I was hired by a company, I'm a programmer, and they brought me in under the title of Engineer. Historically, I've been called a developer, and I tend to consider myself a developer. While at my previous job, I had the title Senior Developer, and would agree that I matched that with my skills adequately, but it was a threshold that I had only very recently crossed.
My current employer, according to data found online and via my own anecdotal observations in the office, pay significantly under the national average for the titles they bestow. On average I would say an average of two levels down. A level three here is getting paid a really fair salary for entry-level/level one.
It was my understanding when I was hired, that they really wanted me, and they wanted to try best they could to get the salary offer close to what I was making, but wouldn't be able to match it. I was ok with this because other things like a dramatically shorter commute added meaningful value. It was implied that I was brought in at a level three in order to do this.
Now my manager, who was not my manager when I was hired but was part of the entire process involving hiring me, so they know even more than I do about how and why all those things went down, has taken multiple opportunities to communicate that I'm supposed to be a level three, and they aren't seeing level three performance, which is a big problem. I won't get into the systemic problems the org has with multiple people being information bubbles, slapdash architecture, and a debilitating lack of documentation across all systems. I'm also not working on the technologies I might be a level 2-3 on, which are the technologies I was originally hired to primarily work with, the others being secondary and for me to learn as I go.
From my perspective, I'm not a level three, and I'm not getting paid anywhere near the salary of a level three. The only reason I have that title is so they could pay me, under their pay-scale, what I level one would make (or what an experienced web dev would make). And I don't see how that's my problem.
I've been going through a rough patch, and am starting to feel like my boss has plans to use this against me, which I consider to be a dirty move. Do I have any options here? Can I bring this up (I've been here about a year-and-a-half) as evidence that it isn't a fair comparison? I wouldn't mind having a level two or even level one title, and for them to acknowledge that my salary is actually normal for that role and my contributions.
Am I crazy, is this common, should I talk to my former manager (now a director) about how I think my current manager is using my title to artificially create a performance deficit they can use against me?