Should I be insulted?

Where to begin…

I got into the office a bit late today because I stayed fairly late yesterday evening to support new student orientation activities. After getting through my inbox, I noticed an email roughly entitled “FYI.” This correspondence was from my boss and the Outlook preview gave me reason to assume it was about compensation…so I procrastinated reading it. Finally, around noon I could take it no longer and opened it. The email itself was gracious but brief and directed me to open the attached letter. The letter, also from my boss but copying his boss and human resources, very briefly stated that as a result of my hard work on several projects, my boss, his boss, and the division had decided to award me a bonus of $1,500.00. Additionally, my salary would also increase by 2.5%. After rereading the letter several times, the overwhelming feeling that accosted me was…disappointment.

Hours later, I realize the disappointment arises from three distinct places… Firstly, is the actual amounts themselves. As a result of having a friend in the same division, whose boss is a lot more upfront in discussions about compensation, I know the spot bonus range and know that my bonus is the lower end. Secondly, where the letter states the reasons I am receiving the bonus, it does not mention a significant amount of non-role specific departmental labor I have performed over the past year and a half. Work that was the responsibility of another staff member who did not complete it before leaving our department. Work that was essential to our department’s performance. From my perspective, not only am I not being compensated for this labor that no one else wanted to perform (we are talking about weeks of work for an assignment that had university presidential level visibility) but I also feel like my boss probably isn’t giving me credit for the work outside of our office. That is, I think he is still allowing people (i.e. his boss) to assume that my departing colleague completed the work. Because, if they didn’t complete that work, what did they do? As I shared previously, my boss is incredibly inspiring and a visionary but he is also a bad manager of people.

And thirdly, and I feel this is most significant, I am disappointed that my boss tried to present the pitiful 2.5% increase as a salary adjustment. The same departmental friend also let me know that everyone in the division (including my lovely new colleague who earns $7K more than I do) is being awarded the 2.5% increase. The increase wasn’t tied to my individual work but was awarded by the division head to everyone for the rough year. Framing it as an increase that was tied to my work seemed…dishonest and a bit disrespectful. I would much rather have had my boss just tell me that he couldn’t get me a salary adjustment. But he hates confrontation, and delivering bad news, so I am not entirely shocked he decided to frame the increase in this manner.

Ultimately, I am in a place where there are a lots of questions, including the title of this post, running through my mind even if not very much has actually changed.

12 thoughts on “Should I be insulted?

  1. Hi. Can you go above your boss and perhaps speak to HR? I do no think that you want to make waves, but since your boss isn’t very direct…does he have a boss that you can go to? Like someone should know what you have been doing.


    • Hello Blissfully in the Shadows 🙂

      I could speak to HR but I don’t know what that would accomplish… Similarly I don’t know that anything more would be accomplished going to his boss. I could go to the University ombudsman, however, I don’t know exactly what my grievance would be? One of the things about my boss that is so frustrating is that he likes to operate in that gray space… For example, in the past there has been a weekend activity that he expects us to support but he has never explicitly said we have to attend. Instead he says things like, “I would like us to have a presence at…” or “I would like us to support…” It’s frustrating because there is a clear expectation that we do the work but he didn’t actually tell us we HAD to do it. I have recently pointed out that I think this is unfair and a bit pernicious because it makes it seems like we are “volunteering” or “choosing” to perform this weekend work when really his expectation is why we do it. I think that ultimately these vague expectations would make it hard to argue to make a case before HR or the ombudsman.


  2. Honestly I’m angry at your boss. The fact that he sugarcoated the 2.5% increase as something more than it was instead of being completely honest with you makes me question what else was he dishonest about.

    It also makes me question how much he really fought for higher compensation for you. If he felt he did everything he could and this was the best they could give you, then he would’ve been more straightforward about it. Just seems like he’s trying to pacify you to keep you from quitting but still not compensating you for your full worth.

    So let the job search begin! You deserve better!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Ding, ding, ding! They are being incredibly short sighted. It would cost them far less to give me even a meaningful marginal raise than it would to hire and train a new person (and this does not assume a similar skill set).

        As for the boss…I figured it out after work for him less than a year. He is a good “speaker” and is “inspiring” but he is a bad manager of people and entirely non-confrontational. This is less of a problem when you are a worker bee but becomes a much bigger headache as you move into a manager role where managing people is like 90% of your job. I am polite and tactful but I am a very direct person. I have told my boss that I love him as a person but that I think he is a bad manager of people. He commented that it is feedback he has received from his best friend and other peers. But given his age in life and where he is in his career, I doubt he will change, or much will change. It’s really just time for me to move on. It has been time for me to move on.


  3. I agree with everything Avery said, and I think it will be good for your finances and your self worth to find a new position where you are paid what you’re worth.

    I also wanted to link to this video someone recommended to me. It’s about salary negotiation, and it’s specifically targeted to women (it’s produced by the American Association of University Women). One of the things that resonated with me is their point that when you negotiate a fair salary for yourself, you are also helping the other women who come after you or who work alongside you by closing the pay gap between men and women, at least for your position. It’s at It’s actually considered an online course, but in any case, it’s free.

    I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this irritating stupidity!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are absolutely right Ellen. Over time, accepting less than you deserve does something to your sense of self worth.

      Thank you for the video. I will definitely be watching it. You are absolutely right about what it means for other women in similar positions within the department, division, and at the university. I think I have decided that if they “can’t” pay me more, then I “can’t” perform any more non-role specific labor. “Unfortunately, I can’t…” is going to become a part of my vocabulary.

      Thank you for your support and the resources, Ellen.


  4. OMG. Yeah, that is insulting. Probably not intentional exactly — but still. How important is that $11K to you? Maybe you should just see if you can get a better job now and leave. (Or would that disrupt the med school application process too much?) Anyway, if you do stay, you should absolutely stay on autopilot: only stuff that’s in your job description and as little of it as possible.


    • $12K and…IDK, it feels like if I walk away from it then I am losing one of the ways I was compensated for my labor, you know? There is a lot going on elsewhere in my life, including with respect to graduate school, that makes leaving at this very moment less than ideal. So, for the moment, I’m going to do exactly what you suggest and move to autopilot. This week I turned down joining a “brainstorming session” for a committee I’m not on. I thought about it and I was like, “Wait, you’re not asking me to join the committee (which would result in me getting some credit or utility out of sharing my ideas) you just want me to join a brainstorming session and essentially do your job?” Yea…no. They are entitled to pay me what they think someone in my role ought to be compensated. And moving forward, I will limit myself to doing the work assigned to someone in my role.

      As always, thank you for the support C.


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