Towards the end of last week my contracting boss swung by my cubicle and asked me if I had a minute for him, and as soon as I acknowledged that I did he started leading the way from my desk to the nearest conference room. As kind of a thematic bookend to my post last week about how long I’ve been working here and how comfortably unchanging a pattern things are settling into, I can still recall how such an ambiguous-to-ominous overture might have once caused me a few moments of cold-sweat terror, but now I know better. I followed my boss into the conference room and we had a two-minute meeting (on our feet, no less, despite the presence of chairs) about the latest round of salary adjustments. It’s all very boilerplate at this point, with my boss telling me that I do good work and he wishes the increase could be more, but his hands are tied for various reasons, and me telling him that it’s perfectly fine, I appreciate the recognition and obviously every little bit helps and is significantly better than no bump at all (or the various hypothetical cutbacks and layoffs that need not be spoken of).
At this point I also understand the assorted factors in play which are never really discussed out in the open. Not that they’re inherently bad; one, for instance, is that it’s pretty widely accepted that the boss likes everyone on the contract team and thinks highly enough of all our work, so there’s no dead weight he’s looking to unload (or trying to disincentive into unloading themselves), but neither is there anyone who’s his golden child he would fight tooth and nail for. The point being that when corporate says to our boss “Here’s the mathematically determined amount of money allocated for your compensation adjustments, do with it what you will,” basically our boss just takes that and spreads it around pretty evenly among us. And honestly I have no problem with that, just like I have no problem with the context-free “Got a minute?” that kicks off this part of the process every year, because I know the whole idea is not to draw attention to it, and not rub in the face of the government employees the fact that the contractors are handing out raises again. I get it, because I’ve been repeating the annual cycle too many times at this point not to get it.
There was one minor surprise, though, as my boss off-handedly mentioned having my labor category reclassified soon. That is of course one of those borderline-unforgivable and all but meaningless bits of corporate jargon but it sort of translates into a promotion. Right now my official job title is “principal developer” which means I could move up to “senior principal developer.” If I did, it wouldn’t change much, not even my salary, at least not directly. But the senior position has a higher salary range, and apparently I’m getting close to the upper limit of my present position’s range. So to my boss, at least, this is a no-brainer, to move me up to the next position and its attendant higher range so that every year he can continue bumping my compensation. I can only assume that means he plans on keeping me around for a while.
I’ve never really shied away from the fact that the money is what keeps me in the job, and would be the hardest aspect of the job to walk away from. Maybe I won’t have to walk away from it entirely, because maybe someday I’ll find another job opportunity which actually challenges me or inspires me and also happens to have a commensurate salary and is clearly a win-win. But those kinds of best-case scenarios are exceedingly rare and some type of trade-off is far more likely to be the order of the day, some day. Or not, if I just keep plugging away tolerating the job and enjoying the lifestyle to which it has me accustomed. I don’t know. I do know that these are far and away the best kind of problems to have, to the extent that I probably shouldn’t consider them problems at all, but my mind goes where it goes some times.