When Principles Become Problems (UPDATED!)



One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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64 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    I’ll bet you thought…”wow this will make a great blog topic!!” right after thinking ” oh fish sticks”

    I would have loudly cursed the previous head dufus and then said never mind while going off to rework my budget.Report

  2. Avatar Just Me says:

    You remembered that your soon to be tax write off would offset your recent tax increases and happily went on your way.Report

  3. Avatar Just Me says:

    Ok, in all seriousness, if being the diversity guru is a position that you actually spend some time on and isn’t one of those paper titles, I would try to renegotiate the stipend for that. If that is not possible I would renegotiate my benefits. I would make sure if possible that I set up the max for pretax for a flex spending account. You know you are going to have medical bills this year, take advantage of all the pretax savings you can. I would also see what they have to offer for pretax child care spending accounts. The other option I would be pushing for is a “I am the most awesome employee” bonus.

    I wouldn’t push having my base pay raised, knowing what you now know. Also I don’t think they would give it too you, otherwise they would never have brought up the fact that you got preferential pay for being a man in the first place.

    I have never negotiated a contract before. I have always worked those jobs where they give you a sheet of paper that says this is how much you are going to make, sign here.

    As for what you actually did or said. I keep vacillating between a “fish that, I need more money” and the furrowed brow, deep in thought look as you wildly plot in that wily brain of yours how you are going to squeeze more money out of them while at the same time saying all the right things, “oh I had no idea, that was not right, of course men shouldn’t have been paid more than women for the same job with the same qualifications.” Baby is gonna need diapers.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Just Me says:

      I think it is important to say explicitly that I consider “buying diapers” to be a principle, in that I firmly believe in my obligation as a father and husband* to provide for my family. I think it would be easy to frame this issue as a conflict between principles (equity in the workplace) and practicalities (“Baby is gonna need diapers.”), but I see it as bigger than that. As I see it, I have duties as a father and husband and duties as a diversity practitioner that appear to have come in conflict here.

      * Please note that I am using the gender specific terms here because they are how I identify, not because I think there is a specific obligation on fathers and husbands that does not exist for mothers and wives or parents and partners. I think that folks in committed relationships have certain obligations to one another and that parents have obligations to their children… regardless of anyone’s sex or gender.Report

      • Avatar Just Me in reply to Kazzy says:

        Ok, so your changing #3. Have you ever encountered a situation of such magnitude where two important principles of yours came into conflict? It should read two important duties instead?Report

        • Avatar Just Me in reply to Just Me says:

          and yes I know your should be you’reReport

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Just Me says:

          Let me put it this way…

          One principle of mine is that people of all genders should be treated equally and equitably in the workplace (among other places).
          Another principle of mine is that one should make every effort to honor voluntary commitments, which I consider both partnering and parenting to be.

          From these principles are derived duties to uphold them.

          Does that make more sense? To me, I see your rephrasing as not really changing the question… but perhaps I’m playing too fast and loose with the language.

          Words are hard… :-pReport

          • Avatar Just Me in reply to Kazzy says:

            See this is the sentence I didn’t get. I think it would be easy to frame this issue as a conflict between principles (equity in the workplace) and practicalities (“Baby is gonna need diapers.”), but I see it as bigger than that. I just wasn’t sure why you felt the need to clarify. It made me think that somehow you thought that my comment didn’t show understanding about the gravity of the situation you were in.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Just Me says:

              Sorry about that. I meant to include a disclaimer that I didn’t necessarily think you were framing it as practical vs principle, but one of your phrases (“Baby is gonna need diapers”) reminded me of that. So I was riffing off your comment more than disagreeing with it. My apologies for the confusion. I brought it up because I initially thought of it as a principle/practical issue myself before further reflection.Report

              • Avatar Just Me in reply to Kazzy says:

                I just was trying to be a little lighthearted on the subject with the “Baby is gonna need diapers.” It is a lot harder to write in response to a post about a dilemma that someone has. What if they don’t like the option I pick and they pick the other? Are they going to be upset when I say, no no no…don’t do that, do this….you are the most horrible hypocritical person in the world? For you this is personal, for me it is a hypothetical exercise. I would say that principles matter. But it doesn’t matter what I say. The choices you make, you and your family have to live with, not me.

                Good luck with your negotiations and I hope things work out for you.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Just Me says:

                Hey JM,

                I think this whole exchange here perhaps came off more combative than either of us intended. I appreciated your insights and perspectives and would not take offense if you were to suggest a path other than the one I chose. And, to be clear, this situation has not yet fully resolved itself, so any and all advice can still filter into my decision-making process.

                Thanks for participating… 🙂Report

  4. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I don’t know about you. I would still have wanted the raise.

    Yes, there’s a limited universe of money. Yes, I love my job and I care about and love my principles. But I’m not doing this for love. I’m doing it for money. Without money, the love doesn’t matter. And without good teachers, the school has nothing.

    If pay is already inequitable, the solution is not denying good people their raises. The solution is giving everyone raises, perhaps smaller than any individual would like, until something approaching pay equity is reached. So give me a raise, and give my female colleagues raises too. They provide for their families the same as I provide for mine.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I think it would be far easier for me to take that tact if I didn’t have an official role with the words “diversity” and “inclusion” in the title. So beyond my principles, I also have professional obligations… obligations I took on because of my principles… etc, etc, etc.

      Which is not to say your approach is wrong or not what I did… just highlighting the complexity of the matter.

      From a legal standpoint, if my head were to say, “I’m giving women a 3% raise and men a 1.5% raise in an attempt to correct for inequity in the system,” would she be running afoul of any laws? I don’t think she did this, mind you, but now that I know about the situation (and I am one of a VERY small handful to know), I can imagine possibly being involved in conversations about how to correct it and could imagine that being one suggestion.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

        I don’t see how it would be legally problematic to reduce the gender wage gap. I don’t think that sex discrimination law governs raises per se, but rather wages. Complaining about something like that strikes me as similar to the silly “Tax cuts for the rich” rhetoric—obsessing over the deltas when the imbalance in the baseline goes the other way.Report

      • Avatar Just Me in reply to Kazzy says:

        That is a dilemma. You were a beneficiary of a practice that was wrong and illegal ( sex-based wage discrimination). It would be awkward to then be one of the ones writing the policy to hopefully fix it and stop it from happening again in the future.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

        You restate the issue of wage imbalance on the whole.

        You then point out that, at the grade level you teach, females outnumber men by x%.
        Paying you more is, in fact, promoting diversity at that grade level.

        Alternatively, restate the purpose of the diversification program.
        Was it enacted specifically to ensure that women received higher pay, or to ensure that men received lower pay?

        And argue the instance of the exceptional individual vs. the aggregate.
        Statistically, everyone one on earth is slightly female, with strong male traits.

        Alternatively, do what you can to get the lowest paid females fired in order to raise the avg. of pay for the remaining.

        Alternatively, you could try undue influence by sexual relations.

        Just a few options.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will H. says:

          As my boss explained, one of the major difficulties was that there was no formal evaluation process in place under the old regime (and one has yet to be instituted). So if she could point to hard data and say, “Kazzy was consistently rated a 5 out of 5 and that justifies a higher pay,” she would be willing to do that. But she can’t. So while it is possible that all the men have simply outperformed the women, there is no paper trail to justify that. Further, it appears to her that the discrepancy arose not from raises but from starting salaries. So raises were roughly equal, but men got higher starting salaries.

          It’s just a messy and unfortunate situation which I agree needs to be resolved.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        If this were couched as calculating a target salary for each employee and then giving each one a raise proportional to (target salary – actual salary), the most underpaid people would get the biggest raises, and no one would have a legal objection. That’s a perfectly neutral system, provided the target salaries are calculated fairly.Report

        • Avatar Just Me in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          That is the way everywhere I have worked does raises. If an employee is topped out on their wage bracket then they would get a lump sum bonus for the year instead of a base pay increase.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    2. Research what teachers at similar schools are making, and use the result to justify a pay increase (assuming it does).Report

  6. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    How is this a dilemma? I mean, more power to you if you can get the raise, but wasn’t it already off the table since you were kind of being overpaid anyway?

    And obviously the honorable thing to do is start lobbying for lower taxes and spending cuts.Report

  7. Avatar Damon says:

    This is why companies do salary research and compare their employees pay to the market range from the survey.

    You’re the highest earner of all your peers-assuming you and your peers are all working the same jobs. There’s no way you’ll get an increase until and unless the market range for the salary goes up or your responsibilties change or you get promoted. All the money the department has, if any, would be going to those who make less to bring them up to your level. In my world, this means you need to start positioning yourself for a promotion.Report

  8. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Blaming the preceding administrator for existing inequities is the lamest excuse for not giving someone a raise I’ve ever heard. It’s not uncommon in any walk of life to hear people “blaming the dead and gone” for dumb and wrong things but this really does take the cake.

    I’d start the negotiations with an offer “Given the current state of affairs, you would understand why I am reticent to shoulder the burden of correcting this inequity, which I did not cause and cannot correct. Furthermore, you didn’t tell me any of this before I came to talk to you about compensation. That’s just bad manners. This issue is firmly in your camp, now, buddy. I’ve got a growing family. I’m giving you a week to make me happy. Let’s schedule a half hour next week, same bat time, same bat station, and at that meeting you’re going to make me happy, nu?”Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to BlaiseP says:

      “…and at that meeting you’re going to make me happy, nu?””

      So… you’re saying I should demand sexual favors and then cry sexual harassment? Well played, Blaise.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

      RE: What Actually Happened.

      Here’s a sovereign case in point for letting the counterparty make the first offer. You’ll always get a better initial offer, which is often more cleverly put together than any you might have put on the table.Report

    • Avatar A Teacher in reply to BlaiseP says:

      I have to wonder what the school system is like there. Around here we have a lot more teachers than jobs and while there is some value retaining quality teachers, the fact is that a) you can’t just quit and be working somewhere else tomorrow, b) there are always more teachers to hire. When we post a job opening we get, literally, hundreds of applications. It’s a little scary how quickly we have to pare them down.

      Though, part of me wonders how I’d fare in a more “look I work hard, how about we try to keep me working hard for you?” environment…Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to A Teacher says:

        I work in an independent school, one that is fairly geographically isolated, so we probably don’t have the same hiring patterns as most other schools.

        That being said, even non-union independent schools (there are a few union ones, as I understand it) are only quasi “I work hard, let’s keep me working hard” environments. They tout that when they hire you but when contracts roll out, there tends to be much less room for negotiation and merit-based pay then initially indicated.Report

  9. Avatar zic says:

    Back in the day, I worked as a computer programmer, and was very good at it. When I’d been at my job for a couple years, the shop hired several new programmers, and I became responsible for them — meaning I managed their work, but not their employment.

    Six months in, I discovered that one of my programmers, a man about my age, married with a wife and kid, far less experience and not nearly as much responsibility at work, was earning a lot more then I was. I asked my boss. It was the wife and kid. This really astonished me, because I was married and would some day have kids. There was a single mother that had been hired at the same time, raising her child without the benefit of child support for reasons I cannot remember. But we weren’t viewed as ‘providers’ for our families, so our pay didn’t matter like this man’s pay did — he was clearly identifiable as a provider.

    I don’t want to say Kazzy should be paid less. I don’t want to say Kazzy shouldn’t get a raise. I don’t know what to say, except to tell you that sitting on the other side of the equation like I was is common. In fact it’s so common that it’s typical; not unusual at all.

    Now I would promote gender diversity in Kazzy’s field for a number of reasons, but primary among them would be that fields with larger numbers of men in them are better paid then fields that are predominately staffed by women.

    I’m anxious to hear what you did; and how things work out. But no matter what you did or do or what happens, know full well that you are aware of the kind of privilege men receive and take for granted.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

      Interestingly enough, a female friend and colleague of mine was involved in a similar style of negotiations. In talking to me about it, I came to realize I made *much* more than her, like $10,000 more… which is a lot when you’re talking about salaries in the mid-five figures. I was surprised by this… we were about the same age, had similar degrees (albeit from different institutions), had been teaching about the same length of time, but she had more tenure at this particular school than me. At that point, I didn’t know about the gender discrepancy. She has ultimately decided to leave the school, something which I am sad about as she was a close friend but she is pursuing new and exciting opportunities for her and her husband, so it seems like a good move all told.

      However, when I learned of the gender inequality, and put that together with what I came to know about her salary and my salary and how if she had been making what I was making she likely wouldn’t have left… I got pretty sick to my stomach. It’s disgusting that such a practice went on for so long.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

        Kazzy, the most important thing for me to say here is what awe I hold that you even bring the topic up; that you challenge your own privilege in this way.

        I’m grateful. And I wish what I had to say above didn’t veer close to that nagging thing girls are endlessly warned to avoid.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

          See… I went the other way in my response…

          In discussing it with my boss, I initially said and expressed all the right things… “You’re kidding!… That’s horrible… Of course you need to address that…”

          But in the back of my head, I was still feeling, “But fish all that, I need a raise!” And felt pretty dirty about even thinking that way.

          And now that I’ve just completed negotiations with my boss, I’ll update…Report

          • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

            It’s all about self interest; about what’s best for me and mine, in that situation. Always will be.

            If funds were lacking and they had to cut one of the teaching positions, you would be rooting for yourself to keep a job, too. Oddly, you’d be at greater risk of losing the job because you’re paid more.Report

  10. Avatar Just Me says:

    Awesome news on the update Kazzy! Now go forth and engender equal pay for equal work policies at your work place.Report

  11. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Sounds like you have a pretty smart boss. As rough as it is to say, simply bringing everyone up to an equal wage (adjusted for experience, degrees, and suchlike legitimate factors) may not be within the school’s financial capacities. And reducing at the top end to help achieve equality will create a lot of hard feelings and perhaps lead to the loss of people you’d rather keep. Which isn’t to imply that those on the lower end shouldn’t feel the system is unfair–it is. But past actions often constrain current choices, and trying to correct for past bad policy may not leave many unadulteratedly good options. But it sounds like your boss found one–not one that solves the whole problem, but one that deals with this particular problem in a reasonable and fair manner.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

      We’ll largely adjust the gap by addressing starting pay, which is where the former head really made the inequality happen. For existing teachers, if there is a $3-4,000 gap, it would take several years to address that without doing anything radical and given our current constraints. I don’t know that we’ll achieve equality in the near future, but striving for it will be key.Report

  12. Well, I’m coming to this too late to have anything fun to say about questions 1 & 2.

    As for question 3, I would say that being a partner in my practice (and the financial director), I have a conflict between my desire for the office to be profitable and my desire to make our services as accessible and affordable as possible for our patients. A great many of our patients are affluent, but another substantial population is not. If we’re not profitable we can’t stay open (and, at the risk of tooting my own horn, I am really proud of the quality of care our practice delivers), but we also need to keep our rates reasonable so those patients who aren’t of means can still come see us without undue strain on their finances.Report

  13. Kazzy,

    I don’t necessarily disagree with the others, but one ancillary question to keep in mind is….

    How much do the principles conflict? In other words, how much more difficult is it to, in your case, honor your commitment as a father with a lower wage? (I venture no answer here. I have no kids and have only a dim knowledge of the cost involved in raising kids….although I know it’s hefty.)Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      We *could* have made it work on the initial offer. Hell, we *could* make it work on less. That would involve sacrifices elsewhere, which then puts me in jeopardy of failing to provide for my wife in the manner which I’d prefer. It’s very nebulous and tricky. It was not quite the false dilemma that I might have made it out to be, but there was a conflict.

      With regards to the cost of raising kids, there are so many unknowns, especially if the child has any special medical needs or requires other forms of additional support, that I err on the side of over preparing and over budgeting.Report

  14. Avatar A Teacher says:

    Just as a thought…. in some states, discussing income with other employees can be used a legal justification to firing. Recent anti-union conversations in other circles has me thinking about that.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to A Teacher says:

      I don’t know what the actual law is where I live (NY), but my personal feeling is that unless I signed some form of non-disclosure agreement, than all privacy laws and expectations surrounding my compensation are designed to protect me, not my employer. If I decide to speak with colleagues about it, such should be my right. But my employer should be barred from sharing my information with others without my permission.

      Whether the law reflects or supports that feeling… well, who knows.Report

    • I know a lot of employers make that claim, but I wonder how much it is a “legal justification” any more than any other justification is legal for an at-will employee. If it’s a contract issue, then I guess it can become more of an issue.Report

      • True though even in an At Will state there are still some things that you can’t be fired for because they’re protected actions, though a “good” manager will fill in the right offense to ensure that he’s not sued for wrongful termination.

        Generally the whole “what do you make?” conversation is seen as a step towards unionization and that’s why it’s targeted. If employees compare notes on what they make they are often better angled to collectively request more money as a group and that can put the employeer in a bind because they can’t just hand wave it off as “well…. no one makes that kind of money”.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to A Teacher says:

          Besides more broadly supporting the right to unionize and collectively bargain (though also conceding that there are many problems with how many unions are currently run *AND* that there seem to be legitimate questions about public sector unions), I was upset to learn that my boss, in a conversation with other colleagues scolding them for discussing pay, framed it as a privacy issue.

          I’m sorry, but the school does not have a right to privacy that the employee must adhere to with regards to compensation. The employee does, which the school must respect, but the relationship is not reciprocal. Not as I see it, at least.Report

          • Avatar Jason in reply to Kazzy says:

            Thats how employers attempt to control everyone from being unaware of how much they are paid in relation to others… your not quite sure how to position yourself relative to others or whats actually in the budget. That was the basis of my comment about how maybe your boss (she) was just playing your strings, mentioning how you were already being unequally overpaid and convincing you to take on additional responsibilities.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jason says:

              Oh, that’s certainly possible. Ultimately, I was looking to make a transition into a similar role, either at my current school or a new school, with the former being unlikely due to difficulty sustaining a full time diversity position in a school our size. And I didn’t get bites at other schools because I didn’t have enough formal experience. This new role will actually serve me very well as it is a step towards what I ultimately want without a complete upheaval in my personal life. So perhaps my boss thought she was pulling one over on me but I pretty much got what I wanted so… all’s well that ends well.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

                If it’s telling a white lie that makes you happier to step into a better role for you, I can’t see how it’s bad.

                Lies are bad when they’re self-serving, or when they’re bound to be found out (then they’re dumb).Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kimmi says:

                Who told what lie?Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

                Assuming your supervisor might have been stretching the truth a bit. Might not, not sure you’ll know unless you go nosing about.

                I think that might have been my misreading of Jason above, actually…

                But coaching a “here’s some more work, and more money” to make you like it better is no harm no foul. even if the truth gets stretched some.Report

        • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to A Teacher says:

          @ “A Teacher”

          You’re right. And I suppose that discussing pay can be construed as a union organizing tactic and therefore subject to laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of union organizing (assuming whether such laws exist or how extensive they are).Report

  15. Avatar Jason says:

    Maybe I’m reading it wrong but sounds like you are pro diversity and for equality, yet knowing inequality existed you used some creative thinking and new meaningless job title to help justify . Not to mention raise ‘needed’ to offset tax increase and growing family. Sounds like a true politician. Wish I could vote for tax increase so gov can help others premoting diversity, equality and civil rights, and then justify my own raise knowing inequality of others.

    Yes sometimes principles create our own problems. It becomes a test of integrityReport

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jason says:

      The job title is certainly not meaningless… seeing as how I’ve given up 6 weeks of vacation time in accepting the new title, it wasn’t exactly a favor.Report

      • Avatar Jason in reply to Kazzy says:

        Don’t worry too much, I’m kinda in the same boat, except I think I allow my principles/morals to hold me back little more, staying loyal at small start-up company too long hoping for the best, instead climbing latter and ‘investing’ in my career/major. don’t see much brighter future here, but now that I think about moving on for family reasons, my resume is not very appealing. Now I’m looking at possibly taking few steps down so I can climb back, hopefully higher.. Unfortunately, giving up vacation time and benefits is going to be new norm, even those without pay increases, gone are the days of secure/stable jobs with decent benefits. More than 2 weeks vacation is a blessing, possibly 3 weeks after 5-7 years.

        I guess for ‘good’ teachers, its slightly diff story . True, for the most part they have low pay, but after summer, winter and spring vacations, its not too shabby, and most seem pretty stable and have union benefits. Although I have talked to middle/high teacher with some seniority working ~8-3, with 6-8wk off in summer and 2wks winter saying she was making ~50-55K , keep in mind she also said handwriting (cursive) is outdated. That’s engineering pay working 45hr/wk ~50wk/year.. Universities with salary, stipends, sabbaticals, and external projects are little more complicated, although most at that level have tenure.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jason says:

          Nothing is less-wanted than unsolicited advice. And this is worth precisely what you paid for it… nothing.

          A career is a trade-off between doing what you’re best at — and getting paid for it. Don’t love your job: it will never love you back. There are no Stable Jobs. There are no Good Jobs. There are only jobs. And there is no Climbing Up the Ladder of Success, there’s only more Managing of People and less Doing of Work the farther up that ladder you go, until at last your technical skills (or whatever it was you were best at) atrophy. Then you’re just another middle manager, the first to go in any downsizing.

          Risk always equals Profit, the farther up the food chain you go, the riskier it becomes. Getting rid of one higher-paid manager allows a firm to hire two lower-paid grunts to do the work the manager once did before he got promoted into management.

          I stopped caring years ago. I went into consulting. There’s no loyalty in Corporate America any more. The money’s better, I have more control and I don’t have to play Cubicle Farm Politics. Best of both worlds.Report

          • Avatar Jason in reply to BlaiseP says:

            I agree.. Guess thats why a feel somewhat jaded after pursuing a ‘professional/corp’ career…. that so far has not netted much return in investment. For years I heard how teachers and officers were underpaid, but usually the benefits (guaranteed raises, insurance, pensions, retirement) often more than offset any differences in salary, especially after few years. I already feeling some atrophy, unfortunately I haven’t climbed very far up that ladder yet, just wearing too many other unrelated hats.Report

  16. Avatar Jason says:

    Or who knows maybe she just tried to make seem like you we’re getting big favor.Report