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I am in a critical niche position at a medium sized (~300 person) company and I am not respected and grossly underpaid. My daily operations are required in order for the company to function and there is not even one other person at the company who could even begin to do what I have been doing for the past few years. There were other members of my team but they all left because of the lack of respect and we have been unable to hire new members because so few people know the required technologies and skills. This leaves me doing the work of 4 people.

It would be possible to hire a consultant to take over my position, but they are billable at 4 times my salary and not likely to have the skills and experience I have acquired.

While I do enjoy certain aspects of the company, the poor pay and lack of respect within the organisation make it difficult to stay. However, my leaving would leave the company in a very difficult position and I would rather try to solve the problem.

So my question is: should I tell my company I will require a position boost for respect and enormous salary boost or I will be leaving? If so, how should I approach the conversation?

  • 6
    Don't get hit by a bus – enderland Mar 29 '13 at 17:54
  • 9
    Not 'til you have an acceptable offer from another company in hand. – Blrfl Mar 29 '13 at 19:44
  • Are you truly underpaid? How does your salary compare to market value for your job and your area? – Michael Martinez Mar 12 '14 at 19:09
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    @MichaelMartinez If the OP is the only one who can do this job, and the job is critical for the success of the company, their worth is approximately $1 less than the total profit of the company. – user9158 Mar 13 '14 at 1:30
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If you are unhappy with your position, title, or salary, you should absolutely voice these concerns. If you are performing mission-critical operations that affect the company's bottom line, but feel you are not getting the respect or compensation you are due, then you should absolutely look for ways to communicate your achievements.

But I would not phrase it as an ultimatum, at least not at first. If you have a boss or boss's boss who is at all reasonable, approach them and meet about the topic. Explain your frustrations, your accomplishments, your situation, your needs. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If your efforts are fruitless, then you can escalate.

Personally I would never recommend explicitly telling them that you are looking for other employment. It has too much chance to backfire, by souring the relationship further, or even getting you fired preemptively.

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    I completely agree, don't bring up any other opportunities until you've tried to just get them to more reasonably compensate you first. – huntmaster Mar 29 '13 at 20:18
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    Just wanted to ad that if you are promised something, like a promotion or raise "in the next review cycle" get it in writing. If you don't, start shopping. - been there, done that. – Bill Leeper Mar 12 '14 at 20:04
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Neither. Get them to convert you to consultant. This is the way to go. This is what people do in my industry (high-tech.) It's a win-win for both sides: you make the bigger dollars, they keep you without needing to hire and retrain someone else, and you don't leave on bad terms. You get to stay. You are in the perfect position to do this, so take advantage of the opportunity. A couple years ago I was working at a shop where the database guy did exactly this. He had been working there for a long time. He was tired of the pay and the politics. He was an indispensable resource for the business. So he simply negotiated with them to make him a consultant. Obviously this requires negotiation skills - so my advice is: stop the "negative" feelings you might have towards the company, and replace them with a business mentality.

  • That will work quite nicely for a while, but sooner or later, some bean counter with no clue about what the OP is doing will start wondering why they're paying this consultant 4x a 'normal' salary, and start looking for ways to get rid of him. So don't leap into consulting unless you've got an escape plan from that as well. – jpatokal Dec 18 '14 at 6:22
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It depends on if you like the job enough to stay if you were given a pay/benefit raise. Also, are you underpaid for your skills in the local state/area? As opposed to just looking on the internet and seeing better paying jobs in other states, because costs of living vary. There are websites that will give you this info. I will assume you are underpaid in your area, since you are looking for other (better paying) work.

Do you know if they have it in the budget to give you more compensation? You may not have access to the books but if you hear things about hiring and etc around the watercooler, vs possible downsizing then that's an indicator there is money somewhere. That information could work to your advantage, as there is no point in asking for more money if they are about to go under.

There's also the option of quitting and then offering your services as a consultant, huge decision, which is a question best left for another SE site :-)

If you truly feel no one else can do your job, then let them know if they can't compensate you that you plan on looking for work elsewhere. It's important that you intend to follow up on this threat. It's not unheard of for a company to bring someone back because of their skillset, once they experience life without them.

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