Home > developer, industry, software, tech > Salary negotiations: the rolling stone gathers all moss?

Salary negotiations: the rolling stone gathers all moss?

Today I came across a post on negotiating salaries by Spurious Pundit from couple of years ago.

The perverse incentive is simply that salary negotiations set up a system that rewards people for not caring about their jobs. Negotiating 101: The most important factor in any negotiation is the willingness to walk away. You go to buy a house, and that’s the first thing anyone tells you. Don’t fall in love with it. If you aren’t willing to walk away from it, they can take you to the cleaners.

So the people who don’t really care about their jobs, the clock-watchers, the ones who can take it or leave it, who haven’t really bonded with their co-workers, who don’t really believe in the product or take pride in their work? They’re the ones who can walk away. The only thing keeping them there is the cash, so it’s going to cost you more. The ones who aren’t like that, who are emotionally invested in the company? You’re turning that against them.

Painful to realize – but likely true. Every time I talk to people who have worked in any industry for many years, they tell me that staying put at a job will pay up in the long run. But every time I look around and notice my colleagues, ex-colleagues and friends, I wonder how much truth there is to this age-old wisdom.

Another post on Spurious Pundit talks about the ‘value’ of software developers:

Let’s go through the basics here. You are working at a job. Your employers employ you. They pay you a salary. They pay you this salary because you do something that they consider useful. “Useful” generally means “makes money for them”. There may be a fairly indirect path to it, but what you do ultimately brings money in the door. Your usefulness to them is measured by how much money that is. Your perceived usefulness also depends on how visible the connection is between your work and money coming in.

This is why sales people make so much more than programmers. Their work is directly tied to money coming in. The sales guy can say, “I made X in sales this month.” You can argue that because you’re a really good programmer, it’s easy for the sales guys to sell your work. You can argue that the clever work you did six months ago has resulted in a better product, and increased sales now. But that’s very hand-wavey. It’s hard to put dollar figures on that.

Questions about ‘value’ are one the first things that a software developer comes across while going into a salary negotiation. But I suspect that there is a subtle point here, from the Indian software services industry perspective, that Spurious Pundit misses.

When a new project needs immediate staffing and the client is twisting their arm to get a team started with developers with a particular skill set, it is very easy for the management to realize the value of a software developer. At that point the management is in direct negotiations with the client, the project is on everyones radar, there is a looming threat of potential revenue lost and everyone knows the value of a good developer – by her absence.

If you happen to be the one chosen to fill that requirement, you are guaranteed to get a good starting salary. But once you settle down into the job, as the project progresses without incident (and the client is happy; the sales folks might have bagged new projects from the same client) – your value is a thing you would find hard to demonstrate. Furthermore, a new client and a new opportunity would be in focus. You? Well, you still are a “valued contributor”, but that usually ends up being lip service.

The best way to get into a situation where you don’t have to try too hard to demonstrate your value is to walk out again into the job market – and go find a place where they are looking for someone to fill an immediate staffing requirement. Thus developers who gets a steady stream of hikes and perks are the ones who change jobs very frequently.

Is IT an area where the ‘stay-at-a-job-for-years’ theory does not work? Or is it that it is too early to say, and we are being impatient? Let me know your thoughts.

Categories: developer, industry, software, tech
  1. TT
    December 26, 2006 at 5:11 am

    I personally feel that if your salary is at par with market standards, you have the so called work-life balance and enoying work, better to continue with the same company. One more thing that need to be seen is the advantges you get when you stick with the company for long time. Check if you have some value company and it encourages you to continue else update your profile:))

  2. Juby
    January 16, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    IMHO its what each individual wants that makes him/her to shift.. Some want money ..Some look for ‘job satisfaction’ ie the type of work he/she does.Some look for brands .. while some others look for startups…

    Companies are also responsible , they promise X and give Y.

    Last but not the least the two legged mammal called your ‘boss’.

    Personally I’d look for ‘job satisfaction’- A good dev job with a decent sal that can give me a ‘well-off’ living ; By well-off means u have some money to save and pay off your home & car loans and take ur wife out for a dinner once a while

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