Perception and Happiness

Almost 2 weeks ago, I posted that I was officially being promoted. The promotion had been an ongoing discussion since November, when I was first asked if I would be interested. From there, months were spent between my boss, our company President, our parent company’s HR and Accounting Departments, and their parent company’s HR and Accounting Departments, all trying to hash out what exactly this new position would be. A few weeks back, they finally reached an agreement: I would be promoted to “Accountant”, with a small pay increase. My promotion would be announced via email within the next few days, followed by a posting for my previous position.

Or so I thought.

The days ticked by, and nothing was done. The issue? My title. The HRs had decided that “Accountant” was not an acceptable title, and they went back to deliberating what exactly I should be called. At first, I was reminded of a post I read over at 1500days ( Call Me Chief Fart Captain). I mean, really, what did it matter what they called me? But then my HR sensors perked up (I used to work as an HR Manager); What did it matter what they called me? For that many high-level people to be that involved in deciding on a title, there had to be a pretty good reason. And in big business, the reason is almost always money. I took another look at my new job description, and quickly realized that it was VERY similar to the last 3 postings for Assistant Controllers at our parent companies. How similar? Seven of the bullet points were taken word for word. I was missing some bullet points, but several of those were tasks I already do (and had been told I would continue doing in my new position).

The parent companies are of the opinion that our company isn’t large enough to require an Assistant Controller. They’re more than willing to let me assume the role, they just aren’t willing to pay an Assistant Controller’s wages. So, they needed to come up with an alternate title. And that title needed to be obscure enough not to grab the attention of the unions (apparently there’s a big push to unionize certain levels of accountants). So, the title was out, and the discussion was begun again. A few days later, I was brought an alternative: Office Manager.

Oh, hell no! 

It’s not that I have a problem with being an Office Manager. If that’s what I was actually doing. But in a construction company as large as ours, that title would imply that I do very limited accounting tasks. My new job is all accounting tasks. Actually, I’m taking over a large chunk of accounting tasks from the Controller. I’d be shooting myself in the foot with that title if I ever tried to apply for a position outside of this company.

A few months back, I was really excited about being promoted. A few weeks ago, I was less that excited about the pay, but happy to be moving on to something different, and ready to start training a new replacement. Now? After months of big company executives trying to get creative in naming my position to avoid paying me the extra $5,000-10,000(+) the position deserves, I’m less than thrilled. Actually, I feel as though I’m being taken advantage of. Definitely feeling under-appreciated. To make matters worse, I was told they were seriously downgrading my current position; The new person will be hourly (our ONLY hourly office staff member), and will likely earn $10,000-15,000 less than I was. Are you f@*?ing kidding me?!?

What’s worse, as I look around the company (and our parent company, and their parent company), I can’t help but feeling like it’s all extremely sexist. Women make up the administrative departments (including all “lower-level” accounting positions) at all 3 companies, while (white) men hold almost every other position. The benefits are great, so they cut the administrative wages to the bone, while expecting high performance and years of experience. Meanwhile all the men make great wages, and are given cell phones, and fuel cards, and company trucks (for personal use and business use), whether their job requires them to leave the office or not. Most of them get their jobs not because they’re the most qualified candidate, but because they are someone’s son, or nephew, golf-buddy or neighbor.

I hate being the girl standing there calling sexism. Maybe it’s just the reality that more women are applying for administrative positions, while more men are interesting in the “nuts and bolts” of construction. But why does that justify not paying us fairly? Why are the people who “deal with the paperwork” so undervalued? The men are making the same great benefits, along with a variety of extra perks, yet their wages aren’t being cut.

I wasn’t sure what to do from there. I’m not exactly in a position to walk away from my job, or to be pushed out of it for making too many waves. In the end, I took the middle path: I let my boss know that I was unhappy, that at worst it was sexist, and that I definitely felt I was being taken advantage of. And then? I went back to work. I accepted my promotion, and the newly decided title of “Contract Administrator”. Whatever that means.

On the plus side, I’ll be training to do the work of an Assistant Controller. After I have some experience, it will be easier for me to interview for higher-level positions outside the company. All of this reminds me how much I hate being part of the corporate world. I’m sure it’s a big driver behind my urge to try paying off ALL my debt this year. Being debt free will open up a lot of possibilities for me. And if I can start socking away money for the future? Even better!

What would you do if you were in my position? Am I right to feel taken advantage/discriminated against? Or, with the job market being what it is, should I just be thankful for any type of promotion, and the chance to learn something new?

– Cindy W.

Comments

  1. Oh, this stuff makes me so mad. Only you can decide what to do about it (make more of a fuss, apply for outside jobs, whatever) but it’s definitely wrong. It sounds like it probably is partly sexism (pink-collaring) but also the obnoxious penny-pinching that goes on all over the place when it comes to workers. $5-10K means nothing to a company that large and a ton to you, plus the title. I just got really mad last night at a university (as it happens, a university that because of its location I would really like to work for someday) which posted four “teaching postdoc” positions in the department I would be in. These are three-year jobs with roughly the same workload as an assistant professor would have (spread out a little differently, but roughly the same amount and of the same level of importance to the school) but by calling it another level of post-PhD training, they can pay people $20000 less than an assistant professor would be paid AND there’s no possibility of them staying on after three years. Now, as it happens I have a postdoc myself right now, but it’s not exploitative; the money is quite good (though not assistant prof level), I’m legitimately learning new skills, and my workload is very appropriate so I have plenty of time for my own projects. Anyway: I just got so annoyed at this other university, because if they have that much work that needs to get done, they can damn well hire actual staff to do it. I would apply to one of those positions over my cold dead body, even though I’d love to move to that city!

    1. I understand that everything is a business, and that part of business is keeping costs under control. But it’s frustrating that, as much as the cost of education has risen, they’re trying to cut corners on paying the people who are doing the actual educating. It’s like people are getting so wrapped up in the other “perks” colleges/universities offer that they’re forgetting that education is the most important part!

      I went to such a small school for undergrad, I didn’t even realize there were so many different levels of educators. Is the difference from postdoc to assistant professor to professor just a matter of experience and promotion? Or are their varying levels of education required? Does it vary between large schools and small?

      1. Oh boy, it’s kind of complicated 🙂 At a small school you’d have been unlikely to see a postdoc — those jobs are typically at research universities or at very rich small colleges. For all of it, you need the same level of education (a PhD). The difference is in seniority but also in type of work. Assistant professors, associate professors, and full professors are all permanent positions. You get hired as an assistant prof, after 5-7 years you get tenure and are promoted to associate prof, and after some other amount of time and usually a second book (in the humanities; or equivalent in other fields) you can get promoted to full professor (some people stay associate professors forever, usually because they don’t do a second book/equivalent.)

        Postdocs (short for postdoctoral fellowships) are temporary full-time positions, meant as transitional between graduate school and being an assistant professor. Not everyone does one (it’s not mandatory to get hired as an assistant professor); but nearly all scientists do, and it’s supposed to give you training in new kinds of lab skills. They’re rarer in the humanities, but getting more common than they used to be. They pay less well than a permanent faculty job and come with varying expectations: some are very teaching-heavy, while some have little or no teaching and provide you with a lot of time to work on your research and publish. A very few, like mine, also expect you to do some administrative stuff; I work for a center at a large university, so I’m helping to organize speakers, conferences, and read and respond to grant applications. That’s partly why I took the job: these were things I hadn’t done before and I thought it would be good for me to get experience with them. (There were other good reasons to do it too, but that was a big one.) As an employee, I’m neither fish nor fowl — I get health benefits like a long-term employee, but the university doesn’t contribute to my retirement (sigh) and of course the job’s only going to last this year and next year.

        Then there are adjuncts, who are paid (almost nothing) by the course and almost never receive benefits of any kind. That’s where it gets *really* awful, and I would never do that job — better to go work as a bank teller or something. It’s just too exploitative.

        1. That is complicated! In my undergrad days, everyone was just “Professor”. But the school only had about 2,500 students, and was definitely not a big school for the sciences. I went to a big school here locally when I was working towards my MSA, but most of the teachers were so “new age-y” that they just wanted students to call them by their first name, so it was hard to tell. Although I did have 1 adjunct who taught an entry level night course. She taught the same courses over at the community college during the day.

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