Monday, May 17, 2010

Falling Short

Salary compression and general issues of salary inequity are perennial issues in the departments with which I have been associated over the years. These are challenges for department chairs and other administrators who need to balance economic reality with fairness, all the while attempting to maintain a moderately high level of morale.

A common scenario that results in salary compression is when a new hire negotiates a high salary relative to peers or more junior colleagues in the same department.

You might think that such issues would become moot during an economic crisis. Many of us are fortunate to have secure jobs with decent salaries, however challenging it is to do our jobs with decreasing resources for teaching and research, and thoughts of alleviating salary compression must be set aside for now. For the most part, these issues are indeed temporarily on hold until we can be done with furloughs and pay cuts and unfilled positions and even terminations of positions. This was my impression, anyway.


For some reason a certain administrator recently told me that, although I had had (in his opinion) "a spectacular year" in terms of publications, grants, students graduated, teaching, service, honors etc., he was going to allocate what few extra resources he had at his discretion to some of the assistant professors. He said his decision is not based on "merit" but on what he thinks is fair.

OK, that's fine.. sort of. I am not going to argue that I deserve more of these scarce resources than my hard-working junior colleagues, and my morale is not crushed by this turn of events. My so-called "spectacular" year was made possible in part by the fact that I am a mid-career professor with an established research group that is functioning well. My younger colleagues are still building their research programs, and the contents of their annual reports should therefore by viewed in this context, rather than by a strict comparison of numbers of publications or grants etc.

And yet, there is still a very large difference between my salary and that of a peer (male) colleague whose higher salary is not based on the fact that he is more productive than I am (because he is not). He was hired as a full professor and negotiated a higher salary than what his nearest peer colleague (that's me) was making. My initially low salary has of course increased over the years, but not at a rate that would put me at the same level as this colleague anytime soon, if ever.

I told the aforementioned administrator that I understood and even supported his plan to help some of the assistant professors, but I also said that I didn't want my situation to fall entirely off the radar screen in future years, as I saw it as an equity issue. One could argue that my colleague is paid "too much" and that my salary is more appropriate for my position and job, but that still leaves me as a good example of a woman paid ~85% of what a man makes for the same job.

The aforementioned administrator replied that I should have done a better job negotiating my salary when I was first hired.

Ah yes, maybe I should have. And maybe the assistant professors who need an economic boost to bring their salaries in line with other young colleagues should have done the same thing or else they also would not now be in such dire need of assistance.

But for some reason, my poor negotiating skills are relevant here, not theirs.

I was OK with the plan until the administrator made this gratuitous swipe at the circumstances of my hiring more than a dozen years ago with a different department chair and in a situation involving a 2-person hire.

Why did he think it was reasonable to criticize my negotiating skills and not those of my younger colleagues? (FYI, these younger colleagues are all men). He was telling me that I should just accept my salary situation relative to my peers but he's going to help these other colleagues who are experiencing salary compression for the exact same reason that I am??

Lucky for me, I am doing quite well despite my evident flaws as a salary negotiator lo these many years ago (although this will apparently haunt me, or at least my base salary, forever), and I feel fortunate to have a secure job. I do not begrudge my younger colleagues the fact that they have an administrator looking out for their best interests. These young men are fortunate in this, despite their lousy salary negotiating skills.

And yet, although I think I will not pursue the matter further this year, I am not inclined to remain quiet about it in perpetuity. I work hard, I believe I am an asset to my department, and I should be compensated fairly relative to my peers, just as my younger colleagues are.


Becky said...

This is yet another example of the pattern I see again and again and again. If a man makes less money, it's a problem that needs to be fixed. If a woman makes less money, there's always a reason.

Anonymous said...

I think that this knowledge that often women don't negotiate for high enough salaries, and then leave themselves in this position where, years later, they are undercompensated compared to male peers, leaves young women scientists in a very strange position.

I have had many discussions with other women interviewing for and then negotiating for their first faculty jobs- and what often comes up is this sense of absolute panic (which I have heard explicitly verbalized exactly this way) in which we all know that this process is something women have historically had trouble with, and we know we can screw ourselves in the long run if we don't do it right, and yet we have absolutely no freaking idea what we're supposed to do about it. Its like, the pressure of negotiating is suddenly magnified by the fact that you know this is something you're likely to do non-optimally, and you don't want to fall in to the same old trap and yet only have even a vague concept of what the exact parameters of the trap are.

It seems almost impossible to find out what salary is normal for the actual current year in your actual department (even at state schools, base salaries from a few years back might be on convoluted HR websites, but they don't include things like summer salaries and startup or other subtleties). And corporate salary negotiation advice often doesn't really apply.

So once you know that you have to be sure to negotiate well, do you have any recommendations for the next step? like, how you actually find out what you are even able to negotiate for? its hard to know even where to look for this kind of thing- whats a girl to do?

GMP said...

Dear FSP,

Your post sounds quite a bit like the situation in my department. I have recently got tenure at a large R1 public university, and since I got here raises have been minimal or nonexistent. I did not negotiate my starting salary much, but did the size of my startup package.

This year, the planned raises were revoked and we have furloughs instead. My Chair has decided to distribute the little discretionary funds he has to what he felt are in-demand, well-performing junior faculty (near tenure or recently tenured). I think this was good move from the standpoint of retention, as these faculty are in demand, can relatively effortlessly move, and have not had any good years with high raises like the senior faculty. We have some brilliant midcareer faculty, and none of them got raises (that I know of).

Regarding the issue with your colleague being overpaid (btw, your Chair showed a remarkable lack of tact by scolding you for not negotiating better a decade ago). I'm not sure this is a gender issue (at least not entirely), I hear over and over again that the only way to get a decent raise is to move or threaten to move (have a written offer in hand). I think interviewing without a genuine interest in relocating is a waste of everybody's time and will antagonize people at the other institution who had to pull together and offer; however, I know a number of people who have done it (often multiple times) and have gotten good raises every time...

On a different note: I have only recently discovered your blog and am already a fan! Very relevant and interesting writing!

mOOm said...

I presume that the real reason is that in the US there is more of a market in untenured assistant profs than in tenured full profs. But if you had an outside offer...

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear how you would pursue this, if you were interested in doing so. I have had salary issues of my own, but when I try to redress it, I just keep running into dead end after dead end.

It seems like every time I turn around, there's another article on women's inability to negotiate. One in the NYT just last week! And I am starting to think it's bullshit. I interpret it as "we will pay you whatever we want, and if you complain, we'll say it is because you don't know how to negotiate."

eigenrobot said...

Can you make a credible threat to relocate to another institution? It sounds like at least one of two things is true:

i. The administrator does not view retaining you as a priority;

ii. The administrator thinks that in your case, praise is sufficient remuneration.

If either obtained I would be inclined to take my toys and go home.

Anonymous said...

This post is so timely! I am planning on visiting the university that made me an offer for a tenure-track assistant prof starting in the fall. I was debating whether I have any leeway in negotiating in salary, since the university in case is a large state school in a state in deep financial mires. But I guess I should still attempt to hold forth, and negotiate for a better salary.

m @ random musings said...

I have read that when females demonstrate strong negotiation skills, the social perception is so negative that it is difficult to build collaborative relationships and get future raises. That is, the social fall-out is worse (measured by financial opportunity) than simply accepting the lower base initially.

Female post-doc said...

Ummmm...nevermind the fact that this administrator is trying to "be fair" to the younger (male) professors? Does he think there is a statute of limitations on "being fair" or just seemingly gender-specific justifications?

Anonymous said...

FSP, you have a solution right here on your blog: get another job offer and renegotiate.

On the other hand, your initial negotiation had another priority if I remember your blog correctly: a solution to the two-body problem. Sometimes you have to give some to get some.

C said...

Whilst obviously better salary negotiating skills is going to lead to better pay, that just leads to an absurd situation - why should a professor be paid according to not how good they are at their job, but how good their salary negotiation skills are and what the departmental finances were like at the time of hiring...!
And if there is any correlation between negotiating skills and gender (as some books suggest) then of course that's going to lead to inadvertent discrimination.

Your administrator's line drawn between "fair" and "merit" smells very fishy though.

Anonymous said...

It's absurd that your initial negotiations should leave you at a salary disadvantage over a decade later, and it seems disingenuous of the administrator to bring it up.

Starting salaries are negotiated when your value is essentially unknown. After a few years, salaries should evolve to a place (through pay increases or the lack of them) where you're being compensated at a rate that is comparable with other similarly achieving and similarly qualified people.

Anonymous said...

If it's really an equality issue and not a negotiating issue, then "man up" and ask for a raise. This post is actually quite contradicting to a previous post discussing summer money.

John Vidale said...

I see back in January:

I've had several other somewhat surprising opportunities arise without my seeking them out. There seem to be a few of these every year. My husband has had similar experiences, as all these institutions know they would have to hire the both of us.


our current department chair was proactive at one point and went to the Dean/Provost before another institution got too far with an offer.

You should be able to get much MORE salary than a less stellar colleague without several overtures a year. I've never heard of another couple with as much leverage to close a salary compression issue. You didn't ask for the raise you wanted from the Dean/Provost?

Anonymous said...

It seems it is never about how much some one makes, but all about how much they make relative to some one else. I guess this is how humans work? Sad if true.

neurowoman said...

Such comments are infuriating, I'd have wanted to clean his clock. I read his implication as you gave up some salary as trade for something else (dual hire). As a woman, I would love to be able to negotiate harder for higher salary, but when one negotiates with a two body problem, one is negotiating from a position of weakness. The only answer seems to be to generate an outside offer once the two of you are in a position of greater power. I imagine this sort of situation is fairly common and will probably hold down female salaries - but also their male partners as well.

Female Science Professor said...

I already did the credible-outside-offer thing a few years ago and got a double-digit raise as a result. This brought my salary up a lot but still left a significant gap between my salary and that of my colleague. There are still some outside offer possibilities, but I have not been pursuing them aggressively.

Tamara said...


I couldn't agree more with you and I feel so angry about your situation. It doesn't matter where you are situated on the globe, this kind of discrimination is still very present. You don't need to be in a third world country or somewhere where women's rights are not respected, you just have to be a woman and in a lot of industries you wll always be paid less than men. It is not a question of negociation (although of course it does matter sometimes), it's that even though women's condition has improved a lot over the years, it's still tough to fight these behaviours.

In science, where men have the monopole of the influence, it's very important to fight for equity. It's not a question of "even up the score", it's simply a question of fairness. I’m sure that things will get better eventually but for now it’s still very annoying.

Anonymous said...

The discussion about how to negotiate is a much needed one (and as mentioned by another poster, very hard to find useful information on). The best advice I received was to try to negotiate over email, not only do you have a written record, but it gives you time to do research, talk to other people, and be fortified (e.g. reminded you can do this, you do deserve that...). During a phone conversation, it's too easy to be "flexible" and not ask for what you really need for fear of offending or a need to be agreeable.

whyme? said...

Negotiation is weird. When I got my current TT position I essentially negotiated by accident. My husband and I were on the job market. He had a job he could continue in where we were. I had an interview at a university near enough to where we were for things to work with some horrendous commutes. My husband interviewed and got an offer from a great place far away (GPFA). I interviewed at a great R1 very close to GPFA, and it was my top choice. One day, I got a call from the nearby place to check on my decision, and for some reason I completely core-dumped, explaining our two-body problem, my husband's offer at GPFA and many other things they did not need to know. When I got off the phone, I was horrified and reminded myself that if anyone called again, I should just say that I was pleased in their interest and would contact them with any questions. Not 15 minutes later, I got a call from the far-away R1 with an offer. Now, there was almost NO chance that I wasn't going to take the offer, but as I had planned, I thanked them for their interest and said I'd be back in touch. Two hours later, they offered me a salary increase...

John Vidale said...

Last time we discussed who needed a raise, I plotted total citations against years since PhD, then compared outliers (and inliers) to monthly salaries, which are published on a convenient web site for our State school.

I sent the excel data and a list of the outliers that warranted a raise (according to this very crude methodology) to the Chair. No one asked to see even the plots in the faculty meeting. In the end, I just used the data to argue for one of the cases, which was moot as the retention program got slashed.

Two points were brought home to me by this exercise - no one wants to see such a list except the Chair (maybe a good idea from a collegiality POV), and everyone feels unfairly underpaid (except me, although since we claim the Ivies as comparison schools ... ).

I still question whether FSP asked sufficiently aggressively for a raise - from her recounting of accomplishments and outside interest, she should easily be able to match her less acclaimed fellow faculty.

From the POV of a two-prof family with just one kid, I have a hard time claiming penury when our Chair mitigates compression, as he did last year.

Anonymous said...

This seems to be several issues comingling.

The first is getting a bonus for an especially productive year. This seems like a good idea, no? Seems reasonable that there be some sort of recognition for doing very good work.

The second is gender related, but we only have one data point. We all compare ourselves to the higher-salary; how do you fit in to the lower-salary? Where do you fall in the department compared across the board?

The third is academic salary-wrangling. It's become clear to me from talking with various faculty members from several universities (mostly in the midwest) and several blogs (not in the midwest TMK) (I'm a postdoc trying to get a Real Job so I can support my family and not keep moving them around every 2-3 years) that the initial negotiating phase is the most critical part of setting your salary for the rest of your career. Afterwards, the chief means to improve one's salary beyond cost-of-living increases is applying for and obtaining a position at another university.

The fourth is assisting junior faculty as they try to get established. As someone who is hoping to get a junior faculty job in the very near future, I'm very glad to hear this happens! I agree with you that it's important to give junior faculty a hand.

So I guess the main question, aside from information on departmental salary demographics, is what is another university willing to pay for you, especially given this great year? ;)

(BTW, any pointers for a postdoc and hopefully future faculty member?)

Anonymous said...

postdoc again: (incidentally, the importance of the starting salary is high in my mind right now, thanks to the economic crash and various states drastically cutting salaries. (Thanks, wall street jerks!) I'm holding on to the hope that I can apply elsewhere to get a higher salary later, after the economy has regained its (nominal) sanity! If you do take this route, please let us know how it goes!)

chemcat said...

Dear FSP, I sympathize with you. I have been promoted to associate this year. My salary was negotiated when I started (got 5% more than initially offered), but since I have not had a raise since 2006, my salary lags behind the new assistant professors', who are hired at current market value. At the assistant prof level there is not much space for negotiation when coming in, it's really a matter of what the salaries are like that year and whether one has other offers. But anyways, I am now making mid-sixties. i will be in low 70s once the associate position kicks in. We are hiring at low 80s now. So as an associate, I'll make about 10 K less than the people I hired!
I went to see my chair about it, but he doesn't want to correct the situations ad personam, because it's a whole cohort who's in the same shoes. (BTW that's not how he phrased it, he said I'm not stellar enough; the above is my benign interpretation of his inappropriate comments). I understand his position, but the reality is that many of my male colleagues got raises because they got outside offers. One, who by all accounts is less productive than me, is in the mid 90s. So I will have no recourse other than wasting my time looking around (right now, except for chair and dean, I am quite happy where I am). An other problem is that my chair "encouraged" me to accept a baby-related extension, even if in retrospect I did not need it. He just was not willing to take even a minimal risk given that I could avoid it. This was clearly gender bias- every time I talk to him he points to my minuscule shortcomings rather than my achievements (I've got twice as much grant money as my peers, but I'm just average with papers). And it delayed my progression....

Anonymous said...

I think interviewing without a genuine interest in relocating is a waste of everybody's time and will antagonize people at the other institution who had to pull together and offer; however, I know a number of people who have done it

To be fair, I know of a prof who was told by the Dean that there were positively no funds available for a raise. So this prof applied for jobs elsewhere.

When the administration heard that a generous offer had been made, they readily matched it and far surpassed it. So much for the "positively no funds available" statement by the Dean.

Anonymous said...

You could try filing a salary grievance. My university has such a procedure. I have had mixed results with it. When I was an assistant professor, I found that the grievance committee was useless. Many years later - after my full professor promotion - I found that I was paid much less than my peers. I asked my chair about it - and was told that discretionary raises went to "people we want to keep." Unfortunately my husband likes living here, so moving would be difficult. I was fortunate in that quantitatively I had a far superior record to my peers that were paid more than I (literally one of my peers had 50 citations and I had 1300 citations; another had a h-factor of 5 and I had a h-factor of something like 18). The end result was that I got a large raise. That being said, I am still angry at all of them.

FrauTech said...

What a mirror universe. Except I am your low-paid junior colleague who's getting the extra this year.

Everyone in my chain of command knows I'm underpaid. The actual full disparity won't be obvious until I graduate in a year, when I fully expect to be criticized for not negotiating. Instead I am usually told that "the experience" I am getting makes up for any low pay. I don't think the male colleagues my age get to hear this, but I guess since I am in school still it is the way they can justify not paying me for my current title and performance.

My last boss and current boss were enormously sympathetic, with varying amounts of success in getting me better pay. My current boss informed me that due to the economy blah blah blah his hands were really tied this year (which is BS, we are not affected by the economy, if anything doing better, but just to note that that is what *everyone* will use as an excuse). Anyways, he was angry at not being able to do right by all of his people but used one of his few cards left to play on me. I felt a little bad, because there are people senior to me who probably are his best performers. And while I am a good performer relative to my pay and title, I'm not necessarily in the top one or two. However in my case there certainly aren't any senior women being underpaid here because there just aren't any senior women.

GMP said...

Anon at 12:45

I am sorry about the large disparity between your record and the colleague's; I appreciate what it takes to get the citation metrics to be as high as yours.

One of the biggest problems I experience in situations where I sense something to be unfair has to do with the natural reaction: I get upset and it often shows (not the raging-lunatic kind but the blood-into-my-face kind). I believe that a lot of male administrators clam up and dismiss female requests when there is a shred of emotion (even warranted) involved. Male aggression is, however tolerated way better. I personally am working hard (with mixed success) on my poker face (and by extension poker emails).

But generally the colder, more aloof, and overall humorless matter-of-fact I am the better; this holds almost invariably in interactions with colleagues, most students (not my research group), and administration.

This is just from my pesonal experience, I am not generalizing it to all women. But, my working towards becoming a cool cucumber has been beneficial for the little things I have been negotiating in the past few years.

So always arm yourself with data, expect injustice, curb emotion, and fight! :)

amy said...

I agree with geekmommyprof. This is something I'm working on, though I haven't had much success yet. My face shows every emotion in an exaggerated way (as in, I look royally pissed off when I'm only mildly irritated), and I have problems with turning red when I'm the slightest bit agitated. It's very bad for my interactions with students, and I suspect it has hurt me with administrators as well.

Anonymous said...

My chair basically told me what Comrade PhysioProf puts so elegantly:

"Get an offer from another university with a salary you are comfortable with, and then tell these bags of fuck that they either match that salary, or you and your "spectacular performance" are gonna fucking leave. If they don't match the salary, then you fucking leave."

I realize this is how the system works, but don't you think the method of getting a better offer elsewhere or else go f-myself favors the typical male with easy-to-move-stay-home wife?
My life is pretty complicated, and it's not that easy for me to f-ing leave if they don't match the salary. I've been told to play this game only if I'm ready to leave, and I don't think this game is as easy for many women as it is for most men.

mOOm said...

This is the advantage of having an explicit payscale like we have here in Australia with promotion up the scale supposedly decided on merit (no "salary compression" etc). The downside is that it is hard to hire stars who can get much higher offers from private universities in the US.

Anonymous said...

While gender may (or may not) be at the root of FSP's situation, it is important to note that this problem is not limited to female faculty with male administrators.

After a few career successes led me to ask for a raise, I (an MSP) was waved off by my (female) chair in the same way: "Sorry -- you negotiated a lousy starting salary."

Two years later, and a new (male) chair gave me a markedly different response: "Wow -- you really negotiated a lousy starting salary -- we need to rectify that." And he proceeded to give me back-to-back double-digit increases. And I know that he has done the same with an FSP in our department in a similar situation.

In most cases (although this year may be an exception), it is well within the power of administrators to offer merit raises in the absence of counter-offers. That they often do not do so is merely a reflection on their cowardliness and selfishness.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 7:45 -- What decade are you living in? Do you really think that most of us MSP's have stay-at-home wives? That our lives are uncomplicated, and we can easily just pack up and leave?

Sorry to burst your victim bubble, but things are tough all over.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:46. I'm a different Anon than the one you directed your comment at but nearly all of the MSPs, young and old, in my large department have stay at home wives.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:46: I'm in a dept. with 45+ faculty, and statistically speaking, the MSPs have family situations that are ON AVERAGE much easier to reconcile with this game of 'match my outside offer or else...'.
Sure not all MSPs have it easy, and sure, not all FSPs have it particularly complicated. Yet, my modest experience in a very large institution has shown me that way more men than women have the flexibility to play the game.

Anon @ 7:45

Anonymous said...

I'm another anon as well but I think the SAHW part is true based on location. At my smaller university, all of the MSPs have SAHW and only one of the women has children (me). At other universities on the coast where I was, most of the wives of the MSPs worked.

Female Science Professor said...

I think we need a poll. I shall construct one for tomorrow's post.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 7:45 -- I am Anon @ 9:46.

Your second comment (@10:06) is much more fair than your first, which painted with a very broad brush.

I do not doubt that these issues are *on average* somewhat more complicated for women than for men.

I guess we differ, however, on what percentage of the variance is accounted for by gender.

GMP said...

It was shown (I will pull up that survery) that a huge percentge of FSP (circa 80%) are married to MSP or other highly educated professionals. The percentage of MSF married to FSP or equivalent is much lower (~15-20%). So I'd say that makes the two-body problem on the average harder in the case of FSP than MSP.

Most of my junior-to-midcareer MSP colleagues have wives who work, but most of those wives are not academics or affiliaed with the university. Among senior MSP colleagues the percentage of SAHW is much much higher.

The (very few) FSP senior to me had stay-at-home husbands for a time at least.

Anonymous said...

I just want to clarify that I don't think it is all about SAHW vs. wives that work. In my department, wives that work do so either part time, or in positions that are easy to move. I don't know of a single MSP in my dept. that has a wife with a career that would prevent him from moving to a different state.

Anon @ 7:45

Cherish said...

I'm not sure what policies exist at other state schools, but 'back home' in ND, all state employees (including faculty at every educational institution) have their salaries published on an annual basis. I know that a lot of people object to the practice, but it adds a lot of transparency to the hiring process: you know if the department is not giving you a fair shake because you can see what recently-hired faculty in the same department are making. It also lets you know if your pay is in the same range as those of your peers once hired/tenured.

Of course, you have to know that such a publication exists and where to get it. I'm not sure how many states do such a thing, and it would be of no use for private institutions.

SoonToBeFemaleParticlePhysicsProf said...

I am sooo happy I took my family's advice and negotiated long and hard on my postdoctoral position and now on my tenure-track job. The always considerate administrators adviced me to not inform my more senior colleagues of my salary as it is higher than theirs and this might cause friction.

Hopefully this means I will not have to deal with this B.S. any time soon.

EliRabett said...

There are two cases. In the first FSP's salary is well below that of many of the MSP's in the department. The answer is show up at the next meeting with a lawyer in tow. Yes, it is unfriendly, but so is the situation.

The second is that FSP's salary is out of line with one MSP. In that case when asked to serve on committee A B and C, merely say no, you want to appoint the overpaid MSP. He is obviously much more valuable to the department.

Meg said...

How about talking to a labor lawyer? Seems a clear case of gender bias to me. The condescending attitude of your administrator is enough to send me over the edge! He needed look at what was done 12 years ago. He needs to look at all you've done while employed at the university...and what the other guy HASN'T done.

Meg said...

I meant he (the administrator) "need not" look at what was done 12 years ago. Sorry about that.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm being naive, but I think that it's quite hard to make straightforward comparisons between other people and myself. I have a colleague who told me she negotiated her salary based on costs of living for her family (husband and son). She and I were hired the same year. I did not try to get a better offer at all because it was the only offer I had. Anyway, when I compare our research, I definitely have more publications than her (in fact, she has no publications other than one during her undergraduate education!). But she had a post-doc from a much more prestigious institution whereas I was a fresh PhD graduate from a much less renowned university. Also, because of her specialization, she is expected to supervise graduate students to prepare them for their careers (academic or non-academic). I only supervise graduate students whom I think will contribute to my own research. Anyway, I have decided to not worry too much about any salary differences we have (I don't have any way of knowing other than to ask her directly what she is paid, which I don't want to do). I sometimes think it's more meaningful to consider an offer that a school makes to me as an alternative salary rather than to consider what my department is paying other colleagues.

Bagelsan said...

Forgive me if I'm speaking in ignorance ('cause I totally am) but when it comes to negotiating a raise, when the person you're negotiating with knows you have a two body problem, can you sort of shoot the hostage? Like, "meh, so we'd have to live separately for a year *shrug* whatev, I'm still outta here if I don't get a better deal."

Or would people call your bluff? :p