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I'm currently working a second job that is actually a full time job. I'm being paid 30% of what other people in my field are making. I'm not the most productive employee, but I am extremely punctual, polite, and well liked. I don't work very hard but I don't feel I need to, considering I'm the least paid software engineer in the country (I'm really not joking).

I've been working 35 hours a week for the last 10 weeks, I was told when I started with the company I should work 40 hours a week. My manager expressed that I needed to work at least 40 hours a week (and he hinted more like 50) and that 35 was a problem. It was never a problem until I got promoted to engineering (same pay).

Now that I'm in engineering I have a lot more expectations. I'm being paid a very low hourly rate and I want to know a good way to explain to my boss that I want to work 25 hours a week rather than 40-50. I don't have a family, or much of a social life outside work. When it comes right down to it, I just don't want to work 40 hours a week at a job that I get paid so little for. I'm worried that I'll just get terminated if I ask for fewer hours after he got so concerned that I was only working 35. The job experience is amazing; I don't want to lose this opportunity. I feel like I just can't take a step back and examine my situation. Can anyone share some advice on this?

I feel like everyone is the being underpaid here, it's just how the company works. Everyone thinks they are being underpaid, but it's universally excepted that people here really are. I know I'm not going to get a decent raise, so I just don't want to have to work 40 hours a week.

I wrote "amazing" because the experience I'm gaining is corporate software company experience. It's more of a resume builder and the company is well known in my town so it's a good stepping stone to another job, but I don't feel that between 25 and 40 I'm going to gain anymore experience over the course of a year for the goal of getting a better job.

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What do you want more: fewer hours, or better pay for the hours you're working? In some organizations the latter might be easier. –  Monica Cellio Jan 21 '13 at 19:37
    
Everyone is the being underpaid here, it's just how the company works. Everyone thinks they are being underpaid, but it's universally excepted that people here really are. I know I'm not going to get a decent raise, so I just don't want to have to work 40 hours a week. –  Jeff Jan 21 '13 at 19:42
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In what way is the job experience amazing? This is important to the question. Sometimes the experience is so good that it counts towards your remuneration (ie. given a choice between that job and a normal job at 10% more money, you'd chose the former), but sometimes we get into ruts and forget that the things this job offers would be offered in 10% of other companies too. –  pdr Jan 21 '13 at 19:52
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Why are you working two jobs? –  JeffO Jan 22 '13 at 1:30
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@JeffO - What does it matter? What concerns me is he thinks its alright not to work hard just because he is being paid less then he should. Thats a horrible work ethic and perhaps the reason he is being below the average. –  Ramhound Jan 22 '13 at 12:47
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3 Answers

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You mention a few factors that make me feel like you are viewing this as more of what I would call an internship than an regular job. The big difference being that an intern accepts being underpaid because they are learning, building a good job history and entered the job with fewer skills - so they are potentially less productive. In these cases, an intern trades time at the job working thankless hours for thankless money for a better resume and good potential future work.

When you mention your relationship with this job, I hear:

  • I'm not the most productive employee, but I am extremely punctual, polite, and well liked. - this usually advice I give interns - before you have "cred" in your field, make sure you hit the easily measurable metrics of timeliness, good manners, and good attitude.

  • I wrote "amazing" because the experience I'm gaining is corporate software company experience. - I'm betting that mileage varies a lot here. My first job out of college was amazing for the same reason, but being corporate software, the money was pretty great. But this is going to have a lot to do with where you live, your job history, and your personal situation. If what you feel is that a significant part of your "pay" is the experience of working in the company which will lead to a better career in the long run, then it fits into the internship model.

  • It's more of a resume builder and the company is well known in my town so it's a good stepping stone to another job. - similar to the previous bullet - if you are getting enough training and good skills at this job that another one will eagerly snatch you up because you've worked at this company, then it might be an unspoken internship.

My point in highlighting this is that interns are generally expected to trade time for knowledge. If you aren't getting knowledge, then your time isn't worth it. If you are, then you are getting paid more than the lousy salary. In most internships, I expect the intern to be around slightly more than the bare minimum, because they are expected to pick up the slack that the more skilled and better paid employees need. I won't know when that will happen, so I want them around. The tradeoff is that they don't need to work quite as hard or as thoughtfully, because they are primarily learning.

"I don't work very hard but I don't I need to be considering I'm the least paid software engineer in the country"

If you are capable of independent work, don't need that much supervision or have the skills you need to do the job with little help from others - then you don't fit the intern model so easily - you fit the model of an employee who is, quite frankly, slacking. I'm not sure what to say here, other than to put out the thought that regardless of what you are paid - you made the agreement to work for some number of hours in return for some hourly wage. Not being very productive because the wage isn't very good isn't a good excuse. If you want a better wage, find a company that will pay you a better wage.

I point this out because when I interview people, I like to learn what they did. The excuse "not much because my salary was lousy" doesn't hold much water with me. Either you are a go getter who did great things in your last job and will do great things for me (the hiring manager) in your new job, or you are not. And a great company reputation isn't going to change my mind if this what I hear in the process of doing an interview.

Part Time in Corporate Life

I'm a huge advocate of part time work. I love it, and I've seen many teams and individuals benefit from it as it gives a great advantage to work life balance. My best part time people have been people who would be go-getters regardless of the situation, but who found a way to balance life and work better with a reduced number of hours and a reduced salary. The absolute best have also been very sensitive to the work/life tradeoffs so that they were able to be at work when we most needed them - making sure that they had time at work during optimal working hours, and enough slack personal schedules that they could help out when the team was in crisis - just like a full time person would.

The trick is - it isn't really a fix to anything. A great job and a great employee can do just as well together part time as full time. But a not-great job and a not-great employee tend to be a worse combination then they were at full time. I'm sure there are tons of management theories on this, but my experience has been that there are two factors:

  • it's harder to measure them - it's hard to say in knowledge work what 50% is, so it's harder to give critique when someone is doing badly. When someone is doing really well, it's easy to see that the 75% they did was better than the 50% of the hours they worked, but when someone is contributing 40% and being paid 50% --- well, it just starts to get confusing, especially when there is only one person on the team who is working unique hours.

  • there is a value to availability - working in an engineering team means having a stake in the shared knowledge and shared decision making - no team can build things with each team member in isolation. When one team member has less availability than the rest of the team, it makes getting together for meetings, or sharing knowledge a bit more difficult as there as a significant percent of the time when said team member is not available. This is a loss of value that's extremely hard to account for in monetary terms.

If you are intent on part time work here, you need to find a way to answer these questions favorably for your boss. Quite honestly, if my least-performing engineer came to me and asked for this kind of special consideration, I'd probably say "no". My goal is to get everyone contributing as much as possible, and if I already have a problem area, I'm not going to make the situation more complicated by making special working arrangements.

But - if you can find a case where your reduced work hours really help the company's best interests, you may have a good case. This may take ingenuity - if the company is strapped for cash, needs a specialized skill set, but only for a few hours a week, etc - then there may be a special need that lets you fill the niche and get what you want. The problem can be, that this niche may result in less marketable skills - which would run counter to your goal of being more marketable and better paid in the long run.

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@Chad - I don't feel so strongly about that first paragraph, so I killed it. –  bethlakshmi Jan 22 '13 at 19:01
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There is no safe way to tell your employer that you are not willing to work as much as they want you to. All change carries risk and you are demanding change.

You said this is your second job, I would explain to them that this is your second job and that while you would like to continue working with them, that you can only be available 25 hours a week. You could even say you would be happy to make this your primary position but that you would need at least X dollars a week to do so.

This does carry the risk that the employer could tell you that it is not enough and that you will have to choose between working full time at the rate they pay you or not working there at all. I has been my experience that most companies would rather have a part time resource than no resource so I think the risk is low, but there are companies that would reject your demands. And many more that would try to intimidate you into retracting them. I suspect that if you are to get the results you desire you will have to hold firm to your demand that 25 hours is the most you are willing to commit to them.

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You are doing two things here:
1) you are asking for a raise.
2) you are asking to go part time at a fraction of that new salary.

You should negotiate accordingly.

The person who has the most information usually wins any negotiation. Look on sites like http://www.glassdoor.com/index.htm to find out what is standard in your industry. Use this, plus your productivity to argue that you deserve to earn more money.

Then you can make the argument that you should transition to part time, and take the associated pay cut.

The first part is pretty standard: people ask for raises all the time. Often they get them. But the second part might be more problematic. Many bosses / employers consider part-time employees to lack commitment or otherwise not be real employees. So make sure you are clear that this will fit in with the corporate culture before you ask for it.

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