April 7, 2014

What to say to a stingy boss

Filed under: Job Search, Q&A, Salary, Success at Work

In the April 8, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader says her boss “gave her a raise” by hiring another employee:

I have been with my current employer for six and a half years. I was promoted six months ago from administrative assistant to assistant manager. I got the title but no pay increase. Since being employed with this company I have not received any type of raise, only an occasional small bonus (less than $600). I recently asked the owner about a cost of living raise. His answer: “I did give you a raise when I hired a new person for your department. This took a large work load off you and that in turn was your raise.”

underpaidI almost fell out of my chair. I try very hard to be an optimist, but I am still trying to wrap my head around his response. I have proven that I have been very committed to this company. I have streamlined daily duties to save time, and I have found ways to save him thousands of dollars in operating costs. My boss informs me often that his clients compliment him on my professional skills and follow-up. I have a file of examples, but still I am not worthy of even a cost of living raise. My new co-worker was hired at the same time I was given a promotion in title only. She managed to negotiate $8,000 more than I am paid, with two years of experience against my six years. The only benefits that I receive are three weeks vacation. No retirement, no health insurance.

My boss also made this important statement: “I don’t believe in giving raises. People should learn to live within their means.”

My fire was ignited. A still small voice inside me is screaming saying, don’t settle, have courage, and as my father would say, go out there and shake those bushes.

I do apologize for the roundabout explanation. Do I stay and accept no pay increase ever, and just accept that maybe someday I can possibly make an increase in salary when my current manager retires in 10-15 years?

Or should I just go for it and test the market and just see what might be on the other side of that door? I will admit, I am old school when it comes to changing employers often. I tend to be very loyal. What makes me stay? I really do enjoy my work and I enjoy finding ways to save money. It’s a challenge for me. But now that I realize there will be very little compensation in my efforts, I feel defeated to say the least. My resume is ready. I’m the only one holding myself back.

Thank you so very much for all the information you have put together for people like me. I greatly appreciate any insider tips to help me navigate my way in a southern good ol’ boys business world.

Nick’s Reply

Your note reveals to me that you are a class act. A bit naive, but classy.

Loyalty goes two ways. If you’re giving your employer your best and he’s failing to recognize your increasing value to his business, then he’s not being loyal to you. I’m not trying to stoke the fire of discontent, but I don’t think you have anything to feel guilty about.

You’ve invested six years of your life in this business, and your boss has acknowledged your value to his customers. Now he’s given you a higher level job to acknowledge the growth of your skills and abilities. You are delivering much more value to him than you were when you were hired. (You’re a walking example of How to Build Value on Your Resume.) But he’s delivering no more value to you.

stingy-bossHis statement that, “I don’t believe in giving raises. People should learn to live within their means” tells you all you need to know about this man: He’s taking advantage of you. My guess is that he’s earning far more today than he was six years ago, in part thanks to you. He’s not sharing that success. And as a boss, he’s not grasping a very simple but important idea about salary: That’s why it’s called compensation.

His statement that hiring a new person is his way of giving you a raise is a ridiculous insult. All I see here is a man with a very small mind who thinks he’s clever. But don’t begrudge your new co-worker her higher salary. Good for her for negotiating it. Her success is no reflection on you. (I discuss how to handle salary disparity in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 7: Win The Salary Games, pp. 16-17, “Why does he get paid more?”)

I’d take your boss up on his advice – live within your means. And your “new means,” with six years’ experience under your belt, include greater skills and abilities, and a higher value. Find an employer who recognizes that, respects it, and is willing to pay for it.

Keep in mind that searching for a new job always poses a bit of a risk. But I think doing nothing but accepting this man’s edicts is far, far riskier for you. If you stay, in another six years your self-respect and self-confidence will diminish, and you will indeed be worth less.

Your boss is wrong. Your father is right. Do it carefully and intelligently, but find yourself a better employer. (Let me caution you: Don’t look for a job.) Life is short, and as my best mentor told me long ago, “Never work with jerks.”

When you say goodbye to that fool, remember: Never complain, never explain. Do not express your dissatisfaction or explain why you are leaving, except to say, “It’s time for me to move on. Good luck.” (Nothing is gained by venting to an old boss except the venom he will spread about you.) So keep your standards and your head high. Rest assured that this man’s comeuppance will appear to him every morning when he looks in the mirror — while you earn what you’re worth.

When is enough, enough from a selfish boss? How do we know it’s time to say, so long? Have you been abused longer than you should have permitted? What pushed you to finally move on? What are your suggestions for this reader?

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54 Comments on “What to say to a stingy boss”
By Shelly
March 11, 2015 at 9:56 pm

Hello all,

Thank you again for all the great advice on my career situation that I originally posed the question to Nick back in April, 2014.

Update status almost one year later. Don’t shake your head in disappointment but yes I am still working with this employer. No, I have not received any pay increase as of this date. However I have taken another angle on my situation. I realized if I truly wanted to make more money in my current career field I was lacking one major thing. I needed my license. 13 years in my chosen field and I did not have my license, it was one of the first couple of questions that were asked of me when I interviewed with other companies in the same field.

So fast forward…I have asked the same boss who would not give me a pay raise if he would pay for my education & fees to get licensed. He agreed. I am currently attending classes 1 day a week for 4 hours to obtain the education to allow me to get my license.(16 weeks to go) On top of that I was given a very profitable portfolio to manage for an out of state investor. The experience, along with contacts alone are worth a lot working with this new client. I feel confident adding these two recent items to my resume will end up paying off in the very near future.

So with that being said. Should I feel the least bit guilty for asking for my education to paid for, when I have plans to leave this company in the near future to better my self in my chosen profession? I do want to leave on good terms, as it is important to me not to burn any bridges I have worked so incredibly hard to build.

I might also add that I plan to look for future employment in my field in another part of state I live in or another nearby state due to the fact the field I work in is a good O’l boys network and all the players know each other quite well. For example it would be very hard for me to interview with another company without my boss being informed.

Then to top it all off when I am done obtaining my license I will be signing up to take a small business course & getting mentored on how to start & succeed at a small business. Life is just to short to be held back any longer! Here is to hoping all the small,simple steps that I’ve taken every single day will lead to big results.

Kindest Regards,

By Nick Corcodilos
March 12, 2015 at 11:40 am

@Shelly: Thanks for posting your update, and good for you for negotiating a deal that pays you back in a useful way while you plan your next step! You took a deep look at your situation and pulled a rabbit out of the hat by “thinking out of the box.” Sometimes patience, coupled with a bit of cunning, is the short-term solution.

By Don
March 12, 2015 at 1:19 pm

agree w Nick
plus one more point. No you shouldn’t feel the least bit guilty about planning to leave and leaving because you picked up some paid tuition.
I did likewise & it goes with the territory of employment risk.
In my case my education was general and for no more reason than to get a degree to have a degree. It really did nothing much to help me in my profession
In your case, you’re talking certifications and licenses which align directly to one’s profession. As you gain the education, in this situation, your boss gains value. It’s quid pro quo. your incremental learning goes into the organization’s operation real time.
It’s not as if you’re new found knowledge doesn’t kick in until you get certified.
And things happen things change. you may find that you don’t leave because your boss gets un-stingy and ups the ante per your certs.
So relax, and grow

By Dee
March 12, 2015 at 10:10 pm


You got out there, got feedback on what you lacked, dared to ask your boss for it, and not only are you getting the license paid for but you got a big client to manage. That’s one gutsy move, which not one of us thought of. And no, you shouldn’t feel the teensiest bit guilty about it. One, you plan to relocate. And two, with that license and big-client experience under your belt, you just priced yourself out of your old job. All The Best!

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