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I am a junior developer for a medium-sized firm in the UK and my manager recently left leaving me as the only person on my team. I have discussed a promotion and wage increase with my new line manager (who isn't a developer themselves) and they have presented me with two options:

  1. I try to push for a title and wage change now. This will apparently be heavily scrutinized due to the time of year and the fact it would interfere with the current budget.

  2. Get a title change now and wait for the end of the year (he specified December this year) when everyone's pay is reviewed to get an increase. Apparently finance compares everyone's wages to the market rate and as mine is significantly lower (this was my first IT job and as a full dev it is about 10k lower) I would have a better chance of getting an even higher wage.

Now, I'm a bit of a cautious type and aren't a fan of being rigorously questioned so my inclination is to go with the second option as it doesn't seem too much like rocking the boat and my line manager has indicated it's his preferred option. I don't think my manager has suggested this to subvert my getting more money somehow as he did suggest applying for jobs so I could use any potential offers as leverage but I would just like to hear an opinion from someone who might have been in a similar position as this is my first ever opportunity to get a rise in my working life and I'd like to get the best for me.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Sep 23 at 8:47
  • End of the year year, or end of the tax year? The latter means double the delay of the former. (I guess it could also mean the end of the company's accounting year, which could technically be August?) – Paul D. Waite Sep 23 at 12:52
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    For option 2: Will you definitely (meaning agreed uppon in writing or stated in your contract) get a raise at the end of the year if you take the new position, it is just unshure how big your raise will be? Or is it uncertain wether there will be any raise at all? – MrTony Sep 23 at 16:06
  • @MrTony, my current line manager did say that he would put in writing that I would get a raise at the end of the year so that in the unlikely event of him leaving I would have evidence of his promise. – Lewkir Sep 24 at 8:13
  • I'm curious about why there are budget concerns. If I understand your question correctly, your manager left making you effectively the manager, so you want a raise to reflect that new position, making your salary in your former manager's range? So they have one less person to pay but possibly need a replacement for your current position, which if they get means they are still paying out the same amount they were before? – colmde Sep 25 at 9:28
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Never let talk of budget considerations stand in the way of getting ahead. Without you they have no team and they're currently not having to pay a manager who I assume was making more than you.

The thing about leverage is that it's often temporary: you use it or you lose it.

If your responsibilities and tasks will increase, your pay should at the same time, not later when it's convenient.

A lot depends on your risk assessment of the situation and knowledge of the people. From a comment about goodwill there is a valid point about taking option 2 which would make things easier for your line manager and the company, in the hopes that this will be repaid in some way. This can happen, and if it's an easy ride you're after may be the way to go. The danger is it may never eventuate and they have had ample time to replace you or change their minds once the crisis is over.

The other danger is that anytime you push forwards there is an implication that you're looking at leaving if your needs are not met.

Option 3: If you're not confident and committed it's usually best just to stay quiet and see what happens. Bluffing weakens any negotiating stance you may have, both now and in the future.

Fast tracking a career requires some ruthlessness and risk, which may not be suitable for everyone's temperament.

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    This. I have seen too many times already the 'wait and we will raise your salary' promise never come to fruition. – eballes Sep 20 at 12:29
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    This is a good answer, but it needs to be tempered with the reality that, in many cases, employers do have legitimate budgetary limits which may actually leave them empty-handed until a new budget cycle. Of course you can always push, and exceptions are made, but "we can't give you a raise because of budgets" may just be the truth, vs being a convenient excuse. – dwizum Sep 20 at 15:00
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    @dwizum the budget excuse is BS as they have the salary of the manager that left... – Solar Mike Sep 20 at 15:01
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    @dwizum I, too, think we're broadly in agreement. I'm only saying that using the budget as a reason why a raise can't happen may be true in the fairly short term, but over a longer term it's a meaningless excuse. The budget is a document describing how they want to allocate money, and money not being in the budget for raises is functionally identical to simply deciding not to give a raise for some arbitrary reason. The budget isn't an excuse but rather another expression of decisions about raises (etc.) – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Sep 20 at 17:48
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    Making things easier for managers and companies is not why I get out of bed in the morning. – Mazura Sep 21 at 1:09
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Accepting a title change without a corresponding pay bump puts you at a serious disadvantage. There's nothing stopping the company from saying "Congratulations on your promotion, we've given you the maximum allowable 5% increase!" or even "We don't feel you're fully up to speed on the additional responsibilities of your new role, so we're not offering you a pay rise this year"

I'd be inclined to approach your new manager with something like this:

Hey boss, I understand the budget constraints of handing out promotions so close to annual review time. I'm happy to stay in the junior role right now, but I still want to push for the full developer role, and I'd like to be considered for promotion as part of my annual review. I wanted to give you a heads up about my intentions so that if you feel there are other skills I need to pick up or if you have any concerns about my ability to perform in the full role, I can work to address them well ahead of the annual review.

Of course, the unspoken part of that conversation is "I'd like you to consider my new salary as part of your budget for next year" but it also means your boss is in a good place to go to bat for you with his boss, and you avoid any difficult conversations about your salary later, since it will simply form part of the discussion around your promotion.

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    The other (helpful) implication of this approach is that you're basically making it clear that you want the title change and increase to happen simultaneously. – dwizum Sep 20 at 17:23
  • They're not going to give you one w/o the other. And the other w/o the one($) doesn't work for me. @dwizum +1. - His current boss is batter #3, in 'quick succession and an interrim' – Mazura Sep 21 at 1:14
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    This is a good way to trigger somebody else getting the job instead. – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 21 at 14:42
  • @Lightness - if they recruit someone else, they'll have to pay them the full amount plus continuing to pay the OP. – Robin Bennett Sep 23 at 8:28
  • @RobinBennett Indeed, but in exchange they will have somebody doing the job that needs to be done. And it'll still be (probably) the same money they were already paying in total. So there's no good reason to rule it out. – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 23 at 10:18
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From personal experience, "Pay Raise Later" never materializes.

Telling you now that they'll pay you more later is easy... and every time I've had a company tell me that, it fell through for one reason or another. There is always a reason to not pay you more. Fundamentally, unless you know for a fact that the person who is in charge of deciding your pay values their word and is willing to give it, a company's promise to give you a raise at some point in the future has no value to it.

The budget wont' allow it, or someone from higher office countermands it or... or anything, really. For the significant majority of companies, if you let them blow you off now with "sure, we'll pay you more later" then it's that much easier to blow you off later with even less. With very few exceptions, promises of that nature mean nothing.

The fact that it's a "medium sized company" makes it even less likely to mean anything. The few exceptions tend to be quite small - small enough that decisions like that are handled by individuals, rather than at an organizational level. The organization will look out for itself, and they will almost never decide that it's in their best interests to pay you more when they could get away with paying you less.

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    From my personal experience, the money follows the work. I have been given a number of promotions where the pay didn't come until 6 months or more later. Usually after I had proven my worth in the new role. – Lumberjack Sep 20 at 20:35
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    Dittos for what @Lumberjack said. I don't think I've ever received a promotion AND pay raise solely attributable to the promotion, in the same review period, unless the company was trying to retain me at a critical time. Promotions usually happen around the time someone shows competence in a role, without being in it. The raise comes when the person demonstrates how much competence they have. Sometimes people can't deliver after a promotion. No point in bumping a salary until the promotion has been shown to have been appropriate. – Julie in Austin Sep 21 at 7:28
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    Just to add another anecdote - I've always received pay raises with promotions (to take effect in next pay period or so). I would consider receiving a promotion w/o pay raise as tantamount to being expected to do more work for the same money. – jcurrie33 Sep 21 at 21:22
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    Ah, the words of wisdom. EVER. And along with that excellent advice: Do not rely on your current employer for pay raises commensurate your experience. EVER. You will be lucky if your salary keeps up with inflation (it won't). If you discover you are missing 20k, 10k, or even 5k from the going market rate for your job title, you'd better shine your resume and start packing. Taking a new position at a different employer is the only way you will get more than whatever is the smallest amount an employer calculates will keep your butt in the chair. – L0j1k Sep 22 at 2:25
  • +1 for "... every time I've had a company tell me that ... " without permanent evidence (paper trail), more often than not, oral promises go forgotten (being money, or / and equipment etc.) and are allocated elsewhere. It is not the marshmallow test. – Buttonwood Sep 22 at 19:37
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This will apparently be heavily scrutinized due to the time of year and the fact it would interfere with the current budget

Budgets are always scrutinized, but to play Devil's Advocate, I'd argue that your manager's departure has freed up plenty of planned expenses that could defray the cost of increasing your salary.

The two options you outlined are both maybes:

  1. Maybe we can get you a raise right now, or
  2. Maybe we can get you a better raise if you wait until EOY

Are these options substantially different in the short- to medium-term?

How much better if you wait until EOY? There's still a full Quarter of the year outstanding. A few percent maybe? Let's say you can get that $10K bump right now, or maybe a $12.5K bump in 3+ months. You'll earn an extra $2500 this year, and $10K more next year. At any point between now and 31/12/2020, you'll have earned cumulatively more money by taking the early, but smaller raise.

We can illustrate that with a few different potential increases starting on Jan 1 versus the smaller increase effective 1 October 2019:

enter image description here

Of course, as the illustration above shows, if you expect a much larger raise by waiting until January, the equation changes and your break-even point moves forward (the intersection with the black line).

Regardless of title/salary increase, your responsibilities are going to change, RIGHT NOW.

As someone who's survived several rounds of RIFs (reduction in force/headcount), I can give you my anecdotal experience:

When people leave, their responsibilities don't follow them. They're absorbed by other members of the team or department or whatever. If you're the only other member on that team, you're going to (obviously) incur the bulk of this. Some responsibilities may be tabled indefinitely or go away, but not all of them.

Unless the company has very good succession plans in place to reduce this sort of friction when employees/managers leave, you're going to start accumulating additional responsibilities that were previously your manager's. Right now. Some of these will be mundane, but some will not be. You're going to be doing 2 jobs, instead of 1. (OK, you'll be doing 1 < job < 2)

So you maybe don't have experience in all of those responsibilities, but who else is going to do them, if you don't? And what is the cost to the business if those things don't get done at all? It's probably significant.

I would push strongly for the title + wage change, effective ASAP. Balance this with your understanding of a skill shortfall and try to get a plan of action in place to bring you up to speed as quick as possible; this may involve shadowing someone in another similar role in a different department, or attending internal or external training (on the company's dime), or online tutorials, etc.

Also note that in a year's time you'll ideally be on par, or if not, you'll have a year's experience and better prospects for seeking other opportunities.

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I'm assuming that you now have increased responsibilities due to your manager's departure, and they aren't actively recruiting to fill your former manager's vacant position. If, on the other hand, you are still doing the same job as before, then they would be justified in giving you neither a title change nor a salary increase.

I think you are being scammed, if they are trying to convince you to defer a salary increase "due to the time of year and the fact it would interfere with the current budget".

  • They used to be paying your manager's salary, and aren't anymore. That's money that was budgeted and is no longer being spent, so why aren't they spending some of that on you?

  • If there is an annual review of everyone's pay, that includes you! You could be getting a raise now, and another chance at a reevaluation later.

  • Verbal promises of future wage increases are worth nothing. This site (and the Internet) is full of complaints of such broken promises.

That said, just because your manager quit does not mean that you automatically deserve a promotion. It could be fair for them to give you a trial period to see whether you can indeed fulfill the additional responsibilities, or whether the team should be reorganized in a different way. During that trial period, taking a title of "Acting Manager" would be reasonable. However, I would refuse to accept a title change to "Manager" without a salary increase at the same time, because accepting the title change would imply that you are OK with the new arrangement without having the new role being accompanied by the appropriate pay.

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    @JulieinAustin you get the extra responsibilities, the extra work but no extra money - adds up nice for the manager... wonder why most worker's opinion of managers is low? – Solar Mike Sep 21 at 18:26
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    @200_success - The problem with that is that salary is a recurring expense, and the lack of a manager is a temporary reduction in expenses. Increasing the OP's salary results in an increase in recurring expenses once a replacement manager is hired. The only time loss of staff warrants a pay raise is when the open req is filled internally and the position the employee when promoted becomes the newly opened req. – Julie in Austin Sep 21 at 19:08
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    @200_success - It's really hard to accept that when this was your first bullet point: "They used to be paying your manager's salary, and aren't anymore. That's money that was budgeted and is no longer being spent, so why aren't they spending some of that on you?" – Julie in Austin Sep 21 at 20:41
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    @200_success - Because you also repeatedly make comments about money like "I think you are being scammed, if they are trying to convince you to defer a salary increase." It's not a "scam" to have pay raises deferred with increased responsibility. Normally the person is performing at close to that level before the promotion. The deferral is to ensure they can maintain the performance. – Julie in Austin Sep 22 at 13:45
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    @200_success - Thanks for the edit. I still think you're wrong about it being "scammy" - a salary increase is a permanent increase in expenses, while an unfilled position is a temporary decrease in expenses. The budgeted expenses don't change, but giving a raise increases what is needed in the budget. – Julie in Austin Sep 22 at 14:55
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By what they say, i.e. there is an annual review to adjust for market rate, the overall comparison doesn't make sense. If at the end of the year you would get a larger increase than now, that increase still should happen or the annual reviewers aren't doing their job right. If you would get a larger increase as adjustment from your current position at the review and only a small increase now, then obviously there is some discrepancy that you then should get as part of the review anyway. So taking the increase now should a globally superior strategy. Unless they don't do their job right.

  • I'd imagine that there is probably some paperwork with adjusting a salary. They may not do "trivial" adjustments for this reason. – Gregory Currie Sep 22 at 14:11
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Perhaps talk to your previous manager. That will be a head's up for trouble in the organisation. Also it'll give you a contact elsewhere which are always useful. For example if ex-manager knows you're not happy with the responsibility dumped on you and hears of a suitable opportunity then you might just get a phone call...

The following is guesswork: Talk to the guy that runs the show. eg MD of small firm. Say you've been learning, what your technical goals are (important see below), let him/her know you're generally happy making an important contribution to the firm but when things go wrong you expect support not heaps of random blame from people who weren't listening when you told them months back. You should also find out if they're expecting to recruit somebody with more experience over or beside you. (as IT people are as useless as everyone else at management.) So you come to an understanding about your goals for the next year, you're now a 'person', it's a lot easier for the MD to drop-in and ask how things are going. The MD will soon be aware that you are a valuable asset and investment and not to be lost for the sake of a pay rise. So what you've done is moved the goal-posts, started playing by your rules, and so job-title and formal pay schemes are now practically irrelevant. (Also you'll pick up more about the business in general and get invited to do things because you're 'one of the team'. Or you'll learn what a bunch of selfish, narrow minded, lazy and excuseful the management is, so you know to play hard-ball and strap on a parachute.)

Tech-goals: Even if, especially if, the MD doesn't know what you're talking about, (don't try to make them look stupid) it's important you show you are an investment. Have a furtle for something like a Raspberry pi backscratcher where there's the potential for a game-changer. It could be a more modern development tool chain or a threat from China to deal with. If you are 'on the ball' then MD will appreciate your strategic significance.

Good luck. Over the years you will find many dead-ends, but also along the way delivering solutions to business can be very rewarding.

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