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I'm going to use fake names to make this easier to follow. John = CEO of the startup company I work for. Brad = former CTO and the person who interviewed me. Lucy = current CTO.

I've been working for a startup company for a couple of months, after shifting away from a stable job that I had been at for 7 years. The startup environment has been exhilarating, and I really resonated well with Brad, who hired me. At the interview, he said this:

"We can be competitive, we can offer you something in the $X to $Y range."

When he came back with the formal offer, it was for $X. At the time, he said "we'll start you at $X, and if you prove yourself to productive, then we can bump that up to $Y."

I was very productive. Brad absolutely loved the quality of the work I was doing. I exceeded his expectations. John, the CEO, seemed to like me too, or at least appreciated the feedback he was hearing from my colleagues. So, a month and a half later, I approached Brad again, and reminded him of what he promised in terms of salary. Brad agreed, and said he would bump me up to $Y, but asked that I wait until he and John finished up their Series A round of fundraising. I said that'd be fine, as it was supposed to finish up in no more than two months at most. I never got anything in writing (dumb of me, I know), but I took this as a verbal commitment (like I had taken the original promise in the interview).

Fast forward a bit. Brad replaced himself with Lucy, because Brad became the CEO of his own company. He still is an investor in our startup, but his day-to-day decision making role has ended. Lucy and I haven't hit things off nearly as well. She seems to have very little confidence in my abilities, in fact, for reasons I won't get into. She has even been vocal to John about her doubts about me, which is annoying since that makes her an outlier. I cannot think of a single other person in the company who shares her concerns in the least. Nevertheless, suffice it to say, I have been continually trying to show her my value.

I approached John about the raise. He had been out of the loop since he wasn't the one who interviewed me, and my telling him about the promise Brad made of $Y was the first time he'd heard of it. He said that he'd speak with Brad directly and get back to me. Two weeks later, I emailed John asking if we could meet for a quick follow-up, at which point I saw in the corner of my eye he quickly flagged down Lucy for an impromptu, closed-door meeting.

Two things were apparent: John forgot to talk to Brad, and Lucy didn't think I deserved any kind of raise. John said that compensation is really up to Lucy now, and that he'd schedule a meeting for the three of us, to be held two weeks from now. I asked if he could please talk to Brad this time, to which he agreed. But I'm a little frustrated.

The difference between $X and $Y is $5,000, which is fairly significant for me. But on the other hand, $X is already a comfortable salary and I enjoy the work. So even if I stay at $X, I know I can still be grateful. However, the setup of it all just doesn't sit right with me, and it would be extremely disappointed if Brad's promise is ignored and swept under the rug. I also have not enjoyed Lucy's obvious lack of confidence in me, and am continually trying to find constructive ways to work through it and demonstrate value.

What's the best thing to do in this situation? I've got two weeks to prepare for my meeting with John and Lucy; any advice for what I should talk about then?

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    Lucy has obviously a different point of view. Do you know what her objections are? Have you worked out how to resolve her objections? Coming into your next meeting with nothing than your predecessor's verbal promise of a raise is preposterously self-centered to me. Given how negatively Lucy feels about you, if your raise had been put in writing, you'd win the raise but you might lose the job. You simply have to know Lucy's specific objections and deal with them. You might want to treat this meeting as an opportunity to get her to adjust her perception of you. What you done toward this end? – Vietnhi Phuvan Jan 10 '15 at 10:02
  • Vietnhi Phuvan - I like your suggestion a lot, about using this more as an opportunity to adjust perception. That to me is honestly more important than the raise. I don't think asking for this meeting is "preposterously self-centered" though, I mean what would you have done in my situation? If you were in my shoes, wouldn't you have wanted to follow up on a verbal commitment that was made when you were hired on? – meekveloper Jan 10 '15 at 15:16
  • Asking for a meeting by itself is NOT preposterously self-centered. However, asking for a meeting with zero preparation and in anticipation of a hostile audience is preposterously self-centered. The verbal commitment, unfortunately, was made by those who are no longer in a position to go through with it. If you want that raise, practically your only chance is to make that verbal commitment into Lucy's own commitment. And she won't make that verbal commitment of others into her own commitment unless her perception of you and your ability changes. You are the only one who can make it happen. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jan 10 '15 at 15:24
  • Look at it this way: the stakes are much higher than a raise which you may or may not get. They are about your job, which you may end up losing if her negative perception of you persists. You can't prepare for that meeting unless you know exactly what her objections to you are and if you don't know exactly what they are, learn them from from Brad. If Brad doesn't know specifically, have Brad talk to Lucy and get back to you. Then work out how to resolve her objections to you and if feasible, run your resolution of her objections to you by Brad as a sanity check. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jan 10 '15 at 15:26
  • Watch what you say/write. "Two things were apparent" No they were not at the time - you were jumping to conclusions. Only later did you get confirmation that John had not talked to Brad. – user8036 Jan 11 '15 at 10:38
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It sounds to me as if it would be well worth you contacting Brad to see if there is a possible place for you in his new company, whether at $X or $Y, as it is likely you will work better with him and prosper.

You can explain at your meeting in two weeks time that you no longer feel that you are being appreciated where you are, nor that the company is meeting commitments made.

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    I wouldn't be too sure about working for Brad again. Of course we only have the OP's word, but it seems like Brad wasn't too keen on following through on his promises either. – jcm Jan 10 '15 at 13:04
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You are worrying about the wrong issue.

You need to fix the relationship with Lucy.

If you don't, you may end up without a job.

Once that relationship is under control, you will have a far easier time getting the raise. If you can't get the relationship with your boss under control, the raise is unlikely to happen, and even if it does it won't matter because she will get rid of you.

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The problem are the long term effects. If you feel that Lucy dislikes you and doesn't appreciate your skills, and she even cheats you out of 5000$ (at least that's what you'll be thinking subconsciously), you will not like working at that job a lot longer. Chances are you won't even be able to appreciate a 5000$ raise you get 1 year down the road. You say you currently enjoy the work but this is likely to change if they renege on their promise, and show you that you and your work are not valued by them.

So, if you like the work and would like to keep working there, the only option is to make them keep their promise. And the best way to go about that is to contact Brad directly, and talk him through the issue - if he liked your work and he's still an investor, he'll see value in keeping you on board. Don't worry about burning bridges. There's not much you can lose that you won't lose by not doing anything.

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