Tom Brady’s Pay Cut: Should You Ever Slash Your Salary for the Team?

Tom Brady agreed to a three-year contract extension with the New England Patriots on Monday – and in the process accepted what has been labeled as a “significant pay cut.”

While other elite quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Peyton Manning earn around $20 million a year according to Sports Illustrated; Tom Brady’s three-year contract is for $27 million total.

By taking a lower paycheck than his estimated worth, some argue Brady ups the chances significantly that he’ll retire a Patriot (he’ll be 40 when his contract ends in 2017). Sports fanatics say he also improves his team’s chances of winning another Super Bowl, as the NFL’s flat-cap rules mean that saving on Brady’s salary will give the team more money to spend on other talented free agents that they might not have otherwise been able to afford.

Of course, given that Brady has lucrative relationships with companies like Under Armour and UGG (not to mention his marriage to high-earning supermodel Gisele Bundchen), it’s unlikely that the pay cut will stretch the family’s finances. With that said, his move does raise a good question worth considering for all hiring managers and entrepreneurs: Should you ever take a pay cut for the good of the team? And is it ever possible for you to convince your top performers to accept less money? asked career and workplace experts to weigh in.

Taking a Pay Cut Yourself

Self-titled “Executives’ Career Coach” Ford Myers, author of “Get the Job You Want, Even if No One’s Hiring,” says to ask yourself how much you believe in the company and its future. “Am I willing to suffer in the short-term for the company to help it stay afloat?”

Martha E. Mangelsdorf, author of "Strategies for Successful Career Change: Finding Your Very Best Next Work Life,” agrees that it’s very common for those starting small business to go for a period of time without taking any salary at all – or a very limited salary – as long as they can afford it.

In this regard, however, Mangelsdorf says it’s necessary to be realistic about the future.

“If you take a pay cut or go without a paycheck, you’re thinking that it’s going to get better. It’s important to have a deadline in mind, because it becomes easy to say, ‘One more month when that big sale comes in.’” In order to stay clear-eyed about your business’s prospects, Mangelsdorf suggests creating a group of outside advisors who can give you a “reality check.”

Speaking of reality checks, if you’re about to make a shift to a new industry, Myers’ advice is to be honest with yourself about your new earning potential.

“If you’ve decided to go down a new career path, you can’t necessarily expect the same paycheck. Guess what? A non-profit is not going to pay the same as your former position at a pharmaceutical company,” says Myers. If it’s your passion, though, Myers believes that the pay cut will be worth it to you in the end.

Convincing Top Talent to Take Less Pay

In the case of Tom Brady, it’s obvious that winning another Super Bowl is important to him – possibly even more important than bringing home a jumbo-sized salary. But his new contract also signals a huge win on the part of the Patriots’ management, who are able to pay him less in order to achieve the team’s larger goals.

When it comes to your own business, is it possible to convince your top talent to take a pay cut, if it will benefit the team as a whole?  Mangelsdorf says it’s possible, but challenging.

“I think the most important thing is that if you’re asking that of your employees, you also need to do it yourself,” she says, and slash your own pay. “Otherwise, it’s morale-killing.”

Mangelsdorf’s second tip is to try and sell the situation to your employees as temporary.

“You need to be candid about the situation, and yet optimistic, providing a vision they can buy into,” she says.

Lastly, Mangelsdorf advises considering the other ways you can sweeten the deal for your top performers, if you do need to give them a pay cut.

“Maybe you can let them telecommute two days a week, or provide an additional week of unpaid vacation. There are things you can do to make it more palatable,” Mangelsdorf says.