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My boss gave me a big raise; things at work went downhill from there

  • Author: Lynne Curry
    | The Workplace
  • Updated: December 17, 2017
  • Published December 17, 2017

Q: Two months ago I pushed hard for a raise. I let my boss know that while I loved working for him, I wasn't making enough and would have to look elsewhere if I didn't get a substantial pay increase. Three days after that, my boss said he didn't want to lose me, and offered me almost as much as I'd asked for. The raise he granted me was more than I thought I'd get, and I thanked him profusely.

Things went downhill after that. Before granting me the raise, he praised me whenever I brought him a finished task. He never used to worry about how long it took me to complete a task. Now, he critiques small errors and frequently asks, "How long did it take you to complete this?"

Other things have happened that make me worry my days here are numbered. While he formerly used me as a sounding board, he doesn't now. He's also left me out of three meetings this month. Formerly he'd have invited me to all of them. When I asked him about this, he said, "Your time is valuable, and I need to think before I take up your time with meetings." Am I imagining things, or am I in trouble?

A: While you may be imagining problems, I doubt it. Given that you admit you pushed hard, got more of a raise than you anticipated and felt a sea change soon thereafter, your boss may feel "pay raise remorse." Workplace consultant Scott Stender notes, "Asking for a raise is never simple. Not only is it difficult for the employee asking, it's hard for the employer facing the 'ask,' particularly if he earlier considered you fairly paid. Your manager may have felt caught between his desire to retain you and the need to hold the line on costs." Further, your raise may have taken money he planned to use elsewhere, and each payday reminds him of this.

Next, your raise apparently made your boss re-evaluate how he leverages your work hours, and he's decided he won't pay what he may consider premium wages for meeting attendance. On the surface, this presents no problem, and you won't find him wasting your time. More worrisome is that you've lost access to your boss. Workplace consultant Jennifer Yuhas suggests you "allow things to settle but ask for an explanation if you don't regain this access."

Your boss's explanation may surprise you. You may learn that while you thought you served as your boss's sounding board, he felt he was mentoring you. If so, and if he's discontinued these discussions, it means one of two things. He may now be focused on you fully "earning your keep" and consider the time he formerly gave you as overly generous if added to your higher salary.

Alternatively, you pushing hard for a raise may have made your boss feel backed into a corner – and one he now regrets. If so, you won't be the first employee who shot herself in the foot even as she secured a short-term benefit.

The most important question — what do you do now? Your answer: earn that raise. Make him glad he didn't lose you, and you glad you stayed.

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