I have been working with my current employer for about two years now. I filled in a specific niche role, which has since expanded to become an important part of our software department. I not only completed all the projects tasked to me over the year, but completed nearly an additional 50% more projects than I was tasked, with excellent results. So, I felt it prudent to request a substantial salary increase (~20%).

Unfortunately, I'm told that I already earn the maximum amount my company offers for my current role, and they can't pay more. I countered with the suggestion that if that's the case, I should be promoted, if that's what's required to advance my financial goals. The company has higher echelons of technical roles (ie: senior engineering specialist, principal engineer, etc) and less technical roles (ie: team lead, 50-50 split of technical and non-technical work, etc) that earn more than I do at my current role (senior engineer).

Being brutally honest, I plan to leave this company because the work is too easy, I'm not learning anything new, and the pay should be increasing more, considering what I bring to the table. I've tried to bring up these concerns with my boss without sounding like a "flight risk", but it seems that the only way I can demand a suitable raise is with a written employment offer in hand. At that point, it's already too late, IMHO, since it's not a raise, but a counter-offer I'm working with. I never accept counter-offers, since the well is effectively poisoned at that point, and I'll likely be overlooked for future advancement.

I am in late-stage negotiations with a separate company where I have been able to negotiate a whopping 30% increase over my current salary. A few months back, I was able to pull off a 4% raise, but given that local inflation rates are at 2.5% and the cost of housing is exorbitant, only 1.5% of the pay increase was merit based. I do know that my manager went to extraordinary lengths to make a case for increasing my pay substantially, but the idea was shot down by the higher-ups.

Is there some kind of non-generic reason for leaving I could provide my boss with? It seems he's done everything he can to help me, and the company I will be working for has a few employees there that used to work for my current company, so I'm sure gossip will flow. I don't want to say something like "not enough pay", and having that somehow be known to my future employer. Also, I don't want to screw over my old boss with something like "job was too easy".

Is there some way to re-phrase this as something that doesn't make me sound money hungry (gotta pay the bills) or makes my boss look bad?

  • 22
    I don't think you have to give any specific reasoning why you're quitting. Just say you found another opportunity, and you wish them luck in the future. Leave it at that.
    – New-To-IT
    May 24, 2016 at 15:00
  • 2
    @New-To-IT Agreed. One can provide honest feedback if they have a particular love for the company or one's former colleagues, and think that these suggestions will improve retention or general policy at the company. The desired impact will to company decisions will likely not occur unless enough people quit for the same reason. Any information you give can come back to bite you. There is no strategic benefit to you yourself by providing a reason for your departure, and potential pitfalls to doing so. Part ways politely and professionally, and don't provide anything more than necessary by law.
    – Cloud
    May 24, 2016 at 15:13
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    I think you should be brutally honest, for the sake of your (former) coworkers. Your employer needs to understand the consequences of not adequately compensating employees.
    – Lumberjack
    May 24, 2016 at 15:16
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    It seems he's done everything he can to help me...I don't want to screw over my old boss - Whatever you say regarding why you're leaving, you could mention that you're sorry to leave a great manager behind during the exit interview. At the very least that would make it clear that he's not the reason you're leaving.
    – BSMP
    May 24, 2016 at 17:19
  • 1
    My father told me long ago that changing jobs is the only real way to get a raise. This is known and expected, at least by reasonable people. Old Saying: "You don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate." But the only time you can negotiate is when you are being hired. And that's the news from Lake Wobegon.
    – user37746
    May 24, 2016 at 20:05

4 Answers 4


I think you should tell your boss that lack of promotion and pay increases contributed to your decision to leave.

Your boss would be able to say to upper management "I told you we needed to pay Big Red more, you refused, and so Big Red left.", perhaps expressed more diplomatically. That would be useful ammunition the next time the boss is recommending a pay increase or promotion for a team member. Handing them that ammunition is a fitting reward for going to "extraordinary lengths" to try to get you a substantial increase.

Making up some other reason, downplaying pay, on the other hand, may lead to upper management questioning your boss' judgement that a substantial increase was appropriate, weakening their hand the next time a similar issue comes up. Upper management would be able to counter with "Big Red would have left anyway, for reason X.".

The negotiations leading to a 30% increase have probably already given your future employer the idea that pay matters to you.

  • 35
    I love the suggestion that you should tell your boss why you are leaving in the third person. "Big Red Wanted more money. Big Red getting more money, Fool!" May 24, 2016 at 15:57
  • 8
    @ObsidianPhoenix I actually meant it in terms of what the boss will be able to say if upper management lowballs the next round of pay increases. May 24, 2016 at 16:10
  • 10
    @ObsidianPhoenix Lol, referring to yourself in the third person. Pretty sure that's a good way to get some extra mental health days.
    – Cloud
    May 24, 2016 at 16:17
  • 4
    The comments showed my answer could be misunderstood, so I've clarified it. May 24, 2016 at 16:23
  • 32
    @coburne understands your answer perfectly
    – coburne
    May 24, 2016 at 18:41

There is nothing to gain from unfiltered honesty in an exit interview. If the company could not address your concerns while you were employed with them, chances are slim that they will change anything based on a short talk upon your departure.

On the other hand, what you do say in an exit interview can hurt you. People can be offended when a co-worker leaves, and negative comments can come across as sour grapes, even if they are well-intended. Your remarks can work their way across the company like a game of telephone until suddenly you're the one who's throwing everyone under the bus.

It can be a small world in one's particular industry. People move around from job to job. No good reason to risk future opportunities to give advise to a company that may or may not really deserve it.

  • 11
    I would add that the exit interview is for the company, not the employee leaving. Saying as little as possible is the best course of action. May 24, 2016 at 17:23
  • 1
    Yep, best to just keep your head down on focus on where your career is going, not where it's been.
    – Kilisi
    May 24, 2016 at 19:25
  • "It can be a small world in one's particular industry" and "There is nothing to gain from being honest in an exit interview" seem to be contradictory, in case where there's something you can say that is both honest and that benefits your ex-colleagues somehow. Of course, the same could be argued if there's a lie you could tell to do someone a favour that might help you down the line: the fact that in this case it happens to be true has nothing directly to do with whether you benefit from saying it ;-) May 24, 2016 at 21:35
  • @SteveJessop thanks, changed that a little bit. I wasn't suggesting that the OP lie in the exit interview, but rather focus on the positives and omit anything that might be seen as negative.
    – mcknz
    May 24, 2016 at 22:31

You can just say that you found an opportunity that better aligns with your career goals and leave it at that. You can mention the pay as another reason if you want to but your boss probably suspects it anyway.

  • 1
    Agreed, accentuate the positives. You say your current job is too easy and you're not learning anything new - if you get drawn into a conversation about why you're leaving, focus on the new challenges and opportunities for professional growth your new role offers. Don't badmouth your current employer, and don't talk about money if you're concerned that doing so will make you look bad. May 24, 2016 at 23:45

It sounds like you're still in the process of getting a job. Be sure you have a job and offer in hand before turning in your notice.

Let me first say that don't be surprised or offended if you turn in your 2 weeks and nobody seems to care. Chances are they'll just say goodbye, good luck and do the standard 2 weeks and find a new employee.

With that said, if they do happen to ask why then simply say you wish there were more opportunities to grow your career. I very much doubt they'd ask that or even care. The exit interview tend to generally ask what you found favorable about the company, etc just to document any trend in people leaving. Leaving because of low pay is generally not something worthy of HR's time as that is common and especially if they do a good market analysis in the area and based on your reviews within the company.

  • Personnel is one of the only costs a company can directly control. Thus, it is the one that will be controlled. They keep people on as long as they can. Paying to find someone new is a gamble, not a certainty, until you actually leave.
    – user37746
    May 24, 2016 at 20:10

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