hit so no one else would have to.

              1. Joielle*

                Yeah, same thing where my spouse works. I think it was 50% for them. And 50% of A LOT OF MONEY is still A Lot of Money. But it was a pretty big deal and they didn’t have to do any layoffs at all, as far as I know.

            6. DivineMissL*

              When I was working for a national retailer (home office), they were planning big layoffs. My boss (Department Head) offered to let them lay him off to save other people’s jobs. So they laid him off too (along with 1/3 of the total workforce).

            7. Deanna Troi*

              Annie J, when I was a group leader, I supervised 3 Project Managers (along with about 10 more junior staff). My manager, a VP, informed me that there was only billable work for 3 PMs total, not 4. The VP suggested a particular person to be laid off. The 4 of us all agreed to cut back to 32 hours a week so that all 3 of them could keep their jobs. As the manager, this was my suggestion. Not all managers are unfeeling and evil.

            8. no name today*

              My state agency always hires more directors and asst directors when things get tough. For some reason they must feel better about economic woes when swaddled in layers of management. Then they cut functional, critical positions and go on retreats.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            What is “the company”? If we move the discussion from a company’s management to its ownership, there is an established business model of gutting a company by firing employees, the resulting cut in expenses running far enough ahead of the inevitable cut in revenue that the stock price rises based on one really great quarterly report, this of course being the moment to sell. Yes, the individuals implementing those firings may well feel bad about it, even apart from the likelihood of their being next. But those individuals are not “the company.” The people making the decisions are. And while not all owners would throw their grandmothers in front of a bus if it resulted in an uptick to the stock price, many would without a second thought.

        2. The Original K.*

          Yes – management may indeed feel awful about laying someone off, but at the end of the day they will still lay off that person because it’s a business need. By the same token, OP may feel guilty about applying for a better job and leaving when she gets one, but she should still do it because it’s what’s best for her. Feel the fear/guilt, do it anyway.

        3. Spearmint*

          Exactly. Does anyone think a CEO at a fortune 500 company feels guilty about laying off employees he’s never met so the company can increase their margins and make the stock go up this quarter?

          1. Anononon*

            Yes, I’m sure many CEOs feel guilty and bad about layoffs. Yes, they may still do the layoffs, but CEOs are still humans who often have emotions.

            1. Rach*

              And I’m sure many don’t. This argument really doesn’t matter when the results are the same. And when a company like mine lays off 20% of its longtime employees and then hires new college graduates to replace them, reducing costs and allowing the bigwigs to get more $, no I don’t think they feel bad as it is directly benefiting them.

              1. Anononon*

                If the argument doesn’t matter, I’m not sure why we’re having it then.

                Obviously a good number of companies are going to act super crappy, just like many will try not to. This comment thread, though, is under an initial comment saying, essentially, that companies NEVER care and only care about the bottom line.

                This thread shows that sometimes, the results are not the same, as companies are willing to take actions that save employees’ jobs.

      3. hbc*

        It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy too. If you convince yourself that everyone in management is cut-throat and completely devoid of empathy, you’re probably not going to be a pleasant or reasonable person to deal with, and you’re not going to get as many teary goodbyes whether you go under your own steam or by management’s choice.

      4. ENFP in Texas*

        30 years in Corpirate America has made me cynical, I guess. The manager may feel guilty about doing it, but that doesn’t stop the corporate mandate of “reduce your headcount and/or budget” from laying off people with decades of experience and loyalty in oder to improve SG&A.

        1. Rach*

          Yep, CEO’S of large companies didn’t get where they are by being kind. If you layoff people and your stock options and bonuses go up, I’m going to question your motives and how much you care about the people who work for you. Obviously direct managers and grandbosses tend to care about those they work with.

      5. TootsNYC*

        I knew a CFO who made the decision from a strictly spreadsheet POV, and he felt really bad. He also told of a colleague in a similar position who killed himself, apparently over the guilt he felt at closing a retail store (Gimbles?) and laying off all the workers from that store.

  6. Heidi*

    Re: Letter 3, when the OP says that they took the test before, I’m not sure if that means that they took a version of this test (like how you can take the SAT twice but it’s not the same test each time) or if they took that exact test with all the same questions. If the latter, is it possible that the recruiter thought they completed it too quickly? Would it be worth mentioning that they have taken the test before? Or is that not how this assessment works?

    1. Countess of Upstairs Downstairs*

      I think it can certainly be that, or as Alison said the recruiter suspected LW was cheating. I’m also wondering could it be possible that the recruiter screwed up, or the proctoring software failed? For example the employer’s policy is candidates must be proctored during testing, but the recruiter forgot to implement the procedures, or the proctoring software didn’t work. Instead of admitting something went wrong, the recruiter just decided to put LW through the test again, and hope they won’t ask why. I know this may be a somewhat ungenerous guess, but I for sure know people who would do things like that.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Third option. The recruiter is supposed to have all the tests observed, but is doing a first pass unobserved first to get a baseline of who’s worth watching. ( if this is the case, the recruiter would be the one cheating.)

    3. Aquawoman*

      I was wondering if the recruiter had been burned in the past by people who clearly didn’t know [whatever it is that the test tests for] well enough to have passed the test honestly.

    4. kingiguana*

      LW#3 here! The test is just logic puzzles and word problems, and I think the questions are picked randomly each time from bank of them. I’ve taken it three or four times for different companies/jobs (it’s not administered by the company but by a third party testing service) over the past five years. I don’t mind retaking it, I’m just feeling a little weird about interviewing with them if they think I’ve cheated. Is that taking it too personally?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am trying to picture how one would cheat on such a test.
        The only thing I can come up with is for that person to have someone else take the test for them.
        I assume it’s a timed test so googling for answers would not be a solid plan.

      2. Hey Nonnie*

        This is my own extremely negative experience talking, but to me this is the recruiter waving a red flag that I would be keeping an eye on as I go through the process. A recruiter whose FIRST approach is to expect that their candidates are untrustworthy is likely to be a nightmare to work with. I worked with one who was apparently fine until the client started complaining that I hadn’t done things she never asked me to do, whereupon he became hostile and accusatory, even when I pointed out that I was incapable of reading anyone’s mind. He kept telling me to “ask more questions,” despite me telling him I can’t possibly know what even to ask about if she’s withholding crucial information from me. He even went to the extent of calling me two weeks after I’d stopped working there to berate me for… “printing incorrectly.” (I had printed things exactly as the client had shown me to. Also, I wasn’t working there anymore, so what even was the point of calling me?)

        This turned out to be an institutional problem with the recruiting agency, because I was solicited by another recruiter there some years later. I explicitly told her I’d consider talking with them, but would not work with Recruiter 1 ever again due to him being extremely unprofessional. She agreed, got me alllll the way into their office for an interview, and then at the very end of our meeting suddenly accused me of plagiarizing my portfolio. Which she had available to her to review (website) before we even set the meeting. I mean…. just why? If you think I’m a lying liar who lies, why even ask me for an interview? Where even is this weird suspicion coming from?

        So my radar is attuned to this kind of BS, and I would be watching this recruiter VERY carefully throughout our next interactions. If she didn’t have a really good explanation for why a re-test was necessary (especially with supervision like I’m in middle school), I’d tell her to go pound sand and look for someone who doesn’t treat their candidates like dishonest hacks.

        1. Sharon*

          I agree. A logic puzzles and word problems test is probably just a general aptitude/critical thinking/intelligence test used to sort people into categories. Exactly what information is a retest supposed to provide that would actually change anything? Either the recruiter is seeing a big mismatch between your in-person interactions and the test results – in which case they should probably just consider the in-person interactions in determining whether to send you on interviews since that’s what an interviewer will see – or there is no mismatch, in which case there is no problem.

          Sounds like a lazy recruiter not wanting to actually screen people.

        2. Mannequin*

          I worked for a retail store where they assumed all employees were thieves. My training was sitting alone in the back room watching multiple videos on how seriously this company took internal theft and how they actually prosecuted an associate who ‘bought’ (not stole) a nickel out of the register.
          It was exactly as awful a place to work as you can imagine.

      3. Don't overthink it*

        I’ve worked at a company where this was a standard practice. Many candidates don’t pass the CCAT, and recruiting didn’t have time to proctor every test, so if you passed it the first time unsupervised, they asked you to come to the office and take it again, or take it with your video cam on.

    5. TootsNYC*

      that letter reminded me of the penultimate episode of the radio play “Cabin Pressure,” when Swiss Air interviews Martin only because he’s the only person ever to score that high on their written test. And they’re sure he cheated. Then he finds out that they told him he’d only missed one question–but he argues with them that he’s right. And it turns out he is.

  7. GNG*

    #2: I wouldn’t recommend bringing it up at all. One of the candidates’ greatest fears is having the offer rescinded because something falls through during negotiations. Many candidates really need that job and feel they don’t have the luxury to take the risk, not necessarily that they don’t know what they’re worth. You might be making some assumptions about your new hire.

    It seems rather absurd to criticize her for not negotiating when the power dynamics and information asymmetry is all slated in your favor. Especially in your case, it’s just a few thousand dollars. If you really thought she deserved to get that extra money, you should have offered it to her, instead of withholding it and then thinking less of her for not negotiating.

    When hiring at my work, we always approach the candidate with our best possible offer, just to eliminate all this guess work and having to go back-and-forth. It works great for us.

      1. BurnOutCandidate*

        That’s a valid point. New Hire may have come from a background — like retail — where there is no such thing as salary negotiation and didn’t know it could have been done.

      2. Mannequin*

        If my manager pulled a “surprise, you could have made thousands more salary if you’d just “sold yourself” better!”, I wouldn’t consider it a criticism either…I’d consider it an insult for not simply offering me what they thought I was worth in the first place.

        People shouldn’t HAVE to play these pointless games to get decent pay, it puts anyone who is not aggressive, outgoing, and extroverted at an immediate disadvantage, there’s also the aspects of ableism, sexism, racism, eccentric that come into play.

        This needs to be ABOLISHED.

        1. Mannequin*

          Quite honestly, I’d be so angry at being treated that way, they’d be lucky if I didn’t resign on the spot. I’d rather take a job that paid FAR LESS but my pay rate was set in stone, than one that had fabulous pay & benefits but required me to play a big guessing game on whether I’d hit the “magic” number.

    1. Blue Horizon*

      I was once assigned as a manager to a staff member not long after she joined our company. In conversation with her, it became clear that she felt that she had been lowballed on the offer relative to her skills and experience. Because her personal circumstances at the time meant she urgently needed a job, she felt she had to accept, but she was clearly unhappy about it.

      I asked her to work on a self-assessment and put a case together, and then performed my own assessment by talking to her peers and those she had worked with in the company. Both of them came to the same conclusion that she was, indeed, underpaid. Armed with that evidence, I was able to go to my manager and argue successfully for her salary to be adjusted. It took a little while because senior management was reluctant to move in large increments, but we eventually got to a point where both she and the company were happy with her compensation.

      So to the OP, if you indeed feel that you ended up underpaying her then there are things you can do about it, even if you’re constrained by policy.

      (I dislike the game as well, but it’s how it’s played in some parts of the world, and as Alison said earlier we should not assume the OP has the ability to change it).

      1. Tali*

        Great point, I think this is a great opportunity for OP to push for their employee to be extra rewarded at the next opportunity if they know there was money left on the table.

        1. No Longer Looking*

          Exactly what I was going to suggest – someone finding themselves in this manager’s position should be looking forward to the first review where they get to provide a multi-thousand-dollar raise for the second year. :)

      2. Triplestep*

        This is a great solution and should be considered along with any conversation about encouraging the employee to negotiate in the future. I don’t see how that conversation held without a direct solution such as this one could land as anything but “we could hhave paid you more, too bad.”

        1. Nicotena*

          Yeah, (appreciating Alison’s comment that this isn’t OP’s fault and not criticizing her) – I would feel quite weird if my supervisor came to me after I started a new job and gave me a pep talk on valuing myself more in the context of “we would have given you a few more thousand dollars a year if you’d asked.” Particularly since this employee was mainly hired because a previous candidate negotiated too much, she may think the loss of a few K was worth not having to ride the rollercoaster. I think it’d be more useful to talk about it when there are future opportunities rather than making it a retro-active “just so you know.” My boss helped me negotiate when I got a raise and I appreciated that a lot.

          1. Mannequin*

            I’d be FURIOUS and they’d be lucky if I didn’t resign on the spot. I hate head games more than ANYTHING, and “guess the magic number that isn’t so high we won’t consider you” and “lol, what a fool they are for accepting such a lowball salary!” is 100% a head game.

            Why fo companies even DO this ?

      3. Washi*

        Along similar lines, when it comes to annual review time, explicitly encourage her to negotiate for more money (noting she could have done so as well when hired). Being coached through it by a supportive manager and having the whole process/dynamic explained will help her do it with a new job offer, which is a much more nerve-wracking process.

      4. Mockingjay*

        @Blue Horizon, this is a terrific solution and I hope OP2 uses it. If this isn’t feasible, perhaps OP2 can push for an early performance review and raise. (i.e., use whatever mechanism the company has for increases, regardless of what it’s called)

      5. nothing rhymes with purple*

        I would never have imagined this kind of thing is possible. I’ve made a note of it and I thank you for telling us about it.

      6. mw*

        This. If she comes and says something, use that time to talk about negotiating next time. At no point should the manager be the one to initiate that conversation, and at no point should it be brought up that they had the ability to pay her more had she negotiated

    2. MK*

      It’s possible the OP didn’t have the authority to make the better offer. But also, it’s not clear to me if the new hire is actually underpaid, or if she was offered what the company thought a fair salary for her skillset and experience. The fact that there was some flexibility in the salary doesn’t mean she automatically should have been offered more, if the flexibility was there for an outstanding candidate.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        The LW says a few thousand dollars.

        If someone is making $47,000 and average market value for that role is $50,000 would you say they are underpaid? Average means that somebody needs to be below the average. It’s not a wildly different amount at the end of the year. I don’t think this means the LW or the company were lowballing or underpaying the new employee. They were leaving a bit of room in their budget to negotiate a small amount if the person being hired wanted to.

        In this example with a salary of $47,000, the guy trying to get 30% more was asking for $61,000 which is a lot more than “a few thousand” the LW mentions.

        1. KHB*

          It’s not really as much about the average market rate for this type of role in general (which can be a bit fuzzy) as it is about what OP believes this specific employee deserves to be earning for this specific job. OP says in her letter that the employee “deserves a pep talk about arguing for what she’s worth,” which implies that OP believes that the employee is currently being paid less than what she’s worth.

          $3000 is a significant chunk of change. (If you disagree, you’re welcome to send me $3000.) And it’s not “just” $3000; it’s $3000 for each and every year that the employee works with the company – and if she’s unlucky enough that her next employer bases their offer on her current salary, it might be $3000 for each and every year of her entire career.

          1. Person from the Resume*

            I agree that a low starting point can hinder raises each year going forward at that employer, but it should never, ever travel to the next employer. That’s a brand new negotiation.

          2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            Which adds up to a lot more than $3000 / year if the employee has a 401K or Roth IRA.

      2. Notmynormalname*

        I’ve been in this position. My company hasn’t negotiated well in the past (not willing to move AT all on anything and depending on position, paying at the lower end of things) and it left a bad taste in my mouth. When I hired, I offered 1K less then the max I was allowed (with the ok from my manager) to allow for some negotiation. The person I hired did not negotiate and I felt terrible. We did talk about it about a year to a year and a half later where I encouraged her to always negotiate. So the salary this person received was within market rate – it just wasn’t as 100% high as it could have been. We have very little flexibility on things and I think I would still do that again because no flexibility isn’t a good look either.

        1. KHB*

          If “no flexibility” isn’t a good look, then it needs a better PR campaign. I would respect the hell out of a company that said “We gave you our very best offer right off the bat, because that’s how we believe is the fairest way to operate” (at least, as long as I didn’t find out later that they were suddenly offering “flexibility” to people other than me).

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            This is the way we do offers. If I want to have someone on my team, I don’t want to waste time trying to lowball them on salary or deal with a bunch of salary disparity issues that only grow over time with raises. I just hired three people with similar experience at the same salary despite one asking for $5K less – pleasantly surprised is always better than people feeling like they were taken advantage of.

            We typically only negotiate with very senior people with hard to find skill sets, and that’s mostly over signing bonuses or correcting a disparity in benefits of their current job.

          2. comityoferrors*

            Yup, me too. The idea that extra money is there to negotiate “if the person being hired” wants it is…bizarre to me. Of course the person being hired wants that money.

    3. Bamcakes*

      I have always worked in jobs with a very public pay ranges. In my first job out of university, I got put at the bottom of the pay scale— fined fair enough! I then went back and did a postgraduate degree. When I got my second job, I got put back on the same pay bottom point of the pay range. I asked if I could go higher up the pay range, since I now had both a relevant postgraduate degree and a year’s experience, and they told me they couldn’t believe I thought either the degree or the experience would make a difference and since I’d been out of the workforce for two years (getting the relevant degree, which was actually mentioned as a Desirable on the job spec) I was lucky to be offered a job at all and who the hell did I think I was. It was completely humiliating. I haven’t ever negotiated a job offer since beyond, “would you be able to at least match my current salary, or go to the top of the range since I’d be taking a pay cut to take this job”.

      You just don’t know what experiences people are bringing to “negotiations”, and what they can afford to lose. The company can always afford to lose a candidate: candidates can very often not afford to lose a job offer, and candidates from marginalised backgrounds are so much more likely to have been punished or ridiculed for trying to negotiate in the past. There really should be more pushback on this practice!

      1. EPLawyer*

        We hear a lot about how promotions and salaries are based on your current job — as determined by the companies. It’s why we have laws prohibiting asking about previous salary, so people don’t get lowballed.

        but along with that, if you get lowballed — or are too scared to ask for more because you need a job – you are affecting your own future views of a good salary. Say you might be making 50K a year and get offered a new job making 10% more than you are making now. That sounds AWESOME right? More money than you are making. Except its only 55K a year. And market rate for your job is 75K. So you are STILL underpaid even with making more money. That’s why employers need to not play this game and offer market rate.

        OP, your hands might have been tied. But perhaps, in the future, you can work with your company to be more upfront about the pay band being offered for the job. That will let people know if its worth negotiating (actual hire) or not (first person). Plus it gives your company a chance to check if they are offering market rate and if not, why not.

      2. Artemesia*

        This tends to happen to women a lot more than men too. I know women who were treated like pariahs after pushing to negotiate their entry salary; the men who were their bosses gave them a little more but then treated them as uppity thereafter. The same company routinely promoted or rewarded mediocre men over high performing women.

        1. pancakes*

          Yes. A fairly recent example, in January of this year a writer tweeted that Rolling Stone magazine rescinded her offer when she tried to negotiate the salary. There are 175 quote tweets, many with similar stories. Coaching individual women to play this game more skillfully isn’t nearly as good as putting an end to the game itself. If people feel their hands are tied the solution is to work on that knot, not bind more people up in it.

      3. Spearmint*

        The way they handled that was terrible, but if it was a public university, then it’s not surprising you were offered at the lowest end of the range. Most government jobs work this way: they budget only for the lowest end of the range, and you get raises based mostly/entirely on years of experience. It sucks, but that’s just a reality of how public budgets work.

        1. Bamcheeks*

          I’ve been working in this sector for 15 years since that experience, and I know that now! I didn’t back then. But this is exactly my point: if one sector punishes you for negotiating, and another sector punishes you for not negotiating (and those punishments are not by any means distributed fairly by gender, race, gender presentation, class, etc), then this is an unnecessary and unfair burden on people with the least amount of power in the equation.

        2. Mannequin*

          Starting EVERYONE in the same job at the same salary and giving raises by years of experience sounds ideal.
          No more race/gender pay gaps! No more bias towards what demographics do and don’t ‘deserve’ more! Total salary transparency!

    4. Uranus Wars*

      Out of curiosity, if you approach the candidate with the best possible offer and they try to negotiate for more is there room to go above or is it a take it or leave it situation in this case?

      1. GNG*

        In brief, best possible offer means the dollar amount is already at the highest we’re willing to go, and there will be no negotiations. If any candidate negotiates, we don’t hold it against them for trying; we tell them we’re giving them the best offer we can right off the bat.

        To put it in broader context: we’re a moderately large organization. Generally speaking, for all requisitioned positions, there’s a set HR process for compensation analysis before jobs are posted, and lowballing is not a thing.

    5. Minerva*

      Honestly, I can’t win and I know it. Every time I have tried to negotiate I have met a brick wall. I hate doing it, and it has never worked even when I have found out other new hires are making half again what I was. I don’t want anyone telling me I am wasting money by not negotiating when it’s never worked before – give me the decoder ring to figure out how to find out when it might work.

      As potentially the new hire, offer me a raise after a year, great. Tell me I need to learn to negotiate, you’re telling me you weren’t upfront with me in the first place.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes. “I can’t be upfront, so potentially improving this process falls to you” wouldn’t be very inspiring to me either!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        My thought is OP could get the new hire a raise at the 6 month mark and then another raise at the 1 year mark.

        But don’t do what my husband’s company did. He started at $1 per hour more which was very reasonable. The boss told others that he would have given my husband more. At raise time, the boss told my husband that because he started so high, he would not be getting much of a raise. Only one of these statements can be true.

    6. TootsNYC*

      I have taken to simply telling people, “When you’re interviewing here, it’s smart to ask for $5,000 more and an extra week of vacation. I’ve discovered that they often prepare for that, before they’ve even offered the job. I would think a lot of other companies are similar.”

      I don’t mention the specific job they just applied for. More a general thing.

      I once years ago was in a position of having been told, “we can offer her $X, or go up to $X+Y.” I wasn’t told what to offer her, specifically, so when I offered her the job, I told her, “I’ve been told I can offer you $X or $X+Y. I’m going to offer you $X+Y, my top salary. Because I really want you to work for me, I want you to be happy working for me, and I want you to know that I’ll go to bat for you wherever I can. Normally I’d say you should ask for $2,000 or $3,000 more, but in this case, I’m just giving it to you, so I won’t be able to go back for more money.” It was the truth, and she believed me, and she took the job.

      In another job recently, HR and my boss specifically told me, “Offer him $X. If he asks for me, tell him you’ll try for it, and come back to us. We can probably go up $5,000 and an extra week of vacation, but don’t tell him that.” I had tried to decide if I should tip him the wink about asking for more–I was alone with him when making the offer–but he was smart and simply asked for exactly that before I had a chance to say, “Perhaps they can do better.” Maybe someone else had told him.

  8. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    I had to hire for my department and my boss, the company owner, would NOT let me put salary in the job posting.

    He didn’t technically say I couldn’t *tell* them though, so I just told all of the candidates I interviewed up front what the range was when they came in. But yeah, it’s not always up to the hiring manager.

    1. High Score!*

      Thank you! I’m female, very highly technical and I know I should negotiate but I can never bring myself to do so. Instead what I do is evaluate the offer and if they do not offer need their best then I turn down the job. You want my best then you offer yours. Simple. I hope employers will realize that when they pinch pennies they lose the best candidates bc good negotiaters aren’t always the best employees.

      1. Cordyceps*

        “I hope employers will realize that when they pinch pennies they lose the best candidates bc good negotiaters aren’t always the best employees.”

        This. I am a man and have never negotiated a salary. I guess I should be embarrassed about that.

        I do do the salary research beforehand and when they ask me what I’m looking for (usually fairly early in the process when it would be a cardinal sin for the candidate to raise the issue of salary), I am honest and tell them what I think is a fair and appropriate salary for the job. That either gets me kicked out of the running or it fits in their range, so we move forward.

        But, this gamesmanship and brinksmanship nonsense I will never understand. I’ve seen plenty of smooth talkers (that probably negotiated their salaries quite effectively) be the absolute worst employees imaginable.

        1. Been There Seen That*

          Honestly, in the limited hiring I have done, the higher I paid the worse the employee was. I actually ended up using a placement service and they told me I was overpaying by about 20%. They found me some great employees and some average.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Female or otherwise socially conditioned against being forward, anxious, cautious about scaring away an offer…all things that can apply to great candidates and employers should offer those people what they’re worth up front.

        1. Nicotena*

          Also literally the prior candidate for this exact job did in fact lose the offer by trying to negotiate! It’s not just theoretical in this case!

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I used to buy cars this way. Tell me the price and I will tell you if I will pay it. Once in a while I would see a sales person get real nervous.

  9. katkat*

    My personal experience is that negotiating salary is HARD. And especially if you’re not interwieving a lot.
    I’m a woman in my thirties and I have been looking for jobs most of the time for past 2 years. I have taken it my goal to at least ASK in every offer stage when I hear the salary: “Is there any room for negotiation?” Usually they end up asking, what I had in mind, I end up telling (propably) a wayyyy too low figure and they end up saying “yes” to me. (And in my current job, they ended up giving me an even bigger number…)

    So personally I would be glad to get some insight on negotiations! I’m not sure if I would like to hear that advice from a current manager, (propably not) but is there an another way you could pass on knowledge for her and others? Do you have a mentoring program, where you could encourage mentors to give advice in that regard? Or could you make your salary practices more transparent (like how they are defined, how does a typical hiring process or promotion process go etc…)

    1. mreasy*

      We are starting a mentoring program in the women’s group at my workplace and negotiating salary & raises is something I’d like to work on with my mentees. I have done it for every job offer since my late 20s, and in every case I got a higher salary as a result (though not usually what I asked for). I don’t like the system we have but I’d love to help people navigate it with more confidence.

      1. High Score!*

        Start a mentoring program for management instead to teach them to pay everyone what the position is worth.

      2. High Score!*

        Actually, this is just like the old “let’s teach women to act like men in the office so they can succeed” instead of the newer “let’s have an inclusive environment so everyone can be their best”. It sucks and management should be called out for it every single time.

        1. Boof*

          I mean, I think both strategies (“this is what has been most successful in the past” + “this is what would work better when possible and these are signs it’s implemented where you’re looking”) would be an important part of an educational program.

        2. The OTHER Other*

          I don’t think learning about how to negotiate salaries is “teaching women to act like men”. Saying that management should be “called out” for making a positive move (even if it’s not your ideal) is IMO a vote for the status quo. Sometimes we scorn the good for not being perfect, and so get neither.

          1. The Other Katie*

            That is literally what it is, though. Study after study shows that women are less likely to try to negotiate salary in the workplace than men are, so it perpetually reinforces the gender salary gap if you (a company) expect people to negotiate their salary upward. Encouraging women to negotiate salary, rather than fixing a system that perpetuates pay inequality, is “teaching women to act like men”.

            I very much doubt the OP is in a position to make a systemic cultural change in her organisation to address this, and it’s not her fault that it exists at all, and it’s a good idea to point out that organisations expect this. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that this is how inequality happens even in the apparent absence of explicit sexism.

              1. I should really pick a name*

                I believe that Alison has pointed out that any studies that have indicated that have been theoretical and not based on practical data.

            1. Boof*

              I mean, I get that, but it’s kind of a vicious cycle and needs to be addressed at all ends? The answer to “women have been historically discouraged from advocating for themselves” (both by lack of encouragement and by punishment for doing so) isn’t “don’t start encouraging them to advocate for themselves”, it’s to do both that as well as to address any bias against being receptive to this. But this LW doesn’t seem like they’d discourage negotiation (the opposite really) so working on the receptive part isn’t very relevant to this particular LW.

        3. JustMyImagination*

          Culture shifts like that take a long time, though, because there will always be old school CEOs who resist these types of changes. So until then, why not mentor people to be successful in the current predominant business culture while also working on the bigger shift?

    2. GigglyPuff*

      I wouldn’t start out by asking to negotiate, there’s to much room for them to just say no. When told the salary, I’ll usually just say “I’m hoping for X” or “I’m hoping to get closer to X” or “Would you be able to do X?” and state what you want. Probably even bump it up a few thousand more than what you are good with (since us women tend to undervalue our asks), like tack on 10% to your number. Then they either say no the original stands, we can do Y, or yes we can do X. First time I negotiated, I had my number and at the last minute said screw it, tacked on X% almost reaching the top of the range and they approved it.

      I will say I got good advice from previous women managers who were annoyed at me, that I didn’t negotiate the job I was leaving them for. As they said, always negotiate. I was new to working and it was a government job with a firm salary and the hiring manager had already gotten it raised by HR before they even offered it to me, so I didn’t even think to negotiate. I probably would now, be told no, but I’d still try.

    3. Nicotena*

      I remember a thread here on AAM where lots of people said they’d never ask for a raise at their current job – that the org should just recognize their value, or else the commenter would quit and go work for someone who did recognize them – which seemed bonkers to me, but was obviously a fairly common perspective, and I think plenty of folks have the same idea about negotiating an offer. That it’s too hard, scary, demeaning, whatever. I disagree but I don’t think it’s surprising that this employee didn’t bother trying and it might not just be because they don’t value themselves.

    4. Jennifer*

      I won’t even speak to a recruiter if I don’t know the salary. I tell them “I currently make X*, and would not consider leaving for less than Y)”. I don’t want anyone to waste their time on interviews.

      * You can make this number up. They have no way of checking. It’s how I went from a 45K job to making 90k+.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Not necessarily, ThatGirl. Quite often , if you’re leaving one position for another, the new place has to give you an incentive for leaving the old place. And more often than not, your next job’s salary is based on what you are currently making.

          Some low-ballers (one place I worked) once mistakenly assumed, apparently, that I was in trouble at my current position. They wanted me to take, what was in essence, a pay cut to come work for them.

          This was years ago – I was making $xK, and asked for $xK+$7,000. The offer came through = $43K. But their bennies weren’t as good, etc. so I refused it, telling them frankly, if that’s what you’re gonna offer, why the hell did you waste my time? We were up front at the start of the process. Besides, I have a couple more irons in the fire, so thanks, sorry it couldn’t work. The HR rep went on a spiel saying basically “but….we’re the cat’s ass!!!” Well, go on thinking that, I am anon-2, and I won’t work for what you’re offering.

          20 minutes later the phone rang. $xK+$5,000. So I took it but it was a big yellow caution flag – when promotion time came, I had to give my resignation to get the promotion.

    5. ThatGirl*

      I’ve realized that I’ve only ever negotiated once, and even then I didn’t do super well – I had a minimum amount I decided I needed to afford rent, and it was only $1k more than they offered me. But I was young and wary of scaring them off.

      Since then, I’ve had some experience asking for raises along the way, but always more or less gotten the range I put out, so I never felt the need to ask for more. At my current job, I gave a range to the HR recruiter, and when I got the offer, it was at the top of my range – I was happy with it, so why ask for more? But I do sometimes wonder if I left money on the table.

      1. PT*

        I once negotiated an offer, had it accepted, and then a few hours later, got a phone call saying, “Actually we’re not allowed to give you that much, can you do (lower amount)?”

        I was like, “uh what?”

    6. I should really pick a name*

      I would say don’t think of negotiation as some drawn out process of offers and counter-offers.
      My salary negotiation consisted of two emails.

      Me: “I appreciate the offer, but due to X, I would like to request and increase of Y percent”
      Them: “Based on the information you provided, we have increased the salary on your offer letter by Y percent”

      I never asked if there was room for negotiation. I just asked for what I wanted.

    7. I'm just here for the cats!*

      In regards to #2 and people not negotiating pay. Sometimes it is that people have been conditioned not to negotiate or they may not know they can. It some jobs you really can’t negotiate because everything is set (Government jobs in particular).

      Another thing is that maybe when the candidate heard the salary she was excited because it was such a boost from what she gets now that she didn’t even think to try and negotiate.

      1. LW2*

        I suspect it’s the second one–that the salary is a good one for her–because we do pay quite competitively for our sector. I just want young women to enthusiastically advocate for themselves!

  10. Drizzle Cake*

    #1 All other things aside, does your boss know how swamped you are and how long things take?

    Apply for that job. Apply for other ones too. But in the meantime, stop trying to do two people’s jobs on your own. Make a list of everything on your plate and ask your boss what to prioritise as you cannot get it all done.

    1. Mockingjay*

      A task list can be an excellent tool to get through a manager’s (thick) skull. Make sure you provide context, not a laundry list. List the tasks, estimate time it takes to complete each (crucial – the total from all work likely exceeds 40), due dates (multiple tasks always conflict), resources (tools, people, info) required. Anything to provide the manager with a complete picture. (I have about a 70% success rate with getting tasks reduced this way.)

      If he still leans toward not filling the position, then your boss is an ass and isn’t going to change. Apply for any job you like!

  11. Tali*

    OP #2 it seems like 2 very crucial points that would have been helpful for your direct employee to know, and would likely help her in the future, are 1. how to assess her own worth, and 2. how much flexibility the company has in negotiating.

    For #1, it sounds like your two candidates were worth up to a few thousand dollars above what you offered, but not 30% more. How did you arrive at that number, and how could your employees calculate that number, now and as their experience increases over time?

    For #2, knowing how much leeway the other side (in this case, the side with power!) has in negotiating is a huge advantage. Your employee had no way of knowing whether she would be rewarded or punished for attempting to negotiate. If your company usually rewards negotiators then this is great info for your employee to have as she develops her career–she could negotiate at her next promotion without fear.

    There’s also a takeaway for you here–I hope you’re negotiating at your next promotion too!

  12. The Other Katie*

    re #4, I kind of feel like “encouraging people to apply for a job that doesn’t currently exist on the off-chance that sometime it might and we could get a commission” is a bit sketchy, too. Job applications aren’t free, even if they’re not charged. The recruiting agency is essentially wasting other people’s resources for their own possible benefit.

    1. Drago Cucina*

      It may not be that sketchy.
      I’m a W2 contractor, who will be doing a “badge flip” in the near future. This means the federal agency we contract with wants my contract to be temporarily handled by another company. That means that while usually the person in the job doesn’t change they contracting company is sometimes required to advertise the position. They may also find that the person in the role isn’t the best option. Or, may decide this is the time to retire.

  13. Less Bread More Taxes*

    #2 – Am I understanding correctly that OP rejected candidate number 1 solely because of his salary expectations or did he himself turn it down based on the salary? I am getting the sense that LW2 has some strict ideas on what negotiations should look like.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, they offered him the job and he wanted 30% more.

      The OP isn’t doing anything strange here. She wants to make sure her new hire knows she should negotiate in the future; that’s a good thing, and more managers need to send that message.

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        It may be a difference of workplace culture, but I do think the two things OP mention are very strange. (1) I am just wondering if OP thought that 30% was so wildly out of touch that she rejected him over it. It is possible that I am reading too much into her “That … didn’t work out” statement. If it was the candidate that made the choice, why not just say “we couldn’t offer him that so he declined the offer”? But instead, it reads to me like OP was so offended by that request that their perception of the candidate was negatively changed.

        (2) I do think that offering a lower salary than you are capable of to an exceptional candidate is bizarre. OP admits openly that the candidate was worth the extra couple thousand and also that the budget existed for that. So why not handle the whole process with integrity?

        What’s also strange to me is that if I am correct that candidate 1’s salary request changed OP’s view of him, then OP is a prime example of *why* people don’t negotiate – because we know that there are managers out there who will rescind offers because of negotiation or at least they might treat us differently afterward. So it reads to me like there is a very particular sweet spot in terms of negotiation for OP. They won’t accept someone who tries to negotiate outside their idea of what is appropriate (and the definition of “appropriate” here doesn’t necessarily always match the budget), but they also want someone to try to negotiate. It’s very tricky as a candidate to get that right, especially when you know there’s a possibility of an offer being rescinded, which there always is.

        If I was hired and then told that I should have negotiated, I’d expect a raise right there and then. If I was told no, then I’d be very confused at my manager essentially saying “I shorted you on purpose even though you’re worth more and I have no intention of fixing this for you.”

        Last, I just want to add that a 30% increase really isn’t much for starting salaries in a lot of professions. If the original offer was $30k, I don’t think it’s outrageous to ask for $40k.

        1. londonedit*

          It would be outrageous in my industry (book publishing, UK). It’s notoriously poorly paid, and I’ve only ever been able to negotiate a maximum of an extra £1000. Once I tried to up an offer by £2k and ended up with £500 more than they’d originally offered. That’s how things are. So if someone was offered a salary of £30k for a job at my level and they came back and asked for £40k, people would absolutely think they were way out of touch and there’s no way that sort of increase would be approved. By ‘That…didn’t work out’ I assumed the candidate had asked for 30% more, the OP had said sorry, we’re not able to do that, and the candidate had stuck firm to their guns so it was clear they weren’t going to be able to come to an agreement.

          1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

            I negotiated once for a higher salary – 3k more, if I recall – and I got it because the hiring manager really liked me and felt I was worth it and fought for it. She was wonderful.

            She then quit two months later. Her replacement was not wonderful. I quickly left that job.

          2. nothing rhymes with purple*

            Interesting. I had read “That didn’t work out” as : the candidate asked for 30% more, and the OP/the OP’s company withdrew the job offer.

            1. nothing rhymes with purple*

              Amending my comment: OP has provided more info below, and this definitely wasn’t the case this time.

        2. BRR*

          I was thinking of it as possibly
          Lw: we’d like to offer the job with a salary of $60k
          Candidate: can you do $80k?
          Lw: the highest we are able to go is $65k, would that work for you?
          Candidate: I’m sorry but I can’t accept a job with a salary lower than $80k.

          1. mreasy*

            I’ve also had candidates asking for very high numbers (when range was in the ad) get combative when told the reality of the situation. We can’t know what OP was referring to and it seems we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

            1. SarahKay*

              Definitely, I think give OP the benefit of the doubt. Back when I worked retail as a department manager I needed someone to fill a role with very specific hours, and had a phone call with a candidate who flat-out told me those hours (as given in the job ad) weren’t an option, in an aggressive tone. I could very easily see me describing the conclusion as “that… didn’t work out”.

              (For extra context, in my case they thought they were speaking to someone who would be their colleague, rather than their manager. Their actual words were “Who are you to tell me what hours I’d have to work?!?” When I relied with “I’m the manager you’d be working with” they suddenly got very polite. So yeah, that…. didn’t work out.)

        3. ErinWV*

          We have no reason to assume that this was an entry-level position at a low pay rate. 30% could have been a much more dramatic overreach than you’re suggesting.

          OP also does not say that they rejected the first candidate for his audacity, which you seem to have assumed. Maybe he applied not knowing the salary band, and anything below offer + 30% is a pay cut from what he currently makes. So he (understandably) walked.

          We just don’t know, is what I’m saying, so why assume the worst?

        4. Colette*

          30% is enough difference that, even if you compromise on say 10%, it’s likely the person you hire is going to be unhappy, and companies don’t generally want to hire people who are unhappy with the work or pay.

        5. AY*

          “It is possible that I am reading too much into her “That … didn’t work out” statement.”

          You’ve read a whole new novel into that statement.

        6. AndersonDarling*

          I just experienced this scenario. We were hiring for a Sr. Teapot Analyst and one of the candidates was a personality match but they had very limited experience. Since they couldn’t do the work necessary in a senior role, we decided to offer them a Jr. Teapot Analyst Role with the opportunity to gain the experience and mentorship to be promoted. This was someone with 2 years experience, but they asked for a salary that was higher than our Analytics Director with 20 years experience. It was an out of the ballpark wild salary request, even for the senior level role that was advertised. And our salaries are top 10 percentile in the industry, so it wasn’t a case of blinders on our part.
          The candidate’s outrageous salary request turned us off. We didn’t offer a compromise salary because the gap was too wide and also because we doubted how he could fit in the team if he felt he should be making the salary of a director. Would he be to arrogant to work with? Would he be patronizing to others in the company?
          Looking back, I don’t think the candidate was interested in the position, I think he was just applying to anything and hoping to sucker someone into an outrageous salary. He wasn’t job searching, he was salary shopping.

          1. Sleet Feet*

            There is an amazingly easy hack for this. And the best part is it’s 100% free for the employer.

            Are you ready for this game changer? It’s called “Publish the salary range on the job posting”

            1. AndersonDarling*

              And that’s the rub, we did publish the salary range. The candidate asked for a salary way beyond the posted range.

              1. AndersonDarling*

                Also, we were still open to negotiating past the salary range. If we had a stellar candidate that had exceptional experience then we would have changed the title and salary to gain the talent.
                We had the time to invest into finding the right talent so we were interviewing individuals with all sorts of experience and backgrounds. The candidate in question didn’t even meet the minimum requirements, so that was why it was so bizarre that they expected $50K past the upper salary range.

            2. Littorally*

              That is not going to stop people who are confident they can talk themselves into way higher than the posted range.

              1. pancakes*

                It doesn’t have to. If people want to do that, whether consciously or not, that’s their choice. Not providing the information to all is worse for all, including people who believe they’re a top candidate for whatever reason. Having an accurate sense of the employer’s target needn’t keep those people from asking to go higher.

                1. pancakes*

                  To be more specific, someone in that position (i.e., someone who believes they are a superb candidate) would remain free to make a good argument as to why they’re worth more than the employer is contemplating. Having that salary information in hand wouldn’t oblige them to keep quiet about additional qualifications they have – an advanced degree, more experience, specific experience, etc.

            3. Anon for now*

              I agree that salary ranges should be published, but, there will always be those candidates who believe that the employer will pay more than the salary range. That the employer will be dazzled with how amazing they are and come up with more money.

              I’ve interviewed more than one person who doesn’t want the job I’m hiring for, they are interviewing in the hopes another job at the level they want will be created. And in both cases occasionally these candidates will get what they are hoping for.

              1. pancakes*

                Why should everyone else do without really important information for their benefit? And how exactly is it to their benefit to not have a more accurate sense of what the employer is in fact willing to pay?

          2. Generic Name*

            Wait. Sometimes job searching IS salary shopping. As in “I am unhappy with the pay at my current job and they won’t pay me any higher so I will find a job that will pay me what I want.” I think that’s pretty normal.

            1. AndersonDarling*

              I should have been clearer in my original story. In this case, he asked for $50K beyond the posted salary range. And he didn’t meet the min qualifications for the original role.

                1. mw*

                  I would hope you would. I’m not sure how a pep talk about arguing for your worth would be a good idea for any employee. All you’d be doing is telling them that every offer is a lowball offer. You’ve already said that in your industry that “nobody is paid what they are worth.” Telling them they could have been paid more if they would have asked isn’t going to be beneficial. There are better ways to encourage people. Encourage them to outwork their pay. Personally, if I’m told that I’m underpaid by someone who has the ability to do something about it (and they aren’t boosting my pay to compensate for that) I’m going to stop working as hard.

        7. Aquawoman*

          “That…didn’t work out” could mean that the request was far out of bounds and the candidate then got huffy when declined.

          I’d love a no-haggling-necessary rule for salaries, but negotiations is part of what I do for a living and in a negotiation, I CAN’T approach someone with the best deal for them that I am willing to make because they will take it as an opening offer and then there is no where to go. We’ve even said “this is the best we can do” about such offers and people will STILL try to negotiate them and then get mad if you don’t.

          1. Nicotena*

            Such a tricky thing, because some salaries are automatically “the best we can do” and trying to negotiate gives a poor impression, and in this case the employee might have thought they were in such a situation – whereas in most jobs I’ve had, trying to negotiate at least a little is expected and not trying at all, as here, is seen as a bit strange. Very tricky for candidates to navigate.

            1. Cordyceps*

              Absolutely. And how is the candidate supposed to know which they are dealing with at the moment?

              I’ve sat on hiring committees where people did try to negotiate salary and the reaction was “What a greedy SOB! They should be thrilled to work for us! We will NEVER consider hiring this person again.”

              I’ve also sat on hiring committees where people did NOT try to negotiate and the reaction was “What a freak! What a loser! Doesn’t even TRY to advocate for themselves. We can’t have such a spineless twerp work for us!”

              Am I being a tad hyperbolic here….Yeah. But, I’m not exaggerating much….

            2. Artemesia*

              someone close to me got a ‘best we can do offer’ — and it was a very good offer and they were pleased with it and accepted it and have since then had further good salary increases. The problem is when ‘best we can do’ is lowball for the field or the bottom of the range for the position.

        8. Meow*

          This is exactly how I read the letter. I also personally find OP2’s behavior off and I’m not clear on why we can’t point that out. These are legitimate concerns.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Because it’s a crappy experience for a letter writer to write in with “how can I do something good?” and have the comments focus on how she should instead undo a practice of her company that she may have no control over. I’m not willing to do that to letter writers in my space.

          2. LW2*

            I’m not sure why my “behavior” is “off.” We offered (and negotiated for within the org) a strong starting salary but had some extra budget we could use to negotiate and retain a candidate if needed. That isn’t a strange thing to do; even if people disagree with the practice it both isn’t in my control and isn’t abnormal. We disclosed the salary range at the outset of the interview process. The first offer didn’t work out for various reasons that are both discussed elsewhere in this comment section and only relevant for how strong the contrast was between the two candidates.

            Also, I’m a new manager asking for advice on how to be a manager. I have received mentorship in the past that encouraged me to advocate for MYself both in salary negotiations and at work generally, and I was asking for advice on how to be that mentor to her and whether/how to bring it up. You know, don’t pull up the ladder after you and all of that.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Thank you. You are fine! There’s a weird strain in the comments lately that every manager must be wrong and people reading all their own grievances into any letter from a manager.

            2. twocents*

              I agree. In my experience, it would actually be more atypical for a company to refuse to budge for a highly desirable applicant. Most companies seem to have a little wiggle room in the budget in anticipation of the (extremely common) process of negotiating.

    2. LW2*

      This isn’t really about the first candidate, but he 1) knew what the salary range is (we tell candidates in the initial screening), but still 2) he asked for a salary $10k over the high end of that range, and 3) supported his ask with an argument that made it clear he didn’t understand the position he had been offered that was also 4) directly insulting to me, my work, and my organization.

      Essentially, imagine you offer someone a job and they say “give me your job and your salary instead, and you should be grateful to do it.” There’s just no negotiating back at that point.

      1. LW2*

        I will say, I don’t think that we did no wrong here–we probably shouldn’t have offered him the job and maybe been clearer about what the job entails (although it’s pretty clear). Were I more seasoned manager/employer/hirer, I might have seen it coming.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Eh, you live, you learn. I’m glad you’re looking out for the person you did hire, though. Good luck!

      2. nothing rhymes with purple*

        Okay, insulting people one wants to hire one is definitely not a good idea. Thank you for the greater detail.

      3. Less Bread More Taxes*

        That’s really pertinent information because it’s not about the salary, it’s about the insults. That’s a serious matter.

        Also, if I’m doing my math correctly, the upper limit of your range is around $30k. That’s insanely low no matter what experience level you’re hiring for or what industry. If a normal candidate who didn’t insult you asked for over $40k, I don’t think you should hold it against them (not saying that’s what you’ve done, just saying this in general).

        1. LW2*

          He asked for $10 more than the top of the range, not what we offered him. If he had simply asked for more–probably even what he asked for–we would have come back with a compromise. I would NEVER rescind an offer just because someone asked for more! I think everyone should ask for more! That’s like the whole reason I wrote the letter!

  14. German Girl*

    #2 I was once a young woman applying for my very first job and being asked what I wanted to earn and the hiring manager immediately told me “Oh, I think you should ask for at least 2k more.”, so I did and got the job at that salary, and at my first review they told me they don’t usually do raises at just three month in, but would I like to negotiate for a bit more? The review was otherwise glowing so I asked for another 2k and got that, too. It’s great that they made me negotiate for more because I didn’t know I could. Now I know and have done pretty well for myself in later negotiations.

    Maybe you can build that bridge for her?

    1. German Girl*

      Or even better, ask her before the review to prepare for negotiating a raise and ask if she needs any pointers on how to do that.

      I certainly didn’t have a clue. My parents have never once in their life negotiated salaries because of the way their unionized jobs work (the union and the employer negotiate the pay grades and cost of living increases regularly, so the only thing you ever need to do is check that you get moved to the right pay grade whenever your responsibilities increase), so I didn’t actually know that salaries outside of union contracts were negotiable.

      1. K.K.*

        I really like this framing! It makes it sound like negotiating a raise is just one more part of her job and that mentoring is available for it just like anything else. And such a good point that this is not something that is a part of every type of job – plenty of folks with lots of professional experience may not have salary negotiation experience.

      2. vampire physicist*

        Spot on ! If the candidate is indeed a good fit and is doing well, OP #2 should use the first review as an opening for negotiation training and an early raise.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Is there such a thing as negotiation training for everyday humans? The only training I’ve ever had was in a D&D game with a DM who was himself a master negotiator, and his fun included having us haggle for supplies. In the middle of that, I had to buy a car — and I found myself haggling. I got the price to drop more than I had expected. And they threw in the floor mats.
      So if there is an online training program I want to sign up.

      1. JustaTech*

        In grad school for one of my classes we read “Getting past No” about learning to negotiate. (This was for a public health degree so it was mostly for learning to work with other organizations.)

        I will say that the book is pretty old (some of the examples are from the Cold War) but as far as the technical concepts go it was pretty good.

      2. Cogsworth*

        I haven’t done it personally – but someone recommended this to me in the past and I’m generally fans of their resources. you could check out AAUW’s online negotiation training, I believe it’s free! And not just for women.

    3. High Score!*

      Actually, this is just like the old “let’s teach women to act like men in the office so they can succeed” instead of the newer “let’s have an inclusive environment so everyone can be their best”. It sucks and management should be called out for it every single time.
      If you were worth more then instead of playing dumb as games, they should just pay you what your worth and call out those who don’t.
      I’ve always hated this. Employers know how much they are willing to pay. Just put that amount in the job ad so we all know up front instead of let’s play the stupid negotiation game

      1. Colette*

        You’ve said this a couple of times, but I don’t understand how negotiating is acting like a man.

        This is like saying that tipping is too dependant on things other than the service, so you’re not going to tip. It’s not that easy – we have to work with the world the way it is, and not the way we’d like it to be.

        1. Boof*

          exactly, I am getting rankled by the notion that being a self advocate / understanding how to negotiate is not a uniquely male trait (even if I agree the salary negotiation game is off and someday I hope all compensation metrics will be available to everyone involved or looking to be involved with an employer)

          1. Nicotena*

            I agree, it’s fine to say negotiating is a crappy system because some people aren’t aware of the game being played, but claiming it’s a uniquely masculine system is irritating to me, a woman. IMO there’s nothing inherently masculine about making counter-proposals and advocating for yourself. That’s basically saying that being submissive (taking whatever you can get without complaint) in inherently feminine, which rankles.

            1. Minerva*

              Teach managers to respond to negotiations from women the same way as they do to negotiations from men – part of the equation is that women are not met with the same response when they negotiate, and as such they’re more likely to have run into a brick wall negotiating before, or a negative response.

              Why women don’t negotiate isn’t just about the women making a choice, it’s about how others respond to that choice, and other factors (do I negotiate coming out of a child care career break?)

                1. Minerva*

                  The letter writer might be able to, and this is saying why teaching women to negotiate, or saying a disparity in salary is because women don’t negotiate, isn’t the whole story or the whole solution.

                  I have never had luck negotiating an offer, and I would be annoyed if someone told me that I should negotiate more to make more money, if for once I didn’t bother.

            2. quill*

              Rather than being inherently masculine or feminine, most socially gendered behaviors are rewarded in men and discouraged in women, or vice versa. Puts us all in a double bind in things like negotiation, when negotiating semi-aggressively is traditionally rewarded… for men… and the proposed society-wide solution is “women need to learn to negotiate” not “we need to either dismantle the system that disincentivizes women from negotiating, or the system where pay discrepancies occur based on a system of negotiation that disadvantages women.”

              As to what OP can do… I definitely think some negotiation coaching is good, as far as OP can do anything within the constraints of the company.

    4. Artemesia*

      This. It would have been nice to at least hint at the possible of negotiation – to provide a little scaffolding for an inexperienced negotiator. Even a ‘the offer is X but there might be a little room for negotiation’.

    5. LW2*

      I had a similar experience–but in a situation where there was no money to be negotiated for. The hiring manager sat me down and said “I’m so glad you negotiated, we offered what we have to pay, but please don’t let this keep you from negotiating in the future.” She was an amazing boss and mentor–the kind of boss and mentor I aspire to be.

    6. mw*

      I’m glad they gave you the extra raise, but why did they come to you and ask you if you wanted to negotiate for more? At that point they should have just offered you the raise. I know some people who have to manage the number of hours or rate of pay to keep other benefits around, but those are rare cases.

  15. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    ‘Can I leave for a better job even though my boss relies on me?’
    ‘Can I leave for another job even though my boss won’t be able to afford to replace me?’
    ‘Can I leave for a better job even though my boss’ kids are sick/my boss is sick?’

    Etc. Always helps me to process where my guilt is accurate if I flip the situation round and ask if it’s okay then. ‘Is it okay for my boss to leave for another job even though they’re ill?’ or that sorta thing. More often than not I realise that actually my planned actions are a-ok!

    1. AnonInCanada*


      ‘What would happen to boss if I got sick and can’t make it to work?’ Boss should’ve hired someone when OP’s colleague went on maternity leave! What happens when OP gets the job (let’s hope!) and puts in their notice? Boss is going to be screwed, won’t they?

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Yeah, if the boss is in real trouble if I leave then that’s…really rather their problem.

        (Funny bit was today I heard of someone being fired from another department – for various covid reasons – and yelling on the way out the door that the company would fall apart without them!)

  16. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP2: something I’ve done with people I’ve hired who didn’t negotiate at all is introducing them to how I do negotiations. Modelling the behaviour as it were. So they’ll see me or other coworkers in meetings actually have constructive debates about (thing that CAN be negotiated), or I’ll drop a story of how someone used the same techniques to get benefits elsewhere.

    The most difficult bit for me is assuring people that they can do this without sounding condescending given that the vast majority of people who seem to need this help tend to be women. Heck, in my early career it WAS me.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      How about an AAM/KoG online training program in negotiations? (I’m only half-joking.)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I rather suspect Alison is far, far more experienced than I and there’s little I could provide that would be new!

        Well, unless it’s UK specific stuff like getting your preferred shade of tea just right ;)

  17. Bamcakes*

    I’m just trying to imagine how awkward that conversation would be if OP2 *did* try and talk to her new hire: “Listen, in this industry, we typically offer about about $3000 less than we think you’re worth, so you should—“

    OP2, rather than seeing this as something your new hire failed to do, how about refraining it as this a great example of how your company’s practice around salary will lead to discriminatory salaries? If this is the first time you’ve hired, you probably don’t have any room to change that, but is there any opportunity for you to feed you concerns back to HR and try and influence change that way?

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      What a great comment. No matter how you frame that conversation, I think your new hire is going to end up confused and upset. We should all be trying dismantle discriminatory practices, and this is such an easy one to flag.

      1. Jack Straw*

        THANK YOU for saying this: “No matter how you frame that conversation, I think your new hire is going to end up confused and upset.”

        There is no way the conversation goes well when you tell someone they should have asked for more but you didn’t willingly give it to them but could have.

    2. Alexis Rosay*

      Yes, please push back on this practice, OP, if you have the ability to. I realize you might not have that leeway, but even just the next time you hire, say to HR “I think this is a strong candidate and I want to make sure we are making a fair offer. Can we offer any higher?” Make sure the offer is fair before negotiations if you can.

      My husband was in a similar position to OP recently. All he could do was resolve to speak up next time. He works in a giant institution and does not have control over hiring practices, but everyone who has the ability to speak up about these things should do so.

  18. Despachito*

    OP2 – if I was in your candidate’s shoes, I think I’d appreciate some guidance “how to” negotiate, and what the perspective is from the point of view of the employer.

    I have negotiated my salary only once, and my fees, very rarely. At present, I feel like they could be raised a bit but frankly I do not know where/how to start. My main concern is – you never know beforehand what happens.
    Do I completely tank my chances if I ask for too much? Or is it worth the risk because the employer will say “this is actually not within our range, the maximum we can give you is X”?

    (Both things happened to me, actually.

    – When I was negotiating my salary I asked for far more, and they said they only could give me that much less, and I agreed because it was still much more than I had previously)

    – When I was trying to negotiate a higher fee for an agency I was freelancing for for quite some time, the contact person somehow got offended and stopped giving me work. Which was crucial because the contact person was virtually the only one from that agency I was in contact with. She was let go soon afterwards but the damage was already done.

    So, in the new coworker’s shoes (and in mine as well) , I’d very much appreciate some tips how to navigate this.

    1. katkat*

      I second this! I think most people know they should negotiate salary, but are too causious or dont know HOW to do it.

      1. Despachito*

        For me, it would immensely help if I knew that I can “afford” to ask for more, because the only result would be “erm, that is not in our ballpark, let’s talk X instead, would you be willing to take it”, as compared to them saying nothing but silently ticking me off their list of potential candidates.

        Because if I ask for too much for them and they say what they CAN give me, there is always room for me to decide if I am willing to do it for that lower amount, so they are not risking anything, are they?

        1. Klio*

          I wonder whether the 30% person got told “we can give you x” and didn’t want that or whether they were just rejected because what they said was too high.

    2. mreasy*

      I think the freelancer situation is a lot stickier, since you’re dealing with one person with the ability to personally get upset. When I negotiated for my current job, our HR person got weird about it. I wanted a higher base salary vs a lower base with bonus structure, and she pushed back with a real attitude because the total was “what I had asked for.” I told her I’d accept if she could go up even $5k, and she did, and I accepted. Since then I’ve found out a lot of other ways she’s weird about money and salary, which isn’t great for HR!

    3. Nicotena*

      Negotiating job salaries is tough if you’re basically not willing to walk away no matter what (in true negotiating you have your walk-away point established, which gives you more power). Sometimes in the job world, this point is “an offer below my current salary” – but not always. Because of this I tend to be conservative negotiating; my rule of thumb is that you’ll never make waves if your request is within 10% of the offer. They may say no, but they’re unlikely to be mad. In this case, OP says this employee left a couple thousand on the table. That’s not the end of the world honestly.

  19. LisaNeedsBraces*

    “I am positive I didn’t used to get as many letters as I do now from people feeling guilty about leaving their jobs!”

    Yeah, Alison, I think all the corporate “we’re all family” brainwashing worked and erroded normal boundaries. Plus, the exceedingly dysfunctional workplace has made a lot of us bond over shared trauma and sunk cost. It’s been one heck of a psychological minefield.

    Op1: Please follow Alison’s advice and get out. You know the frog in a pot who doesn’t know it’s in trouble because the water is boiling slowly? Well the water is bubbling and you’re already getting burnt. Your boss may be nice, but he isn’t “great”. He has shown he’s willing to do things to your detriment if convenient, including not doing the work to learn enough tasks to take things off of your plate, not hiring an additional team member or crosstraining a temp, and making you do the work of two people with no talk of a compensation increase or a concrete plan to reduce your workload. A great manager wouldn’t have let things get this bad. Honestly, I’m taking back what I wrote about him being nice. He’s not.

    What you know for sure is that he’s willing to do what’s best for himself/the company and extract twice the work from you, with no additional money or help or effort on his part indefinitely. Do what’s best for yourself and hop out of the pot!

    1. LisaNeedsBraces*

      I will add that you may feel he’s a “great” manager because your company is so dysfunctional. It is possible it’s not your manager’s fault, but someone above him making these decisions. Still if he was a great manager he’d be advocating on behalf of you both AND expecting you to look (not that you should tell him). Heck, if that *is* the case, he may be looking elsewhere himself.

      Please don’t feel guilty! Advocate for a hire and get him to prioritize your tasks so you not doing the work of two. In the meantime, get out of this situation where someone either can’t or won’t do what’s best for you.

    2. ErinWV*

      I agree that it’s rotten they won’t fill the other position. But I wouldn’t deride OP’s boss for not learning OP’s tasks to help with them. Maybe he’s busy? Doing HIS job? Maybe he can’t devote his time to like, data entry?

      OP should make a clear, decisive case to Boss why the other position should be filled. Maybe he’s just been dragging his feet on the candidate search effort. Maybe he thinks Maternity Leave Coworker will tire of being a SAHM and be back in three months. Maybe the company decided they’ll be saving money by putting the entire workload on OP’s back. As soon as OP knows what it is, she can decide whether to stay or actively seek to leave.

    3. Colette*

      Or he genuinely doens’t know the pressure this is putting on the OP and thinks that since the work is getting done, it’s a reasonable amount of work for one person. Or he knows changes are coming where a lot of the OP’s work is going to go away.

      1. The OTHER Other*

        If this manager has ONE report now doing the work of two, and thinks this is reasonable, then he is hopelessly out of touch. Which meshes well with him being unable to do hardly any if it himself.

        1. Colette*

          That’s really not how this works. Managers do different work than their direct reports. Not always, of course, but a lot of the time. It’s sounds like she’s also offered to prioritize and reduce the workload, which is a reasonable thing for her to do.

          Low-level managers can’t unilaterally decide to hire someone, so reducing the workload is the answer.

    4. Boof*

      I think the pandemic and split into “essential” workers has also made it worse too, this vague impression for those of us working the whole time are the bare bones of what HAS to stay in place to keep things running any semblance of normal/acceptable.

    5. quill*

      That and almost two years of global crisis mode. All the ambient anxiety has to go SOMEWHERE and it’s usually “any life change you are about to make” or “any major decision you are uncertain about.”

  20. K.K.*

    #2 – I’ve had several “salary adjustments” or “recalibrations” (basically modest raises) that came 4-6 months after starting a new job. I’ve always taken these as signs that I had left money on the table at the offer negotiation stage, without anyone being overt about it. Any chance you could arrange for something similar?

    1. katertot*

      I was thinking the same thing! And recently my boss took this as a learning opportunity with me to say to me- I’m giving you this raise, BUT in the future you should be asking for this because this past year you’ve taken on a considerable amount of work even if it was temporary due to xyz. It was a great learning moment.

      1. mw*

        Your boss should use it as a learning experience as well, if they increase the workload, above and beyond the original expectations, they should be also increasing the pay. What your boss basically said was “we should be paying you more because of what you’re doing, but you didn’t ask, so we aren’t going to”

        1. katertot*

          ^No- and I phrased it badly- my boss gave me a raise off-cycle- a significant amount unprompted, said not all bosses pre-emptively will do this, be sure to advocate for yourself when your workload expands even temporarily. Basically saying be sure to tout your accomplishments when you do a good job.

          1. mw*

            I see. I was reading it like your boss told you they were doing it this time, but that it would be the only time they would do it. More bosses should be like yours, actively and continuously advocating for you.

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I’ve had salary adjustments at a couple of points in my job. Each time, it was the result of an overall compensation review that recognized people in certain roles were being underpaid compared to the market rate for their jobs. It wasn’t necessarily a case of leaving money on the table – for the first one, it brought my salary up to around what it should’ve been if I had gotten the salary I originally asked for. (I did get a small raise over what they originally offered. The salary adjustment was a much bigger raise.)

      I’m very much in favor of companies doing compensation analysis on a regular basis. While it’s generally something done at a corporate level, OP2 might be able to get some traction by looking at the market rates for the roles reporting to her, and comparing them to the actual salaries of her reports. If there’s a big discrepancy (either in general compared to the market, or one group of employees compared to another group that ought to be comparable), that’s something she can take to HR as grounds for a more comprehensive analysis.

    3. mw*

      If my manager came up and told me that they had more money in the budget that they could have gave me if I had only asked, I would probably ask them right then and there if I could have that raise. And I would also be offended by it. In my mind, the last thing I want to hear is that they were willing to pay me more. It’s a two way street. Yes, I could ask for more money, but if my employer thinks that I’m worth more than what I’m currently making, there’s nothing stopping them from increasing my salary. The whole “well, you didn’t ask” defense is garbage.

      1. K.K.*

        That’s literally what happened. They thought I was worth more than I had accepted, and they started paying me more. I didn’t ask for the raises. I was simply informed they were happening. So I guess I did lose 4-6 months of that higher salary if I could actually have gotten it by negotiation at point of hire, but I felt like this was an extremely reasonable solution.

        1. mw*

          That’s great that your employer recognized your work and rewarded you. That’s how it should be. I refuse to believe it’s all the employee’s fault for not asking. In my mind, an employer agreeing to your raise request only confirms that they knew they weren’t paying you what they thought you were worth. And a good manager should be fighting for that without you having to ask for it.

          My favorite quote about pay is
          “I think no matter what job you do, I don’t care what job it is, you want to outperform your contract.You should want people to think you’re underpaid because of how hard you work, because of how well you do your job, because of how you go about your business.”

      2. JustaTech*

        I had this happen, but didn’t know until I’d been at the job a couple of years and got a new head of my group. And every head of my group since then has tried to fix the initial lowball pay, but the rules (“rules”) about pay raises, even the ones that come with promotions, mean I’m still behind. It’s very frustrating.

        And I tried to negotiate! I said “I’m interested in negotiating the salary” to the recruiter, who seemed open to it, and then suddenly here was my offer letter, and it was more than I had been getting paid, and my old job was going away, so I took it.

  21. Bamcheeks*

    A couple of things to try–

    A good question for freelancing/consulting is “What’s your budget?” Some places will be trying to get the work for the absolute cheapest. Other places will have budgeted $5000 and be happy to pay anywhere up to that ceiling, even if they’d prefer to go in the $3-4000. But HOW they react to that question can almost be more useful than the actual figure they give you– you’ll quickly get a sense for who is cagey about their budget, and who answers immediately and openly. The former are more likely to be people who have personal feelings about the budget– either they’re under pressure to keep things cheap, or they feel a lot of personal investment in getting services for as cheap as possible, and those are the people to be a bit wary of. But a lot of people will simply have a budget that they have no personal feelings about, and just want you to get paid fairly for the job, and they are the ones who will answer fairly openly and freely. Even if the budget is low, they’re happy to tell you because that’s critical information! Those are the people who are easiest to negotiate with (and hardest to offend!) because they are treating it as a business transaction where you’re on the same side trying to solve a problem together (how do we set a fair price for this work), rather than a competition where they’re trying to get one over on you.

    You can also think about how to “sweeten” higher rates– that can be things like offering discounts for things like booking in bigger / multiple projects, or booking further ahead. The key thing is to think about how this is genuinely valuable to you– if you know you’ve got work booked in through to March, that’s less time you need to spend on marketing and following up leads between now and then, so it’s actually worth a 10% discount (or whatever you decide. Similarly, if you only have invoice once, that’s a time saving that might have an actual monetary value to you. If you do a bit of work in advance working that kind of thing out, it’ll come through in how you offer it, because you’re making an offer based on a solid calculation of your time and it’ll come across more business-like and impersonal than, “I’m raising my rates– or not! If you don’t want me to! Please don’t hate me!”

      1. Despachito*

        Thanks for the tips, Bamcheeks!

        I am in a bit of a specific situation though, because I have one major client which gives me most of the work, and the workflow is continuous. So I am basically not afraid of not having enough work (apart from the fact that this is a bit of “all eggs in one basket” situation, but this would be a separate issue).

        I already have negotiated somehow higher rates with them than would be an average rate because I am stellar (as they sometimes recognize). However, in my profession there is enormous pressure to minimize the prices, and one of the reasons I get continuous stream of work is that my client wins large tenders (whose considerable part is the price). So I am in a situation where:

        – I absolutely do not want to lose this client
        – I am aware that they have their own price limits ensuing from the tenders, and although I am unaware of their exact margin, the prices of the tenders are made public so I can see that there is possibly indeed not much manoeuvring space
        – I am already not getting their lower paid assignments because they assume (rightly) that it would be below my rates.

        Heck, while I am writing this, I am realizing that if I want to keep this particular client, I´d probably have to suck it up because they are not in a position to do much more than they are doing, and the benefits for me (I have a continuous stream of work without having to worry about persuading a new client) weigh very much for me.

        Thanks for having me say it aloud and thus organizing it in my head :-)

  22. badspellingmgr*

    Am I insanely outdated in thinking that negotiating raises shouldn’t need to happen and instead managers and leaders should be able to recognize top performers?

    Our company has a very large target / self appraisal system that takes a very long time for both managers to do, and a commitment from employees to reflect multiple times a year. The benefit is that successes get an opportunity to be visible. You don’t have to bring the list of what you’ve done to help the business – you already have it within the system. Then when annual plans are revisited – we have all the data and can raise comp plans as responsibilities and achievements grow.

    I regularly give my team raises (at times, significant ) as they meet and exceed metrics and take on projects with success – without them asking directly for “more” – as we’ve budgeted for the growth of each position. Same for me with my direct manager.

    Is this … weird ? Am I being too placid as an employee and not asking for more? Is the review system stifling my employees from asking for more?

    My role doesn’t have a very good publically available range.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      I think the way you are working is excellent. Putting all the onus on employees to fight for things they deserve is just so weird to me.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Agreed. If a company expects their employees to ask for raises, then 5 years can pass with no raises. And then the employee realizes that they can leave and make 20% more at the competitor.
        If you don’t pay people what they are worth, they leave. You may have 1 out of 25 people that just sit in their spot and never asks questions, and you get to squeeze a few bucks of savings out of their salary. But the other 24 will eventually leave to get a fair salary.

      2. Spearmint*

        At the same time though, is no one else bothered by the idea that employers should get to decide what our labor is worth? Even if they do it in good faith and aren’t penny-pinching, they’ll probably value our labor less than we do.

        I’m not saying employment is fully adversarial, but a norm against negotiating would seem to hurt labor in the long run. Businesses, even good ones, will ultimately look out for themselves first.

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          “a norm against negotiating would seem to hurt labor in the long run” – I think this depends on who you are considering the “labor”. In the long run, women, minorities, etc. who often get paid less will get paid the same amount as their male, White, etc. counterparts. People’s salaries will even out.

          As long as people are skilled, other companies will want to hire them, and therein is the competition element – between companies rather than individuals. Companies will pay people based on experience and talent rather than negotiating skills. If you value your work more than your company does, then you can shop around for a company that values your skillset more rather than fighting to justify your work to your current employer.

          Businesses absolutely should look out for themselves first. And to one company that may mean paying as little as possible, resulting in employees who are below average. To another company, that may mean finding the most talented employees as possible, which will mean paying them more.

          Ultimately, removing negotiations and establishing clear salary bands only benefits people who are currently disenfranchised by the system. People who already benefit from the system will continue to benefit.

        2. badspellingmgr*

          I think it’s more that the company is explaining what a job is worth to that specific company. Not all roles are transferable between companies. If you do really well, and in my case have positively impacted revenue, I’m going to share that with you in accolades and money. At least that’s how I act as a manager and how our budget for increases is determined.

          Im thinking my company has a pretty good system so that people aren’t forced to ask for raises in an awkward situation. But I also hope people aren’t NOT asking if they have a reason to feel underpaid. I will have to think how to make sure they know that I want to hear if they feel marginalized.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Thank you.

      My supervisors at Current Job have been very good about fighting for whatever raises they can get us.

      Frankly, I would be pretty miffed if someone hired me and then gave me a “pep talk” about how women should be more proactive about negotiating–how about “companies should be more honest about paying people”? Don’t make this sound like it’s my problem and not my employer’s. In what other ways is this job going to try to give me short shrift, then?

  23. tab*

    “I’m going to write a book called You Can Leave Your Job Without Guilt, and it will just be that sentence repeated in a variety of fonts for 200 pages.” Thanks for the morning laugh, Alison!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m now picturing a coloring book with each page having an Alison aphorism concealed within the detailed graphics.
      Bonus hidden images that reference column jokes & classic stories. (Duck pond? A plate of rolls?)

  24. Mystic*

    About the feeling guilty leaving a job, I know my family preached loyalty to one company for your life. And my mom followed through on that, worked at the same company from the time she was a teen until her late 50s.
    I’m beginning to hear more and more of that too, along with advice about trying to become irreplaceable at your job. I don’t think either is feasible, but the advice is widespread.

    1. anonymous73*

      Finding a company to stay in until you retire is nearly impossible these days. And making yourself irreplaceable may save your job, but it will also keep you from moving up in your career.

  25. KHB*

    Q2: If it’s really true that company policy prevented OP from offering the employee “what she’s worth” to begin with, then it should be easy to use the company policy as the “bad cop” in explaining to the employee how these things work: “The salary I offered you was the best I could possibly do, but the way things work here at Llamas’R’Us is that there’s usually a few thousand more dollars in the budget that you can have just by asking for it. And that’s likely to be the case whenever you come up for a promotion here as well, nudge nudge, wink wink.” If company policy requires candidates to go through the dance of asking “Can I have an extra $3000” and you saying “Yes, of course,” then for goodness sake, tell her how the dance works.

  26. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP1 I suggest you take the first opportunity to give her a raise, make it higher than expected, and use that as the opportunity to introduce the concept. My first truly professional job did that. I hired on in November, and was included in the annual raise one month later…and higher than cost of living adjustment. That AND praise for my performance? What an emotional boost for someone coming out of a toxic job!

  27. NYWeasel*

    OP1: Something I’m really finding to be true is that trying to preserve a broken system only crushes you. No one above you can truly appreciate the burden you’re carrying, so even when you try to talk to them about it, it never feels as urgent as it truly is.

    Become comfortable with letting things fail. I don’t mean that you sabotage anything, but figure out what an honest effort for your position looks like and then make it clear that that’s the max you’re able to handle. “I’ve been covering X, Y and Z, but it’s too much for me. I need to stop doing Y & Z by (date a week or two in the future) or else X will need to go away, so I need you to figure out a different solution. And then stick to your guns. I guarantee that the same boss who insists that the team doesn’t need another employee right now will change their tune when some critical task fails or falls back on their plate.

    And in terms of leaving your current job, it’s the same thing. One of my team members was feeling the weight of being the only teapot QA reviewer on my team. I told them that it was a failing on my part that we don’t have backup for them, and that if they won the lottery tomorrow and ran off to follow their bliss, we’d make a lot of mistakes at first but we’d eventually muddle through, so not to base any decisions on our lack of preparation. That’s exactly where your boss is right now, whether they acknowledge it or not. And if it does fall apart after you leave, that’s more on your boss’ shortcomings than yours.

    (And yes, I’m working to fix my staffing issues, but big ships turn slowly, d’oh!)

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “Become comfortable with letting things fail”

      This is so hard but so true. If you keep killing yourself to make things work you’re just reinforcing that everything is fine the way it is. People need to see consequences to make changes.

      1. Nicotena*

        Just, uh, try to leave this mindset behind if you get a new job and the staffing is appropriate – ask me how I know. I got *way* too comfortable assuming things would always be a little half-assed and that it wasn’t my job to leap in for the save.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Oh yeah, I’m definitely not saying half-ass things, just if you’re 200% assing things at all times you can’t keep that up. But good to clarify. Always go into a new job with the optimism things are functional and occasional extra work may be necessary.

        2. T J Juckson*

          This is an excellent reminder for why staying too long in a bad situation ultimately can really hurt you going forward!

    2. Dust Bunny*


      I left an Old Job where I was the only one at my level trained to do a certain test. I tried lots of times to get management to give me time to train other people, or to train them themselves, but they didn’t. When I left, I told everyone who could do anything about it where these items-that-were-being-tested were located and put the test on the task board where everyone would see it.

      I found out later, when I contacted a former coworker about something unrelated, that the tests didn’t get done for months and clients were mad.

      Not. My. Problem.

      I did them on schedule while I was there. I tried to get the company to crosstrain. I did my best to set them up to keep doing the tests after I left. It’s neither my fault nor my problem that they didn’t act on it.

  28. hbc*

    OP2: “I feel like this woman deserves a pep talk about arguing for what she’s worth!”

    She and your company agree that she is worth what you offered. I don’t see why that’s a problem. It’s not like there’s one true and knowable dollar value for the work she’ll do until her next review.

    If you think your initial offer was not in the range of what she’s worth, you should either nudge your company to start paying fairly or nudge the candidate that negotiations are expected. “Take this, think about it, most of our successful candidates end up negotiating a bit.” If done after the fact, she’s going to wonder what other things the company is willing to give but for some reason won’t actually talk about when its relevant.

  29. MBA_Hopeful*

    For #5, is it the same for letters of recommendation?

    I had a couple of previous supervisors write letters of recommendation for MBA applications – it was A LOT of work… specific questions, ratings scales, matrices.

    After this is all said and done (fingers crossed!), I was planning on giving each of my recommenders some homemade cookies – is that too much?


    1. anonymous73*

      If they were willing to do that, they know what’s involved. A sincere thank you is all that’s needed.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I didn’t do that for my MBA LORs but in retrospect I’m sure they would have appreciated it. I did a sincere in person thank you. You know these people best, it depends on your relationship with them.

    3. A New CV*

      In all the times I have done recommendations for jobs or schools, I have rarely heard back with either an update or thanks. I was always happy to do the recommendation, it’s an expected part of having supervised people. I’d have loved just to know how the process worked out! I received one lovely thank you gift which was sweet and I treasured it, but all I really wanted was to know if they got the job or into the school. A follow up and sincere appreciation is not at all necessary or expected, but adding more sweetness to the world is always a good thing.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        This. I write about a dozen or so LOR a year for my students over the last 10 years and have only heard back two or three times. However, sometimes I wrote them for my own department’s graduate program and did see that they got in. I would love to hear more from students who benefitted from my letters, but that’s pretty much it. Definitely don’t need cookies. :D

      2. MBA_Hopeful*

        Thank you! I have definitely been providing regular updates to the process, but I will also for sure write a nice thank you letter and probably still do the cookies :)

  30. Julia*

    I feel like Alison gets the “this job is regularly reposted” question all the time, and it kind of mystifies me. It seems relatively obvious to me that companies are often hiring for multiple of the same position or significantly expanding, and so the same JD will be reposted. Or that they didn’t get the candidate they wanted the first time around. But there seem to be a lot of people who think it’s strange enough to notice and to write in to an advice column about – because she’s answered this question a lot:

    Totally weird.

    1. Minerva*

      I work on a team of 10-ish and about 5 different teams hire similar people in my location. If we have 10% attrition every year, and increase each team by 1-2, we are hiring for the same description all the time.

  31. Emily*

    #2: If you wind up wanting to retain this person, I’d suggest doing some advocacy on her behalf when it comes to raises even if she doesn’t. People have different comfort levels with negotiating salary, but just because someone doesn’t negotiate salary doesn’t mean she’s not going to leave for a higher-paying job.

  32. Kitts*

    I didn’t even consider negotiating when I got this job because they were already offering me a $10,000 increase over my previous salary. I suppose I still could have but I was pretty happy!

    1. KRM*

      Same! I asked for 10% over my previous salary and was given 20% and the same or better benefit levels. But I also work for a company that values and wants to retain staff, so that helps!

  33. katertot*

    #2 I didn’t negotiate for my first job because of the recruiter- the way she gave me my job offer, it was coming out of a set salary training role (think similar to medical residency) going into a somewhat substantial pay bump and they kept saying things like “because this is already an x% raise” and “you’ll be getting x$ increase” it drilled into me that I literally could not ask for $1 more- looking back I definitely could have, but I didn’t. But having been there, I understand why people don’t negotiate- especially when it’s with a recruiter and not the hiring manager directly who you’ve somewhat built up a relationship with over the interview process.

  34. anonymous73*

    #1 – please stop feeling guilty. A manager’s job is to make sure they have their team in working order, which includes having enough staff to cover the responsibilities, including backups if someone is unexpectedly out or leaves. You need to do what’s best for you. Apply for that job AND have a chat with your manager that you’re being overworked by taking on your former co-worker’s duties.
    #2 – I don’t think it’s that’s unusual to not negotiate an initial offer. I don’t think I’ve ever done it because the salary offered to me was what I considered fair. I don’t think it’s necessary to have a conversation with your new hire either. Consider providing her with a significant raise when the time comes if her work warrants it.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      That was my thought–the employee may have been perfectly happy with the offer and didn’t feel a need to negotiate. It might be a lot more than she was previously making and/or felt it was fair for this position. It’s happened to me before. At my previous company, I named my range and they came back with 10k more than the top of my range. I immediately accepted it without any desire to negotiate. I was happy with the salary and felt it was fair.

  35. Czhorat*

    For OP1 and anyone else concerned about the impact of their leaving, I have a simple test.

    Get a copy of your company’s letterhead. Go get it, we’ll wait.

    Got it? Great.

    Now read the name on it. Is it your name? If not, you don’t owe them a sacrifice of your career and life. Behave ethically and honorably, but do what is best for yourself.

  36. Watry*

    OP #2: I’ve never worked a job where the pay wasn’t “here’s what we pay, take it or don’t”, Please let your new hire know that’s not how it works everywhere! It likely wouldn’t occur to me to try and negotiate, especially if I really wanted the job and was afraid of asking for too much.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Seconded. The job I currently have offered me the top of the posted salary band, which I appreciate and is great, but if they hadn’t I ~probably could have negotiated. Before this job though I’ve never had a job that would budge. I’ve negotiated a couple of raises but never a starting salary successfully.

      I’d still try, and advise others to try, but it’s just very much not a thing in some jobs and if that’s all a person has experienced (and they aren’t avid AAM readers) it might not occur to them.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Same, and I’ve never been hired while I had enough experience or accumulated skill to leverage anything higher.

  37. __ID__*

    For OP1 – I used to think like you. I was managing a big project for my company and a really great opportunity popped up. I didn’t even interview because “what will happen to my project”? Guess what – after that project was successfully completed, and right before my 10 year work anniversary came up, I was laid off. I was 53 years old at the time, a VP and just saved them over 100k with my efforts. My good old fashioned Catholic guilt got between me and an opportunity.

    They would let you go in a New York second. Do what’s best for YOU. Don’t do 2 jobs for the prices of one!

  38. Wendy*

    OP1 – you could always let your boss know that you’re getting burnt out and if he doesn’t replace your coworker soon, he’s going to be filling 2 positions, not 1.

  39. Just Another Zebra*

    I needed OP1’s letter today, and Alison’s response. I’m in a department of two people, doing 2.5 jobs on a daily basis. I can feel myself burning out, and know it’s probably time to look for a new job. My original plan was to wait for my review – I’ve been here 5 years – to see if I could negotiate for a pay bump more than the normal COL raise. But I have a vacation coming up, so I might just start applying and see what’s out there. The guilt is still there, though.

  40. Persephone Mulberry*

    I can’t think of any way to have a good “by the way, did you know you left money on the table when you accepted our offer?” conversation unless there is a retroactive salary bump attached to it.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think Alison is suggesting bringing it up in another context but I agree having the “we’re hiring so here’s what to do when someone negotiates salary…” conversation does inevitably lead to “wait I could have negotiated my salary?” which is just…eesh.

    2. Czhorat*

      One of the best bosses I ever had once said that he had advice for people who wanted a raise, but that it was too late for us. “negotiate the bet deal you can on your way in. Every raise you get thereafter will be somewhat affected by that”.

      It’s a hard thing to do if you’re desperate, and you might feel at risk of losing an offer, but I’ve never seen that happen. Subsequent jobs I have negotiated even when I really wanted (and in once case actually needed) them. It’s never lead to a withdrawal. Sometimes it wasn’t all of what I wanted, but it was more than the initial offer.

  41. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: Not your problem.

    It’s not your fault and not your problem that your workplace isn’t staffed and cross-trained appropriately, which is what is actually going on here.

    Apply for the other job, put in your two weeks (or whatever ), document everything you can about the job you’re leaving, and don’t look back.

  42. Parcae*

    OP2, I think the best way to support your new hire is to explain to her shortly before her annual review (or whenever you typically give raises) that *at your organization*, it’s normal and expected for employees to negotiate compensation. That gives you a good opening for some coaching that will be helpful for her both at this job and her next.

    I’ve mostly worked at places where negotiating compensation was perceived very badly, so I’m wary of giving anyone the advice of “always negotiate.” I’ve seen it backfire too many times. Right now I’m happily working under a fixed salary scale– I’m making the best money of my career and never had to negotiate at all!

  43. Astrid*

    #2 Anyone else flash back to Defending Your Life? Daniel has a mock negotiating session with his wife the night before in which he plans to hold firm on his plan to ask for a $65,000 salary. When his boss tells him he’s prepared to offer $49,000, Daniel takes it immediately. The (after death) prosecutor Ms. Harris questions him about his thought process:

    Harris: Why did you cave in so fast? I’m just curious. Why did you accept so much less money than you wanted?
    And do it so quickly.
    Daniel: Here we go again with money. Obviously, this is all about money. Look, I’m guilty. I didn’t make enough money. Okay? Call me a hippie. Send me to hell. I give up.
    Harris: You keep thinking it’s about money. But it’s about fear. Why didn’t you stand up to your boss the way you did to your wife? What happened in your mind?
    Daniel: Well, first of all, it wasn’t my wife. It was a man with a suit. And the suit had a odor. And the odor said $49,000.
    Harris: So your nostrils told you you were worth less? Is that what you’re saying?
    Daniel: The process that a person goes through when they’re accepting a salary is a complicated one. You don’t know all my reasons. Anyway, we lived fine on that money. That money was fine.
    Harris: If you wanna make it about money, you may do so but we’re looking at fear.
    Daniel: What was I afraid of?
    Harris: You tell me.
    Daniel: 49 grand is a lot of money!
    Harris: I have nothing more to say at this time.
    Judge: Would you like to show something, Mr. Miller?
    Daniel: I got a raise six months later.

  44. Kiko*

    OP2: Give your new hire more money.

    I’m a longtime AAM reader, but flubbed a recent salary negotiation and didn’t ask for more. I was so frustrated with myself. But my recruiter reached out to me before my contract came in and told me that they were bumping me up 20% to meet the other new hires in my role. It really made me respect the company and immediately set the tone of the relationship as positive.

  45. El Esteban*

    Re: #2: I just started a new job in May (fully remote), and it’s the first time in my 15+ years that I actually negotiated my salary instead of taking what they gave me.

  46. Same Boat*

    #1 I recently had to tell my manager I got another job. I felt AWFUL. I love my manager and I love my coworkers and my job is as good as you can get in the field. I just wanted to move to another field. But my boss is awesome and she took it SO WELL. Very cool and congratulatory and no guilt. I felt terrible but the truth is you have to do what is best for you. The grass may not always be greener but you won’t know until you look.

  47. Recovering Chef*

    LW 3#: The organization I work for does this as standard practice for every candidate that gets to the phone screening stage. You take it once “unproctored,” and then a second time with the recruiter watching via webcam.

    1. Anchovy*

      Do candidates know that ahead of time? I think that makes a difference, and would change the perception here too.

  48. Notmynormalname*

    I’ve been in this position. My company hasn’t negotiated well in the past (not willing to move AT all on anything and depending on position, paying at the lower end of things) and it left a bad taste in my mouth. When I hired, I offered 1K less then the max I was allowed (with the ok from my manager) to allow for some negotiation. The person I hired did not negotiate and I felt terrible. We did talk about it about a year to a year and a half later where I encouraged her to always negotiate. So the salary this person received was within market rate – it just wasn’t as 100% high as it could have been. We have very little flexibility on things and I think I would still do that again because no flexibility isn’t a good look either.

  49. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER feel guilty about trying to improve your situation in your career, and in your life.

    Yes, stepping out of a job you’re comfortable (or not so comfortable, but secure) in can be frightening, even traumatic.

    Someone above detailed quite accurately, the financial damage that working in a low-ball job can do you over the course of a career/lifetime.

    I realized I felt more guilty about not being able to put food on the table, having to choose between paying the electric bill or the gas bill, and driving a car with bad brakes and bald tires — versus feeling bad about leaving a job that didn’t respect me enough to provide a living wage.

    There is a scene in the movie “For Love of the Game” – where Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) is admonishing a teammate for leaving the Detroit Tigers for the New York Yankees – and the money they pay – and the benefits of being a star in the Big Apple. Billy asks “What about the team?”

    His friend points to his wife and daughter and says “THAT’S my team.”

    1. El l*

      On a similar note, I always remember the final scene of Moneyball, spoken between Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill.

      “You’re not doing it for the money. No. You’re doing it for what the money says. And it says what it says to any player that makes big money…that they’re worth it.”

      If you’re constantly putting your office’s needs before your own – they will treat you as lower value. Not higher. Bad person, good, doesn’t matter, it’s human nature.

      I bet you’re worth it, OP.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I’m a Red Sox fan. When the Red Sox won the 2013 World Series (at Fenway), on my way back to the car my wife reminded me that I should sit down and write a “Thank You” letter to Billy Beane (Brad Pitt’s role) daughter, thanking her for keeping her Dad in Oakland.

        The Sox never would have won the WS with him at the helm.

  50. employment lawyah*

    2. New hire didn’t negotiate
    Look for the silver lining: If she could have negotiated for more, then you’re assuming she will over-perform relative to her (lower than others) salary. If so, you’ll have great justification to fight for her interests down the line.

    So in the future you’ll have excellent leverage (and money in the budget) to argue for merit raises, extra raises, training opportunities, and/or bonus incentives–all of which can sometimes have BETTER long term effects than straight pay.

    For example, if she has a weakness (which most people do!) you might be able to spend money to help train her out of it, or to dangle a bonus to encourage her to fix it on her own, etc. While if you were at salary-cap level, you might simply demand that she improve.

    3. Recruiter asked me to re-take a test on camera
    They think you’re cheating. The question is why.

    One possibility is if you have big disparities that suggest you may have gotten a lot of outside help, or cheated.

    Common examples include:
    “low education” & “very high test results in an area that normally requires a lot of education.”
    “Resume written in perfect grammar with a high language level and no errors” and “very poor speaking skills, language, and grammar.”

    Another common possibility is that you’re in a class which is often target for ___ism, and that they are ___ist.

    If you want the job, you’ll have to take the test. But FIRST you should try to self-identify a reason why they may be asking, because if it’s in the first group you may want to address it. And if you think it’s bias, you can do whatever will work best for you, whether challenging or remaining mute.

    1. employment lawyah*

      I would not push back on why they are asking until after you have done some self-assessment about why.

      If you realize you did something which looks “suspicious,” then you should make sure you don’t do it AGAIN, and you should cheerfully acknowledge and discuss it when arranging for a retest:

      “I know I didn’t mention programming on my resume and that I got a perfect score on COBOL and FORTRAN. At the time I did my resume I had no idea that those languages would ever come up, and I didn’t think to include them.

      I can see why you were suspicious! But I was in fact a mainframe programmer from 1985-1989. I’m happy to retake the test to prove it: do you think I also need to change my resume to show those unusual skills?”

  51. Hermione Danger*

    #3 I used to work for an organization that hired in this exact way. They had you take the CCAT first to see if you were even worth their time because they only wanted to work with the very smartest, and then you had to take it again with a proctor, because they then wanted to make sure you didn’t cheat. The result is an insanely smart, extraordinarily driven workforce. However, if it’s the same organization—made the news because the CEO almost ended up in prison last year & only saved himself with a plea bargain—you should run far and run fast because they will work you to death and not care.

  52. LW2*

    Hi all! Appreciate everyone’s strong feelings about negotiating and fair pay. I wanted to better articulate a couple of things.

    1) We actually did push for (and got) a significantly higher starting offer than what HR was planning on going with–nearly $10k more. But I don’t think it’s bad practice to keep some money budgeted to negotiate with. We don’t have any flexibility in terms of benefits or anything like that, so dollars are our only negotiating lever.
    2) I slightly misspoke with the wording around “what she’s worth.” The pay she is receiving is competitive and on par with our industry–I don’t think she’s getting underpaid. Then again, it’s a nonprofit, none of us are really getting paid “what we are worth.”
    3) As Alison said (thank you!) the question is more one about mentorship, not about giving this woman something she has been denied. I’m grateful for the mentorship I have received around negotiating, I just want to pass that along in an appropriate way.
    4) This is the first person I have hired, my first negotiation from the hiring side, and my first experience formally managing someone. I’m just out here bumbling around trying to be the best manager I can be, so please be kind.

    1. LTL*

      Thanks for commenting! It sounds like you care a lot about doing right by your direct reports.

      But I don’t think it’s bad practice to keep some money budgeted to negotiate with. We don’t have any flexibility in terms of benefits or anything like that, so dollars are our only negotiating lever.

      This isn’t really what your letter is about, but as a bit of an aside, I disagree. Candidates negotiate either to ensure there’s no money left on the table or because they won’t take an offer unless they’re given $X more. I don’t see candidates rejecting an offer solely on the principle of being told no.

      I’ve also come heard of companies that straight up say “we’re not open to negotiation because these practices disproportionately affect women and POC in negative ways” and I have a lot of admiration for that.

      1. AnonymousHOU*

        YES to your last paragraph! I am a finalist for a remote job that has been *shockingly* transparent about everything – the org’s formal compensation policies, salary bands, how raises work, etc. They specifically note that they will make their best offer within the posted range and do annual COL increases for everyone, but not merit raises because of 1) not everyone is comfortable with asking for them, 2) because they impact women and POC in negative ways, and 3) to ensure pay equity within the same job function.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It’s a good question and it sounds like you’ve handled the whole thing well. Try not to take the strong reactions to heart – this is an area that a lot of people have been burned, it’s not really about you or the specific circumstances you outlined. But a good takeaway might be that this IS a sensitive topic that’s often mishandled, so keep pushing for good compensation for your organization and proceed with care if you do go the mentorship route.

    3. Boof*

      Thanks LW and glad you are advocating for your employee. I like what some of the commenters have suggested of being told by their bosses when it’s time for reviews etc “hey you should ask for $X more” if that’s something you feel is appropriate for them. You could do it behind the scenes but may be worth trying to nudge them to ask for it too, I think that would be good mentorship.

    4. Macaroni Penguin*

      A non-profit company where people can negotiate their salary? How astonishing! My partner and I have been working on The Field for ages and never had a company with salary wiggle room. As a not for profit manager, you might see a lot more people than average avoid negotiating salary. Because we/they have no concept that it’s even possible, or that your company is an outlier.

  53. DubiousKat*

    4. Job opening gets reposted every month
    I see this all the time. In my opinion I believe these to be fake jobs and fake job postings. My thought is that companies do this to appear as though they are busy and have lots of work, are in growth mode, and/or to look good to investors or shareholders. Unfortunately, as an outside applicant, you have no way to know this for certain.

    I say this because my own VERY LARGE company does this all the time. Yet I know there were layoffs and we are and have been under a hiring freeze except for a very few truly “open” positions where someone left the company recently. The rest are all false listings where I know they have no intent in hiring or filling those jobs anytime soon (and no they are not hiring back those they laid of either), but they run the job posts anyway month after month. If my company does it, I expect other companies do as well.

  54. LTL*

    I’ll respect Alison’s request not to criticize the hiring practices of LW2’s company. However, I will note that if my manager or my employer encouraged me to negotiate offers, I would find it very off-putting. When I hear people encouraging negotiation, *especially* when they’re bringing up the disproportionate effect on women and POC (and even when they’re not), what I hear is “this isn’t a good system but this is what we have, and here is practical advice on what you should do about it.” It comes across very differently from someone in a position of power who may be able to influence the system itself.

    I understand that managers may not have much say in how the company handles offers, but even so… it would still leave a bad taste in my mouth. I would never know for sure if my manager is cool with it or if they could do something about it and just elected not to. I don’t think the OP should say anything.

    1. Spearmint*

      While norms of negotiation have a disproportionate effect on women and POC (at least right now), I’m not so sure a business refusing to negotiate at all is a better system for workers. If there’s no room for negotiations, how will workers increase their bargaining power and get higher pay? It seems like it puts all the cards in the hands of employers, who will always put themselves first when push comes to shove (even the god ones). Why should we leave it up to management to decide what our labor is worth? I’m not saying the current system is great, and I see how it disadvantages some groups, but I’m not sure a blanket rule against negotiation by employers is good for workers either.

      1. Paris Geller*

        I get this argument, but people will always go where the pay + benefits are best. I work in local government — it is very, very common for there to be absolutely no negotiation for salary for jobs in the public sector. And yet every job posting we have gets a lot of applicants, even at the lowest-paying levels. Why? People know that (generally) government jobs are stable & have excellent retirement benefits and decent pay. At my last job (also local government), I didn’t feel like I was being paid what I was worth — so here I am with an almost 40% salary increase. Good employers will want to stay competitive, so offering the best salary they can upfront is a win for all parties involved.

      2. After 33 years ...*

        Our university does not negotiate salaries or benefits. These are publicized, and candidates can accept or not.
        Workers (including faculty) increase their bargaining power and get higher pay through union negotiations: all non-administrative positions are unionized
        This policy removes the biases that can arise from the process of negotiation.

  55. VanLH*

    LW3: How desperate are you for a job? If you are not desperate I would suggest not taking the test again, especially if this is an internal recruiter. I would be very reluctant to take a job with a company whose first contact with me results in them accusing me of being a liar and a cheat.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’d at least ask why first, using Alison’s language. As someone said upthread some companies just do this as a matter of course. They could have another innocent explanation, though I struggle to think of one. I’d at least give them a chance to explain – but if they don’t have a satisfying explanation then yes, not a good foot to start on.

  56. CorporateRecruiterinVA*

    On the posted jobs, I have seen this happen on job boards, including LinkedIn, that scrape jobs from a careers page and sometimes show roles that are no longer open, show misleading or incorrect info about location (hello Indeed), etc. It’s possible the recruiter is doing it with intention but honestly there are so many times where this is just job boards scraping things incorrectly. I just found a boat load of jobs that appear “open” for my org on LinkedIn but that aren’t even open in our applicant system or even on our careers page. Truly I have no idea where they came from…

  57. Sunflower*

    #1 I don’t know if anyone already mentioned this but what if something happens to you and you can’t/won’t work? The boss will have to deal with it. Companies should not rely on one person.

    Apply for the job. If you get an offer, see what your boss has to say. Many people think it’s too much trouble to hire a new employee or “it’s not in the budget to give you a raise” until they suddenly lose you.

  58. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    Sometimes managers do advocate to get their people more money. Another lawyer and I got our secretary a substantial raise. Part of the problem was that HR had her at the wrong level, and we successfully argued that the duties she was performing legitimately placed her at a higher level. We still didn’t get her as much as we wanted to, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. So that Christmas we gave her an envelope with $500.00 in cash.

  59. Worldwalker*

    “I’m going to write a book called You Can Leave Your Job Without Guilt, and it will just be that sentence repeated in a variety of fonts for 200 pages.”

    If you run short on fonts, I’ve made a variety of them for ancient and otherwise unusual alphabets. Maybe the point would come across better if it was in Etruscan letters, or Egyptian hieroglyphs?

    It’s a sad commentary on the imbalance of power between employer and employee where so many employees are reluctant to do the best for themselves — taking a better job, with higher pay, more opportunities, etc. — while the employers have no qualms whatsoever about firing those same employees abruptly for business reasons, which entails a great deal more disruption to the life of the person fired than their departure would to their former employer. Also a sad commentary on the lessons taught by our society, which teaches people to be loyal to their “betters” despite the fact that the company has no loyalty to them.

  60. Sleepless KJ*

    #1: please apply for the job and find a way to lose the guilt. A close friend of mine gave her ALL to her job for more than 10 years and passed on many opportunities to apply for other jobs that would have been better in some way for her. She also was proud of having stockpiled hundreds of hours of vacation and sick time because she felt too guilty to take time off. Well guess what? One day last winter, her manager told her that they were reorganizing the department and she was let go effective immediately. (She lost all of that stockpiled sick time too.) It’s business, not family. They would let you go without a second thought if it suited their purposes. Don’t. Feel. Guilty. Your job is to look out for YOUR best interests.

  61. theatergirl*

    I recently started in HR at a new organization, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to push back on our CEO’s perception that negotiating salary is an affront to the company. That and so many bad opinions hiring managers have about how people need to conduct themselves during interviews. I don’t care if he didn’t always look at the camera; did he answer your questions thoroughly?! Ugh.

  62. Rica*

    #2 – Young people especially have been taught that they’re replaceable as employees, if they don’t want to do a job there’s about 10 others who will do it for less, everybody has to start from the bottom, just be grateful you have a job at all, etc. etc. Even now, as a semi-experienced worker, in my less confident days I’d consider taking the offered pay as is “just in case” asking for more could make me look like a more difficult employee and therefore a less desirable candidate. (In my more confident days, I’d negotiate and then spend the next 2-3 days not hearing back and wondering if I’d asked too much and was being too greedy, etc. So far, it has NOT gotten easier over time.)

    Pay transparency should be a thing. This is especially true for those who purport that women deserve equal pay. (Of course there are other factors at play and there are men who will also benefit from a policy change, but as it is women are the ones more likely to be paid less for no reason other than they’re women and have been taught not to push their luck.)

  63. Elizabeth West*

    For #2, a candidate who doesn’t negotiate may be coming from past workplaces where it was useless, or possibly had some other bad experience with it. I can attest that lower-level jobs don’t usually have any room for negotiation—I’ve asked and had companies say “lol, nah.” So you get used to not asking, or you’re afraid to.

    It could also be that the salary is acceptable to her and she’s fine with it for whatever reason—it’s enough, she’s happy to just have a job, etc. If OP talked at all about merit or COL increases during the hiring process, she might be thinking, “Cool, I’ll get more money then.”

  64. Engineer*

    #2: Maybe the new hire felt the salary was good enough. I did not negotiate money on my latest offer (within same company I work for) because I did a ton of research, and felt I was being offered a market rate. However, weeks later, I wish I had asked for more vacation time, since I had just burned all of mine on a long vacation.

    1. Anon for now*

      Not that it helps, but two times I’ve tried to negotiate more vacation time it was a dead end. I think those sorts of benefits are almost impossible to negotiate, unless you are looking at a c-suite type of role or if the employer is incredibly desperate.

  65. Meghan*

    I had been in hospitality and switched to retail for about a year then wanted back into an hourly hospitality position and didn’t negotiate. They just offered me $12/hour and it was only 50 cents more than I was making but it was guaranteed full-time hours and I took it and I’m still here 3 years later!

    Now, about 8 months in they did randomly bump me up to $15/hr and then I got my yearly raise after that. I did try to negotiate for a significant increase with my promotion a couple of months ago (like $12K+ more) and sadly they didn’t approve that but I did get about $8K more, so maybe the new hire wants to wait until a yearly review to ask for more? Or was at a point in the old job where she just wanted out and that salary was good enough?

  66. Macaroni Penguin*

    Can the company of OP2 revisit the salary issue? Or offer the employee the “If You’d Negotiated a Salary” amount at the end of their probation period?
    As an employee, the idea of unknowingly working for less that I’m theoretically worth is sad.

  67. MissBaudelaire*

    #4, there are several businesses in my town that have jobs constantly posted when there are not openings. They do this so that as soon as someone quits, they have a pool of ready to go applicants to draw from and call. They also just like to see what talent exists; if there’s an applicant that really excites them they want to capture them somehow.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I think if that is done once a year or for certain positions to check the market I get it. But it’s very misleading and they really shouldn’t do it. It wastes the time of applicants to apply for jobs that don’t exist and it’s a terrible practice. And I highly doubt they go back to any of those applicants because those applicants would have moved on to actual open roles anyway.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        You’d be shocked. Hubs has applied for jobs and three MONTHS later they’ve called him asking for an interview. They fully anticipate that people are still unemployed or still interested in the position. And, to be fair, there are some companies that people would quit their current job for. Maybe it was a better position, maybe they were unhappy in current job. That was the story for a long time, people were unemployed or underemployed or whatever.

  68. Pocket Mouse*

    #2- I remember reading/hearing a story of someone whose supervisor sat them down, told them they were getting a raise, and why. The supervisor then said that was the only freebie they’d be getting, and they will need to proactively ask for and provide rationale for the next raise—and the supervisor believed they’d be well-equipped to do so when the time came.

    This was for a new grad, I believe. If you have the flexibility to do something similar, especially if this is someone without much (healthy) professional experience, that’s one option to both pay her what she’s worth and provide mentoring to kind of show how it’s done.

  69. Sara without an H*

    Re OP#1: We seem to have run into a pattern here this week, in which AAM posters are confused about the differences between personal relationships and professional ones. You can have warm, cordial relationships with managers and coworkers, but those relationships are professional in nature.

    Loyalty to an employer involves delivering a day’s work for a day’s pay, keeping confidential information private, treating customers well, and getting on amicably with coworkers. It does not require employees to work themselves sick or neglect their own interests.

    OP#1, in your case, I recommend a couple of things. First, read the AAM archives, clean up your resume and LinkedIn profile (if you use it), and start looking for jobs that would fit logically into your career path. Don’t have a plan for your career? Start developing one.

    Next, you need to schedule a 1:1 meeting with your boss. Explain that performing the work of two positions isn’t sustainable going forward, and that you need their input in prioritizing the work. Schedule that meeting stat. If your manager is any good at all (and based on your letter, I have my doubts), they’ll work with you on this. Set a cap in your own mind for the number of hours you can realistically work in one week. (I don’t recommend going over 50 hours/week for anything more than a month. Beyond that, burnout looms.)

    If they won’t work with you on this and/or try to guilt trip you — Well, that in itself should tell you enough about them to dissipate any remaining guilt.

  70. Mr. Random Guy*

    I was in the same situation as #1, in an office of four one of my coworkers left on a Saturday, then another left with no notice the following Thursday. That left just me, my boss, and the part-time maintenance guy, with me absorbing basically all the extra work. A great candidate with the same title as one of my departed coworkers threw his hat in the ring, and my boss implied she wanted to hire him as a contractor (but only for one task, which would take no work whatsoever off my plate), then move him into her position when she retired. Trying to get some clarity, I asked in a meeting how we were going to redistribute the workload and got completely smacked down, then told the maintenance guy and I would just have to figure it out. I was gone a month later. My advice: ask your boss exactly what they mean by changes to ease your workload. If they don’t have a good answer, run and don’t look back.

  71. Squid*

    OP4: The team I am on has an evergreen posting that renews every 30 days or so. We are a team of ~20, and someone is always coming/going in terms of leave, new opportunities, etc. For example, 3 of us are going on maternity leave in the next 6 weeks, and at least 2 of our roles need to be backfilled. Additionally, 2 other team members just accepted new roles within or organization on other teams; they also need a backfill. Having an evergreen/renewing post makes the recruiting and hiring process for these situations MUCH easier and quicker and minimizes downtime or staffing crunches.

  72. Amaranth*

    OP1 don’t let yourself be guilted, and don’t trust in whatever he promises as a counteroffer. Go apply for the job at the great company because it can take months to get through a hiring process and if you wait to see if things change, this position probably won’t still be available when you want to break free. AFTER you apply, if you want to see what happens, have another talk to express ‘this is not sustainable, I need x and y or can’t do a,b,c any more.’ You might be happily surprised and they’ll get the former employee part time, or hire more help, and then you’ll also be leaving them in a better place when you move on. But right now making your life easier doesn’t appear to be their goal.

    OP2, at the one year mark (or after probation) are raises an option? If she is doing a terrific job, you could campaign to offer more rather than telling her she missed out.

    OP3 – it also could be that the client asked how they can ensure the right person took the online test and this is just a way to keep them happy. It isn’t necessarily about you, specifically.

  73. OP1*

    I am OP1 and I haven’t had a chance to read the comments until now but I wanted to thank everyone who took the time to comment on my letter and I want to thank Alison for answering my question as well! I have read every comment so far and all the advice has helped me more than I can say. I am taking it all in so that I can move forward in my career and leave the guilt behind when it’s not warranted. Thanks again for all the thoughtful responses! I’m feeling very positive about the future!

    1. Sara without an H*

      Thanks for checking in! Some years ago I remember reading an old column by “Miss Manners,” the Washington Post’s etiquette columnist. As I remember, she drew a distinction between shame and guilt. “Shame” is an appropriate response to doing a shameful act and should prompt the culprit to make amends. “Guilt” is free-floating and doesn’t really foster any useful action in return.

      Good luck to you. Be sure to read the AAM archives — Alison has a lot of good advice on resumes, cover letters, and interviewing.

      And check what’s posted under the topic “Advice About Your Boss.” I have some doubts about yours.

  74. Mountainshadows299*

    LW2- While you may not be able to do this now (and may not be able to due to company practices or whatever), going forward you may consider doing for your employee what one of my old employers did for me… I was coming out of a really toxic work environment, was young, and simply didn’t know how to negotiate (or that I could because my previous workplace demoralized me to the point of thinking I wasn’t worth it). My supervisor to be offered me an estimated annual salary, which I initially accepted with no negotiation, but an HR Director called me the next day saying they had “re-evaluated my credentials” and offered me a slightly higher annual salary because the employer “was dedicated to equitable treatment and basing salaries on a combination of job experience and expertise.” To be fair, I did have a master’s degree so it might have just been a salary band issue in the first place, but I was happy that they at least tried to provide me with a little higher salary even though I hadn’t tried to negotiate.

  75. Random username*

    I’ve never negotiated my pay, partly because I’ve switched industries a couple of times and partly because what I’m generally offered is within what I’m looking for. #2, if your industry does an evaluation after 90 day or similar, it might be good to mention to the employee that salary negotiations are common at that point, if they are.

    #1, I’d definitely apply for the other job. Your manager might be great, but it’s not great that they aren’t doing much to fill your coworkers role. Also, this might not be appropriate for your company and it’s obviously not your job to do this, but could there be someone within the company, such as someone who is support staff, who might be a good candidate for your coworkers position?

    I only mention that because it seems like many times people who are hired as support staff are forever pegged as such within their company, even if it’s clear they could do more. I’ve been that person and have seen plenty of others who were admins or receptionists, but were doing much more than just typing and answering phones and who made it known they’d like to advance and were never given the opportunity. And it never failed that when they left for a much better job, management would be shocked and would wonder why they never pushed to advance within that company. The person would try, but were “just too good” at the job they had to be promoted.

    Again, I know that’s not at all your job to find someone, but maybe making a suggestion might get the ball rolling. Regardless, I’d apply for the other job and if you leave, you leave.

  76. Rufus Bumblesplat*

    LW5 (Gift cards for references): I would also consider the optics of the situation.

    In my workplace we’re not allowed to accept anything that could be construed as a bribe.
    E.g. Accepting a box of chocolates from a client at Christmas would be fine, accepting an expensive watch for a routine transaction would not be.
    Cash, and cash equivalents like gift cards cannot be accepted under any circumstances.

    Whilst your intention of sending gift cards as a thank you for their time is innocent, it could be misconstrued. If your new employer found out that you had essentially paid your references, it might make them question whether the feedback given was genuine or not.

  77. Savanna*

    I think more of Dr. Seuss style is called for here.

    “You can leave your job working for a goat.
    You can leave your job sailing on a boat.”

  78. Sharon*

    Actually, the freelancer situation is easier, because the freelancer is the one that sets their rates (self-employed people often don’t realize they have the control and still view their clients as bosses that set schedules and pay instead of as customers that want to purchase services.) Anytime you raise rates, you risk losing clients, but you always want multiple clients, and often the clients that are the biggest pains are the ones that want to pay the least. If you cut them, you have more time to go after better paying clients. So you could conceivably double your rates, lose half your business, and still be making the same amount of money for half the amount of work.

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