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Will you take a paycut for a supportive work environment?

darrenvong profile image Darren Vong Updated on ・1 min read

It is not uncommon nowadays for jobs in tech to come with full of perks and benefits. But, the main one I don't see enough discussions about (and is sadly seen as a taboo): pay/salary.

To add to the question in the title, a supportive environment can be:

  • One where you feel comfortable asking for help;
  • One where they invest in you to improve yourself by allowing you to go on training courses and conferences;
  • One where you feel comfortable voicing your opinion and it really counts;
  • One with flexible working hours and where working over time is not expected/the norm

And as a follow-up to the main question, how much of a paycut (5% from your current pay? 10%?) are you willing to take before it is too much of a sacrifice?

Follow-up 2 to the main question - since it can be hard to determine if a new work place will be supportive, although often there are telling signs during the interview. The bottom line is, they are paying more; will you take the offer even though your current work environment is supportive? In other words, by staying, you are effectively taking the paycut. Or vice versa!

In an attempt to get more points of views, I also shared this on Twitter (where some of you may have found this 😊) and encouraged discussions on there. You can find some of the responses in the following tweet thread:

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darrenvong profile

Darren Vong

@darrenvong

Developer with strong interests in encouraging diversity in tech, travelling and occasional tea drinking.

Discussion

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For sure! I've thought about this a lot. I think my work environment is the #1 thing I'm considering when looking for work. Sure, I want to be paid well, but I want a workplace where I'm treated fairly and where I have room and support to grow and be challenged.

 

I've taken jobs with lower salary (up to 20%) twice already and even that it wasn't the best decision the first time, I would always do it again. I think how much you are willing to give up for a better working environment depends on what level you are on with your salary. Of course it is easier to do without if you don't have to limit yourself at all.

The first time, my work was more meaningful and had a very good social purpose, but the working environment proved to be more toxic than I thought possible. At the beginning everything sounded much too good to be true, because there was talk of individual encouragement and a lot of potential for development. In the end, however, you had to work almost inhumanly if you wanted to do your job well and meet the requirements that you set as your personal standard. I had never before worked in a company that had so little interest in quality and humanity.

The second time it was exactly the right decision, because I had a relaxed working atmosphere, felt that my work was valued and that I could make a difference. I had the opportunity to deal with new topics, learn a lot and contribute to something positive. It was the right decision at that time.

After my salary had risen year after year and the constant lack of good developers had also contributed to higher incomes, I realized that I very often burned myself very much. Many companies expect people to identify with them, to stand up for them and to perform at their best ... Unfortunately, this is often a one-way street.

I don't think it's easy to see what a working environment really is like before trying to work there. I had even talked to local employees before my first change, but I didn't see any warning signals that would have made me aware. You can only look people in the eye and sometimes you don't see anything strange.

At a time when we as developers don't have to worry too much about finding a new job, I would say that you should always dare to try something new when you don't feel comfortable anymore. Of course, you might want to give your boss the opportunity to work on problems and find a way together, but fear of new things is unfounded. Change always entails risks, but if I hadn't dared one or two things in my life, I could never have made many valuable experiences.

Like @giant995 said, there are things you can't buy with money. I can only confirm how valuable it is to have a team where everyone can learn from each other and achieve new goals together. Experiences don't pay rent, but they are fulfilling and you can often be proud of the things that became possible because of those experiences.

 

Correct me if I read this wrong, but what was your position before you took the paycut role for the first time? Did you leave that previous role (i.e. one before the first paycut role) because it was toxic too?

Change always entails risks, but if I hadn't dared one or two things in my life, I could never have made many valuable experiences.

This matches with what I thought quite well, that great and valuable experiences await those who dare to take some risks, especially if things seem to have plateaued or got more toxic in the current role.

 

When I took a new position with a much lower payment for the first time I was looking for new challenges. The job before wasn’t toxic, but I wanted a larger team, more challenging tasks and new technologies again.

It might also be important that the 2 times with lower payments haven’t been in a row, so that I didn’t lower my payment with every new job.

When I was looking for a more challenging job and an environment that could fit my expectations better, I found that many companies with a higher salary had crazy expectations in return. “Take the good money, but be okay with sacrificing the rest of your life”. That’s why I decided to take less money and a better environment instead.

 

This is an interesting question. So my work has great work life balance. We are expected to work 40 hours a week, and if we can't finish something within time it gets pushed back. This is good to help keep employees in the company because our system is so complicated and with so little documentation that new hires take at least a year to be productive.

So to address your points:

Asking for help

Absolutely I feel like I can ask for help at anytime. As such I will frequently ask how parts of our system work if I am unfamiliar since there is no documentation. One unfortunate part though is at this point I am the most up to date with technology, so there is no one to learn from in that regard.

Improvement

We have access to a bunch of paid (by the company) online courses and are given time to take them. We are also allowed to go to some conferences with pre-approval, which is given if reasonable and well ahead of schedule.

Voicing Opinion

Aaah, this is the trickier one. To my direct boss and team absolutely my opinion counts, but where the decisions are made not particularly.

Overall I am in the opposite position, would I consider taking a 20-40% pay increase at the sacrifice of work life balance, great immediate coworkers, and ability to ask for help. I'm not sure I could fully sacrifice the work life balance part.

 

The work life balance you described definitely sounds ideal - I knew I missed something when I wrote this so I'm going to add that in later when I get a sec! Judging from what you said, it sounds like you're not in the position where you'll struggle if you don't get a pay rise soon.

I've often wondered how common it is that companies have poor/no internal documentation... because the customers don't need to use it directly etc. In that case, being able to ask for help is more important than ever. I'll definitely bear this mind from now on as a question to ask!

 

Yeah it is not the worst for sure.

I think companies are trying so hard to get profitable and everyone knows everything at that point that they postpone docs. Then by the time they realize it's a problem some people have left and it's a juggernaut to tackle.

 

There is things money can't buy! I took an offer for an internship at a company where many of their employees are people I look up to in admiration. I could have worked a second internship at the same place as the year before, with a more higher salary, but the job was with old technology, often working alone or with a team of people that are on cruise control working for the paycheck.

This was the best decision I've ever took in my dev career. I learned so much from all these awesome people and I learned a ton of very useful techniques and tools to code. The company is developing products for startups and has a lean management style, everyone input is considered. It's pure joy!

My sanity and enjoyment has no price.

 

This got me thinking if the different stages of career you are in plays a big part too. Sure, you should be always learning new things, but the potential probably won't be as much as when you are starting out, where most things are new to you.

In that case, is it more worthwhile to sacrifice higher pay for a place that will teach you lots from other experienced team members? I think so unless you are struggling to pay your bills...

 

I'm glad to see this discussion because I had an early interview with a company last week that pays about 10% less than my last job (but since I'm not currently working, more than the nothing I'm making now :)), but seems like a much more supportive environment than my last job, which is really what I'm looking for in my next job, and I have to decide if I want to continue with the interview process despite the pay cut.

I'm undecided, but definitely considering it since I can live on the lower salary (just less saving and less fun spending) and at this point in my career I need the support more than I need the money.
I'm definitely interested to see everyone else's thoughts!

 

It's a question that's been playing on my mind that I thought is worth sharing, even though I'm not actively looking, so I'm glad you find it somewhat useful!

I feel like the difficulty with your situation is that we've been almost hard-wired to think the next job we go for should always pay higher, which in an ideal world, who wouldn't want that? But if there are signs that the new job will support you in some of the ways I mentioned above, maybe it will boost your worth as a developer in the long run and so might be worth going for it.

At the same time, it's tricky to tell what a place is truly like until you have worked for them. So I guess the other question is, can you afford to hold it out and find another place that will offer you the same/more than your last place?

Either way, hope it works out well for you, whatever your next endeavour turns out to be! :)