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I am working in a team of 5-6 developers for about 3.5 years. For the past year, there had been a lot of changes in the team. Many people who joined after me left, and then older, more experienced employees started to quit too.

There aren't any personal problems inside the team or between the team and the managers. The company itself is pretty considerate too, compared to other software companies around, from what I hear from my friends working at other companies (cutting pay during COVID and not allowing remote work etc.).

As far as I know, no one is quitting because of a serious problem related to the project, managers or coworkers. Some people give reasons on why they quit in the last meeting, like being able to work with newer technologies, working remotely full time after the pandemic ends, having less management duties and more coding etc. but in private talks all of them get a substantial raise after changing jobs, which I suspect is the real motivator here.

Our HR complain about programmers quitting after 2 years max, saying they can't be relied to stay longer. My manager complains about people quitting abruptly without talking to her about their problems first, that she's made aware at the last minute when employees already accepted the new job offer.

This situation makes me feel very uneasy. I'm a kind of a person who avoids change unless there's an important reason. I don't have any problem with my coworkers, company or the project itself but I feel like I'm being forced to look for a new job, or continue working for less money for the same work.

Should I start actively looking for a new job? Suppose I get a much better offer, should I ask my manager for a raise to match it and quit if they don't? Or should I directly ask for a big raise without getting a job offer first? Nowadays it feels like I'm not being responsible for myself, my career and for my family to stay in my comfort zone. How can I resolve this situation without acting like a jerk, but also protecting my interests?

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9 Answers 9

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I think you should ask your manager. You could ask precisely the subject line of this question:

Do I have to change my job if everyone else is quitting for better pay, or is there another way?

Or a version I always liked from my people:

I would like to make $x (or $y more than I do now, or z% more than I do now, whichever number you like to use) relatively soon. What do I need to do to earn that much of a raise, and how long do you think it will take?

Your manager has clearly signaled "come and talk to me before you have another offer." There is no need for you to include a threat to go look for another job if you don't get the raise; your company is very much aware that people can do that and have been doing that. Why not give them a chance to pay you an amount you would be happier with? They may also tell you "you can make that money as a JobTitle, and if you do a, b, and c you could become a JobTitle in 2 or 3 years. At least you will know the path.

As for being responsible for your family, don't assume you owe it to them to earn the absolutely maximum amount you possibly can. People in those jobs often work long hours, learn new things on their own time, travel a lot, or take on a lot of stress and worry that can come home with them. If you have a job you like and your bills are all being paid, make sure you understand well your motivations for wanting more. You're not wrong to want more money, but you might be wrong to think you must get more money no matter what you have to give up for that.

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    If the manager has said that, she might have some latitude to negotiate raises, but only if the employees ask, and this might be a hint. Aug 14, 2021 at 8:58
  • @chrylis-cautiouslyoptimistic-: My understanding from the question is that departing employees aren't telling the manager that their real motivation is a salary increase, but rather, are naming other issues. So while it's possible that the manager has divined the real reason and is trying to give hints to the remaining employees, I take her statement at face value.
    – ruakh
    Aug 14, 2021 at 22:57
  • @ruakh Are you thinking that the manager doesn't know their employees would like to be paid more?
    – Yakk
    Aug 15, 2021 at 16:04
  • @Yakk: That's a weird way to put it. All else being equal, most employees would like to be paid more. But the manager isn't complaining that employees don't tell her everything that they'd ideally want; she's complaining that employees don't tell her about the problems that are driving them to leave, until they leave. And I think that she legitimately may not know that the problem that's driving them to leave is that they want to be paid more -- because when they do leave, they give other reasons instead.
    – ruakh
    Aug 15, 2021 at 18:01
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    @ruakh The odds none of them have asked for a raise, and not gotten one, seems ridiculously low. By the time you have another job lined up, it is too late to be talking about how to keep you in your job. And issuing an ultimatum - pay me more or I get another job - before you get another job seems like a bad plan for most employees. Almost certainly many asked for more money, did not get it, found it at another job. Then they made vague break-up-friendly noises "it is not you it's me" style to reduce conflict.
    – Yakk
    Aug 15, 2021 at 18:29
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  1. Leaving doesn’t make you a jerk. HR might want you to think that, but employees leaving is perfectly normal. Also, holding onto developers for two years on average is pretty good, especially in this market. Every company that isn’t offering hefty stock options is experiencing massive churn right now due to the strong market.

  2. You can always get another job offer with the intent of staying if you get a raise. This has its risks (the company sees you as a flight risk going forward), but it is a viable strategy if you really want to stay but also really want a raise.

Regarding raises, be prepared that the company may not be able to accommodate you.

I told my last manager that I left over new technology and this was a half truth. I left because I make in my new job as a junior their upper range for intermediate and lower range for senior. I didn’t even try to counter because it was so far outside their salary ranges. A lot of companies are not that adaptable when it comes to salary and a changing market. I suspect that is why your colleagues are giving other reasons.

For better or worse, tech has generally decided that developers are interchangeable cogs. I am not aware of any serious attempts to stem turnover at any of the firms my friends work for. I know it is frequently complained about, but the issue ends with the whining.

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  • "the issue ends with the whining" And refusing to hire anyone who isn't ready to "hit the ground running", because why waste money training employees when they'll just leave the company in a few years?
    – nick012000
    Aug 16, 2021 at 5:24
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To initiate change, such as more pay, straight up ask as a first recourse. This has little risk; if the company determines you could be paid more due to performance or market, they may likely accede. They won't punish you.

You done the good work of figuring out why others are leaving, and you understand why some stay. That helps inform your choice. But you needn't leave too. Staying while others leave gives you opportunities for advancement, more responsibility, pick of projects, negotiating position, etc.

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I'm a kind of a person who avoids change unless there's an important reason ... Nowadays it feels like I'm not being responsible for myself, my career and for my family to stay in my comfort zone. How can I resolve this situation without acting like a jerk, but also protecting my interests?

It's a great positive attribute that you are aware of the changes happening in your workplace and willing to contemplate about it. This is an important step towards one's personal growth, and a healthy one as it shows you are grounded enough to not act impulsively but recognize the need to change according to the evolving circumstances.

Rather than defining yourself as a person who "avoids" change, I'd say you are the kind who likes the "slow and steadfast" approach towards your goals. The positive attributes of this way of thinking is that you can think long-term, you don't get swept in the flow of changes around you, and persevere despite the obstacles you face.

Ofcourse, all this is meaningless without goals.

The conflict you are currently feeling is because you either suddenly realise that you don't have any clear goals, or suddenly feel the need to re-evaluate it because of new information or changing circumstances.

Should I start actively looking for a new job? ... Suppose I get a much better offer, should I ask my manager for a raise to match it and quit if they don't? Or should I directly ask for a big raise without getting a job offer first?

And so we come back to the main point again - what are your short-term and long-term professional goals?

But, even before that, you have to be sure your goals are realistic and not made with inexperience and ignorance - it is pointless to define professional goals without understanding the realities of the current global workplace. Some of these are:

  1. You always have to prove your value to the market to be employable.

  2. You prove your value by your educational qualifications (degrees), your skill-set (certified is better) and your experience (years worked, positions earned and your salary).

  3. Ageism, while illegal in many countries is factored when trying to determine your value, and the unfortunate reality of the market is that younger people are cheaper to hire, and are often willing to work longer hours. And thus, it is more profitable for a company to "cull" the older.

  4. To fight ageism, you need to show something more than professional technical skills - you need to show people skills. And you need to learn and show this ideally by 35 years (others say between 35 to 40, but in the IT industry in India, we start to consider people "old" above 35 years of age - this may be particular to India as we have huge pool of young people).

  5. "People skills" is evaluated by the job market by considering the following - the promotions you have got and / or the money you earn (shows you know how to get recognition of your technical skills and please your boss), the teams / people you have managed (highlights you know how to work with others, train others and get work out of them), the number of companies you have worked at (highlights your ability to work with different people in different professional environments) or, if you have been promoted to a managerial position.

(In summary - if you don't show your worth by getting into a managerial position or the ability to earn more by working with different companies, by the age of 35-40, you will professionally stagnate.)

Goals made without an understanding of these realities will be unrealistic, and stunt your professional advancement. Some other things to keep in mind:

  1. To a limited extent, the money you earn does define your professional worth - there is a reason why a pay scale exists for every job designation. Some people get paid more while some people earn less, for the same job. However, money needn't be an important criteria when considering job changes or advancement. It is perfectly ok to accept the low end of a payscale for a particular designation if you like the job and / or the work environment. But it is generally inadvisable to accept a job below the market rates (e.g. if the payscale for a particular position is around 50,000 to 60,000, and you accept it for 40,000, you will lose some respect and worth in the market).

  2. When you are young and inexperienced, keep your focus on getting more professional experience than the money you earn and focus on getting a job with a bigger and better company than your current one.

  3. It's a sad reality that once you have experience, you can often negotiate a better salary with another company than the one you currently work at. Most companies know that people don't like drastic changes like switching jobs, and thus only very grudgingly will give in to the salary hike you demand, even if you have a better offer elsewhere.

  4. Apart from the better salary, most companies view a job change positively because it shows you are willing to face change positively. However, the job change should reflect better salary and / or better job designation or should be at a better company.

  5. It is easier to change jobs when you are younger. The more you advance, and the older you become, the less positions will be available in the market. Note that the older you get, commitment to a workplace (considered by the number of years you have worked at a particular company) is more highly valued, and a lot of job changes is hence not viewed positively.

So with these realities in mind, create some (or evaluate your existing) time bound short-term (half-yearly or yearly) and long-term (5 to 10 year) professional goals. Then evaluate if working with your current company helps towards these goals. The general rules is that if you don't see prospects of advancement within a company, ask for more money and stick for a respectable amount of time (2 to 4 years, depending on your age and current designation), and then look for a better opportunity elsewhere.

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Changing jobs should always be based on if you feel like you are being paid a fair amount for the work you are doing, versus pay you could receive at another location.

In this case, it seems clear that your company undervalues coders. Certainly you could bring up to leadership that people are leaving for better pay. Recognize that this might be seen as a shameless ploy to get a raise, so only do this if you trust them and/or if you're ready to leave.

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I would start by asking for a raise for a few reasons. Firstly, your manager said she prefers it when people give her a chance to address their grievances. This probably means she's willing to at least try to get you what you want rather than risk losing you. Secondly, with so many other people quitting, the powers that be may be open to paying out more than usual in order to retain the people they have left. If everyone who knows the product were to leave at once, it would put them in a very precarious position.

Finally, you like working there and the only issue is money. Taking a new job is always a gamble. You might end up with more money but a lower quality of life. Staying might also open you up to advancement opportunities. With fewer people, there will be more work to go around and you may get to work on projects that would normally be reserved for more senior people. When the company starts hiring new developers to replace the ones who left, they may ask you to help with onboarding and mentoring the new people. This could be a good opportunity to demonstrate your ability to handle a more senior role.

As far as the raise, I would recommend asking for what you believe you could get at another company plus 10%. This will give you some room for negotiation which is almost certainly what will end up happening. If they refuse to budge or come back with a counter offer that is below your expectations, you can then start quietly looking elsewhere. At this point in the process, I would strongly discourage saying anything about the possibility of leaving. By denying you the raise you asked for, they already know it’s a possibility and threatening to leave will most likely backfire and possibly lead to retaliation. Try and be as discrete as possible with the job search. Schedule interviews in advance and block off your work calendar the same way you would if you had a dentist appointment or the like.

If you get a better offer but still really want to stay, you can go back with the offer in hand and see if they would be willing to counter. (Note that this can be risky. I've heard cases where counter offers were approved just long enough for the company to train a replacement).

One thing to keep in mind—in order to get the raise approved, your manager will probably have to make a strong case for the value you bring to the table. This means your performance may be scrutinized more closely than usual so make sure to put your best foot forward during this period.

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Did you evaluate your long time perspective?

In IT the salary is just a part of the picture. How many possibilities do you have now to keep yourself up to date with the technological changes? How much does your company invest in training? If you will remain bound to old technologies how many chances you have to move to management roles or a domain expert role?

A substantial rise might be worthless if then you are stuck for years to that salary. If you don't expand your skills and in the future your company decides to switch to new technologies in what situation could you find yourself? If your skills include some important domain expertise your company might still consider you a useful employee, otherwise they might begin to treat you as a weight.

From the reasons of your colleagues for leaving you listed it seems that few of them took into account the bigger picture, you should do the same.

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There's a lot of questions in there around your career prospects, but overall the impression I get is that you're only considering this as others have too.

You need to ask yourself a few questions around the motivation for leaving and and work you're doing:-

  • Do I enjoy the work I do
  • Do I enjoy the tech I work with
  • Are there growth opportunities in the workplace (tech and leadership)
  • Am I happy with my remuneration package (not just salary) and other benefits of the job (PTO etc)
  • Does the job allow me the quality of life and work/life balance I want at this current time.

This might change in the future, but analysing all components of work right now will hopefully allow you peace of mind as to what you do next

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Earn, Yearn, Learn.

A friend of mine told me you need at least 2 of these to want to stay in a job. It sounds like those leaving are down to one or none. If one of the reason people are leaving is because of Earn and HR aren't seeing that then it would suggest your company aren't being competitive with salary. I think asking for an increase in salary would seem sensible but I would take the chance to say to your manager that she needs to feed back to HR that they need to assess their pay rates generally.

At one of my previous companies I was the first person to join for a while and as a result of what I was being paid meant that one of the other software engineers got a 10K raise because they hadn't kept up with pay rates. Sometimes that is what happens with companies.

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