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Decision-making: Go for the money?

photo collage special effects by Franke James;  Chad Anderson © iStockphoto.com

Dear Office-Politics,

I work in an IT support role that is split 50/50 between support and team leadership responsibilities. My employer is a 3rd party contractor that provides IT support to our customer; I am at the customer’s location 100% of the time. Last month, the customer’s HR person called to ask me if I would be interested in a position working directly for them. He caught me off guard so I thanked him and told him I was very happy with my current position. It happens quite often that our employees leave to work for the customer. And I know that my boss hates to be caught off guard by this type of departure. With that in mind, I called him immediately to let him know what happened and to assure him that I planned to stay in my current position.

However, a few days later I found out that the customer is paying really, really well for this position: 50% more than I currently make for basically the same support responsibilities (but no leadership responsibilities). I am grossly underpaid (I’ve done the research to confirm it). But I stay with my employer because I am getting some valuable leadership/management experience for my resume. For 50% more money, though, I am willing to give that experience up!

I called back the customer’s HR person, made my excuses about why I initially turned him down and asked if I could send my resume for consideration. The answer was yes and I expect to interview with them next week.

I know I need to tread very carefully here if I want to avoid burning bridges with my current employer. As soon as I have a firm date for my interview with the customer I plan to let my boss know what is going on. I don’t think he’ll be happy but I think he’ll understand (he knows he’s getting me for a steal).

Or should I abandon that plan altogether, take my salary research to my boss and ask for more money? Ultimately, that’s what I’m after. I’d be happy to do either job but I’d really like to do it for what I’m worth. I don’t think he’s going to cough up the money though.

What would your experts advise in this situation?

Seeking Opportunity

franke james

Dear Seeking Opportunity,

A job is so much more than the money.

This new opportunity may be better for you — but if so, it likely won’t be because of the pay. The money will mean nothing if you’re unhappy or stressed (read some of the letters on this site). Before you jump to the new job take two pieces of paper. On one make a list of all the reasons why you should take the new job (the Pro’s). On the second sheet make a list of all the negative reasons (the Con’s). Assign a value to each reason, either positive or negative.

Here’s an example condensed onto one page:

New job: I get paid more (positive value 30)
Old job: I get paid less and it’s hard to make my rent (negative value 40)

New job: the commute is long (negative value 25)
Old job: the commute is short (positive value 50)

New job: I don’t know who I’d work with (negative value 5)
Old job: I get to work with senior staff who can be good mentors in my career (positive value 30)

New job: I’ve heard rumors that the office politics is terrible there (negative value 25)
Old job: I’m happy and get along with everyone (positive value 35)

New job: It won’t add value to my resume (negative value 0)
Old job: This job looks great on my resume (positive value 35)

Keep going on your list until you’ve written down all the important factors in your decision. Add up the two columns and see what the positive number is versus the negative. If you’re shaking your head right now saying, “This is just too simple!” you’ll be fascinated to hear that this Decision-Maker tool is used by billionaire Seymour Schulich and is featured in his new book, ‘Get Smarter’. It worked for him and he hasn’t done too badly in life. I think it’s a great tool that strips away the emotion and ensures that you won’t let one or two factors sway you from making the right decision.

The other suggestion you made was to use your new (potential) job offer to squeeze more money out of your current boss. You might be successful — BUT the loyalty issue will come to the fore. In my experience bosses like to think that you’re working for them not just because of the money, but for the experience, the people, the opportunity, the fact they are a great boss, etc., etc. Telling your boss you’re only in it for the money is going to be a big downer on your relationship. Even if you decide to stay, out of loyalty, your relationship may have soured.

Does that mean you can’t ask for more money? No. You are in a business relationship and you should always be able to get paid ‘what you are worth’, but ideally it would coincide with a performance review, not a threat to exit to the highest offer.

If you do decide to ask for a higher salary (also consider the recent stock market gyrations?) present the salary research to your old boss and make a case that emphasizes all the things you love about working for him, if only your salary could be equivalent. But you have to be very careful how you ask for the increase, and how much pressure you apply.

Lastly, I’d ask myself which job will be the best stepping stone to a great future in a career I love. Whichever job you take make sure it’s going in the direction you ultimately want to go.

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics. Please send me an email with your thoughts on my reply.

Good luck!


Franke James, MFA
Editor & Founder, Office-Politics.com
Inventor, The Office-Politics® Game


Franke James, MFA is the Editor & Founder of Office-Politics.com. She is also the Inventor of The Office-Politics® Game a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com.

  1. One Answer to “Decision-making: Go for the money?”

  2. Wow, thanks so much for the response. I really appreciate it.

    I agree that a job is more than money. I’ve considered some of the pros and cons you mention but I have not taken the next step to actually write them down (and better yet, assign them values) to compare. The money is sooo alluring, especially when I think about how little I am making now, even though I am doing more work. My boss has also ‘nickeled and dimed’ me on some legitimate expenses (he told me I had to get a cell phone for work so I did and then he refused to pay for the phone itself and will only pay a portion of the bill each month). It’s a real culture of “suck as much as you can from the employee, giving as little as possible in return.” I know that businesses need to make money but I have some real problems with the way my employer operates. Sorry, I went off on a little tangent-rant but I think I’ve just clarified a few items for my pros/cons list!

    What you said about telling my boss that I’m essentially only in this for the money really resonates with me. I think my boss in particular would be very offended. He is the ‘Michael Scott’ type who loves to think of himself as the big-brother-buddy, guiding us all to better futures via his amazing leadership abilities. I think my boss is ok, but I don’t see in him the leader he believes he is. I honestly think that if I approach him and ask him for more money, whether it is at review time or not, he is going to take it very personally. I think I am going to forget about asking for more money altogether. After reading your response, I am really feeling like it will just not be worth it.

    I have a lot to consider and you have helped me to think through some of my options – thank you very much. I think I am going to make that list and see if I can’t look at this more objectively, with more than the money in mind.

    Thanks again for your reply!

    By Letter writer on Jan 30, 2008

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