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Loyalty to Big Corporations is Dead!

The days of working your butt-off for a company with the hopes of reciprocity is long gone.

In August 2007 I officially entered the corporate world as a recent grad school graduate during the worst economic recession in a generation which would later be called The Great Recession. As major corporations laid-off their workers by the thousand, the mantra for those left clinging onto their jobs was, “shut-up, keep your head down, and be grateful to have a job.” It was indeed an ugly time in Corporate America.

 

Despite my education and experience, I willingly accepted a job with a below-market salary. However, with the economy in the doldrums, I figured the best course of action was to get in the door, prove myself by delivering amazing work and eventually make a case for a higher salary later. Sounded a lot like the American way—work hard, prove yourself, and with time, the world will reward you.

 

And I did just that—I worked tirelessly, devoting almost all of my energy towards enriching the corporation with my talents and skills. And it seemed that it was beginning to pay off in the form of accolades, awards and eventually promotions—actually two promotions in under two years!

 

But oddly enough to me at the time, my salary was not reflective of my contributions and loyalty to the corporation. I was so confused—what was I doing wrong? After all, I thought that if I worked hard, and proved myself time and time again—I would be made whole from a compensation perspective. There I was, two promotions later, in a highly visible, customer-facing, senior manager role managing over $30 million in revenue—with barely enough money to pay my monthly student loan bills.

 

And then the final shoe dropped when I found out that my salary was an astonishing 18% below the minimum salary for the role I was in! Thanks to my friend that works in HR, I found out the corporation’s salary band for my Sr. Manager role. Upon finding out how disgustingly low my salary was compared to the salary band, I literally felt the air going out of me—it was surreal.

 

Now at this point in the story, you’re probably saying to yourself, “you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate” or “you have not because you ask not” or whatever other popular negotiation saying there is out there. But that is where you assumed wrong, I actually did “negotiate” with my manager and explained that I deserve, at minimum, the fair market salary for the role I was in. And of course, as it happened with both of my promotions, I was given the same “the economy is too rough right now” speech, and was told to wait until things got better before discussing my salary.

From an ethical perspective, I found three major issues:

Hypocritical:
During that same exact time, the board of directors approved a multi-million dollar pay raise for the CEO—despite the company going through a difficult time financially. Is that why I couldn’t get paid at least the minimum salary for my role? But not just the CEO, plenty of the executives got large bonuses. It seems like I was the only one “waiting until things got better” while everyone was getting their wallets fattened. Am I wrong for thinking that, if I had to sacrifice my pay due to the crappy economy, then everyone, especially the leaders, should have to sacrifice their pay as well? Clearly, that wasn’t the case.

At least be fair:
For the life of me, I cannot reconcile the logic of a corporation paying one of their top performing workers lower than the fair market salary. The memory I recall the most was me sitting on stage after receiving another award for surpassing revenue targets, and looking out in the crowd at all of my peers, all of whom were making more than I was, and feeling like the biggest sucker in the group. Here I had this nice shiny plaque in my hands and yet I was struggling to pay my student loans. That was the moment that I realized that I had to get in the driver’s seat of my career and ultimately, my compensation.

I shouldn’t have to ask:
Perhaps my pride is to blame for this but out of all of the reasons why I kicked corporation loyalty to the curb, this one had to be biggest. After I got the big fancy manager promotion, I went into the salary discussion meeting with my boss already knowing the minimum salary for the role but I was not going to reveal that I did.  My goal was to conduct one final test, a decency test if you will, to see if my boss would do the right thing and offer to pay me the bare minimum for the role I just got promoted to—that’s it. All I wanted was just the bottom of salary band salary for my role. Well, surprise, surprise, I wasn’t even offered anything remotely close to the minimum. Instead, I was offered a parsley increase to my already low salary and an even more elaborate speech about, of all things, the importance of sacrifice during difficult times. In my mind, I was cursing him to hell but on the outside, I had a smug grin. Everything in me knew well before that meeting began, what the outcome would be and unfortunately for me, I was right.

 

That’s when I realized that all of the hours, late nights, ideas, effort, and “loyalty” that I invested in this corporation weren’t reciprocated to me. They were never loyal to me! The CEO and his cronies received lucrative rewards for their hard work while I’m busting my behind and getting very little to show for it. Sure, I’m not in the C-suite but I at least deserved to get a fair salary. It was obvious that the corporation wasn’t concerned about my well-being so I stopped being concerned about theirs.

If I was being paid fairly, I’d probably still be there today. And I bet that’s the case for thousands of workers out there. Take my words for it, “Loyalty” belongs to you, your family and your wallet—not the corporation you work for.