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Why You Shouldn’t Sacrifice Pay for Perks

Topics: Negotiation

From an HR manager’s perspective, swapping out a few digits on a paycheck and replacing them with perks might seem to make perfect sense. Bagels and ping-pong tables cost money, after all — if significantly less money than they’re likely to save. Plus, corporate culture is important, right? Sure, unless you’re the new hire, trying to make rent each month with stale bagels and tales of ping-pong glory. Your landlord isn’t going to buy it. You’ll be job-rich, but cash-poor.

Image Credit: ismagilov/Getty Images

It’s About a Paycheck AND Perks, Not OR Perks

At Forbes, Liz Ryan says that it’s downright silly for an employer to expect an employee to sacrifice a market-rate salary for some creative benefits.

“It’s beyond cheap, tacky and amateurish of any employer to expect a person to work for a lower salary or wage than what the market pays, no matter how cushy the workplace furnishings are or how ‘cool’ the company is,” Ryan writes.

Culture doesn’t pay the bills, but it also doesn’t keep you feeling like a valued employee, and member of the company, either. Culture is what you go to a bar for. If I wanted to get drunk at work, that would be one thing, but instead, like most people, I want to go somewhere I can make a contribution, grow my skills, feel like I’m important enough to keep around for a while, and maybe get promoted one day.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

If you don’t feel that way, Ryan says, don’t stick around, even through the hiring process: “Don’t be taken in by people who tell you that their culture or work environment is a substitute for money — not unless their culture and other goodies are offered in addition to market salaries, and not in place of them.”

You Can’t Eat Exposure

Asking a full-time employee to show up to the office every day for the sake of, not a paycheck, but some fuzzy “culture” feelings, is just ridiculous. As if job-seekers don’t have enough to worry about these days: healthcare provisions are vulnerable, the gender pay gap is still a vast chasm, and consistent wage growth is still missing from the economic picture.

You want us to choose a job with some kind of happy room instead of paying us what we’re worth? C’mon now, don’t be foolish. I’m not going to do your job for free cereal or a line on a resume alone. Exposure is something you die from, not something you want from a gig.

Check Your Benefits’ Worth

We’re not talking about the value of that ping-pong table in the break room, or your fancy chair. We’re talking about how much of your compensation package is actually employer-payed benefits. Investopedia has a handy breakdown of what that healthcare plan, life insurance, and paid vacation deal is costing your employer, so you can make sure you truly understand what’s being offered. If someone is trying to slide an offer across the table that adds up to less than market rate, it’s a sign of buyer beware.

Check what you’re worth with PayScale’s free Salary Survey.

Tell Us What You Think

Would you choose fancy benefits over a paycheck? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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