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Submitted by harnod on


BLUF: an employee asked for a raise to compensate his frustration - how to handle? - my proposal at the bottom of this text

Background: a senior software engineer is frustrated by lack of positive technical feedback. My concern with him on the other hand is, that he only works on his tasks and is disengaged from the rest of the company. His relationships with other members of the department (apart from his immediate team) had been damaged from the start of his employment (even before my joining the company). He is currently the best paid developer we have.

Current Request: The employee came to me as I was giving him a quaterly performance review (with a very good feedback as he, for the first time, cooperated with other members of the department productively) where he got a very large bonus. He stated he is frustrated and wanted a pay rise to compensate. The pay rise he wants is about 18% of his salary. I asked him to wait for my answer as I was not able to provide it right away and wanted time to think.

Follow up: I met with him in a short while and asked him to elaborate on the reasons that led him to the request. He stated the following: 1. Not enough positive feedback on the technical quality of his solutions, stating that general feedback does not interest him very much. 2. That other members of the department do not value his opinions. 3. The mechanism of quaterly performance reviews.

My proposal:

I would not give any pay increase to the employee. My main reason is that we both see, that the problem is not money. I would clearly state that I see the situation as my fail as a manager as well as his fail in not expressing the gravity of his feelings in our 1on1s. I would go on with some specific activities that I have planned to 1. increase his visibility in the department and 2. improve his relationships and 3. give him a better chance to choose his projects. I would tell him that we would meet monthly to specificaly discuss his feelings and if we both feel there has been an improvement in 6 months, he would be awarded a 9% increase because it means that his contribution has risen.

What do you think? Any and all opinions are very welcome

mrreliable's picture

Paying someone because they're frustrated is wrong on so many levels. As you mentioned, money is not the cause of or the solution to the problem. You pay people to do a job, the more value they produce the more they get paid. Pay is the manner in which you encourage action that benefits the employer. If you pay this person for their frustration, you're encouraging the frustration and you can expect more of it. You'd be setting yourself up for a conversation next time where he says, "I was really frustated last time, but this time I'm twice as frustrated."

This might be a terrible analogy, but the first thing that popped into my head reading your post was a small child at the supermarket throwing a huge temper tantrum because his mom told him "No" when he asked for candy. What can mom expect if she gives in and buys him the candy to get him to calm down?

You said he's the most highly-paid developer you have and he just got a big bonus partly for cooperating with other team members. That's the reason to compensate him. Presumably he's the most highly-paid because he's that much better than everyone else. Let's hope he's not the most highly-paid because he squeaks the loudest.

I'd recommend a firm "No." Don't tie his frustration in with any compensation in the future. It's a perfectly legitimate management responsibility to help directs reduce frustration that may arise, but paying him for it in any way is only going to throw gasoline on the fire.


Kevin1's picture

If i got a pay increase every time i was frustrated, i'd be a billionaire.  ;-). And I'd spend all my time cultivating more frustration

harnod's picture
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Hi, thanks for your comments and help.

In the end, the direct claimed that in fact he is making the raise a deal breaker. Based on my clear instructions by my superiors, I awarded the raise and will now work to minimize the risk of the person leaving (which I believe he will)