My New Job Did a Salary Bait and Switch, and I Want Out

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I was laid off toward the beginning of the pandemic. Shortly afterward, an old boss offered me a position I had held the year prior. The salary was $13,000 less than I had been making, but I was told we could re-evaluate in six to 12 months as they couldn’t offer more based on the uncertainty at the time.

I have now been back at the job for nearly a year and am miserable. There’s little room for growth, and I’m being tasked with responsibilities I both dislike and am not good at. In a recent meeting, I told my boss that I would like to start the conversation about upping my salary, and was told that would not be possible to discuss until fall as budgets were already finalized and approved — and that I would have to work on justifications for a raise in 2022. I want out of this job, but I agreed to stay for a while when I accepted it. At that time, nobody was hiring and I felt lucky, but now I feel depressed and anxious. I feel financially undervalued and like I could be miserable somewhere else making a lot more money. Am I a jerk for looking for a new job so soon?

— Anonymous, Oregon

No, you are not a jerk for protecting your interests and looking for a job in which you will be valued and respected. When employers lure you or anyone else into a new job with promises of revisiting or increasing your salary within a given period of time, they are lying. They are saying whatever they need to say to get you to accept their offer. When you accept a lower salary than you need or want, you are immediately at a disadvantage that is nearly impossible to overcome. The company knows you are willing to work for less than you deserve, and they will take advantage of that as long as they can.

You took this job for very understandable reasons; any paycheck is generally better than no paycheck. And you said you wouldn’t leave this new position for a while, but your employers said they would address your salary within a year at the most. If they didn’t keep their word, I am not sure why you feel obligated to keep yours. I don’t say that lightly. People should keep their word under reasonable circumstances, but these are not reasonable circumstances. Your employers will never love you. They will always look out for their own best interests. You do not owe them anything beyond doing your job well, for a fair wage. You’ve held up your part of the bargain and they have not. Good luck on your job hunt. I hope you find work that is fulfilling and interesting and pays you what you deserve.

I’m a “mature” (50-plus) woman trying to get back into the work force after five years of not having a “real job.” How do I convince a potential employer who sees solid middle management material in my résumé and experience that all I really want is an entry-level job, or maybe a step above, and I’m not trying to climb the corporate ladder anymore?

How do you convince a potential new employer or recruiter that middle management is unrewarding and unsatisfying, and you are looking for (at best) a lateral move or less work?

What’s wrong with just wanting to do a job? Why must everyone be expected to have aspirations of leadership?

Anonymous, Los Angeles

You ask really important questions here. American culture valorizes leadership, and assumes everyone wants to be a leader and no one wants to be led. And there is a lot of judgment when someone prefers the latter. But not everyone is ambitious. Not everyone wants to run the world, and there is no shame in that. If you simply want a job and a paycheck and to go home and mind your business, that’s fine and exactly what you should do.

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