I currently work as an Executive Assistant (EA) to the President of a large global company. The President and I have a fantastic working relationship, she an effective boss and also a great mentor.

The President has announced her retirement effective in 2 weeks. HR approached me and said that they had an open position that they wanted me to have once the President has left. This is what I want.

However, I was just informed (note: not asked, informed), that I would become the EA to the Owner of our company once the President retires. The current EA to the Owner is on medical leave and we have no idea when she will return. I feel that I do not have a choice in this situation because when I communicated my desire to work in HR instead of being EA to the Owner, the Owner told me that he needs me for the EA position and they could hire a college student to start as an HR intern.

I have no desire to work as the EA for the Owner, he has a history of hiring and firing his EA every 6 months and is a terrible person to work for. He is constantly berating his EA and even though I have proven myself to the President I believe that he will treat me just as poorly as his previous EA's. It has been explained to me that I basically have no choice, I can either assume this role or find other employment.

When the Owner told me that I would become his new EA, there was no discussion of pay raise. I know with certainty that his previous EA makes $13,000 (USD) more than I do per year, and I have higher education and equal work history. I discussed this with the President and she stated that I should not ask for a raise and stated that if I do I would most likely be fired. The Owner has a documented history of hiring and firing EA's, with no-one in the last 5 years lasting longer than 6 months. The President advised me to search for another job so that I can leave on my own terms instead of being put through hell over the next 6 months only to end up unemployed because the Owner decides to fire me.

How can I demand a raise, knowing that the person I am replacing made $13,000 more than me with only 8 months in this organization (I have been here 1.5 years, without any raise)? I believe that I am entitled to a raise as this position requires additional responsibility such as longer hours and additional commuting expenses that are not paid by the company.


2 Answers 2


Prepare to quit

In negotiation, it is almost impossible to negotiate successfully unless you have a viable alternative. Not just an idea that you could go and be a pop star, but actually talk to your contact at company Y about whether there are positions there. Either you're staying because you could negotiate, or you're leaving. Both require a plan B.

If you're happy to gamble, state your terms

If you're willing to stay as long as they raise your salary by $15k, then say that. You've been warned that could get you fired, so you know that is a gamble.

There are certainly ways to try to soften the impact for this fragile Owner; say that being EA to the Owner is a significant responsibility and you want to be able to fully commit to the role. You can put it in passive terms ('I would certainly look forward to receiving the pay increase commensurate with replacing Z') rather than active ('pay me, sucker').

There are no magical unicorns

Unfortunately business people make stupid decisions, and people who own companies sometimes do so because they would be fired from working for someone else. It doesn't seem likely that you can follow your preferred path at that company.

On the plus side, you can get a great reference from your current boss. Get it now, and ask her to put you in touch with anyone she would recommend - you want to find another boss like her, so perhaps she can be that conduit.


Put simply if you were an outside applicant looking at this position, you would not take it, unless the money mattered more to you.

Your two best sources of information are actual experience of knowing the people who worked for the owner and what it is like, and your boss, the president, who knows how the owner thinks and behaves.

Basically you go along with the situation until another opportunity appears.