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How to handle a pay cut

What to do when you get to keep your job but your paycheck is slashed.

Kate Ashford, Monster contributor

Offered a pay cut in order to keep your
job? Here’s what to ask next.

The day your boss tells you that
your salary is being reduced is
not your best one. Taking a pay
cut is nobody’s idea of career
advancement. If your company is
in trouble, though, they may be
slashing pay across the board, and
the decision isn’t personal—it’s
Unless you’ve been in the
company’s financial loop, this
news might take you by surprise.
It’s a good idea to tell your boss
you’d like time to absorb the
information and then you’d like to
discuss it.
“I think people need to take
their time and digest,” says
Matthew Burr, a human resources
consultant in Elmira, New York.
“Don’t make any rash decisions
or get emotionally upset at the
Remember that you’re not
powerless in this situation. Take
these steps to manage your
reaction and your future career

Find out what’s what
Step one: You need the details.
Here are some questions to ask:
• Why is this happening?
• When will it take effect?
• How many people are being
impacted at the organization?

• Is this a one-time thing, or are
there other potential pay cuts in
the future?
• Are other things going to be
cut, like benefits?
• Are they taking away the 401(k)
• Will health care costs rise?
• Are training costs or continuing
education going to be
• Is there any chance of my
income being restored after
the company goes through this
rough patch?
• How will my hours or
responsibilities be affected?
• What are the company’s longterm plans?

Don’t be afraid to negotiate

Work-life balance is another
area where you can make some
headway. Now’s your chance to
ask whether you can work from
home one or two days a week,
or whether you can work four
10-hour days and take Fridays off.
Perhaps you could reduce your
work week to 35 hours.
It’s also worth noting that if you
have an employment contract
with your firm that stipulates
compensation, your firm would
need to renegotiate the contract
in order to adjust your pay—and
you don’t have to agree to that.

Consider whether this is
your cue to leave

Your company knows taking a
pay cut isn’t the best scenario and
probably anticipates that some of
its employees are going to jump
ship. If you’d like to stay, you may
be able to discuss other benefits
your company could extend in lieu
of your lost salary.

Nothing says you must accept the
pay cut and keep working for this
company. If you’ve been unhappy,
if you’ve been thinking of moving
on, or even actively interviewing
elsewhere, this could be the
catalyst you need to hand in your
resignation. In fact, some experts
recommend it.

Ask if there’s a way to consider
an extra week or two of vacation.
Ask, “Is there a way to negotiate
a retention bonus—a one-time
bonus that does not affect my
future pay issues,” Burr suggests.
If a one-time retention bonus is
possible, you’d likely be signing
an agreement that you’d stay for
at least a year after receiving it, so
think it through.

“Immediately start looking for jobs
elsewhere,” says business coach
Stacy Caprio. “Don’t, of course,
broadcast that you’re looking to
anyone, even your closest coworkers, but find a new job as soon
as possible that pays more. A pay
cut signifies the company is not
doing as well, and it could be a sign
your job will disappear completely
in the near future.”

That said, you’ll want to take a look
at the industry before you jump
ship. Is your company the only one
that’s flailing, or is everyone in the
field having a hard time?
If it’s the industry that’s suffering,
you may want to talk to a career
counselor or stretch your thinking
about what’s a bridge industry,”
says Nancy Halpern, an executive
coach with KNH Associates in New
York City. “It can be a really good
time to make sure your resume
is in shape, your network is up to
date, and meet with a financial
advisor if you have one,” she
If you leave because your
company lowered your pay, there’s
also a chance you could collect
unemployment—but only a
chance. “In certain situations, you
might be able to collect a portion
of it,” Burr says. “It’s going to
depend on the state calculation.”
Call your local unemployment
office for more information.

Bottom line
Taking a pay cut is never ideal, but it
doesn’t have to spell career doom.
You can use your new salary to
negotiate for that work-from-home
situation you’ve been wanting, or
you can view this as a sign from the
universe that it’s time to make a
switch. “You may feel this is a great
job and you are fine with the cut,”
says Stan Kimer, president of Total
Engagement Consulting by Kimer.
“Or it may be a great time to look
elsewhere. Consider if this is a good
time to change careers.”
If you’re ready to make the
move, brush up on interview and
negotiations skills, and be sure to
update your resume. Need help with
that? Join Monster for free today.
As a member, you’ll get weekly
emails filled with expert career
advice and job listings in your area.
You can also post up to five versions
of your resume, depending on the
types of jobs you’re looking for.
Hiring managers are searching for
talent on Monster every day.


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