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In the last year I went above and beyond the role I was hired for. Leadership was happy, and I ended up in multiple leadership teams and meetings, as the de facto most senior person in the company for my area. Strategic decisions, strategic plans, advising the head of the organisation, etc.

However, what I have been doing is for somebody paid at a level above mine. It has become clear to me that the company is happy for me to continue doing this, but if I ask to"rectify" my level then the conversation becomes "do this for 2-3 more years and we'll see".

As an additional challenge, I asked multiple times what the guidelines are for my role vs. the level above, and I didn't get any real answer. It's all very high level, with no KPIs.

I am thinking that I might save myself some pain and just... do the job I was hired for, same area, but much more limited in scope.

The question is: is it realistic, in any organisation, to stop going "above and beyond"? Can I actually "downgrade" my daily work?

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    The company will take, all day and every day, what you give for free. Take your skills and experience elsewhere. Your choice but others may well value you better, this company have provided evidence they won’t : “do this for 2 or 3 years...” if they had said well based on the last year we will increase you X then it would be different. – Solar Mike Aug 21 at 17:04
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    "... but if I ask to rectify my level then the conversation becomes "do this for 2-3 more years and we'll see." - Could you elaborate a little on this? In particular, how many times have you brought this up, and how aggressive or timid were you? It might take a bit of assertion to get the promotion you'd like, and it's unclear to me how firm you've been with them. – marcelm Aug 21 at 19:51
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    "do this for 2-3 more years and we'll see" - My response to that is make it a race: If I can find better compensation at another job before they are willing to give me the raise I deserve, I take the other job. 2-3 years is a generous amount of time to find a better offer. Frankly I'd rather be known as someone who excels and builds their network of people who know I work hard and therefore can find better jobs more easily than intentionally sand bag my work out of spite. – Todd Wilcox Aug 22 at 7:12
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    It's called "work to rule". Often used as a protest by people in jobs which aren't allowed to strike (police, healthcare, etc.). – TRiG Aug 22 at 11:13

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It may be possible, if you do it slowly and gradually. But you set the expectations pretty high. So expect some hurdles along the way.

It may be easier to ask for a promotion or "sidestep" to another company where you don´t have a track record yet. You are kind of obligated to give your company "your best" and you have shown them how that looks like. Asking for a fair compensation on the other hand is well within your right and should be expected from a high performer.

Ultimately you´ll have to decide what will make you happy: Get the title and compensation for the job that you are currently doing or do the job that you where originally hired to do?

Then follow that goal (whichever it is). There is no sense in limiting yourself in a smaller role and becoming frustrated, just because you are not able to ask for a fair compensation. There is also no sense of your doing a job you don´t really love, just because of higher compensation - if you can afford it ...

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    +1 for "You are kind of obligated to give your company "your best" and you have shown them how that looks like". Once you do someone a favour, this becomes your obligation. – Captain Emacs Aug 21 at 15:45
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    "You are kind of obligated to give your company your best" - no, you are obligated to do what you are paid to do. If a company isn't willing to pay for your best, you are not obligated to deliver that. – asgallant Aug 22 at 14:55
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    @CaptainEmacs your best yes, but not 150% percent or the like. So if OP is doing overtime, not taking breaks and the like, they can scale back their investment. But if they are just clever / very good at what they do, then sure, they are paid for their skills not for what they deliver, so they need to employ those skills fully. I.e. you can scale back time-investment if it's over the top, but you cannot scale back skill investment. Well, you can, but it would in principle be contract breaking (even if perhaps hard to prove) and pretty pointless - you're still gonna work the same time. – Frank Hopkins Aug 22 at 18:18
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    You are paid to provide labour power, i.e. to put your power to work at the disposal of the company. In most employment contracts I believe there is an obligation on the employee to follow any reasonable instructions from management to the extent of their ability. – bdsl Aug 23 at 11:16
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    @asgallant True but management gets to decide what "you're paid to do". If they decide that they're paying you to work at your now-demonstrated full potential without a raise, then you're obligated to either do so or find a new job. That doesn't mean you can't and shouldn't ask for a raise. But downgrading would likely (unfortunately) been seen as slacking off now. – bob Aug 24 at 17:36
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This is why I often say "If you do it once, it becomes your job".

If they want you to wait 2-3 years when in many places, employment doesn't last much past 5 years, they are blowing you off.

Yes, it's possible to work to title, and do no more. They can't fire you for doing your job. While some may say that it's not professional to do so, or that it may damage your future with the company, I would say that the company has already done that damage by refusing to acknowledge your work by compensating you for it.

They have officially informed you that your work will not be rewarded, so act accordingly by stepping back, and getting out of that environment, either into another group in the company where your work will be recognized, or into a different company where you can be paid accordingly.

While I wouldn't reccomend going as far as THIS GUY It does show what underappreciated employees can do.

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    Another great example of "THIS GUY". – ICloneable Aug 22 at 7:34
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    +1 re: "They can't fire you for doing your job." - Its trivial to invent excuses to fire someone, one can just say they weren't a team player, they weren't communicating enough, or they had an issue with "performance". Frame something as a mistake and magnify its importance. There's a lot of confusion in business and managers often don't really know who's doing a good job and who's doing a bad job. They get paranoid and may feel that an employee is not giving them their best, so they just try to replace them. – Mark Rogers Aug 22 at 16:35
  • @MarkRogers Yeah, I'm VERY familiar with the tricks. The employee handbook is there so they can ignore it until it's time to enforce it. – Old_Lamplighter Aug 22 at 17:42
  • @MarkRogers it's also not hard to play defense on that one, making a paper trail, and raising Cain so that any action can be called retaliation. – Old_Lamplighter Aug 24 at 14:56
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    @Daniel it got a friend of mine a consulting rate of double what he was making when they thought he was bluffing. And, it's not the "not my job" attitude, it's "Pay me for the work I am doing". – Old_Lamplighter Aug 25 at 14:21
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Can you?

Depends on what you mean by "can". You're certainly able to do so. But that's presumably not what you're asking here.

Can you do it without repercussions?

Define repercussions. If you mean getting fired or not, that very much depends on whether your job is defined by quota and if you are still achieving these quota.

But since you say there are no KPIs, then you've actually painted yourself in a corner. At face value, it's impossible for any outside arbiter to judge whether this is an employee who used to go above and beyond and no longer does so, or an employee who has stopped performing their duties.
Therefore, if you slack on your output, without any KPI to back you up that your output is still meeting the agreed workload, then the company is free to argue that you are no longer performing your duties.

Taking the example of at-will employment in the US, nothing (barring legally protected stauses like race, gender, ...) can guarantuee that you won't be fired.

Can you do it as a means of getting the raise you feel you deserve?

It's a dangerous game to play, one that I would not recommend. You've already found that the company is unwilling to pay you the salary you feel you deserve (whether you're being reasonable about the requested salary or not is actually irrelevant).

If you force their hand after they said no, even if you succeed, that's going to damage the relationship between you and your employer.

Personally, I would suggest simply looking for an employer who is willing to give you the salary you're looking for.

  • If you can't find anyone willing to offer that salary, this may be an indication that your expectations may be unreasonable.
  • If you can easily find someone willing to offer a salary you're happy with, that's a really good reason to jump ship and join that company.

In either case, you win. Either you reconsider your expectations without first offending your current employer, or you find what you're looking for without having damaged the relationship with the employer that you're going to keep working for.

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The real question is what motivates you to work? Is it compensation? Title/Status? Satisfaction? If you're like most people, it's a complex combination of factors.

What would be the point in "downgrading" your work? Will it provide benefit to you in any way other than a passive-aggressive snubbing of your employer? Does your desk-job take something out of you when you go "above and beyond", it's not like you're employed digging ditches or breaking rocks, right? If it's merely a matter of long hours, why do you think a bit more money/status would make a significant difference in how you feel about poor work-life balance?

The best thing to do is to do your job in a way that makes you feel good about work-life balance. "Downgrading" will only be interpreted in a way that will hurt you later when you try to get promoted or look for a new job. Pulling a "John Galt" move only works in bad novels.

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is it realistic, in any organisation, to stop going "above and beyond"? Can I actually "downgrade" my daily work?

For the purposes of an answer, I'll assume that this is an actual question, and not just a rant.

It's conceivable that you could take a passive-aggressive approach, hold your breath, and "downgrade" your work to the level you feel your pay merits. I would imagine that some companies might still value your downgraded work enough to keep you around.

I haven't worked for any of those companies, but I'm pretty sure they exist. Maybe yours is one such company, maybe not. Only you are in a position to determine the possibilities at your company. Nobody here knows where you work.

It's a risky move. Better would be to find a new job where you could put in less effort, and the company wouldn't already know you are capable of doing any better than that.

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"do this for 2-3 more years and we'll see"
as the de facto most senior person in the company for my area.

This is Catch 22 of corporate. The person who could put you for promotion or give you a rise is you. If you had the title. Which can only be given by some senior in company. You. But you don't have the title.

Also the first sentece mean they don't want to give you anything. Offer of seeing something in two years is even cheaper than "we'll talk".

Can you stop going "above and beyond"? Sometimes, but you have postion where, I think, most of the gears are oiled with your sweat and tears. If you save yourself one the machine will come to grinding halt.

Only solution would be to delegate the work to other people. And if there is no one to delegate it to that give you a hint about how the company is willing to pay for job done for her.

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Of course you can. The question is whether your should.

If you want to have any future in this company, the answer is almost certainly no.

At worst, somebody will notice your deliberate lack of performance and take steps to fire you. They can almost certainly think of some reasons that don't explicitly say "insubordination" even if that is the reality of the situation.

At best, somebody will notice that you "don't really have what it takes to be a leader over the long term," hire somebody else to do the work you have decided not to do, and mark your HR record as "not to be considered for future promotion". If that is your idea of a future career, fine - but it probably isn't.

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It will not be easy for you to downgrade since management expectations are high now. If you think you are competent enough to continue meeting high expectations as per your role, there is nothing wrong in continuing the same way; however if you think you are underpaid or this role affects your work life balance, better to have an open conversation with your direct manager.I have once moved to a lesser role (while changing job) than I was holding for pure work life balance reasons- so it s possible.

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People always expect you to operate at or above whatever bar you've set. You could slowly ease downwards. But it's a bad idea because you have established your value to the employer. They feel entitled to the productivity you're known for in exchange for the pay they give you.

You could also move to another company and get into a higher position based on your experience or at least in a place where you have only a short wait for promotion.

I would rather give 100% and be rewarded fairly for it than give 50% and earn less.

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    But the OP is giving 150% and being paid, barely, for 100% - so what would you rather give then? – Solar Mike Aug 21 at 17:01
  • @SolarMike Trust, loyalty, respect. Some say these are all different words for the same thing. The answer is in that somewhere. Some companies keep promises. Some do not. – HenryM Aug 21 at 18:17
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No, you can't - because of who you are. You have established yourself as someone who goes above and beyond what has been asked. That is now part of your character. Any attempts to downgrade your work will backfire internally to you.

The best action is to find a place where your efforts are valued.

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I find these sorts of questions concerning because I have rarely had the misfortune of working in a place where I didn't have the ability to talk to my colleagues as understanding friends.

If I was in a similar situation I would always have been able to talk to my colleagues and explain, for example, that I wanted to spend more time with my family, or to slow down a bit, and that additional effort from me recently was superfluous.

In fact I would say that if you can't do that, then the professional relationship you have is somehow unhealthy. I would always insist on being treated with the same amount of love, transparency and integrity from management as with a close friend, about professional matters of course, and reciprocally provide the same.

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    I joined this community just to upvote this answer. – Sam Aug 25 at 8:02

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