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My company is faltering financially. Do I still ask for a raise?
March 15, 2014 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm a mid-level thing-maker at a small company (details left intentionally vague to protect the guilty). It was recently revealed at a company meeting that we're faltering financially due to management issues. We'll weather this storm, but it'll take some belt-tightening across the board. My position is secure, but my contract is up in two months. Do I ask for a raise when my contract is renewed? Details below.

I've already asked my managers if I should expect to be looking for a job, and they told me they're definitely renewing my contract. This is because because (a) I'm responsible for several Things coming down the pipeline, bringing in much-needed revenue, and (b) I'm already doing the job of several people/roles. I suspect that, in the coming cuts, I'll be expected to take on more responsibility, which is why they're keeping me around.

Complicating factor: as soon as my Things are made I intend to actively look for another position. I really like the people I work with and the company culture, but these management issues have me feeling queasy.

So one side of me is saying come on, don't ask for a raise, they're struggling, employees always overvalue their contribution to the company, you can handle the extra work, you're going to make a move soon anyway etc.

Another side of me is saying I'm already doing the work of several people (NB: I actually kind of... love this?), I'll soon be doing more, I've played a large part in company's growth, and gosh darnit I'm worth it.

Historically, I loathe talking about this sort of stuff, and I have a tendency to undervalue my own work. I'm currently the lowest paid thing-maker in the thing-making department. So how should I play it? Be grateful that I have a job at all in these economic times, keep my head down and make great work, or ask for more and be prepared to make a move earlier than expected?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Obviously you're going to get some resistance to an increased salary when you start the renewal process. If you can present data showing your output (i.e relative value to the company) compared to the higher-paid makers in your shop, that could help.

If they really push back...what if you asked for some kind of performance bonus if your Upcoming Major Thing project was met within time/budget/quality goals?
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:01 AM on March 15


Ask. What they'll do is counter with what they can afford, and you can decide if you want to take that offer. They value your work and have told you that you're secure, so asking won't be much of a risk, and could pay off.
posted by xingcat at 8:02 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Ask. If they can't afford a raise they will tell you, but why would you rule it out preemptively when you think you deserve a raise?
posted by J. Wilson at 8:09 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]


If you really, really believe they don't have any money, I would pro-actively tell them you do not expect a raise because you are aware that they are in difficulties.

This will by you a ton of (short term at least) good will that will come in handier and probably more profitably in the long term. If you stay with the company long enough, they know that 1. you're "dedicated" and two obviously aware that they are not doing well, meaning they will need to incentive you to stay. If you move on soon, then you will get stellar recommendations and business connections down the line, and believe me, you never know when those will come in handy. If you ever find yourself out of work, it's sometimes all you've got going for you.

I think the basic principal is that if they don't have any money anyway, use your position to accrue good will you can monitize later.
posted by digitalprimate at 8:13 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Ask.
"You will always miss 100% of the shots you don't make." - Wayne Gretsky
The worst they can do is say no.
posted by NoraCharles at 8:14 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]


It may be cheaper for them to renew your contract at a higher rate than it would be for them to find a replacement. Ask for a raise. Be cutthroat.
posted by aparrish at 8:20 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]


Sympathy for management problems is the last reason I'd be willing to accept a lower-than-market wage unless *I* was the management problem. The circumstances you describe sound like an excellent reason to look for another job now. If you find one, then the choice that makes sense for you is likely to become much clearer.
posted by jon1270 at 8:34 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]


I would pro-actively tell them you do not expect a raise because you are aware that they are in difficulties.

You could do that PLUS say "instead, you could commit to some bonuses once clients are paying for Things. So, on , a check for $X000, and then my raise could start . I was thinking that could help the company and still keep me motivated."
posted by amtho at 8:38 AM on March 15


I hope I didn't miss this in somebody else's answer, but:

If they don't have money but still need you, ask for something besides money.

Take a part of the company or an option on future revenue from Thing or whatever. Keep in mind that a future expectation is not as valuable as a present asset, so when they say "oh, but the thing you're asking for will be worth so much more in the future!" the correct response is: "then take out a loan on that and give me the money."
posted by spacewrench at 8:38 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]


I would trust management as far as I could throw them (which is to say: not very far). Of course they are going to tell you what they think you want to hear to keep you around, including promises of job security, contract renewal, and pie-in-the-sky scenarios where you will be rewarded for you loyalty at some misty point in the future.

It's in your best interest to understand that you are replaceable, and that they may in fact let you go sooner than you might want or expect. I've seen this happen sooo many times, it's almost textbook.

So, go into the contract negotiation as if you are negotiating anew, for a new position. Ask for what you are worth (plus 10% to give some wiggle room to back down), and see what they say. If in fact they can't pony up the dough to pay you fair market rates, factoring in your proven record with them and the cost of replacing you, then they are worse financial shape than they are letting on.

There is a significant opportunity cost to you for sticking around -- you might miss out on a better opportunity, and you would be dropping your perceived value in the marketplace by working for sub-market rates over an extended period. This can exponentially decrease your income over the course of your career (think: compound interest over time).

I'd actively look for a better-paying gig, and not assume that your managers can guarantee that your contract will be renewed. A lot can happen in two months...
posted by nacho fries at 8:54 AM on March 15 [9 favorites]


I suspect that, in the coming cuts, I'll be expected to take on more responsibility, which is why they're keeping me around ... I'm currently the lowest paid thing-maker in the thing-making department.

More work and already low pay means that yes, you should be asking for more money.

Are you contracting through a company that's skimming off a percentage of the money? If so, see if it's possible if you can become a 1099 (or whatever the equivalent in your country might be) employee and keep all of the money for yourself - that could be a way to put more money in your pocket without raising their costs by that much.

Complicating factor: as soon as my Things are made I intend to actively look for another position.

Making more money with the renewal of the contract means you can potentially make even more money with the next position - this is generally a good thing as long as you don't price yourself out of the market. Most people's salaries rise until about their mid-30s and stay around that level. You should always be trying to make sure that you're curving up, because a year without a raise in your mid-20s will have big affects on your lifetime earnings.

I'm already doing the work of several people (NB: I actually kind of... love this?)

I'm guessing you're still pretty young? Be careful, managers love people who will burn the candle at both ends for little pay, and while it can be fun and intoxicating for a while, it will also wear you out eventually. It can even hold you back if you become too valuable doing lots of lower level work to let you move into more advanced stuff.

There are exceptions, but it will rarely pay off for you (it's already paying off well for them) unless you are actively advocating for yourself and your advancement, both financially and professionally. Loyalty, good will, and future consideration aren't really worth much in today's business environment, particularly when you're a contractor.
posted by Candleman at 9:02 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]


If you really, really believe they don't have any money, I would pro-actively tell them you do not expect a raise because you are aware that they are in difficulties.

This will by you a ton of (short term at least) good will that will come in handier and probably more profitably in the long term.


No. Dont do this. Working for less devalues you in future positions and drives your entire market down. If your are a driver of Things and wearing many hats its MUCH cheaper to bump you then start anew. If you don't own the company or a piece than its not your job to worry about affording you. That's their job. Prepare for them to say no. Prepare for them to go down the tubes. Prepare your resume etc. But absolutely ask for what you think UA fair when considering workload, your contribution, the larger market and competitive salaries.

100% be clear and direct about a new higher number.
posted by chasles at 10:07 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]


I've been here before. What I did was ask for the raise because it can't hurt to ask. When it became clear that they really could not give it to me, I suggested extra vacation time effective immediately and a salary review in six months. In six months, the company was in better shape and I was able to get the raise. If vacation time isn't doable, amtho's above suggestion of bonuses tied to projects sounds good too.
posted by youngergirl44 at 10:26 AM on March 15 [6 favorites]


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