Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Pay Raise Dilemma

Every week, Danny Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: the pay raise dilemma.

Danny: I am not nearly as convinced that this was a mistake, I don’t think

Nicole: Nor am I!

And certainly I would feel no obligation to draw it to anyone’s attention

If it is in your signed contract, they cannot claw it back

Unlike when you just get two paychecks at once as a mistake

Danny: right

Nicole: Why borrow trouble?


Take the money

Danny: if anything, I think your husband should go back and say “I know other employees received a greater-than-2% raise, so I’d like to revisit my raise in light of this”

Nicole: Ooh, I wouldn’t

That’s setting himself up for conflict with a new director who has already turned him down


Danny: i think it would be worth going into conflict for!

like, you don’t have to say it angrily or anything

Nicole: I definitely would not

It implies the new director lied

Danny: they maybe did lie, though!

Nicole: Like it’s a very aggressive move

Well, not if it actually WAS a mistake, which they would then fix, to your family’s detriment


Danny: oh yeah i don’t want to encourage any sort of “i accuse you of misleading me”

i was just thinking of it like, if a coworker shares their salary with you and you use it to negotiate a better deal for yourself

Nicole: You’re already coming out ahead as a pair, I would just wait until the next round of raises

yeah, but doing that is a) tricky as heck and b) rarely done after contracts for the year are done and dusted

It’s good info for next raise season for sure

Danny: yeah, if your husband decides it’s too aggressive to revisit the money thing right now, i think he does still have a right to go back and say “I need a timeline for when we can hire a replacement, because I can’t keep doing two jobs at basically my old salary”


and I don’t think your own (pretty modest!) raise is an ethical dilemma

Nicole: Looking at the letter, if he hasn’t signed his contract yet (she has) he might be better off pushing for a new title, etc.

Because again, if it WAS a mistake, they may fix it once it is brought to their attention

I just think that you’ve come out ahead as a family, POSSIBLY by mistake, and to go two rounds with the new director is not ideal. It’s also not clear he’s working two jobs


He COULD have, or he could have just moved into the supervisor position and left his old tasks behind

Which is just info we do not have


Danny: that’s true! in my mind he’s doing two full-time jobs

but it could just be a matter of finishing up a couple of projects

Nicole: That would be definitely a different matter for me

AND would make it seem more likely he was supposed to get the bump to 5% and she the 2%

(I’m not a contract lawyer, it’s entirely likely that they can’t change her signed contract at this point)


Which would be great

Danny: it would!

Nicole: So, I guess my bottom line is:

Danny: it’s just not self-evidently a mistake to me! a 5% raise isn’t so much bigger than 2% that I’d see that and assume “someone messed up”

Nicole: If your husband is working two jobs, and has not signed his contract yet, politely ask for more/a title change, a timeline for assistance, etc

And if he has just moved into the supervisory role, keep your head down and enjoy the extra money

Danny: that seems sound to me!

Nicole: Next raise season, GO IN SWINGIN’

Danny: how exciting though, that we briefly disagreed on the approach

Nicole: Politely

So true, so rare!!