Monday, December 22, 2003

The Cost of Pride

"Have I got news for you!", my recruiter exclaimed. "You're getting a 38% raise in salary!!!"

"Er...", I faltered, frantically plugging numbers into my desktop calculator, "that wasn't what we discussed before..."

It was all she could do, she insisted, so I darted across the street to her office to play hardball, far too nonthreatening in my tan cordoroy skirt, my soft ivory sweater, my chunky suede boots. Deep breaths. I assured myself over and over: you are worth more than that....

There was no hardball to be played. We went round and round for just this side short of an hour. "My hands are tied", she explained gently. "Company policy just doesn't allow for promotions of that magnitude. We had to hold a special meeting just to make you this offer at all. The executive vice-president had to sign off on it."

I blinked back the disappointment, composed myself. "But surely, they can make an exception? With a case such as mine, where I was so overqualified for my previous position, and so underpaid for my qualifications..."

She shook her head sympathetically. There were other very qualified candidates, she went on; there were still.

I interrupted gently, tossed my hair gamely. "They don't want those candidates. They want me. They wanted me from halfway through the interview. It's a great fit..."

"I know that," she countered. "That's why we went to so much trouble to make you the offer at all. But the fact is, there's nothing else I can do. The company just isn't going to change their policy."

"But," I began, "What sense does it make to penalize me for already being an employee?"

"Why did you take a position you were so overqualified for?"

"It was waiting tables to me. I was doing it until I found something I liked."

"And now you have. And it's a fabulous opportunity. You are going to help build a twelve million dollar program from the ground up. This is a pilot program. The entire country will be watching what you do with it. You have a chance to stand out, to be recognized. Are you going to give that up for a few thousand dollars? For 40 bucks a week, a little over a dollar an hour?"

In my head, I was staring at the floor, fidgeting, biting my lip, kicking my feet against the table, muttering "Not fair!!!". Outwardly, I was cool and composed, the graduated-degreed recruit who hasn't been snatched up by a headhunter only because nothing she likes has materialized yet.

She was right, of course. It wasn't a huge difference, dollar-wise. But it was enough to make me, in my mind at least, go from Valuable Potential Candidate to Bargain-basement Closeout. It was enough to change my mood from elated to deflated. It was more than enough to singe the hell out of my pride.

I'll sign the offer letter, of course. It's still a decent offer, still great fodder for my resume, still a job I can rock at.

But now, I just have one more reason to resent all those months spent doing the mindless data entry. Because they fucked me over. Somehow, because of corporate red tape, they managed to fuck me over, even on my way out the door.

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