Shockingly, this is not click bait. And this time, I’m not talking about a part time role…
I am underpaid. While I have believed this to be the case for some time now, being underpaid during a global pandemic is an awkward position to occupy. Unlike folks who lost their income or their lives, I have remained employed and healthy. For that reason, despite my
belief knowledge that I am underpaid, I was prepared to gratefully accept my meager wages (yes, I understand that my salary isn’t terrible but this is also a role for which a master’s degree is required). That was until I learned that my new colleague (who I already really like) gets paid almost $7,000.00 more than I do….
Before you say, “But AP…” I would kindly ask you to hush-it. I sat on the search committee for that role and know that my new colleague and I have similar educational backgrounds and professional experience. However, it wasn’t until my new colleague and I were having a candid chat about how little we both get paid that they let their figure “slip.” I was shocked. While I had an idea that they made more than I do, I don’t know what it was about hearing them say it out-loud that made me so angry…and hurt. I had directly communicated to my boss during several one-on-one conversations over the past year that I believed my role warranted a salary adjustment. The department had increased the role title from a coordinator to an assistant director without a commensurate change in salary band. My boss, who loathes confrontation, continually said complimentary things about my work and endeavored to make me feel “heard” while demurring on the actual issue of salary.
So on Tuesday, after that candid chat with my colleague, I sat down to calculate the true cost of quitting my job. I calculated how much I would have to earn an hour to replace my current salary and included benefits like health insurance, employer 401K and HSA contributions, and death/disability insurance. After I came up with the hourly or daily rate I would need to stay afloat, I decided it seemed “doable” and concluded that it wouldn’t be so very difficult to find another role at my current salary. Then, I sent my boss (who I like a great deal) an email with the subject line: Planned Resignation. In the email, I explained that I was planning to resign but that I wanted to speak with him about how I could depart without causing serious damage to the programs I manage. Unsurprisingly, he schedule a one-on-one with me for an hour later.
I went into that meeting a bit sad but comfortable with the decision I had made. My boss also seemed sad and asked if it was about my salary. I was honest and told him it was but also offered that a new role would give me an opportunity to continue my professional development. It was at this time that he disclosed that he had recently gone to his boss to inquire about both a bonus and a salary adjustment for me. And that while he could not disclose the amount, that his boss had approved both. I was…shocked. And sad. We spent the next ten minutes talking about how much respect we have for one another and we ended with him encouraging me to think about it over a couple of days.
It didn’t take me a couple of days. With some of my anger now diffused, I did a bit more investigating and learned that the unvested portion of my 401K was in excess of $12,000.00. Which meant that if I left prior to the vestment in the Spring of 2022, University B would take back its $12,000.00 in contributions. Ummmm…no. I also spent a bit of time thinking about the other people with whom I work that would be negatively impacted by my abrupt departure, the community I support, and the students I advise. With that $12,000.00 being a significant factor, I concluded that two weeks notice did not seem like enough time.
On Wednesday, my boss and I met again. I thanked him for the grace he had extended me and asked him if he would be amenable to me staying on until the end of the academic year. It would give me enough time to transition to my next place in life, for my 401K to become fully vested, for me to wrap up loose programming ends, and enable them to conduct a candidate search during the height of hiring season (I have a somewhat specialized role). He said that he was glad to have a bit more time with me and encouraged me to keep him apprised of my plans as the year progresses. And that was that…for now.
There is obviously a lot more to this story, a lot more to the relationship I have with my boss, and a lot more going on with where I am at this moment… The only thing of which I am very certain is that I just gave myself a deadline. A deadline by which I have to have a new plan. And instead of feeling scared or anxious, I feel relieved. I have become comfortable and complacent in my current role, and scared to rock the boat less I disrupt my predictable monthly student loan debt payments. However, that isn’t me. That has never been me. I have deadline. I have a goal. And I am prepared to do whatever it takes to meet it.