To leave for more money – or not to leave

Dear Joan:

I have been at the same small company for nearly three years. Over time, my job has evolved quite a bit. I am currently the receptionist, office manager and marketing assistant.


After one year on the job, I made a proposal to my boss that I keep the office manager position, do more marketing and public relations, and less reception. I also asked for a substantial raise for the new position.


He said he couldn’t afford to hire another person to do reception and he couldn’t give me the raise I wanted, although I did get a small increase in pay. A few months ago, I revisited the proposal with him and made my request again. When I was met with the same answer, I indicated that I would be looking for another job. He said he didn’t want to see me go, but never counter-offered with anything to entice me to stay.


It’s been four months now, and I have not found a better job. I have been given more opportunities to use my marketing and PR skills and have begun to enjoy my current job again, however, the pay is barely enough to cover my monthly bills. If my boss would give me a pay increase, I would stop looking for another job and stay like he wants me to. My question is: how can I approach him without sounding like I was defeated in my job search and I am living beyond my means (which I’m not).



On the surface it seems so simple—your manager should give you more money for more responsibilities. But there’s usually more to it than that. Let’s examine this from both angles.


Congratulations on taking the initiative to propose adding responsibilities to your job. It’s a wise move. Marketing and PR are higher level skills than reception work and it will pay off in the future.


Your boss is smart enough to see that you are an ambitious and talented person who wants to grow and stay marketable. He knows he needs these functions done and can’t afford to hire a marketing and PR person to do them, so you both win.


I suspect he is telling you the truth when he tells you he can’t afford a raise right now, because when you said you were leaving he didn’t try to stop you. If he had the ability to give you what you wanted, he probably would have.


Even though you aren’t getting a significant salary increase, you are investing in your future earning potential. As long as you are still building your resume, it’s worth staying. However, don’t stop looking for a higher paying job, since you are struggling on this salary. 


For many small business owners, cash flow is a problem. If he is worrying about making payroll each week, he is going to be skittish about committing to adding an additional fixed cost that he may have trouble paying. However, if you continue to add considerable value, he may be penny wise and pound-foolish if he doesn’t give you more money. For example, if he were outsourcing marketing or PR, it would likely cost him far more than a bump in your salary. Or, if you left and he had to hire two people to replace you, he might quickly realize his mistake. He may change his mind if you begin to add so much value he realizes he couldn’t afford to lose you.


You’ve asked your boss for a raise twice and he knows it’s ever present on your mind. Continually asking him will only irritate him.


On the other hand, you might want to discuss a bonus plan rather than a salary increase. A bonus could be based upon some agreed upon criteria. For example, one criterion could be if new business increased over an agreed upon number. Another way to do it is to tie the bonus to meeting certain marketing or PR goals for the quarter. Or, perhaps he would pay you a flat amount for each new customer. The criteria would depend on the way the business works. This may be desirable for him because he would only be paying for results.


You would probably want the bonus to be paid out quarterly, since you are trying to meet your bills.


In the end, you are likely to be the winner since your resume will either land you a bigger job, or you will demonstrate so much value to your current business your boss will be able to pay you what you’re worth.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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