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Ask HN: Have you ever managed someone paid more than you?
13 points by czep 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 15 comments
I once prepared an offer of about 10% higher than my comp for a candidate who would be my direct report. It didn't trouble me at all because this person would have been a perfect fit for the role. My manager said no way and we lost the candidate. I was probably underpaid and I suspect my manager feared I would use that as leverage to ask for a raise. But honestly it didn't bother me and I feel like the company missed out on a great candidate. Has anyone been in this position when it actually went through? Was the salary difference a cause of tension?

I wish I did. I think programmers deserve a little more than managers, because the work is harder.

It's similar to sports team management - sure the manager is rare and more experienced, but they're not burning their mind off trying to meet irrational deadlines. The stress of management mostly comes from team issues, so I'd think paying them more would solve a lot of problems.

But it's also sort of a hierarchy thing.

I went from being a software engineer to an engineering manager and I wouldn’t say management is easier, in a way going back to being able to spend the whole day coding seems almost luxurious. Creating an environment so team members can get on with things properly is hard.

To answer the question, I’ve been in this position and it can happen especially when the manager is in a less well paid city/location. Didn’t create tension but did make me realize location/market matters so much more than skillset with respect to compensation.

> I wish I did. I think programmers deserve a little more than managers, because the work is harder.

Let me guess, you're a programmer.

I was a manager/tech lead from 2015-2019, then went back to programming because it was such a pain dealing with underfunded teams.

Programming actually seems to pay better in third world countries, though, as there's a shortage for specific skill sets, as opposed to developers with 20 years experience who can put together a full stack PHP site or build telco systems, but haven't done Angular.

I once took over a team that had number of members that were paid more than me and had higher titles.

The money side didn't bother me because they were more experienced and in specialist roles that I definitely couldn't do (at least when I took over the team). If anything it worked out to my benefit as my boss felt a bit guilty about it so I received a promotion and a hefty pay rise at the next year end.

It also helped that none of the team had wanted the role so there was no slight implied.

There were some odd moments. At one point one of the team, with more than 10 years more experience than me, asked me for career advice. But mostly it wasn't much different from other team lead roles I've had.

Management is a skill, but it's a fairly generic and transferable one.

ICs can be specialists, and there are rare / valuable specialist skills that can command far higher comp than a generic manager or director.

There's nothing about comp itself that would cause a report making higher comp to undermine a manager making less. And a good manager will defer to the report on the topics the report is an expert on.

(Tho in a pathological organization or if the report is an asshole, it might be an indicator that the report is more valuable to the organization and could go over the manager's head to undermine the manager if they wanted to.)

I suspect that I was once in the complementary position of being paid a lot more than my manager (who was quite a bit younger). His take on the situation seemed to be that I should be that I should be doing everything twice as fast as him, etc., since I was being paid more, and it did somewhat poison the relationship.

Life is short--I moved on.

I have seen this at two Fortune 50 companies firsthand. This happens usually when there is a reorganization and people move around (at least in my two anecdotal cases).

Essentially you have a very valuable individual contributor who is good at what he does, and he wouldn't be as valuable if he was forced to be a manager.

The manager above him understands this.

At my friend's company, a director wanted to higher someone but they were asking for more than what director was making. Director was okay with it but HR would not approve it. Eventually, they end up giving director a pay raise to let him hire the person they wanted.

Your direct reports should never make more than you (in non-commission role). How can you be the boss of someone who is defacto more valuable then you (even as they lack the responsibility you bare). Yes, you would be underpaid in your current roll if the candidate was being offered market value and you should not search for validation on your position but a new job entirely

Why couldn't you be the boss of someone more valuable than yourself? They're more valuable in their role - that doesn't mean they'd be better/more valuable than you in your role, of management.

For example, it would make perfect sense if a dean made less than one of their Nobel-prize winning professors. Or a coach that makes less than their olympic athletes.

Disagree. At $bigtech sometimes senior managers will manage principal scientists, who can make millions but only want to be ICs.

- pilots on some airlines make more than the CEO. - traders routinely make millions more (admittedly on commissions) than the bank's CEO.

i'm sure there are other examples.. Stating "Your direct reports should never make more than you" as fact seems a little overreaching :)

Say you get hired to a company and someone who has worked there longer, under you, has equity awards. Lots of them. Should you be paid more? Should they be paid less? Should we fire them? Or are you only referring to base salary? What if they are a critical person with great ability to push the product forward, and you are just a simple line manager? There are so many holes in your thinking.

Generally, a manager is a force-multiplier and should get compensated for making everyone better. This generally means that managers get paid more, and directors more, and c-suite even more. This is just a generality though. It falls apart all over the place.

> How can you be the boss of someone who is defacto more valuable then you (even as they lack the responsibility you bare)

Easily? Your role as a manager is to enable your direct reports to do their best work. That is orthogonal to pay differentials. I've seen business founders work on teams under a manager. Strange power differential there! And the pay difference was insane - the founder _owns_ the business and can be worth millions. But it works. It is the same reason why a younger person can manage an older person, or someone less skilled in programming can manage a programmer.

In some European countries, it's quite common for senior developers to be contractors, while managers to be full time employees. The contractors tend to make more than the people who manage them.

Also, in many professional sports, coaches make less than the members of the team they coach.

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