The Freedom of F-you Money

I have been working in my current job for a few years now. For the majority of my time in my position, I have had little to no interest in moving up the “corporate” (non-profit) ladder due to a number of factors, one being that the job is stressful enough by itself, least adding on more responsibilities and stress. To clarify, it’s not that I don’t think I can successfully complete the tasks or lead a team well. However, I have recently been giving more weight to what I want in life and what will make me happy (or, in this case, less stressed) rather than what is expected of me. So, I had no urge to take on a leadership position. However, one such position opened up recently, and due to some changes in the organization I decided to apply for the position.

As I was the most qualified candidate (I’m not trying to toot my own horn here – I literally, by job definition, am the most qualified), I was granted a job interview, which went fairly well. This was my first time interviewing for a job within the same organization for which I was already employed, so it was a slightly strange experience being interviewed by my boss. Nevertheless, I felt good about my prospects, so when the HR rep reached out to me a few days later I expected to hear an offer. She asked to talk to me via phone right then and there and I instead requested to talk a bit later in the afternoon, as I was finishing up a meeting and hadn’t yet eaten lunch for the afternoon. We agreed on a time and she rung me up a couple of hours later. The following sums up my first ever experience with F-you money.

The Offer

As expected, during my call the HR rep offered me the promotion. She then went over the salary, the start date, and asked me if I’d like to continue with the process – in other words, accept the job. After asking for clarification on a detail she mentioned, I expressed my enthusiasm for the position and asked for the deadline to think over the decision. She agreed I could take some time, and said the deadline would be later that day at 5pm. To be clear, we were having this discussion at 3:54pm. Did I also mention that from 4pm-5pm I would be participating in a task in which HR had asked me to participate, meaning I would have a grand total of six minutes to decide? The HR rep welcomed me to take more time than 5pm if I needed it, but clarified that if I didn’t decide by 5pm that same day I would not be eligible for a slightly higher salary when the new year started and all salaries were bumped up due to organization-wide raises. I told her that was fine (it wasn’t) but that I’d still like to take more than an hour to think about the job; I then asked her to send me the information in writing so I could review it. She explained that the short deadline was why she had tried to talk to me earlier in the day (which would have granted me a whole three hours!) and that also HR typically didn’t provide written statements for promotions, only for new hires. The whole situation was sketchy enough, until she then repeatedly asked me my reasoning for requesting more time to think about the offer. “Is it the salary?” she wanted to know, “Or are you just not sure if you’re interested in the position anymore?” I repeatedly explained to her that I needed more time to think about any big decision. After stating multiple times I would not have an answer for her later that day, we ended with her stating she’d still call me at 5pm “to check-in.”

Money Makes The World Go ‘Round

To be honest, the salary she offered was not what I wanted. She explained away the lack of a decent salary increase as

It’s basically the same job, you’re just doing a bit more.

I’ve talked before about how I took a $12,000 salary cut to start at my current position (with an organization we’ll call Company A), while at the same time fielding an offer to return to a previous job (let’s call them Company B) for an even higher salary than they had previously been paying me. But I didn’t want my old job; I knew there was a lot I could learn from Company A, both professionally and personally. So I swallowed the salary cut and some pride, and continued to work in the gig economy on nights and weekends to supplement some of my lost income. Prior to accepting my current position I had tried to negotiate the salary that was offered, presenting very compelling evidence for my salary proposition. I also ran my salary negotiations by my white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied male partner, as we know that being a white male entitles you to 17% higher pay than your white female counterparts in this country (and the pay gap is even greater for women of color). Unfortunately, there was no movement on HR’s part toward my salary negotiations and I ultimately accepted their original offer.

Moving back to current day, if I were to accept what I like to call the “six-minute-decision promotion,” I’d still be a few thousand dollars short of the annual salary I wanted when I started at my current company, which was still several thousand short of what Company B had been paying me.

When five o’clock rolled around and I had not heard from the HR rep I sent her a message repeating my desire for more time to consider the decision, and again asked for the details in writing. She then called me and backpedaled on some of what she had said earlier, maintaining that of course I had not been granted much time to think about the offer. She had talked to my boss and the head of HR and they had decided they would grant me the organization-wide raise on top of the salary offered for the promotion, even if I didn’t accept the promotion that same day…. how considerate.

F-you Money

So where does F-you money come into this? This is the first time I’m regularly tracking my total worth and know I’m financially stable enough to push back whenever a crappy financial situation is thrown at me. Prior to F-you money, I would have felt pressured to make a decision about a new job, new job responsibilities, and a new salary in six minutes. Prior to F-you money I would have likely accepted the new salary even though it was much less than I wanted because I would have bought-in to the belief that

At least it’s more money than they’re currently paying me!

Now I am able to advocate for a fair amount of time to think over a significant professional decision. Now I can consider the extra job responsibilities and stresses of the job and decide whether the concurrent salary increase would outweigh the negatives. Now I have more freedom to walk away from something that does not suit me and is not in my best interest. Now I can focus on myself. I know I am a good worker. I know that, both as an organization and in the larger health care field we are short-staffed, and that I will not be fired for turning down a promotion if it doesn’t come with a commensurate salary increase. And even if, in some unjust situation, I were to be let go because of turning down a promotion, I would have enough savings to be perfectly okay.

What are your HR/salary negotiation horror stories?

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