As an IT manager for a medium-sized firm, I often have to deal with junior developers coming into my office to ask for raises or improved benefits or what have you, and if I don't give it to them, they threathen to quit.

How do I best explain to these people that their "skills" simply aren't worth that much and can easily be replaced? We employ Javascript and nodejs developers. I don't know how to tell them that millions of others know this stuff and I can he hired cheaply.

Yet I keep running into these junior developers who think knowing javascript and nodejs suddenly makes them indispensable and they are on a path to join Facebook and make 6 figures in 2 years ... I mean, their expectations are completely unrealistic. How do I explain to them, without hurting their feelings or offending them, that unlesss they are either a) niche developers or b) EXTREMELY good or c) have degrees from fancy universities .... then they simply have no leverage whatsoever?

I mean, don't get me wrong, if you actually do happen to a niche developer or EXTREMELY good or graduaded the top of your MIT class, then yeah, I want you, I need you, and I'll pay a lot for for you ... but 99.99% of junior developers ain't that, and you are simply easily replaceable. And yet many of them don't seem to realize this?

  • 1
    If they are talented and you cannot pay them what they deserve for their talents, then if you are being honest you should tell them to leave and seek an employer who can pay them what they're worth.
    – Brandin
    Dec 25, 2018 at 23:35
  • 7
    This could be a good question here. Why do you feel the need to shoot people down and specifically explain their 'lack of value'. What are you actually trying to achieve? I'm sure, somewhere out there, there exists a boss who can turn down a raise request while being constructive and not being an ass.
    – Nathan
    Dec 26, 2018 at 0:00
  • 12
    Unless you think your company somehow has an abnormally high number of delusional junior developers, consider that they may know something you don't. Dec 26, 2018 at 1:35
  • 1
    If “all” they’re doing is nodejs and JavaScript, why would you be willing to pay top dollar for MIT cream or niche coders? I hope that’s hyperbole, or else it sounds like you don’t value in house experience.
    – Pam
    Dec 26, 2018 at 21:26
  • @Brandin "But I need these employees." -OP, probably. Dec 26, 2018 at 23:15

4 Answers 4


Tell them what they need to do to be worth the raise. Not "be a niche developer or EXTREMELY good or graduated the top of your MIT class," but specific things:

  • be the person who consistently finds other people's bugs
  • show insight and empathy into the requests we get from clients
  • consistently work to get things done efficiently in a way that makes your hours worth more to us
  • learn x, y, and z, be able to teach the people a year behind you a, b, and c
  • represent our team / department / company at [specific event]
  • etc

Do not use any energy on speculating about the likelihood of one of these interchangeable, fungible, dime-a-dozen junior web developers actually being able to do these things you want. Just come up with a list of 5-10 crisply specific things you genuinely want your staff to be able to do consistently. Tell them this list, and roughly how many (3ish, half, all of them) a person needs to do to earn a raise of X%. Optionally, say that broadly speaking being able to do more or less than that would earn a larger or smaller raise but don't get into "1.3% for each item on this list" kind of math.

Some of them will realize they aren't special, and only special gets a raise. Some of them will surprise you by demonstrating some special you didn't know they had lurking there. The more you help them know what you want, the better they will be. And as a pleasant side effect, those who can't meet these goals will be far less sulky about not getting the raise than they would be if you just told them they aren't that special and don't deserve a raise, with no details. You never tell them they don't deserve it, by the way. Be consistently cheerful and optimistic with "when you regularly do X, you will get a raise of Y." Leave the conclusion that they will never be able to X for them to draw.

  • Voted not to close the question just for the quality of this answer.
    – gazzz0x2z
    Dec 26, 2018 at 12:28

Call their bluff politely. Something along the lines of the following.

'Sorry, but that is the rate we pay, it's not negotiable at your current level. If you're resigning, please discuss with HR. Otherwise we can talk again at review time.'

Don't get into an unconstructive dialogue about it.


This is more an advice for the people not getting a raise: Don't threaten to quit. Look for a better job, and a better paying job. Then give as much notice as legally required, and let the IT manager find a replacement.

Of course, if you are no good then you have no choice but to stay. The effect is that after some time, that IT manager will only manage the least talented developers, because everyone else has left the building.


"Supply versus Demand" -- Pay according to value.

What value - above and beyond the ordinary - is this team member bringing to the table to earn a pay rise or better benefits?

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