exposing the soft underbellyof "merit raises" (was: Re: Finding a good job title)

Subject: exposing the soft underbellyof "merit raises" (was: Re: Finding a good job title)
From: "Deborah Snavely" <dsnavely -at- Aurigin -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 6 Feb 2001 17:40:33 -0800

Bruce said, in part:

>But, the point is, no other high tech job seems to chase after
>titles the way that tech writers do. Programmers might like to be
>team leaders or CTOs, but they don't worry much about titles.
>Web-designers like fanciful names like "ibuilder" instead of
>"webmaster," but, these titles seem as much a joke as anything else.
>The insecurity seems a unique one.

It's the old salary-grade/head-room game.

For example:
Jill Stoneage works as a sr. Tech Writer at Dinosaur Software, where
tech writers of the three available titles (junior, tech writer, and
senior) fall into three salary grades, SE-12, SE-13, and SE-14. (These
arbitrary numbers represent "exempt" -- that is, salaried and
not-entitled-to-overtime-pay -- workers of levels 12 through 14 at this
firm.) Salary grades pay a range of salaries for the same title (say
SE-14 range is $59,300 to $65,700). Every year Dinosaur Software buys a
commercial salary survey from AEA (the AEA survey routinely reports
lower salaries for the same job than the Radford survey...it charges
companies less for the survey). So Dinosaur looks at

Jill's boss reviewed her as a superior employee deserving of the top
tier merit raise available to her. BUT. Jill already makes $64,900/year.
Dinosaur's budget for merit raises gives her boss the option to reward
superior employees with a raise of 4.2 to 6.1 percent...only she is
within 10% of the top of her salary range as an SE-14. So boss is
constrained to be able to reward her with only 2.7 to 3.2 percent raise.
And, because Sr. Tech Writer is the top of that job family at Dinosaur,
boss cannot promote Ms. Stoneage in order to get her into a salary range
that will allow rewarding her with an appropriate merit raise. So she
gets a 2.8 merit raise (and no cost-of-living adjustment) which still
puts her over the top of her newly adjusted salary range (the AEA survey
plus Dinosaur's budget limited the SE-14 shift to a miniscule 1%
adjustment and it's now $59,800-$66,400) at $66,560/year instead of the
$68,000-$69,000 her boss felt she deserved.

Guess who's polishing HER resume?

I've been there in three industries and job families myself. (Once I
left a job after three years with a salary grade of 14 while doing the
job of a 23 and making a pay scale of a 15...and they had to replace me
with a 23 who earned, walking in, 35% more than I had even after they
tried to bribe me to stay with a $2K instant raise. And then she ripped
off the company and cost them $70K in bearer bonds and the expense of
the investigation and the lost time...)

I knew a techie at a world-wide firm once who got stuck in a headroom
bind for three years. There wasn't a head-to-head place he could take
his skills, and they could/would only give him a raise of the amount
they adjusted his salary range every year. In the current tech-job
market, one has options to go looking. In the market of 1992, one held
onto paying gigs. And I expect we'll see that market come round again.
So titles matter, sometimes. Not when doing the day job, no. But when
you're marketing the product (yourself) that will make or break your
retirement...you bet it matters.

It's no mystery to me why people fuss over job titles. (Mine have
included such esoterics as "principal publications consultant" and my
current title "document architect.")

Deborah Snavely
Document Architect, Technical Publications,
Aurigin Systems, Inc. http://www.aurigin.com/

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