Are you happy with your compensation?

I have a love/hate relationship with my job. Well, maybe that’s not completely accurate. I love my job. What I meant to say was I have a love/hate relationship with my salary.

I love my salary because it is completely sufficient for the life Girl Ninja and I live. It allows us to do fun things, but is not so large enough that I lose grip with reality and live a life of luxury. What’s more, I really do believe I am compensated fairly for the work that is expected of me.

I’m annoyed by my salary for one reason and one reason only. It’s not going anywhere. For the last two years, I have been officially rated one of the best employees on my entire team. In the private sector this might translate in to a potential raise, or perhaps a promotion if repeated year after year.

The government, however, doesn’t operate that way. My salary is determined by Congress and there is nothing, I, my supervisor, or my agency can do about it. I could literally be the best worker in my entire agency (I’m talking tens of thousands of people), but I would make the exact same salary as John Doe who wreaks of mediocrity.

So it’s not so much that I feel like I should be paid more, it’s just that I feel like I should be paid more than John if  I am a better employee than John. Likewise, I should also be paid less than John if he is consistently outperforming me. My inability to have even a small potential influence on my compensation, no matter how I hard I work, bothers me.

How about you? Are you happy with your compensation? Do you feel overpaid or underpaid for what you do? If you were the boss, how would you change things in your office?

Favorite Nail: The thing about quotes

44 thoughts on “Are you happy with your compensation?

  1. I work for a large energy company. While I do get pay rises and promotions, it is nothing like the extremity of bankers/lawyers – and we get no bonuses.
    I think that it is relative. The highest earners are expected to work ridiculous hours and the best almost always do. I believe that while you are not rewarded the same way you might be in a non-government organisation, your job allows you the time to follow PDITF and Manteresting – without being so stressed/tired that you wouldn’t physically have the energy.

  2. I wasn’t too happy with my salary for 3 reasons. 1 was because it below standard rates, 2 was because during tax season when I get paid for all the extra time I put in (even if it is at straight pay) I was getting “cheated” again, and 3 was because I was going to be paid the same amount that I earned the prior two years, which meant this would be the third year in a row with no raise. That was until last week when I got a nice 12% raise. Unfortunately that only looks good on the surface. If I had been getting half of that % raise each year, it would be higher, but hey, at least I finally got something! Better than not having a salary at all right now.

  3. I’m happy with my compensation. I have good benefits and a decent salary. However, once I get my MBA, I will gladly take the pay raise 🙂

  4. I’ll never forgive myself for being successfully lowballed when I was hired at my current company. I love the job, but the pay is just not competitive, and management are really tightening the strings, so I have no hopes of earning close to market rates here. At least I know (from job postings and speaking to colleagues) it’s organisation-wide – nothing personal!

    I agree about performance-related pay, and I also think I would be much more happy with my remuneration if I didn’t regularly see similar jobs being posted for £10k more. Lesson learned!

  5. My undergraduate degree prepared me for a very underpaid profession. My graduate degree will (hopefully) prepare me for a more moderate income. I am afraid of low-balling my own salary when I finish school because I have adjusted to life on a much lower income and any offer is going to look like a huge raise to me…

  6. Same situation as you – govt worker, love job, happy with salary … but I took salary cut to come here and no raises for 3 years = about 15 k loss per year now. My benefits are better – but I’ll be behind my peers when I get back to private sector.

  7. I am quite happy with what I make for the work I do…I feel like I am paid a fair salary. That said, at least at my big company, the differences in pay increases for a high performer and a regular Joe are small. Typically an average raise here for a satisfactory rating is 2.5% and high performers get 3%. All that tells me is I better find some sort of satisfaction in something other than being financially rewarded, ha ha.

  8. It depends on the month for me. Some leave me feeling underpaid, and others overpaid. I know peers that make more than me, and many more that make less. I really can’t complain as I’m afforded the option of doing everything that makes me happy at the moment.

  9. I am paid salary. It is my first job right after Grad School, and I started in August 2011. I had a number in mind that I would have worked for and I half expected to earn, and the offer I got was about $5,000 more than I expected. I’d say i’m on average for my position and industry.

  10. Ninja, it seems that your frustration comes from the fact that there are others who do very little but get compensated equally for what you excel at doing.

    You can thank all the union bosses/lawyers for that one.

    • I have a love/hate relationship with my union. It provides me with great benefits but it does protect the lazy people. The union does protect against exploitation of workers. Not everyone has the luxury of jumping from a bad job to a good job so easily. The corporations that I deal with want to squeeze us as much as possible all the time and that does not feel very good. Then again, I do feel like my union is in “cahoots” with my company, so not totally in our best interest. Coruption is everywhere……

      • Unions served a TREMENDOUS service to the worker decades ago when they were originally founded. Now that there are laws (federal,state,and local) to protect workers, the need for unions has dropped to zero (in my opinion). Unions now exist simply to sustain themselves and for power. The unions make everyone believe that ‘without us’ you would only make 10 cents an hour and you would work 900 hours a week. This is laughable of course, but some of the folks I work with are in unions and that is very representative of their mindset.

        Thank the Lord I am in a ‘right to work’ state.

        To all Union-ites out there, wouldn’t it be great to be able to negotiate your OWN salary with your employer based on YOUR work performance; versus some paper pusher (lawyer) determining what you and all your co-workers will make, regardless of your work performance?

  11. I also work for the feds as a contractor and since they keep messing around with my contract and just extending it and not awarding it to a new firm I have not gotten a raise the last two years, and so far this year I have zero vacation days. When they finally award the contract or extend it again I’ll at least get vacation, but I might have to take it all in the span of 2 months or lose it.

  12. I see your point and agree with you that you should be entitled to an increase in compensation if your performance is high. But you are approaching very dangerous territory when you say that you deserve higher compensation because you outperform someone else. Pointing to comparison for promotions will poison your soul, ninja! Beware!
    Instead, your case should be the other stuff you mention- your happy customers, your consistently high performance, etc. Don’t compare yourself to others- compare yourself to you. If you are growing consistently, then you should be promoted or compensated or cyborged or whatever.
    So, I agree with you that not being compensated sucks. And I feel compassion for you that you are stuck where you are. I’m just saying that you need to be careful about your underlying reasons for feeling stuck. It’s not John Doe Mediocre that’s your enemy in this case. Hate the game, not the players!

  13. One thing I hear a lot about government jobs is “benefits are great, but pay isn’t so hot”. We need to get the idea of pay and benefits being separate out of our heads. Pay is simply one of the “benefits” of a job, and our focus should be on total compensation, not separate benefits.

    So if your pay is holding steady and benefits haven’t gone down, you got a raise. Health care is becoming more expensive rapidly (and will continue thanks to lack of tort reform and Obamacare). If you have a good retirement plan and good health care coverage you might easily be outperforming the private sector in total compensation. I’m not saying YOU in particular are, just that it’s not so cut and dried as comparing salaries.

    • “So if your pay is holding steady and benefits haven’t gone down, you got a raise.”

      Except for inflation, of course – if you’re being paid exactly the same year-on-year your salary is falling by 1-5% in real terms.

      I agree wrt tort reform but I’m pretty sure “Obamacare” is bringing overall costs down, rather than vice versa!

      • How would Obamacare lower costs? More people covered, less restrictions, more regulation, those things don’t decrease costs…

        If you count the governments contributions as “free”, then maybe it will eventually, but where are those trillions coming from? From taxpayers. So if you pay taxes, then your “costs” will go up one way or another. Either you will pay more for insurance, you will pay more on your bills, or you will pay more taxes. Many people will do all three. That isn’t a matter of being for or against Obamacare, it’s a matter of watching the cost of health care climb. It’s why big health care companies were on board with Obamacare, they saw the huge increase in bucks it would bring. More covered people means more spent at their clinics. The debate on whether that is good or not is a different question, I’m not in support of the status quo.

        Regarding my quote, you forgot about the increase in health care costs. Say you get paid $50,000 per year and the government pays $12,000 per year for your healthcare. Next year you get paid the same $50,000, but the government pays $14,000 for your healthcare. Your compensation went up $2,000, even though you didn’t see a thing. That was my point. Whether it beats inflation is a question for all raises, whether it’s in salary or benefits.

  14. I’m happy… though I’m student and hardly make anything. I’m looking at jobs, though, so hopefully I’ll be more happy with my income. Ideally, my compensation will include healthcare, retirement benefits, etc. etc. etc.

  15. Ninja’s compensation situation is poking a hole in the favorite American fantasy that if you just work hard enough, you’ll get ahead and earn what you “deserve.”

    But (to quote myself from two weeks ago here) there is really no “overpaid” or “unpaid.” People’s incomes are pure and simple a matter of what others are willing to pay, and this applies whether you’re Justin Bieber, a federal agent with black bars over your eyes, a cashier at (let’s not go there), a CEO, Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin, a unicorn, or an entrepreneur selling a product or service. Same reaction to people who complain they’re not being paid “what they’re worth” (which is of course always more than they’re earning), or not being “paid enough to do this job.” Unless you can convince an employer to pay you more, that’s your income and you either have to live with it or find someone willing to compensate you more favorably.

    Life ain’t fair, and it’s no more fair in the private sector than the public. What generally happens is that businesses pay ever-larger salaries to attract promising younger workers, while older workers with longevity see pay raises (if any) that barely keep pace with inflation. Ninja’s federal situation, however, is similar to that of any union. When I was teaching college back in the early ’80s, pay raises were negotiated by our chapter of the American Assocation of University Professors, and everyone got the same percentage across the board no matter how productive, hard-working, or respected you were.

      • All the more reason why Ninja and others like him might be happier where they are rather than thinking the grass is greener. I’ve had five jobs over my lifetime – two small companies, a Fortune 500, a non-profit, and a stint teaching college. I didn’t get tenure at the college, after 2.5 years I got fired from the Fortune 500, and I’m still going strong at one of the small companies. But nothing compares with the sheer brutality of that large corporation.

        • Also the ultimate benefit from his post is that it does push one out of their comfort zone to pursue greater opportunities. Ninja’s Manteresting is a great example of this. Even this blog which generates about 1k a month impresses me. I also have to admit my union job makes me a little lazy to pursue better opportunities. Although the disparity of my income to Ninja’s is pushing me to do more.

  16. I’m a social worker, so needless to say I’m overworked and underpaid. I think I’m pretty badass at my job, and if my client feedback and supervisor reviews are any indication, other people think that too. Getting my Master’s definitely helped me inch up a bit in pay grade, but for the work I do, I definitely feel I should be making more. I didn’t sign up for this for the money, but I have to confess that I’m a little peeved that when I eventually go for my PsyD, I’m going to be doing essentially the same work for probably twice the income. Logic, where art thou? #unappreciatedpublicservant

    • Quite possible the only industry that I will agree is underpaid is the social worker industry. They make almost nothing, yet the work they do is inspirational. Keep at it, Shelly. You may not hear the praises very often, but there are a lot of people who believe in what you do.

  17. I’ve never worked for a company that gave true merit raises. Sure, they were called “merit” increases, but everyone got the same bump in pay. We were hardly all similar performers. These days, wages are plain stagnant for just about everyone. If my husband were an independent contractor, he could make a lot more money, but without benefits or more than a 3-6 month contract. For now, we’re giving up the cash for more stability, especially with health care costs so high.

  18. I’m happy with my current salary, benefits, profit sharing, etc., and I feel I make a decent dollar for the job I do. That being said, I will admit, last year at about this time (raise time), my Supervisor (who reports to our Head Office in the US) said that my job performance exceeded expectation, I was one of the Top 5 in my Division (which is about 50 ppl, most of whom work in the US), and I should expect to get one of the top raise percentages (I believe it was in the 6% ballpark)… raise amounts came, and even my boss was shocked at how low it was (like 2%). Don’t get me wrong, I’m always happy to get a raise (and I get one almost every year), and we get profit sharing, pension, etc. but it did irk me that I got the same amount as a co-worker that, to be honest, does an OK job at best. Kinda makes me wonder why I bother to try so hard….

  19. I’m not necessarily unhappy with my level of compensation, because when you put my stipend together with my tuition waiver it adds up to a decent amount of money, plus I don’t have to pay health care premiums or anything. But I don’t like that we only get cost-of-living raises if we’re funded through our advisor’s grants, which is like 1% a year. There is a standard stipend level for all non-fellowship students in each department in each year, so it doesn’t matter if you’re a first year or sixth year, you’re being paid the same. I wish we had some monetary reflection of our increased experience levels as we move closer to the PhD the way it would be in the private or even public sector, or bonuses when we publish papers or something like that. There is also absolutely zero way to distinguish over- and under-performing students from one another with pay, although I suppose you could get kicked out if you really underperform.

  20. Ninja be careful. If you feel like you are not being compensated for your work, you might fall into the trap of not working as hard.

    I don’t have any experience per say. I jumped into grad school right after undergrad since I had the chance. But I have been speaking with a couple of my old friends who are working now, and the say corporate america is mean and tough. Not so much because of the work but because of the bureaucrazy (AKA People). My friends are overachievers, work hard, and barely get compensated. Not to mention the constant reorganization, and instability. In Texas, you can get fired or quit whenever.

    Since you are spending more time building passive income (your blog and Mainteresting), maybe it’s a good thing your job is so stable?

  21. I’m in a ‘state’ sort of job and very much like you, have been without raises when budgets are tight. However, we do have a bit of freedom in that we can re-write a job description and give it a fancy new title to get a raise. That’s what I did last year (to the tune of 20%). It can seem pointless to continue working hard when you’re going to get the same as someone else who does little or nothing. However, that’s not who I am and that’s now how I roll.

    I still have to be happy with myself and satisfied that I gave it my best. At the end of the day, I want to proud of the effort I put in.

  22. My hubby is Federal Government, and I have always had a problem with the salary issue you bring up. He is the best one on his team….trains others. He is the go-to guy. Yet, he makes the same as the guy who does squat. Additionally….he is nearly capped out. He will get his mediocre $1000 raise (first one in 3 years) this summer, and after that….until he gets another job….That is IT.

    Me…I am compensated at a level that may at first appear to be generous. But when you look at what I actually do…it is a little low. I haven’t had a raise in 2 years. My boss just got awarded a huge contract….and so far, all that has meant for me is more work in the same number of hours, at the same rate.

  23. As a public school teacher, I know your pain. No matter how hard I work and the successes I’ve had with my students, it will never be recognized (financially).

    It gives me the blahs sometimes.

  24. I’m fairly happy now, the answer would have been much different even 4 months ago. I should have negotiated my starting salary better, but my manager was able to get me to a more appropriate level. I still think I’m slightly underpaid given my performance reviews – but not enough for me to be angry about at this point.

    This might be part of the reason why gov’t jobs get a bad rep (ie people assume people may not work as hard). Yeah, you have a lot of great performers, team players, and hard workers. But once you are in? The attrition rate (i.e. layoffs) is significantly lower when compared to private industry, and if you aren’t motivated, you will make the same as the next guy. So, top performers either really like the job and the security – or they move into industry to fight it out there.

    My company does merit increases, and they are starting to put even more emphasis on rewarding top performers (at the expense of skipping raises for those who are rated low – this is causing grumbling!). It is motivating. Having a challenging job I enjoy is also motivating, and I innately want to impress my bosses and do a good job – but knowing that I can make a difference in my compensation doesn’t hurt.

  25. I work for a small, private company. Raises are not something that come our way by default – if you’re doing a good job, you will be praised and loved, but there’s no expectation of a percentage bump across the board every year or even every couple of years.

    That being said, I called my boss one afternoon a couple of years ago, and brought up the topic of a raise – we had a discussion about the fact that my job responsibilities had grown, I was managing a couple of people, and had taken on some new roles. He thanked me for bringing up the topic, and a couple of weeks later, I got a significant bump in pay.

    I feel I am fairly compensated for my current position within my company – and that I would probably take a pay cut if I moved to a new company, because a good chunk of my value to this company is my knowledge and history of being there for 10 years 😀

    Benefits, on the other hand…don’t get me started about Health Care in the US!

  26. I work for state government and find it discouraging. On the one hand, my pay is relatively competitive for my area. On the other hand, I have had had 2 pay DECREASES in the past 3 years with really no hope of getting that back in the near future. Also, those who have my particular job in the private sector are often awared bonuses which of course we don’t ever get. I kind of miss the little perks of private companies, too. For example, we never have Christmas parties that we don’t have to pay for because you can’t expect the taxpayers to throw us a party! It used to be that the trade off was a good benefit package but that package has deteriorated so much in the last 5 years, there is hardly any benefit to working a state job over the private sector anymore. And layoffs have been rampant in the poor economy. So much for the security that was once associated with government jobs.

  27. I also work for the Government. I started work as a GS-04 student hire and rolled into an internship. With the help of my college degrees, I have made it to GS-09 in under two years. And we do get step increases… Just not COLA increases. I haven’t been in one grade long enough to get my step increase yet, though! There are advantages and disadvantages to working for the Government. We get the 14.16% locality adjustment here in BFE, Oklahoma, but others have a better locality adjustment. Definite advantage. A disadvantage, like you stated, is that no matter how hard we work, without a promotion, we will make the same amount as our peers (roughly, anyways, considering steps, TIS, etc.). But what I really love about the Government is the stability. As a milspouse, I can look forward to having spousal preference when I apply for a job at our first duty station. I will also be able to apply for excepted positions since I will soon (hopefully!) have a career-conditional appointment. In the private sector, we might be rewarded by working harder or accomplishing more than our peers, but we also might be cut at any second. And this has all been my very long-winded way of saying that yes, I am happy with my salary. As a 23-year-old graduate student and military spouse, I am thankful for and happy with every penny of the $48K salary I earn every year.

  28. My job pays very well but I have to force myself to go to it every day. It’s a sprint from start to finish every day. By 5pm I am so exhausted, I can hardly do anything with my free time. I often crawl into bed at 9pm I am so tired. I would gladly take a pay cut if we could double the # of people in our dept.

  29. Wow the government sounds like it has a pretty frustrating pay system. If I worked there, I don’t think I would be able to get up the motivation to do really well at work – what would be the point? Bad logic, I know.

    I’m happy with my compensation. I just got a raise and although I wish it was more than 3%, I’m happy I got one at all.

  30. I’m paid a fair & competitive salary for my position, I get great benefits (5% “free” & 5% matched into my 403b!), and annual raises are based on performance, but like Jennifer, raises are capped at ~3%. I got an excellent review last year and I received ~2.9% raise – barely keeping up with the inflation rate.
    Do note that I said I’m getting a good salary for my position…I actually do work that is at least 1-2 positions above my title, which means I’m $5-15K underpaid. Been speaking with my manager about building a case for upping me to the next position/pay grade for my next review.

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