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Eric took a deep breath in and held it as he slowly scanned the piece of paper he had just printed out. His computer dinged, Outlook reminding him of his meeting in 5 minutes. AS if he could forget. It wasn’t just any meeting. It was his annual review. He had been with his company for three years now, and after getting nothing more than slight percentage increases in his salary for his last two reviews, this year he was going for broke.
“Don’t pussy out.” He told himself as he glossed over his print-out. “You deserve this. You’ve been busting your ass in this role for three fucking years, and it’s about time to get bumped up to a senior position. You know they’re going to question your experience level, but you can’t let that phase you. How old was Mozart when he wrote his first symphony? Didn’t Isaac Newton discover gravity at like 20? Age doesn’t matter. You’re a prodigy at managing projects, goddamn it, and it’s time you got the recognition you deserved.” He smiled as his internal voice continued hyping him up.
“Then agan, maybe don’t mention Mozart. You’re probably not the Mozart of your job. But you’re pretty damn good. And what are you not going to do?” He asked himself, his lips silently moving. “You’re not going to settle for just a title bump with no salary increase. That’s right. 30% baby. Thirty-fucking-percent. That would put you at the average salary for your new position, and fuck them if they say you’re not at least average at your job. You’re gonna roll into Janet’s office, put your dick on the table, figuratively, and let her know that daddy needs a big ol’ promotion or he’s gonna walk.”
The voice in his head paused as he thought about what he was saying. “Wait, am I going to walk if I don’t get this? Shit, I didn’t think about what I would do if I get straight denied. Do I threaten to quit? What if they call that bluff? I have no savings. Could Alyssa cover rent for a couple months while I’m unemployed? Shit, I –”
His internal monologue was cut off as his computer dinged again, announcing the start of his meeting. “Fuck,” he thought as he walked down the hall to his boss’s office. “I guess we’re doing it live.” He rapped gently on the door frame as he peered inside. “Hey Janet, do you have a second to discuss my review?”
Janet looked up at him blankly for a few seconds as her face shifted through a variety of emotions. Confusion, annoyance, and finally, acceptance. “That’s right,” she said as she gestured him inside. “I forgot we had that scheduled. Do you mind closing the door?”
Eric steadied his heart rate as he sat down. He looked firmly into his boss’s eyes and swiveled his piece of paper towards her as he began his prepared speech. “So, I don’t know if you’ve gotten a chance to see the email I sent you regarding my accomplishments and experience in my position, but I’ve listed it all here. As you can- “
He paused as she lifted her hand. She pinched the bridge of her nose and spoke in a soft tone. “Eric, I’m sorry to cut you off, but let me just say a few things. First of all, I want to say that your work has been fantastic since you’ve been here, and the company, and myself specifically, greatly appreciate your hard work and everything you’ve done.” She paused and frowned compassionately as she continued. “That being said, unfortunately I’m going to tell you what I’ve told everyone during their review. Our quarterly numbers were lower than anticipated and due to increased pressure for profit from our holding company, we are unable to give out merit raises this year. We’re still offering a 2.8% cost of living raise, but other than that, we are in a freeze. I’m sure you’re disappointed, but –“
Now it was Eric’s turn to cut her off. He spoke louder than anticipated, his emotions getting the better of him, before regaining an even tone. “ACTUALLY- Sorry to cut you off – Actually, I was hoping for not just a raise, but a promotion. I believe I have the experience and proven accomplishments to be promoted to a Senior Project Manager, and I think it’s time I take the next step in my career. Uh, obviously I wasn’t expecting the information you just told me, but unfortunately it doesn’t change my decision. I actually received an offer from another company for this desired position and salary, and as much as I love it here and would want to stay, it’s too great of an opportunity to pass up. I know you said we’re in a freeze, but if there’s any way you could match or get close to the other offer, it would make my decision a lot easier.”
Eric took his first breath in what felt like minutes, his mind racing as he stared Janet with wide eyes. “Holy shit,” he thought. “Where the fuck did that come from? I don’t have a fucking offer. I haven’t even applied anywhere else. There’s no way she believes me. I can see it in her eyes. She knows no one’s giving a 25-year-old a senior position. Shit, she probably knows people at every other company in our industry. I’m so fucked. Can I take what I said back? No, it’s too late now. We’re riding this train.”
Janet’s face showed no emotion for several long seconds before she began to speak. When she did, her words were measured and serious. “I see. Well, as I stated earlier, you’re a very valued employee and we’d hate to see you leave. Can I ask what company made you the offer?”
Eric’s brain froze. Luckily, his mouth was used to working on its and continued in a casual tone. “I’d actually prefer to keep that private at this point.” She nodded, expecting that answer, and replied. “I understand. Well, this is a decision that I would have to speak with others about and see what we can do. Can you email me the salary and title you’re looking for, and I’ll keep you updated when we make a decision. I can’t promise anything.”
Eric smiled and stood to leave. “Of course, I’ll email you right away. Thanks for hearing me out.” He walked slowly down to his desk and sat heavily in his chair, adrenaline running through his veins. “Fuck me, it actually sounds like they…might go for it? Or she’s going to tell me they can’t and I’ll either have to admit I’m bluffing or quit with no job lined up. Goddamn it. Why did I do this to myself?”
“Hey buddy.” Eric looked up from his desk to see Tom riding his wheeled chair over to him. “So how’d that review go? I’ve got mine this afternoon. Is she feeling generous?”
Eric chuckled, forcing his expression to remain calm. “Ehh, not so much. Looks like just the standard raises this year.”