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So my boss asked me to come to his office to take my opinion about a raise that my colleague asked for earlier. This colleague started only months ago but he proved that he is very good at it. Took big bugs and fixed it then started improving the application and released new features only in couple months. He started with an agreement for a certain salary where a raise is to be considered based on his evaluation during the agreement period. Now that colleagues asked for a raise almost 25% of what he is taking.

I didn't know what to say because I didn't know about it so I said that I will think about it and get back to him. What should I say?

My boss is the owner and the company is a small company (5-10 employees). I didn't know numbers and we both managed to keep it this way; I only knew percentage. The question sounded very normal, not tricky or trap for over limits/responsibility sort of questions. It sounded like he just wants to know what do I (a good coworker) think so he knows what to do best for the company. I liked that he managed to ask me, I took it as my opinion is important and as he is consulting me.

I want to be part of making the decision. I agree that it is not of my business when it comes to salaries, but I think this overall situation is an opportunity to show/improve leadership skills towards a future possible management position.

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    Maybe he's trying to prepare you for a management position. Though this is not the right way to do it... – Radu Murzea May 16 '16 at 14:57
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    It sounds like he respects your opinion. It can sometimes be difficult for a manager to know who is worth what. – superluminary May 16 '16 at 15:00
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    If he's being underpaid by 20%, someone else would probably love to hire him at the going rate. Do you want to keep him or not? If you do, you don't want to risk losing him because you're underpaying him. What would it cost to replace him? If you can help your boss answer these questions, you will create value for him, which is why he hired you in the first place. – Aaron Hall May 16 '16 at 18:23
  • My first guess would be he thinks a lot of you and that's a good thing. Another possibility is that he does not know how to make this decision on his own and is looking for any kind of thoughts from others to give him a reason to go one way or the other, which would be a bad thing. – Todd Wilcox May 16 '16 at 19:13
  • I feel like this is one of those questions where you're better off going with your own gut and understanding of the situation rather than strangers' advice on the internet... – user541686 May 17 '16 at 22:31
186

Don't give an opinion on the colleague's salary. This isn't your place, and the fact that the boss discussed the numbers with you was perhaps not appropriate. (However, it does indicate that your boss trusts you and wants your input on a major decision, which is a good thing).

Do give your assessment of the colleague's performance. This is probably why the boss asked you anyway. If the colleague is very good, say so, and explain why you think that.

Example response:

I don't really feel comfortable discussing a colleague's salary, and in any case, I'm not the right person to make that decision. From my perspective, he has clearly proven himself since coming here, doing an excellent job in a short time. He is someone that I hope we can keep on our team. But I would prefer to leave the business side of the decision to you.

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    This is pretty common in smaller companies. I'm not sure about discussing the dollar amount, but it's a fair question. "Do you think bill does such an awesome job that he's worth the 25% raise he is asking for?" Again in a small company, who else can answer this but Bill's coworkers? Even in a larger company it would not be too odd, if you were a trusted employee to get a "Do you think it's worth it" or "How is Bill working out" style question. Your opinion matters, and you should state it, but as dan1111 has said, stay out of the money side of the question. – coteyr May 16 '16 at 12:41
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    @AMomchilov this is a small enough company, you risk your raise. That 25% raise could mean you don't get one, or don't get as big of one. Not to mention that, again if small enough, you could be risking the company it's self. You could also be being tested, to see if maybe your should get a "promotion" to a leader position. – coteyr May 16 '16 at 12:44
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    Without considering the actual amounts, saying someone deserves n+25% more is... odd? You don't know if n is... could be half of what you make... could be as much as you make. Could be what you make +10% already... This side of management or companies where everything is public, I'd be hard pressed to discuss anything along those lines... This answer is spot on. – WernerCD May 16 '16 at 17:52
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    "Don't give an opinion on the colleague's salary. This isn't your place." - translated - to me, sounds like "Boss, thanks for asking my opinion, but I'm definitely not management material, and certainly please don't give me any more responsibility." – Aaron Hall May 16 '16 at 18:11
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    I would add that you can discuss your colleague's performance in regards to market-rate salary ranges – and that might be what your boss intended. i.e. Does X raise put them into the lower, middle or upper end of market-rate salaries for their position and performance? Are they currently below market rate? Are they asking for more than market rate? I wouldn't answer your boss things like "Bob deserves $X", but I would answer with something like "Bob is performing at/over/below a ___ level" and "I do/don't think he could gain employment at the ___ level elsewhere for market rate". – Jonathan Vanasco May 16 '16 at 19:39
7

As other users have already pointed out, you should strive to give your boss an accurate assessment on your colleague's performance.

I'm afraid you can't have a clear opinion about whether or not your coworker is worth "almost 25% more" than his current salary, if you don't actually know how much he's earning right now.

With the following in mind:

He started with an agreement for a certain salary where a raise is to be considered based on his evaluation during the agreement period.

You say he's only been on the team for two months; is that the agreement period? It might be a little too early to discuss a raise, but it might also not be - specially if he agreed to a sub-standard salary upon joining the company in the first place.

I suggest telling your boss that your colleague is a great performer - in fact, from the way you word it, he appears exceptional - and advising him to make sure the employee is getting a fair paycheck so that he's happy to stay in the team. If a 25% raise is the way to make this happen, so be it.

You can also tell your boss how much (money) you feel this employee is worth, but only if you feel confident enough and have a rather good feeling of what's the job market like in your area. Otherwise, it's better not to.

5

Depending on where you are working there may or may not be confidentiality regarding salaries. For example, in Australia salaries are not confidential in general but a specific agreement can make them confidential on the employer only; the employee can take out a full page newspaper ad if they want.

Notwithstanding, asking colleagues for their opinions about a workmate is perfectly fine. However, you simply do not have enough to go on - you say your colleague is "very good" and that they want 25% more than they are getting. If what they are getting is $1/hour then 25% more is a very modest ask; if its $100k/hour its probably excessive. All you can do is go back to you boss and put your colleague in a class - "lots worse than me", "almost as good as me", "about the same as me", "a little better than me", "lots better than me" and let you boss decide on the appropriate salary.

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    Don't bring your own performance into it. Just give an honest assessment of their performance. – user45590 May 16 '16 at 9:14
3

If your boss is not a technical person he is probably asking you to help him evaluate the new employee. Tell him exactly what you posted here and let your boss decide how much of a raise to give him if any.

Don't be concerned with the size of the raise. Retaining talent is expensive and the end your boss will decide if your coworker is worth it.

2

Simply telling your boss that the person is "very good" doesn't help all that much in determining whether a 25% raise is reasonable. Since you are a small company and don't have an HR department that keeps track of what they should be paying, what I would do is:

1 - Assess the person's approximate experience level or "rank". For example, Junior, Senior, Principal etc...

2 - Get the average salary for that level in your area. You can find that on various websites.

3 - Tell the boss, well I think the person's experience level is about Senior level 2 and according to this website the average salary for a person like this is $xyz. I would then expand upon where in that range the person's salary should be by saying something like "I think the person is very good compared to a typical person at that level so they should probably be a bit above the average".

That at least gives concrete information for your boss to work with. After all, a person who is "very good" for their skill level and is already making "very good" money for their skill level probably shouldn't get a 25% raise but if they are vastly underpaid then they certainly should.

  • I would say that whether the employee is "very good" is probably exactly what the boss wants to know--not information about market rates. They probably have their own ideas about salary levels, but want a better assessment of their performance. – user45590 Mar 27 '17 at 9:13
1

What an incredibly(!) unprofessional thing for a manager to ask of his/her employee!   :-O

The role of "a Manager" is to manage(!) his/her team.   "Any request made by any member of the team ... no matter how bizarre (heh) ..." is his/hers alone to handle."

It is, therefore (IMHO...) "grossly unprofessional" to bring any other team-member into the picture, with regards to any issue relating to another member of that team. The manager has utterly no(!) business asking any of his/her subordinates "for input" with regard to the sort of decision that is reserved exclusively to the manager him(her)self.


And, as for "what you should probably do?"   Give 'em your best "disbelieving stare" (diplomatically-unspoken: "are you seriously asking me this?!?!") ... (keep silent!)

... and a thoroughly-noncommital (but, "disarmingly diplomatic" ...) response.

(Sheesh ...)

  • Your categorical claims are flat-out wrong. Good managers delegate or seek advice on many aspects of managing a team, including to other members of the team. Discussing a colleague's raise is sensitive and might be inappropriate, but not necessarily. It depends on the context. Even if the request was inappropriate, the advice on how to respond is poor. It would be a good answer if the OP asked "How can I ensure that my boss never confides in me or trusts me with increased responsibility ever again?" – user45590 Mar 27 '17 at 9:20
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Your boss violated confidentiality by letting you know the amount involved. Asking you for your opinion on how your new colleague is working out is fine. Adding you to put a dollar value on it, unless that is explicitly part of your job, is not.

He should be told, gently but firmly, that this is not acceptable practice.in my experience that correction may be taken more seriously if it comes from above rather than below, but I grant that you may want to try handling it directly before getting others involved.

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    My boss is the owner so even if I contacted HR I don't think it will matter. And he didn't tell me the amount of the salary he just said that it is 25% "considering it high" from his side. And wanted to know my opinion. I think you are right about keeping myself out of their business but let is keep it cool and find an answer – Khalil Khalaf May 16 '16 at 2:48
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    OK, in a tiny company things can get weird. My advice would still be that unless you are a manager you have no business being involved in salary decisions... So forget that a number was ever mentioned, refuse to discuss it, and express an opinion only on how good an employee he or she is. At most, you might answer how much the work they've done so far has been worth to the company, if that can be reasonably determined. – keshlam May 16 '16 at 2:56
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    I don't get this at all, keeping salaries secret is only advantageous to your boss. If your boss were to decide to disclose them then it would be his loss (although in a few countries this is apparently confidential for the boss to disclose). – David Mulder May 16 '16 at 11:54
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    @DavidMulder "keeping salaries secret is only advantageous to your boss" Not necessarily. If you're a good employee who is compensated highly, it can be advantageous to you for that to remain between you and your boss. Even if salary discrepancies are completely justified by difference in value the employees in question bring to the company, that doesn't mean a less-highly-compensated coworker isn't going to become jealous anyway. This harms the entire company, you included, not just your boss. – reirab May 16 '16 at 21:39
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    The question of whether keeping salaries private is a good thing or not has been discussed in other Questions; we don't need to rehash it here. It is the policy in many companies to, at the very least, not release that info without the employee's direct consent, partly to prevent exactly the situation this question's author has been placed in. – keshlam May 16 '16 at 23:53

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