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I come from a "3rd world country", moved a year ago to a "first world country", got a job doing customer support (networking/ management company) and web dev for my current employer.

I started to cover for the main support engineer that was going for holidays; then my boss wanted an iPhone + iPad + server app for managing the employees (app on testing ground now); and gave the project to me.

As I started in a new country, I got offered a very low salary, and was told it would be reviewed in a couple months, then it became "when the app is ready", and now that the app is ready, is at the end of this year (I started August last year).

I was ok with the low salary as I was mostly learning (Objective-C) I come from microcontroller C and Linux background.

Now my boss is in Europe for holidays and left everything (and everyone) for some weeks...

I got now the need to make an average salary for a developer (mid level), and have been looking for jobs now that my boss is away.

If I get a job before he comes back, I feel a bit guilty that he gave me a chance to learn and I pay him by leaving (and leave him with some web portals, and iOS apps)...

But I really need to make more money for my family too, so I have clear I need to improve my conditions, but still feel thankful with the guy. But more important is my family!

So how to proceed?

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closed as off topic by Joel Etherton, Steve Evers, David Thornley, Walter, Aaronaught Jul 19 '11 at 17:58

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A good question, would also be good for… (but it's still only a proposal for a site). – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jul 19 '11 at 15:06
Your boss has already made the tradeoff between having someone experienced and paying a lower salary, so he has already been compensated. – Robert Harvey Jul 19 '11 at 15:09
Off-topic but out of curiosity, where are you and how much is this low salary? If you're being clearly taken advantage of, then do what's right for you. – Steve Evers Jul 19 '11 at 15:09
Low is relative however even if you don't know that you will leave you could use an offer letter from another company to force their hand to raise your rate. While it sounds like the pay difference is a bit much, depending on your immigration status your employer could have had some costs associated with hiring you. I don't know your situation though. – Rig Jul 19 '11 at 15:51
By paying you less than market rate, your employer has made the decision to sacrifice stability (less well paid someone is, the more likely they are to move on) in favour of saving money. If you move on now, he's still gotten an app developed cheaply. I don't see any problem here. – Carson63000 Jul 19 '11 at 23:34

11 Answers 11

up vote 28 down vote accepted

Based on your description, your boss

  • repeatedly breaks his promises (on giving you a salary review in due time),
  • doesn't respect you (yells at you and threatens you).

In my eyes, you aren't required to be endlessly loyal to him. It is a free market anyway, and if you find a better offer, it is your right to accept it.

However, it is better to do it nicely. So try to talk to him first, to give him a last chance to improve things. Even if he is away, you can send him an email, or set up a chat session. Be polite but firm. If you already have an offer from another company, that gives you even better negotiating power :-) But even if you decide to leave, arrange it so that they can find a replacement in time. Try not to leave bad memories behind (sometimes you can't avoid it, but if you did your best, the rest is up to him to handle).

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+1. However, I would still keep looking for a job; the OP's boss could be like people I've known who would fire employees for standing up for themselves the way this post suggests. It's also been my experience that an employer who will only treat you well when you have another job offer will go back to treating you badly as soon as that axe isn't hanging over their heads, and it's best to just leave. Also, given their past behavior, I wouldn't put it past this boss to say, "Oh, please stay, we'll make things better," secretly find a replacement, and fire the OP unexpectedly. – Bob Murphy Jul 19 '11 at 15:51
I would also set a personal time limit on how long I'd "do it nicely". This boss has strung the OP along on salary increases, and could easily do that on finding a replacement. Life is too short to waste much of it on tolerating jerks if you don't have to. – Bob Murphy Jul 19 '11 at 15:54
-1 for " it is better to do it nicely". Employers that act as if they owned employees are a cancer for the job market and they should be extirpated. You can't be nice to a cancer, can you? – Ando Jul 19 '11 at 15:58
I'm itching to second Andrea. The guy deserves little more than a few days of notice to find someone else. – Denis de Bernardy Jul 19 '11 at 16:08
@Andrea, you should only be bad to cancer cells if you can cleanly separate them from the healthy cells. Hurting cancer cells and healthy cells alike may do more harm than good. IMHO fighting employers that act as they owned their employees is best done by spreading one's negative experiences about such companies, so that fellow developers can avoid them, thus making them fold eventually. And one more important thing: we only know one side of this story, as told by the OP. Hastily judging people without hearing their own version of the story is usually a mistake. – Péter Török Jul 20 '11 at 9:49
  1. Read
  2. Understand that you are a hostage.
  3. Run away from your job, even if the next one is not much better.

IMHO, first comes full respect, then good salary, then interesting projects.

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If you can improve your conditions and you've done a good job, then you shouldn't feel guilty about moving on. Most people switch jobs at one time or another. You could also set the timing to give them time to replace you, but I wouldn't feel obligated in the work situation you described (threatenings of firings is unacceptable).

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+1 for "threatenings of firings is unacceptable". If I were in your shoes, that would remove any concern I had about leaving him in a bad place, since he is clearly not concerned with that about you. – Bob Murphy Jul 19 '11 at 15:42

I think most would agree that it's fine to move on.

Now as for guilt.....

Easiest way to work that out of your system is to spend the remaining time making sure he's not stuck with hopeless apps, zero documentation and other crappy stuff. I have zero guilt when I leave without making a mess, I'm sure you will feel the same way too

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Sounds like you aren't being treated very well. Don't feel bad about leaving, just do it graciously. You can wait for him to counter-offer and give you a better salary, but if you find a better-paying job, don't hesitate to take it if your current employer doesn't improve your working conditions.

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Do not feel guilty, you have to look out for yourself at the end of the day because no one else will. Do not forget that he got some nice apps from you at a very low cost it sounds like for a year, that was the trade off.

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You need the money, right? So take the job. Your boss will understand, did he really expect you to stay forever? You and your family need to eat - that's why your working in the first place. Take the new job and go with it!

I also understand the guilt at leaving an employer who gave you your first start, and that you don't want to burn any bridges. If you must leave while he's on holidays (could you delay starting your new job until just after he gets back?) maybe send him a nice message thanking him for helping you get started and all, and in general make an effort to stay in touch, even if it's just on or something. You're right that keeping good relations in a business network is important, even if he sounds like he was a bit of a jerk sometimes.

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Go and don't look back. I left a very good company, and actually a decent salary although still low. They weren't happy, but I was and that's really what it's about isn't it. The company obviously doesn't respect you or they would have given you what you wanted. You have given them plenty of opportunity to correct the salary issue.

Also, they may counter, but it sounds like this is a situation where they don't respect you. Don't accept a counter offer no matter how good. Just tell them it's a better opportunity etc. Be nice, but don't back down.

I turned in notice from my last job while my boss was on vacation. I turned in notice to my director (his boss) instead. She actually called him on vacation and we spoke a bit, but in the end I was very frustrated with the project (also a bit with the company too, but I didn't want to burn too many bridges).

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I started at an entry position last year. At a low salary, for my area and my line of work BUT I'm right out of a 2 year degree in a field with no experience... I started out just like you.

I was promised a 6 month review... and a 1 year review. I got both. Pay raises each time.

If your boss isn't honoring HIS side of the agreement, then... after due diligence... you have no reason to be loyal. I consider myself loyal to this job BECAUSE they have respected me by keeping their promises.

I've quit jobs for less than failing to keep big promises like that. Find a new job first, but don't stick around if this is what your bosses word is worth. Try to do it gracefully, but do it irregardless.

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You are thankful for the opportunity to learn new skills. But you learn something new every time you do any work in this industry.

To make it easier on you with the guilt, think about that - Did your employer hire you just because he felt charitable, or did he had a good business case for hiring low experienced-low paid employee?

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I have always tried to have a professional work ethic whatever happens and hope that other around me do the same. I have been in a few jobs where I have been unhappy for whatever reason and after discussing with my boss and nothing changing, moved on.

Wherever I have worked I have always left on good terms making sure I complete my notice period etc. If you give your superior a chance to change things and they don't then you are free to move to another employer who may (or may not) treat you better.

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