Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wow. Just Wow.

Ok, so before this day, I'd never looked at the published annual salary report for my institution. I always thought that it would leave me filled with rage to do so, or that it would make me disgruntled or something. I'm not about the whole comparing what other people are getting relative to what I'm getting if I'm happy with what I've got. I'm not sure why I just looked at it (other than that it didn't require going over to the library) but, um, let's just say I'm not disgruntled, though I think I have a better sense of why some other folks (who are the type who like to make such comparisons) are.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not making a million dollars or something, in comparison with my colleagues. It is very clear, however, who negotiated successfully when they started and who, for whatever reason, didn't. Now, when I did my negotiating, lo, those many years ago, I sort of felt like I didn't exactly set the world on fire. I only ended up getting a bump of a grand to what they initially offered, and I felt like I was a bit silly even having bothered to ask. However, I now see how that bump has grown so man, any bump you can negotiate to your base is totally worth it.

I also see, as I look at the numbers, that it was probably worth it that I not only went on the market but also that I was open with administrators about doing so selectively, while at the same time I was busting my ass to be as productive at this institution as possible. I never got an offer, but I think that those interviews during a flush budget year (though, let's be real about the fact that I was not calculating this when I decided to put my cv out there) - the same year that I got my book contract (a happy accident timing-wise) - had to have affected my raise in that year, which only widened the gap further between me and some of my colleagues who entered around the time that I did. I think that the raises I've gotten reflected my department's desire to keep me here, though at the time I didn't think much of them (because again, I never asked other people what they got - I just figured everybody's raises were as lame as mine were, when apparently lots of people got much lamer raises than I did). Looking at my salary now, I suspect even if I'd gotten another offer, it would have ended up being unlikely that they would have matched my salary - let alone bumped it higher.

But so now, there is like a 3-4 grand differential in base salary between me and people with whom I went up for tenure this year. Since the tenure raise is 8% of one's base, that gap widens this year, as somebody who's making 50K will only get a 4K raise, whereas somebody making 54K will get a 4,320K raise. Moreover, since there will likely be no actual raises this year, that bump will put me at about the same pay level as about 75% of people who already rank at associate (some of whom who've held that rank for 10+ years - this is what people are on about when they freak out about salary compression).

Another thing that looking at this report has done is solidify my intention to go up for full as soon as is reasonably possible. On average, people ranked at full in my department make a 10-20K more than the people who rank at associate (though obviously some of them have been around for a very long time, so that has to be taken into account). That whole "it's not worth it to go up for full" thing? Totally a stupid move, as again, while it may not be a huge raise at the outset, that raise in base pay clearly makes a huge difference over time. Also, being on the "associate track" - at least in my department - seems to apply mostly to women, which means that I've got just one female colleague who's cracked the 60K mark.

Now, I know that it's not terribly classy to talk about money in this way, but it strikes me that it's a good thing to do, if only because I think a lot of the people who haven't done as well as I have money-wise at this institution have in part ended up in that position because they just didn't know any better. The fact of the matter is, the initial offer that I got - ABD, first year on the market - to work here, was pretty darned good. I know that some of my colleagues didn't negotiate because they just assumed that there would be no room for the administration to pay more. They were just happy to get a t-t job, and a fair offer to boot. My approach (based on advice from savvy mentors) was to ask because the worst they'd say was no. I also think that there is a perception at my institution that research carries no material rewards here, and you know, that's crap. In fact, I think that it's the only thing that merit pay is based on, if the salary report is any indication. People who publish get raises. People who don't, well, even if they do, they are small. Regardless of their work in the classroom or the mountains of service work that they do.

I'm not saying that this system is "fair." It's not "fair," even though I am comfortable that I am worth every penny of what they're paying me. "Fair" would mean transparency about how to achieve a higher base salary and higher annual raises to that base. The fact that I had the confidence to negotiate (and the encouragement to do so and good advice about how to go about it), and the fact that I intuitively did the sort of work that would be rewarded with raises (even though nobody ever stated that "research = money") is a fluke, ultimately. So while I've earned every penny, no, the system isn't "fair." Also, we should totally be mentoring people to full, and encouraging people to go up for full, which we don't do in my department. Instead, we mentor people to tenure as if it's the finish line, and then people (and their salaries) stagnate. It's one thing if people know the facts and choose this path, but my impression from looking at the report is that this is less about choice than about inertia. And the fact that we're all too middle-class to talk about money openly.

So anyway, it turns out that I'm very well-compensated for my work. I always thought I was fine money-wise, but who knew I was this fine?


life_of_a_fool said...

thanks for making me feel better about the $1k bump I negotiated. :) At least some of our raises are fixed dollar amounts, not percentages, but still. . .

Dr. Crazy said...

In my dept, we typically do the raise pool half dollar amount/half percentage, because the admin. requires that there be at least that much of the pool that goes toward merit pay. In other words, typically everybody gets a little something of a raise, but that half apportioned on the basis of "merit" appears (from what I can gather) to go to people who've accomplished something easily quantifiable (in most cases, that means publication) in that year. If you spend enough years just getting that across-the-board raise, your salary basically stagnates, or in terms of cost of living, goes down. Now, the amount of merit pay I've gotten has never exceeded 3%, but if I'm getting 3% on top of the across-the-board raise that worked out to about 3% of my base, that means I get a 6% raise that year. In contrast, colleagues who don't get the merit bump are only getting half the raise I get. Consider that I've gotten something for merit every year I've worked here, and then put me alongside somebody who got merit only half of those years. When I get merit pay now it then means more than when they do (a) and it also means that they've missed out on something like a 5-8% bump (if we add all of those merit raises together that they might have gotten in 3 years' time) (b). Looked at that way, even getting 1.5% or 1% for merit in lean years is HUGE, and over time does make a demonstrable difference. The mistake is thinking about those percents in isolation and not seeing how they add up over time - a mistake a lot of people make. They figure that they may as well just phone it in and not produce because they won't see obvious material gain for producing consistently. This also then puts them in a bad position in terms of marketability elsewhere, which also affects earning potential. No, none of us are going to become millionaires in this profession, but that doesn't mean that we should give up on increasing our paychecks.

Unknown said...

Thanks. I needed this exact thing today, as I'm having the argument with myself about "now that I'm tenured, do I really still need to devote so much of the summer to research and writing in pursuit of the full professorship in a timely manner?" The answer is yes, yes I still do.

Susan said...

I suspect there are also class issues in play about negotiating salary. You were always clear that this was (in part) a job. But I think you discussion here is admirable, and should be widely read. It's sort of like the power of compound interest.

Unknown said...

I'd add that most of the 'job market' books encourage those with offers to ask. As you said, the worst that can happen is they say no. A thousand must be the standard walking around money deans have to give to new hires. My sense is that to go higher than about a thousand you've got to be a really good negotiator or be someone the university is dying to have.

Fifi Bluestocking said...

Thanks for posting this - you are right that it is so important to talk about money but yet people are often reluctant to do so. I have no idea what I make in comparison with my peers in my department (though I know I'm on pretty much the lowest salary at this institution, I don't know how many other people are on the same money too). Our department gives fixed amounts for merit - there are several categories and you get something between $0 and $1500 or so, depending on how meritorious you have been. But the percentage thing clearly works very much in your favour.

Historiann said...

Crazy, good for you--and you make a compelling case for the importance of that bump for future raises.

Although I would always always always encourage people to negotiate, I think that negotiation is looked upon favorably as a gender-appropriate thing for men to do, but that it's not regarded as such for women. So although I still think it's worth it to be thought a bitch (instead of a savvy negotiator, which is what they'd say about a man) and get more money, there may be intangible career after-effects down the road.

But, even still: grab the money while it's on the table.

Dr. Crazy said...

Interesting point, Ann. You know, I wonder whether it would be worth doing a post about negotiating styles in this context. In my experience, I've seen women do much better when they appear to be looking for equitable pay as opposed to "the most they can get." I know that's how I couched my initial negotiations - as being about equitable treatment in terms of salary figures that I produced via my research - and not as wanting more just for the sake of wanting more. In other words, I wonder whether negotiating in a "feminine" way is more successful than in following the typical "masculine" advice about how to negotiate?

life_of_a_fool said...

My institution also has two pots of money (standard and merit), but the merit-- I'm pretty sure -- is a fixed amount not a percentage (though what the fixed amount is depends on your "merit.") So, myself and a senior person would, assuming equal "merit scores," get the same $ increase in raises even though my salary is lower. So, your raises get smaller over time, in terms of percentage of your salary.

Your basic point about things adding up, though, is spot on, even here.

life_of_a_fool said...

Framing a request for a higher salary in terms of just wanting to get more, rather than the value to the institution, is never a good idea though, is it?

(I agree this would be an interesting post).

Historiann said...

Your point about "feminine" versus "masculine" styles is interesting, Dr. C., but I'm doubtful. I think even just presuming to negotiate will be held against women by some people. Life of a Fool makes a good point--even most men who approach salary negotiations without a rationale are likely to be laughed out of the room. (At least I hope they would be!)

My main point is that being articulate advocates for themselves can backfire because of the conscious and unconscious biases we all bring to the table when evaluating women and men. I think the world goes around because women essentially do a hell of a lot of volunteer work, and that's still the baseline assumption in our culture--that women should work for free, or be grateful for the 78 cents on the dollar they get and shut up about it.

I should add: I'm really glad you wrote about this. I did something similar a few years ago, and it was liberating in many ways! And I think we should talk about money, because not talking about it is a class privilege most of us don't actually have.

Dr. Crazy said...

LoaF: You're right to qualify what I said. Of course saying "I would just like more money" without any sort of rationale isn't good no matter who does it. I think that what I'm thinking about, though, is about what type of rationale works, and what kind of negotiating strategy works.

Example. Let's say a candidate gets the offer. He is male, and he goes to the table to negotiate. For that candidate, coming to the table with a request for 5K more and then a laundry list of why he'd be great for the institution might work. Let's say the candidate is female, though. I wonder whether the better strategy might be to do a ton of research and to frame the request not in terms of what she can bring to the institution so much as how to make the offer reasonable within the constraints of the budget. I'm not arguing here, by the by, that women should negotiate less - just perhaps that the tone of successful negotiations may be different... I don't know. I may be full of it on this one.

Dr. Crazy said...

Ann wrote:

"My main point is that being articulate advocates for themselves can backfire because of the conscious and unconscious biases we all bring to the table when evaluating women and men. I think the world goes around because women essentially do a hell of a lot of volunteer work, and that's still the baseline assumption in our culture--that women should work for free, or be grateful for the 78 cents on the dollar they get and shut up about it."

I'm not going to disagree with you on this. In fact, I'd probably say that the reason that I've been viewed as suitably "feminine" and "appropriate" (in spite of the whole advocating for myself re: money thing) is pretty complex. 1) I'd say that I've had to make a real effort to be very visible in terms of being a "team player" and in terms of service. Things that get you absolutely nothing compensation-wise, but that do make it less threatening when you are the only junior faculty member in a generation to produce a book before tenure. 2) I think it helped that people know I'm from a working-class background, I'm single, and that I've got no family support in terms of money. I suspect if I were married and/or if I had a different background, my assertiveness in these things would be viewed as inappropriate. 3) I have no doubt that if I didn't break my back with teaching and service stuff that my research wouldn't be regarded as an asset at all in my context. I think that it would be regarded totally negatively. As it is, I suspect they view my research as a "bonus" - as something that is nice given the fact that I'm a "good girl" in other areas.

So again, I see exactly where you're coming from, and I do think that you've got a point. I suppose I'm wondering about how to negotiate that from within the system, though, and whether there is a map for doing so. I suppose I'm not content to say that there's no way around the status quo (though often there isn't).

Dr. Crazy said...

Susan wrote upthread a bit:

"I suspect there are also class issues in play about negotiating salary."

I think you're right, but I'm wondering which classes you think are less likely to negotiate. What was interesting to me in looking at the report was that it appeared that it was people from primarily middle and upper-middle class backgrounds that didn't negotiate, whereas people with less moneyed backgrounds did seem to negotiate. This was surprising to me because the whole "negotiating" thing is not typically associated with working-class folks - typically, people seem to think that working-class folks feel grateful for what they're offered, and take what is offered. I think that this is often true outside academia (I think about my mom's experiences throughout her working life), but I wonder how the pendulum might shift within academia on this.

I think (though this is only a random and not thoroughly considered thought) that it's possible that in academia the reverse might be true: that people who come from more money come to the profession thinking that it is a "calling" (and they've got less loan debt, or they've got some family money to start them off) and so they think that it would be gauche to negotiate for more. In contrast, people who come into the profession from lower class backgrounds (or even from middle class backgrounds with less family support) really do need to make a certain amount to sustain their debt (or their wish to incur debt through buying a house) and so they do negotiate when others offered the same job might not.

I don't know. I think that the model that we have for negotiating salary is a model that started with men who needed to negotiate for more to support stay-at-home-wives and their children, whereas I think the model now might be about people (male or female) who need to negotiate for more just to support themselves.

Again, I haven't thought it through thoroughly, but I'd be interested to hear what you thought.

Shaun Huston said...

As happy as I am for you, stories like this are among the reasons I am glad to be on a union campus, both from the perspective of making salary, etc. subject to something other than individual negotiation and fending off imposition of things like "merit" pay.