Ask Bing: Should I disclose my salary?
I am currently employed but looking for other opportunities within my field. Recently, I received a phone call for a position, that if I receive it, would call for me to relocate to Memphis, which is not a problem. However, during the conversation, the person asked me what salary I make at my current job. Now, at first these seemed odd, but since I have my resume on different Internet sites, a direct salary question like this has become the norm. I was taught not to mention salary until the other guy brings it up - only then is it open for discussion. I told him what I made.
However, I'm thinking now I may have relented a major bargaining chip I had. Although this position may have paid a higher amount, now that the company knows what I currently make, they may think they can make a lower offer than they would've had they not known what I currently make. Is it proper for a company to ask a salary question during the initial conversation? Should I have told them what I make or what I hope to make at the new position?
Well, I guess I'd have to say that anything is proper except questions about your marital status, age, etc. That kind of stuff has been off limits for a while. About salary, they can ask but you don't have to answer. I think you kind of stepped in it a bit, as you feared. There's an old joke. A man says to a woman, "Would you sleep with me for a billion dollars?" It used to be a million, but you know, inflation... And the woman says, "Well... I'd have to think about that..." and the man says, "Well, would you sleep with me for a dollar?" and the woman says, "What kind of person do you think I am?" and the man says, "I think we've already established that. Now we're haggling on the price." By telling these guys your salary, you have set a ballpark for yourself that you might not want to live in, and focused your persona in their eyes at a certain income level. In general, I would say the proper answer to that question would be, "I'm looking to be making..." and then provide a number 20% higher than what you are really looking for. They say, "What do you make?" and you answer "Here's what I'd like to be making." See? And don't give in. If the guy keeps pushing, you might give him a general figure 20% greater than what you actually make, if you like. You might also say, "What I'm making now is one of the reasons I'd like to move on," and see if that suffices. If it doesn't, uh-oh. You may be speaking with a jerk and future pushy sonofabitch. What can you do now? A lot. You don't have to move for the wrong money. If they want you and lowball you, just say, "Hey, Frank, honestly, that's way too close to what I make now to be interesting to me." This is the time you have leverage. Use it. Keep in mind, too, that $80,000 per year in Memphis is not $80,000 in LA, New York or Chicago, or elsewhere in the land of the $20 cheeseburger.
My boss is the owner of the company. One of the female department heads periodically gets it in for some employee in another department. If the tortured employee stands up to her she complains that they are not showing her respect. She tells the boss that if that employee is not reprimanded or fired she will have to quit because she can not work with them. He rarely gets input from the other employee(s) but asks everyone to show her respect. When other employees point out to him that she is not being truthful, he ignores them. He seems to think that because she is a department head the other employee is dispensable and she is not. Other than this issue we all love our jobs because he pays well and he trusts us all to get the work done without micro-managing. How can we get him to see that she is the one who is stirring up trouble?
I don't know. Is she? I wonder if there is some interesting subtext in your second sentence. Let me repeat it: "One of the female department heads..." That's enough, I think. Is the fact that this person is difficult related, in your mind, to the fact that she is female? It seems to be. I assure you, however, that punitive, vindictive micro-managers come in all available sexes. The fact that she is female, however, definitely has an impact on the owner of the place. He seems to be genuinely concerned that people deal with this manager with "respect." An interesting word. "Respect" is his primary concern here. Could it be that people don't always treat female executives with the same kind of "respect" as they do with males? Could it be that the boss perceives this to be a problem, and wants to show that any lack of proper respect -- let's take out the quotes now -- will be dealt with most harshly? There's no question that you have a dangerous senior manager there. Touchy. A bit paranoid. Lethal to her enemies. Sure, her exaggerated sense of self-importance and sensitivity may be related to the difficulties she has faced as a woman in business, the same way that short men often are more difficult to manage than tall ones.
We are all who we are. Our strengths and liabilities come with us when we become managers of others. Employees need to manage those rough edges as well as our smooth ones. Your boss sounds like he values this difficult and dangerous woman. There must be a reason. Find it. And while you do, tread very lightly. If you were going into a lion's den, you wouldn't take along a roast beef sandwich.
I have been with a not-for-profit organization (with lots of for-profit subsidiaries) for about 2 years. I was brought in partially to work with accreditation and licensing which requires extreme accuracy, and which I have proven my worth. My new supervisor was even sent to school to learn the job because he had, and still has, no idea about accreditation or licensing, no management, communication or computer skills, and everyone, other than management, sees him as a bumbling idiot to the point of them laughing at me to my face. We have an audit within the year and I'm afraid all the work my previous supervisor and myself prepared, will be for naught. Should I resign now, and run the risk of being blamed since I am not there to defend myself, (other managers have caught him lying to cover himself) or stick it out and try to salvage what I can, but continue to be unrecognized. The more I think about it, the more it sounds like a lose-lose situation, but I was created to work for not-for-profits. Are they all like that?
I used to work for a non-profit. They do tend to attract, at the top, a certain kind of ivory-tower, wooly-headed narcissist. In that sense, they're a lot like institutions of higher learning, which are often run by Deans, about whom I will not comment except to say that my father, who was a brilliant guy and a college professor once sat me down and told me, "Son, never trust a Dean." I have always followed that advice, particularly when we occupied his office when I went to college. But that's another story.
Look. I have a basic principle that has always guided me. It may be right and it may be wrong, but it's what I think. Wherever you go, whatever you do, there will be buttheads. I say "buttheads" because I think the blogosphere is a dirty, dirty place for the most part and I'm going to try to do my best not to use the kind of language you hear in just about every business meeting these days. But when I say "butthead" I think you know what I'd really like to say, right? Anyhow, there are these people. And you hate them, and they well and truly suck. And no matter how many times you run away from them -- the morons, the losers, the pompous windbags who feed off your energy and your ideas -- they come popping up later when you have moved on in all purity of spirit and hope. And then you have to deal with the new one. The question then arises... why move? Why not deal with this butthead instead of the next one? Obviously, there are degrees and levels of buttheadedness. There ARE times to get your resume in order and move along. But I know a guy... he worked for a museum that was a perfect fit for him. He didn't get along with the jerkweed that ran the place. So he quit, out of, you know, principle. Now he's been at home tending his plants for THREE YEARS.
My take? Hang in there. Be good at what you do. It's amazing how many times I've seen sheer competence win the day, even in highly politicized organizations run by people of very little ability. Perhaps especially in those.
What do you do when you have a Company President that doesn't want to do anything that makes him look like a bad guy? This boss doesn't want to tell an employee "no" and prefers someone else be the bearer of bad news. He also says "he doesn't want to know" as if not knowing something important will protect him later.
Congratulations. You have a wimp for a boss. The good news is that he's often easier to deal with than a bully or a paranoid (although he may occasionally turn into either). The bad news is that, well, he's a wimp! I have a great piece of advice for you. Go buy my book, Crazy Bosses, here. There's a whole chapter on wimps! For you cheapskates who want it for free, I can just tell you this: hardworking, gutsy people who can take blame as well as credit for things, who are willing to make decisions, stick their necks out, do VERY well with wimpy bosses. Even when things go bad, there is some portion of the wimpy mind that says, "Gee, Linda got that whole thing done without my action at all. She's got guts and brains. I may let her take the hit in public, but where would I be without her?" That's good news for Linda. And good news for you if you manage that wimpy boss well.
I have just recovered from a previous position. My previous employer went under and took everyone with them. They sold the company to an "investment firm" and laid everyone off. I was unemployed for almost a month. Now I have a position with a very well-established, albeit huge company. I have been employed for nearly a month and I have not yet received any training. There seems to be a lack of urgency with the new hires. I know the company is huge and that the bigger the engine the slower the moving parts, but I also would like to start earning my pay rather than sitting around reading the paper. How would you handle this situation in terms of not stepping on anyone's toes or ratting anyone out to management? I am new and I don't want to make enemies this quickly. I would appreciate any suggestions you have.
Yeah. You are new, so don't make any enemies. But seriously. You sound like a nice person and a great new hire for this company. Be patient with them. They sound dysfunctional. Do you have a boss? A supervisor? Can't you go to that person and say, hey, I'd like some ADDITIONAL training to make sure the company is getting the most of out me? I say "additional" because you never want to make it perfectly, stunningly clear how truly inactive you are right now. That would be offensive to those in charge. They want to believe they have put you to work. Telling them otherwise must wait until you're really in the groove. Then you can point out to them that your first three months was spent basically twiddling your thumbs.
Until then, try to get to as many gatherings as possible, soak up culture, be in the thick of where you can. If six months goes by and you're still just sitting around collecting a paycheck you may want to e-mail the head of training in Human Resources (I'll be there is one at your corporation, since it's big and nothing works right). Let him know that you're interested in career advancement and ask what kind of formal help they can offer. And relax. One day you'll get busy and look back on these months as a wonderful time of grace and indolence.
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