I'm a software dev, paid $50k with almost 4 years experience and the local market average is $65k. My annual performance review happened recently and I asked for $65k and in lieu of that (since we're a small company), I suggested some alternatives such as vacation, tuition reimbursement, new title. My bosses denied to give me ANY salary raise or alternatives. I know I'm going to leave because it's no longer in my best interests to stay (money-wise, training-wise, etc.). The problem is, I don't agree with my bosses' reasons, I feel very cut down, and I'm hoping people in a boss or manager position can shed some light on my situation. I also want to avoid having an entitled attitude with nothing to back it up.

My pitch to them was I take on a lot more responsibilities than the average developer: writing requirements (business analyst work), design documents, part time project management, managed 3 projects (start to finish) for this client 90% on my own, shown loyalty to the company (most senior employee), and a few other things. I honestly feel I'm worth more than average and that my request was reasonable. To get nothing felt like a slap in the face. My weaknesses are I'm not strong technically, but I can do an average job coding, I can be too detail oriented, and I take a long time to do my work. Also, we recently had a bonus pool via a contract and I got 40% of the pool (split between 4 of us).

They rejected my raise for 2 reasons: 1) performance (results greater than effort, low rating on review form); 2) I had some personal stuff come up earlier this year and missed a lot of work without much notice which caused a client to think we couldn't meet their needs and put a new project in jeopardy.

For 1) performance: the annual review form is new and we set goals last year. I didn't achieve any of my personal development goals, but we also missed the 6 month check in and the annual review was late and I had to ask for it (they'd forgotten). I felt the review didn't factor in the extra responsibilities I'd taken on at all and wasn't accurate of my actual performance: I've been repeatedly told I was doing a great job. Plus, I felt they didn't put a lot of effort in (the #2 under my strengths was "organized" and that was it). Lastly, their review conflicted with the bonus feedback (bonus teamwork 5/5, review teamwork 1/5).

For 2) missed work: they took it out of my vacation and sick days and I have none left for the year, and I'm OK with that. The problem is, they blame me for the client thinking we couldn't meet their dev needs. I was the only developer on that project for 2.5 years and this sort of thing has happened before: I got injured and was unable to work for 2 months, and no one could take over the project. It was my first project out of school and needless to say, it was poorly managed with little documentation because no one was helping me or mentoring me. I understand it was irresponsible of me to take that time off, but I was in a very bad place with depression, which they were also aware of.

They now want me to prove my worth by meeting all of the new terms/goals for the next year (which we will all agree on), then they'll give me the 30% increase. I would find that fair if I was compensated for the many extra responsibilities I'd taken on this past year and if I was paid market value or somewhere close to it.

I'm hurt and confused, I know I'm leaving anyway, but I just want to understand my bosses perspective and make sure I'm not holding onto a sense of "entitlement" that doesn't fit. I truly believe I'm doing a great job, that failures have been made by both myself and my employers regarding the performance and client, and that I should be compensated for the extra responsibilities and that I am deserving average market value. I am planning to talk with my bosses and give them feedback about the review process.

As a manager/boss, what's your perspective? I don't understand how they can expect me to stay after that... I don't mind proving myself if I felt it was justified (asking for above market value)...

Guess I'm at the mercy of the internet now.

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    Quite apart from anything else, as a software developer, you should absolutely not spend your first four years out of school at one job, where you are the most senior employee and nobody is helping or mentoring you. Basically, this is four years of career stagnation and you need to get out now and find a job where you are working with more experienced people that you can learn from. Then you can start moving your career forward (right now, you are basically still fresh out of school despite having four years experience) – Carson63000 Apr 5 '15 at 5:08
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    You're a software developer and you do an "average job coding". This is your biggest issue - you're performing average on the job you are paid for. – James Apr 5 '15 at 12:50
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    I agree with @Jimbo on this. An employee has to do his "day job" well, only then the "extra stuff" he does becomes important (well, important in context of his appraisal, anyway). As a manager, I wouldn't rate an employee highly if he does average job on his assigned tasks, and then does an outstanding job on other things which he is not really required to do. – Masked Man Apr 5 '15 at 13:03
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    You are only confused because you totally believe that your argument is so decisive and so compelling that the management has no choice but accept whatever rationale you cook up. Maybe, just maybe, it's not as decisive and compelling as you think it is if (a) they don't have the resources to pay you; (b) they have no moral and legal obligation to pay what you claim is the average scale in your area and the obligation they go by is whatever are the terms of your employment contract with them; (c) they are not especially fond of you as an employee. – Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 5 '15 at 15:52
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    The extra responsibilities weren't "extra", they were asked of me. Like many things here, the review got forgotten about until it was past time (hence, missing the semi-annual which should have brought these issues forward). I feel that mistake, on both manager and employee side, is costing me a raise this year and that's not fair. I think my learning at this company is done and I agree with many on here: I need to focus on improving my coding skills. So thank you for that. :) – guest2552 Apr 5 '15 at 17:00

There are some red flags here. First, who reviewed you? You said feedback was poor. We're you reviewed by peers, by customers, or by managers, or a combination of those groups? What exactly was the feedback? What was the reason for the low rating?

Next, you set goals last year and didn't achieve any of them? A review is not required for you to work toward a goal. It is possible you had too much to work on, but in a year's time, you should have been able to accomplish at least some of it. I am sure you made progress toward your goals, but the expectation was that you would hit them. In that regard you're not meeting expectations.

The additional duties you have taken on are all normal software developer duties, especially in a smaller company. You're not actually going above and beyond in this area. A "senior" developer should be expected to perform such duties.

Time is only one factor in your compensation. As a manager, there is an "value calculation" going on inside my head. Your compensation is based on the value your managers ascribe to you. From what you have written, you have not provided the value they expect from you. And comparing yourself to others around town based solely on pay is not a complete analysis. Are they meeting expectations set for them? Are their customers delighted with their work?

Having missed a significant amount of work, offering to take additional time off in lieu of additional money is not a viable alternative.

Your company appears to have been behaving rationally by setting expectations for the next year and making your pay increase contingent on meeting expectations. You haven't really said anything that makes me think your company is unreasonable.

To be honest, even though you're trying not to have an attitude of entitlement, it is definitely appearing that way, based on your description. Moving to another job is not likely to provide a long-term fix for you. You need to strive for better results, meeting or exceeding expectations, and not missing large amounts of time, or you will continue to see similar results no matter where you work.

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    It's a small company with no HR department, so only my bosses reviewed me. The team lead / architect left along with another dev, so that just leaves 1 other dev + my bosses (company founders). Thank you, I think I needed to hear that. I'm still leaving because I feel it's not in the best interests of career advancement, but I will definitely focus on results more going forward. – guest2552 Apr 5 '15 at 17:14
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    You seem to have a good attitude. Good luck to you! – Kent A. Apr 5 '15 at 17:32

My personal take is they don't care about you. People have personal stuff that comes up; as long as it is not a constant issue, your management should be understanding. And by slighting you on your raise, they expect one of two things:

  1. They feel you are 100% expendable and don't care if you leave
  2. Don't think you are able to leave

The fact that a client's project was put at risk is you boss's fault; they should have identified the risk and taken action to adjust.

I think you are better off leaving and finding an employer that cares about you and the value you bring.

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    In a small shop, management may not have had anyone to draw on to fill in and keep the customer moving forward. OP may have had reasons, but just being employed is not a reason for a raise. – Kent A. Apr 5 '15 at 13:58
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    @KentAnderson 1) That is management's problem to address, not an employee's 2) Unless your currency is depreciating, then you should be getting a raise annually. Otherwise, they are effectively paying you less. – UnhandledExcepSean Apr 5 '15 at 20:27
  • @Ghost re: "paying you less" - I had a CIO once tell a room full of his employees (myself being one of them) "we don't adjust salaries for inflationary factors." I think a lot of resumes got updated that evening. – alroc Apr 6 '15 at 12:57

I do have a fair understanding of how managers do appraisals, and I must say, your manager's assessment is not entirely unjustified. Good managers love it when employees do more than their officially assigned work. However, all of that extra contribution loses its shine when the employee doesn't do his assigned work that well.

I suspect this is the problem in your case too. You have been hired as a software developer, and by your own admission, you did an "average" job. It is possible that your manager thinks you did a "below average" job. You did all the other great stuff, but realize that your manager has to justify your raise to his manager (and higher managers). Which of these statements do you think are more likely to convince them?

I recommend a 30% increase for guest2552, who did not meet any of his goals, but he did a great job on all this other stuff, such as A, B, C, and D.


I recommend a 30% increase for guest2552, who met his goals adequately, but also took on A, B, C, and D, and did a great job on those.

What you could have done better (or you should do in future):

  1. When there is a change in your role due to change in project requirement, work with your manager and get your goals updated. Thus, if you promised in January to develop software, but in April, you were required to take up project management responsibility, let the management be aware of this change, so that there are no surprises in December.
  2. Move into a role which is more aligned with your tastes. Every person has things they are good at doing, and not so good at doing. If you are not technically strong, but project management excites you more, then be a project manager, not a software developer who also does project management.
  • +1000 for "if assignment changes make sure plan gets updated ". Among other things this forces them to discuss priorities and whether it's all possible. – keshlam Apr 5 '15 at 15:40
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    Thank you, I will definitely keep that in mind going forward. They used that same example: if we give you 30% what message does that send to everyone else here? I'm just upset because this only came out at the review: I'd received no bad feedback before (it was always thank you, we appreciate that, or you're requirements doc looks great). If I was doing a bad job, I wanted to know earlier so I couldn't have corrected it before the year end review, but that's as much my fault as theirs for not bringing it up. – guest2552 Apr 5 '15 at 17:04

I can directly relate to some of your question, so I'll do my best to answer.

For #1: You are openly admitting you didn't achieve any of your personal goals. The annual reviews are also a good time for you to get direct feedback. You're saying no one recognized your added responsibilities. Why not bring them up? You need to communicate these discrepancies and have an open dialect with your boss about them. Write down their reasoning, and ask what you can do to get to the next level. If they provide generics, ask for more details. There is obviously a disconnect between what you're feeling and what those around you are feeling. Figure it out, and then you can solve it.

For #2: It sounds like an unfortunate and unexpected emergency. A good company would be understanding, re-staff/backfill your position on the project, and let you handle your family emergencies respectfully. It sounds like this wasn't the case, and your company felt a big hit by your not being there the entire duration of that project/assessment. I'm going to assume this didn't bode well with your boss and others on that project, and could have possible labelled you as someone who is not dependable. (this is speculation)

Here are some added extras..

You said you work at a small company. That right there tells me your company is more inclined to not pay "average market price" salaries. Now, they may, but I wouldn't assume. Do you know others in your exact position/title getting 65k+?

Four years is a long time to be with a company as a Dev just out of school. You're narrowing your skillset (I am assuming here, a little), and not getting general experience in different roles. I would move on regardless.

You're saying you write requirements and do a Business Analysts' role, but are an average programmer. This is a huge red flag, and I was in your same position. Your company, by delegating this work to you, is taking away time from honing your skills as a programmer and distracting you with work that shouldn't be yours to do. This tells me that your company isn't well-suited for the kind of IT/client work they are trying to tackle.

The problem comes in when we don't know what the job description is for your current title. I will say this, though; I fulfilled the Business Analyst role and the primary developer role on one of my projects. It sucked, but I learned a lot, and I did the best that I could do. I didn't get promoted, and I didn't get a raise, but I learned a ton about IT and my role as a developer as well as analyzing requirements. This isn't a bad thing for you, especially early. I would suggest you do the same, and quit looking for praise (not that you are, but..). Do the best that you can do, and let people be impressed by your work, since that's what you're there to do.

If you're not happy, then start searching for other positions. I imagine it will be difficult if you don't have any vacation and/or sick days left because #2 in your post. There are more jobs than there are developers, so you're in a "good" position as a job seeker.

Hope this helps.

  • I have learned a lot here, but not much on the technical/coding side which is important to move forward and that alone is reason to leave (no one currently to mentor me since the turnover rate is so high - our arcitect and dev left last month). I did communicate my extra responsibilities but they brushed it off. I plan to bring it up again when I've calmed down a bit. Their feedback was maybe a paragraph total and some low numbers. Like I said, #2 under my strengths was "organized" and that was it. I felt they didn't put time/effort into the review and that hurt, regardless of what it said. – guest2552 Apr 5 '15 at 17:10
  • There are more jobs than there are developers not in Europe, except for a few countries. Most countries already outsource most programming work to cheaper countries, since they already do almost as good job (or even better) as a high-priced European one, but for a third of the salary. Programming is a dying profession in here. In addition, at least in Finland, having 4 jobs in your first 4 years out of school is a very bad thing to have in your CV (quickly judged as "job-hopper" or "incompetent"). But that is of course country-dependent. – Juha Untinen Apr 6 '15 at 17:12

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