Would You Rather Have a Higher Pay “Ceiling” Or Just a Higher Pay? Easy, Right? Well…

So someone asked me about this the other day and obviously the first reaction was higher pay, duh.  Shouldn’t you want more if it is offered to you?  Well, maybe, but you really have to consider all the other angles to fully digest it…

Are You Happy With Your Current Position?

Well, it all starts at the start.  If you’re looking for a new job, you must be sick of your current one, right?  Well, not necessarily.  There’s no reason you shouldn’t keep your skill matrix up to date via resume/job websites.  You never really know who may be out there looking for someone that fits your skills exactly.  You may be in line to get the salary you think you deserve.

I keep my resume out there and up to par if nothing more than to feel the waters.  Being in I.T. leads me to get a lot of emails from contracting headhunters more than anyone else about Full-Time Employment (FTE).

I’m happy where I’m at.  I’m new to the group, but have moved into a management position to which I can’t complain too much about.  I got a raise moving in to the position, and am finding it something new that I haven’t done before.

I got dragged down a little bit on the day-to-day tasks I was doing in my last position and it seemed like it really wasn’t going anywhere special in the near future.  I did it because that’s “just what I did” from 8-5.  It paid the bills and a few extras that I wanted.

Since having my first child though, I’ve realized that I really needed to step it up as I wasn’t just providing for myself anymore. I had to provide for me, my kids, and my wife when she stayed at home to give Stay-At-Home-Mom a try.  So drifting a bit off topic, but back to the question at hand –

I had a very similar offer just a couple months before and politely declined for a few reasons:
1. It wasn’t a team I knew well. The people seemed nice, but everyone is nice when they want you for something and are in the “dating” stage of ANY relationship.

2. The money was more than I was making, but the management structure wasn’t what I was looking for and didn’t really agree with a lot of the direction they were headed and headcount they were losing.

3. My current boss wanted to keep me around and “had plans for me” that he hadn’t vocalized in the past;(mentioned it to me just hours before I almost said “yes” to another job).

4. The salary was more, but the ceiling wasn’t as high as my current position.

And #4 is where the gears started to kick a little bit. Moving to management doesn’t always mean that the $ will be there along with the ‘promotion’. Throughout a good chunk of the IT realm, people get paid because they’re good IT people, not good managers. So in turn, they routinely get paid more than their bosses (me).

A lot of people may not be aware of it, but it is true if you were to see many of the top IT professions out there. They make more than their boss. Financial tension? Maybe a bit, but it is one sided.  They likely don’t know know what you make; it is also something you realize in moving to the management position – they’re the brains, you just help them to function with whatever they need as the “glorified babysitter”.

So how does any of this help you in determining if you would rather have more money but a low ceiling, or the same money at a higher ceiling.

Are You In Line For a Raise In The Near Future?

When was the last time you got a raise? Is it time for one again in the near future? No time like the present to ask for a raise. The worst your boss will tell you is “no”, and even then, they’ll know you’re wanting one which is a good first step to the next time you ask.

If he/she comes back with the fact that you’re a valuable asset, but the group can’t afford it, play them against each other. Even if you don’t really plan on following through, it doesn’t hurt to let your boss know that you’re looking elsewhere. He/she may be able to pull some strings to keep you around.

Are You Moving Into Management?

If you’re sick of the day-to-day ho-hum of the standard job and it’s starting to bore you a bit, I couldn’t find a better reason NOT to take the management position. That’s where I found myself. I knew the old job was alright and had a high ceiling I could climb, but it really wasn’t doing it for me; nothing new and exciting (not saying that management is new and exciting, but different certainly).

I had always thought I was good with people and was good at managing projects so I thought it was a good fit.  Honestly, in my opinion as far as being a manager and also being managed – it works so much better to be a “people person” when managing a group.  I’ve had bad managers that have used scare tactics to get me to work, and you’ll likely have a harder time getting them to do things after the scare tactics have worn off.

Ask How Much Lower The Ceiling Is In The New Position?

There’s no reason you can’t ask. A lot of recruiters won’t tell you, or they’ll give you estimates of where it hits. Get specifics.  I’ve had it show up completely different when the paperwork actually comes down and having the original email to back up what you heard is a good thing to have in the back pocket.

In my case the ceiling was about 20k lower to move the new group, but about 20k more in pay also. That’s a lot of hotdogs, and certainly something to think about.  Why do I need a high ceiling if I can get that kind of $ to switch up the hum-drum?

The situation I was in was that I was needing the cash sooner than later.  Mortgages and kids seemed to be on the rise in my situation so the decision was getting a bit easier.  Another interesting bit was that some of the management in my company have moved back to the individual contributor situation and gotten a raise out of it since the ceiling is higher down a notch, which leads to the next point.

What Are Your Options To Move In Your New Position

If your company has the ability to move around fairly easily, you may find that the management position may fit a bit better than you thought. My previous boss actually took the job I left when I moved to a new position; which makes me feel better in knowing that if I don’t like the taste of management, I can move back the other way to my last position, at a raised salary.


I can’t complain; I’ve been in the new position for about 8 months now and have to say I haven’t picked up all the intricacies of the current systems I’m managing, but I’m getting a lot of knowledge in the management realm that I haven’t previously had knowledge of.

I’m keeping my head in on some of the technical pieces to keep the techy side of my resume honed in case I do want to go back the other way.

I think seeing the entire playing field is the best bet when deciding which route to take. Feel out your employer, if you’ve been there a while, you probably have a good feel on what they’re willing to do on all points. Weight your options, but don’t just make a quick decision based on what the $ amount shows on the offer letter, because the $ might not be worth the hassle you may be getting in on.

photos by: YuvalH, webg33k, jerkmony

Filed Under: adviceCompensation

  • Jeff

    Hey Hank, great post. I’m also in IT, programming web apps mostly. What kind of IT work did you do before crossing over into the dark side. 😉

  • @Jeff – Interesting. I came from the messaging security side. MS Exchange/Active Directory, Spam filters, blackberries, anything email related pretty much. Liked it, but didn’t love it.

  • Gaining management experience can almost never hurt your long-term prospects. If things do not work out the way you want them to, you could always go back to your old position, or use your new-found experience and find something else.

    I moved from managing a rotating staff of 2 to 3 people, to managing a solid staff of 7 people about 13 months ago and I am absolutely thrilled with the outcome. My ceiling is lower now, but my current pay is higher. It is weird how that happens.

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  • speaking of IT I think they comes in many different field. Its important to have work experience but you know what? if you are going to be 40 and changing another job your salary will goes down the hill that’s because not many employer willing to employ a 40 year old. They would prefer to hire a new staff to train which is much cheaper.

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