I'm currently the lead of my department.

A coworker has never worked before professionally and I've taught him most of the stuff he knows right now. Of course he had some experience in the field, but nothing like what he is right now.

I can say that he has become very efficient and a good friend.

There's a couple of problems, to be honest.

He's not getting paid what he should be earning. Let's say he's devaluated for 30% ~ 40% of his salary for what he is right now. When he joined the company, he actually deserved the salary he was offered. He has been here six months and he has a new job offer which will pay him 100% ~ 300% of his current salary from min~max.

The interview, where he's going, is only available during his working hours and he'll miss around three hours of the shift.

I have no problem for that. I want the best for everyone, and it is as simple as that.

The problem is that when I spoke about this with the directors on his behalf (after he asked me to), they had this pretty standard way of reacting "We don't want people who are not committed to the company and we should fire him right now", but then I said, 'No, let’s be clear, he hasn't got another job, just an interview and he wants to go because anyone getting paid 100%~300%+ will give it a shot'.

He'll talk to a director directly and explain to them he does not want to leave, but he would like to get a competitive salary because he already knows he's more valuable now. We can't +100% his salary, but eventually that would be possible. (Timespans are not defined, but it wouldn't take much because he's only six months left to complete a year and that'll get him a greater salary.)

I don't know how to assist him right now nor what to do for the best of everyone.

  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – motosubatsu
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 8:53
  • 30
    It's very hard to be commited to a company underpaying you and willing to fire you over going to an interview... The best places I've worked were usually very understanding when I left and when they felt I was interviewing (when all of the sudden 1 day you dress business style when you're usually in hoodies, some people get the hint) their reaction was often to ask what could have me stay rather than firing me.
    – Laurent S.
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 15:33
  • 1
    Note that in a comment to an answer below, OP has now said, "Joe stayed with us and he is happy". Commented Apr 10, 2021 at 16:29

6 Answers 6


You already messed up. When you talked to the directors, you should have said "Joe is performing his duties quite well, I know we are not paying Joe what he should be paid based on his experience/skill level, can we give Joe a big raise?", and centered the discussion around that: Joe is doing his job well, and deserves to be compensated appropriately for his work, period. Mentioning that he was interviewing elsewhere screwed him, because now upper management wants him gone because he's not committed to the company.

As for allowing him to interview, you should have just said to him, "ok you can take this as time off, I won't tell anyone or report it, and I'll do my best to cover for you if people start to ask questions", and that's it. If you think he's being screwed by this company, then as his manager you should simply cover for him and let him do what he needs to do, and not mention anything directly; if people ask, you can just say "Joe took the day off".

As for what to do now, there is unfortunately not much you can do. The best you can do is to say to management something like "thank you for your concern, and, as Joe's manager I'll keep an eye on his quality of work and let you know if it begins to slip", and let that be the end of it. If they start pushing harder then you may have to fire him before either of you are ready. If it comes to this, make sure to give him a really good reference letter so he can find his next job more easily.

  • 12
    FML, can't cry for spilled milk but wish I have written this before all the mess that happened, he already spoke about it with the right person, it's all fine, we're happy for Joe and wish him the best, we arranged something and he'll give us a week if he's actually leaving, that's cool.
    – Napal
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 15:44
  • 74
    Don't. Lie. Ever. You don't have to explain anything to anyone. Joe asked for some time off, you gave it to him. If someone asks where Joe is, you say that he took the day off. Joe doesn't have any responsibility to anyone to explain where he was either. He can just say that he had some person stuff to take care of and took the day.
    – JeffC
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 5:11
  • 41
    IMO "messed up" is an understatement. You were completely out of order telling your boss that another employee was going for an interview. If I was your manager, it would be you who shouldn't expect a promotion or salary increase for a very long time.
    – alephzero
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 9:04
  • 18
    @WoJ It is implied that the "cover" is simply not sharing details when people asked where Joe is, other than "he took time off". Nothing more, nothing less. Personal time off is a legit reason to take your PTO, and the employer has no business needing to know "why". There's nothing illegal with that. I think you believed the manager is "covering" for his absence while on the clock, which is not what the answer is implying. OP happens to know why, but he has no reason to share it with anyone if asked. This is the "covering for Joe" part.
    – Nelson
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 9:47
  • 36
    Wow @alephzero, if that's how you treat leaders making a mistake, I'm guessing they won't be encouraged to come clean to you when they do... are you sure this level of harshness is the best policy?
    – Konerak
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 11:49

The first thing I'm going to point out that a question you asked a year ago was:

How to tell my current employer that I'm leaving?

In the answer that you accepted, it stressed that you should only let your employer know you were leaving after you have a signed offer in your hand. It pointed out very clearly, that there can be negative consequences, which were actually detailed in that answer.

Now fast forward a year, and you've basically violated the advice given in that answer, to the detriment of someone you consider a "good friend". I hope you give them a glowing reference letter.

Anyway, if the company wanted to get your employee a higher salary, right now, they can do that. Maybe they have some policy that "prevents" it. But policies can be overridden.

The whole idea of commitment to the company kind of baffles me. It's a very childish concept. Do management seriously think somebody is going to be willing to be underpaid 30%-40% for some sort of vague idea of commitment, from someone who has been there less than 6 months?

But anyway, if management are willing to fire them because they lack "commitment" then it doesn't sound like they have much in the way of bargaining power.

I don't know how to assist him right now nor what to do for the best of everyone.

You have to be prepared to accept that this may not be possible.

I suspect that you've came into the process assuming good faith. But that's not how the world operates. People are petty, and will be offended that people are interviewing, and will hold it against them. They may even now be planning to get rid of this employee and replace them with some other person who they view will be more committed.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Apr 17, 2021 at 1:56

Short version: This is a startup. It has horrible management. (Not you, the people who want to fire the talent) It will fail. Bail now.

When you hire inexperienced people you will inevitably hire many bad ones and a few good ones. Some of the bad ones can be turned into good ones, but most can't.

The standard practice it to hire a good experienced manager to herd them in the right direction, that would be you, AND fire some of the worst underlings while keeping the good ones happy.

This management has policies that do the opposite. They chase away the good ones, leaving you with mostly bad ones.

This is a recipe for failure.

You say that this startup is the beginning of something big. Be aware that there is a bound to be dozens of other startups aiming at the same spot, and there is only room for one. From the sound of it, your company is not going to be it.

That being the case, you should wish your friend good luck in his next job. Ask if there is room for you there too.

  • Success is matter of relationships in real life, it does not matter how good you are or how good the company organization is, if they do not have the required connections to blossom, it will remain as a bush with flowers, but it will never be the kind of bush that's full of flowers because it was grown on the right floor, spot, water, minerals, so much things that relationships mean. Sure, there's dozens, but none of them have the spot.
    – Napal
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 16:31

The problem is that when I spoke about this with the directors on his behalf (after he asked me to), they had this pretty standard way of reacting "We don't want people who's not commited to the company and we should fire him right now", then I said, 'No, lets be clear, he hasnt got another job, just an interview and he wants to go because anyone getting paid 100%~300%+ will give it a shot'.

Probably shouldn't have mentioned it to them.

My thoughts: he should look for other jobs and if he needs to take 3h off for an interview just schedule a half day "for a doctor appointment" or whatever (make something up!) or a full day off ("gonna go on a trip" or "I got a bad case of food poisoning!").

The company most likely does not have any need to know what he's doing on his time off but sometimes volunteering an excuse for absence, even if it's a lie, can kinda placate others.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Apr 17, 2021 at 1:57

Noone can stop him from interviewing. Your company knows that. Just make sure they don't think you are encouraging him to do so.

If the company doesn't want to offer him market salary, then the best thing to do as a friend and colleague:

Give him a great recommendation / reference.

Update, to clarify - definitely you should advocate for him getting a raise. The usual logic is that it would be costly, and also risky, to replace him. While the company could arguably hire another entry level for the current salary, there would be no guarantee they would turn out to be as productive. In practice, this logic might be more likely to be heard, if there were a specific project or customer relationship that would be damaged in a specific way in his absence. It would be hard to make that argument if your higher-ups think you provoked him seeking a raise, and thereby "created this situation".

  • I do encourage him to do so because I do want the best for him, will do give a great recommendation / reference for sure, hope it's not required tho, would like that Joe stay here.
    – Napal
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 17:05
  • I would applaud that. My first corporate environment job I was tremendously lucky to have a similar manager, who made developing his reports a priority. If only it were more common. If trying to get him a fair salary fails, I'm saying, agreeing with the other answers - don't tell them because they may, irrationally, blame you. But that's not certain.
    – Pete W
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 17:09

As others have pointed out, you already made some mistakes. But it doesn't matter, you can't change the past. Your superiors don't want to keep him and that's the end of the discussion. Just cover for him verbally by stating the truth – he took time off, he said he was sick or whatever – and write a good recommendation letter (or your locale's equivalent.)

What you definitely need to do now is prepare yourself and your company before this situation happens again. A company that undervalues an employee by at least 30% and maybe even a staggering 75% (if your estimation of a possible 300% salary increase are correct) is a strange company indeed.

You should discuss with your superiors and department lead peers how acceptable it is when the best talent runs out of the company after they barely started. You invested time training them and now all of that was wasted, plus, you're stuck with the semi-talented staff.

You might also have a diversity problem, because some people, eg women in particular, often don't negotiate as aggressively as others. You might not value diversity in and of itself, but your company's aggressive free-for-all salary negotations surely backfire when people who got screwed leave for companies that have more or less fixed salary ranges and thus offer more.

Oh and if I were you, I would see how competitors pay for your position. Don't be surprised if they offer you 300% more..

  • Not surprised they pay much more (for my position), I'm not expecting to change job in a couple of years since we're not going to be "another" company in the field, we're going to be "The Company". I don't expect anyone to understand this and it's fine, it's just matter of time. I don't want nor need to go to another place because I know this is a fact. My co-worker knows this to and he was really open with everyone in the company about the feeling of leaving for more money, but he's resilient and will stick around cuz he know it's a fact he understands it was pure luck landing in here.
    – Napal
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 16:41
  • he said he was sick: sick of being underpaid!
    – Jasen
    Commented Apr 10, 2021 at 13:13

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