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I have worked for my employer for 7 years and have stuck with the company transitions and tough times when everyone else has left. My boss has said to me many times I would be receiving stock grants calculated by how many years of employment and that I should expect to receive more than any other employee. The carrot has been dangled for years and finally, after struggling we were purchased a year ago. A huge part of showing the value to our startup was my tenure as a manager with the company and was often brought up to show the loyalty and commitment of the employees to prospective buyers.

It's been a year since we were purchased and we just received grant offers but the offer I received was only 2x that of another employee who has only been with the company for 2 years. We are both managers and equal on the org chart. Although I did not have anything in writing, we had many verbal conversations that my shares would be allocated by how many years I have stuck it out and I would be highly compensated for all of my sweat equity.

I do not feel like the offer reflects that promise and I am wondering how I would go about asking for more without seeming ungrateful. Things are really rough for the company still and we are not even able to make payroll and most of the staff myself included are 2 and 3 paychecks behind.

To complicate it further the company sent out a letter stating that employees would be receiving additional grants from another deal distributed on a pro rata basis with details to follow. This was 6 months ago and I have not heard anything further about it. This grant promise is in writing however. I have sacrificed a lot for this company and I feel like the carrot has been dangled to get me to have faith and the offer received is not as it was promised. How should I approach this?

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    "The carrot has been dangled for years" ... that says it all – Mawg says reinstate Monica Jan 4 at 7:54
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    @longtermlily I think Mawg understood what you mean with the "carrot". What Mawg is saying, that this situation is typical for a boss that never planned to fulfill this promise, but just baited you because the company would be done for if you leave too. It's unusual to get a part of the promised thing - more often it's nothing at all. (And this part is probably only because he realizes you won't wait any longer, but still needs you). – deviantfan Jan 4 at 8:45
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    Also, after 3 months without payment, many people wouldn't be there anymore. Reasons to be still there are eg. to be enthusiastic enough about work/product/.. that the missing payments come second, but the existence of your question indicates that you're fed up. ... Also, if you tell yourself "I would like to leave but then all sacrifices until now would be for nothing", thenlet me ask you, how many more sacrifices you want to make before letting everything go to hell? Limit the damage. – deviantfan Jan 4 at 8:52
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    What's the expected value of a stock grant on a company that can't even afford to pay its employees? – Erik Jan 4 at 10:40
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I can totally understand that you might be feeling that the stock grant should have been higher - but strictly speaking they did do what they said they would. You recieved double what a peer did, presumably because of your difference in tenure.

Unfortunately I think this is the wrong thing to be focusing on - a company that is two to three paychecks behind is not in great shape, and the difference between say 5% of nothing and 20% of nothing is, well a whole lot of nothing. Focus on the money they definitely owe you right now rather than different percentages of future money that may never happen.

How should i approach this?

I'd be doing two things - reminding them in no uncertain terms that they owe you 2+ paychecks and that you need that paying and looking for another job.

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    To add to this answer, one can only squeeze some much juice out of a lemon, until it simply has no more juice to give. A company that has missed more than a single paycheck (even missing a single paycheck isn't something I would accept), is likely a company, that will be around tomorrow. I also agree you should focus on what they currently owe you, get any additional promises in writing, and start looking for a new job. – Donald Jan 4 at 22:39
  • you missed a negation there, @Ramhound, I think you meant a company that is unlikely to be around tomorrow – bytepusher Feb 12 at 20:40
  • @bytepusher- Yes; that is exactly what I meant – Donald Feb 12 at 20:50
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How should i approach this?

The horrific reality is you have been screwed senseless.

The likely outcome here is your time with them is probably finished.

As an employee your only leverage is leaving.

I've certainly made life mistakes like this - almost all people have.

The only thing you can take from it is a change in your outlook so that you never get walked over again.

Again, very unfortunately as an employee your only leverage is leaving.

In rare circumstances you may have control over the code base one way or another (through property rights or the like), if you have that use it to get paid. But it's unlikely to be the case.

Again, the only thing you can take from it is a change in your outlook so that you never get walked over again.

It means nothing until they sign it on the dotted line.

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A few things to look at on this.

Unless your boss is the owner of the company then they are in no position to make any statements with regards to options. Considering the company was sold a year ago, it's the new owners that would be handling any employee stock option agreements and your boss would likely have no say in the matter.

Next, as you aren't an existing owner your payout, at any level of options, would never make you rich. At best it would work out to being a bonus; and I'm not talking like a years worth of pay. Probably more like a single months worth. It's incredibly rare for anyone but the actual owners (and investors) to make any real money on a company sale. The money basically flows from the top starting at investors, then owners, then C-level staff, then if there is anything left over: managers and finally everyone else.

More importantly - you said the company was purchased a year ago? Unless it was purchased by a publicly traded company any such options disbursed to you would still be worth exactly zero. The only time options have any value is when they can actually be converted to stock and sold. So unless it was a publicly traded company that bought you or the existing company is actually going to go public soon, any options you have are worthless.

Even if new company sells itself to someone else those options are likely not worth the paper they are printed on.


Now, the real kick in the teeth. Your company is broke. It can't support its own employees which means they really need to start firing people before they run into trouble with the law. Unless they acquire new capital or they have completed contracts that are going to pay out soon you are going to be out of a job pronto.

Further, if they do acquire new capital it's likely going to force the business to take another look at how it has priced it's existing shares which will just dilute whatever options you have anyway.


I've been through this rodeo multiple times. Options are one of those things you consider only as potential bonus and nothing more.


If you've read this far I just want to point out that coming up with a rubric on how to award options is both incredibly hard and it's impossible to make everyone happy with the result. The fact you received 2x more than another person in a similar role is likely the fairest they felt they could make it.

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