Employee Relations

Should you threaten to quit to get a raise?

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I work as an Executive Assistant and a Human Resource Officer (kinda). I am just about to graduate with a BS in Psych with an emphasis in HR. I have been gunning for an early promotion because I have cleared my career ladder (completed/accomplished all requirements at top of my career ladder) and I have taken on two other roles, HR and Office Manager. I thought this would be something that would get me promoted early on, especially with the fact that I only received positive feedback about my work from my boss.

There is another person in my office that was given an early promotion but not for any reason other than she said she was given another job offer and was going to leave if she couldn’t get more here. Note that she doesn’t have additional experience, it’s minimal, and she has no degree. She also has not taken on any other work; she sticks to what she was given when she first started.

I have since presented my boss with my case for early promotion; I’m graduating, I’ve taken on two additional job titles, and I have been giving great work to her and the company. She has since told me that I will need to wait until I graduate before I can see anything similar to the promotion that my coworker received. This to me is unfair, and it’s really weighing on me to a point where I’m not sure if I should stick around.

I’d like to question her on this, but I’m not sure how to approach her about this… Why can my coworker get an early promotion with having taken on no extra work, no additional experience or education but I cannot no matter how hard I work? Her approach to things like this (and many things) is very inconsistent. The rules and getting away with things are very different for everyone.

How should I handle this?

First, great job! It seems like you’re working hard and doing everything right. And here is where the real world smacks you in the face: sometimes managers stink.

The whole key to your situation can be summed up with this phrase about your co-worker: “she said she was given another job offer and was going to leave if she couldn’t get more here.”

Your manager is managing reactively instead of proactively. She’s not looking out for what would be best for the business in the long run, but rather what makes her life more comfortable right now. Does she want to replace your co-worker? No, of course not. Hiring is a pain. Training is time-consuming. So, she’s willing to hand out a promotion to keep this employee around.

You, on the other hand, appear to be committed to this company. Your boss also knows you won’t quit until after you get your degree, because going to school and working is extra tricky, and who has time to find a job on top of that? Plus, arrange a new job schedule around your classes. Your boss, I would be willing to bet, is confident that no matter what she says, you are going to stick around.

And this is bad management. I’m not saying you should be given a promotion right away–I have no idea if you should or not, as I’m not involved in your business and can’t evaluate your performance. It’s possible that you’ve taken on too much and are doing a haphazard job of it all. It’s also possible that you’re absolutely brilliant, as well. I can’t say. But, it’s lousy management to give raises and promotions to people based solely on their desire to leave the company.

What your manager should have said to your co-worker: “A new opportunity sounds exciting! We’d love to keep you, but you’ll be in the same position and with the same salary. Please let me know what you want to do.” In fact, your manager should have said this even if she was a fabulous employee. Why? Because counter offers generally simply delay a termination. They don’t stop them.

Now, what should you do? Honestly, your first priority is to finish that degree. Once that’s on your resume, you are on much firmer ground. Then, once you have that degree, start looking for a new job. If your boss offers you a promotion, then that’s great! But, even if, you’ve already learned that this manager isn’t a great one. If the job is one you love, a bad boss is okay. But, definitely look for something new.

You’ll have a shiny new degree, plus lots of experience in your new area. Make sure your resume reflects the actual work you do and the things you have accomplished–not just your official job description. Find a great new job, and then leave. And your manager will be puzzled. “Why did Jane leave?” And everyone but her will know that it’s because she failed to manage properly.

About Suzanne Lucas

Suzanne Lucas is a freelance writer who spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. You can follow her on Twitter @RealEvilHRLady, or read her blog, Evil HR Lady.