Asking for a Raise?
May 20, 2013 3:14 PM   Subscribe

From some minor checking on a new employee, I have seen a large discrepancy in pay - which is not surprising. Can I ask for a raise? How do I ask for a raise? Will I get fired? Should I just look for new work like I'm already doing?

I am currently looking for a new job, as my job really doesn't pay me at all what I should get paid. I am also not full time, and a w-9 employee. I have been at my job for over a year and a half. I have a large title and most of the responsibility as it is a very small company. (Me, my boss, a few online workers.)

I am very, completely, extremely underpaid, however I need the money. I get $XX.50 per hour, which is about a third of what I should get paid, if not less. I am to work up to 25 hours a week.

My boss just hired an online helper, in my field, for 10 hours a week. I am happy for the help as there is too much to handle and I don't get enough hours or resources for one of our large clients. I have access to this online work staff, as I manage most of them, and through curiosity I clicked on the terms of their agreement, which is nearly double what I get paid.

I knew she would be getting paid more, as I started this job while in college, however now I have my degree, and the jobs I am qualified for are anywhere from $30k to $50+K a year. (I make.. well.. much much much less than that.)

Therefore, with her working 10 hours a week, and me working 20-25 hours a week, at the end of the month she will make only a few hundred dollars less than I do for the entire month, with me doing over twice the amount of work.

So here's the scoop:

1) She may be more qualified than I am, however I couldn't find specifics as far is her resume. I also didn't see education, whereas I have my bachelor's degree.

2) I kind of snooped - barely - to see her pay, but I also manage other employees and discuss their pay on the same website. It's not a stretch to let my boss know I saw it or looked, I can easily say I was looking through her experience or what they discussed for her work.

3) She may be more specialized in certain areas, whereas I have a broad experience, along with the fact that I personally handle all clients and manage all workers. I will also be managing this new worker - who gets paid more than me.

I am sure that other specialized workers like our graphic designer get paid much more than I do, but that is pretty standard and they also don't have regular work. This employee will have a maximum of 10 hours a week, and will most likely have enough work to fill that time.

Again I am completely not surprised that she gets paid more, as I get paid nothing for my position. So my questions:

1) Can I ask for a raised based on her pay? Or should I ask based on the market value of my job?
-The market value of my job is most likely more money than she is getting paid per hour.

2) Is there a way to ask without the possibility of being fired or having to quit? Should I bring it up at all or just continue to look for a new job?

-I will look for a new job no matter what I'm getting paid at this one, but more money is always helpful and can help me find a new job faster.

-I am unsure if I can walk away from this job. I will have to discuss our budget with my husbad, however some money is better than no money while I am looking for a new job. Therefore I am unsure if I can even ask for fear of getting canned and completely losing my income, which again, I need.

3) Would asking for a small raise increase my chances of staying there and getting the raise? (I would be okay with a few dollars, even though it's clearly still completely unfair - but again I need the money.)

-New job prospects are a little thin at the moment as I am currently looking for places to carpool with my husband, or we may get a rental car if I get hired somewhere further from his job. My husband is also looking for a job with higher pay, if he finds one before I find work, I could easily threaten to leave this job for higher pay. Otherwise we may not have enough money to pay the bills each month with our current situation.

I don't have a contract. I never ended up signing a non-compete, non-disclosure somehow. My payment terms aren't on paper other than something I asked for to apply for my apartment. I will monitor this and if try to answer followups if I missed something. I think I got it covered though.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ask for a raise without mentioning the pay discrepancy. Never immediately show your hand; you can fall back on these differences if necessary.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 3:17 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is no way to know if he will fire you for asking for a raise, but since your boss just hired this person, he knows that the market rate is higher than he is paying you. No need to bring it up just yet. Simply ask to talk to him, tell him you have been there for over 18 months, you finished your degree and you think based on your quality of work, you deserve a raise. His consideration has to be how much it will cost to replace you in both dollars, time and effort. If you are that underpaid, he would much rather give you a raise than hire someone he has to train at a higher rate than you.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:22 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that an online arrangement which may be temp/contract/through an agency customarily comes with very large fees that go to a contractor/agency. The online helper is probably not putting more than you are in his or her pocket. Your boss can also discontinue that service at a moment's notice, without even the emotional "feel" of having fired someone, so - no job security at all.

I think it's worth having the conversation about the raise, but don't bring up what anyone else makes. Stick to a discussion of what people in your position or with comparable experience customarily make.

Ultimately the job search is what holds the best hope of rectifying the pay situation.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:28 PM on May 20, 2013

Although it feels unfair when you find out someone at your company is making a lot more than you, it's considered "irrelevant" to use that as reasoning to try to get a raise. It's considered none of your business.
posted by radioamy at 3:30 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could ask, but I wouldn't admit to snooping at what she gets paid, definitely at least not in your request for a pay raise. See what your boss says. You could speak more generally about the going rate for your work, how long you've worked there and your living expenses. You won't get fired for asking for a raise -- hiring new employees is more work and costs more than retaining current employees. The worst that will probably happen is you'll be told no and to check in x months or something.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:32 PM on May 20, 2013

She's probably a contractor or freelancer, and when people are talking about going from employee to freelance I've heard them talk about doubling their requested pay to cover taxes and uncertainty. So I would not ask based on her pay, because your employer will have some pretty standard 'but that doesn't apply to you' objections to fall back on.
posted by jacalata at 3:34 PM on May 20, 2013

Take into consideration your new job search and when you plan on leaving. If you got a raise right away, that would be useful for a new job since you'll have a higher salary history. However, it might offend your current employer if they put in the work to get you a raise, then you leave shortly thereafter.

I wouldn't bring up someone else's salary during this negotiation. If you weren't supposed to know how much they make, that's one of the few ways to get fired.
posted by TheAdamist at 3:38 PM on May 20, 2013

You're not likely to get fired for asking. If you make it an ultimatum, it's more likely. They can always say "no raise at this time" and you can say "goodbye." If you are worth 3 times your current salary, it is on you-- your duty, really-- to get as much of that salary as possible, here or somewhere else.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:54 PM on May 20, 2013

Can you ask for a raise? Sure. Will you get one? Well, based on what you've written, not likely. There's also no way to tell if your boss would just unilaterally fire you for asking - although that also seems unlikely given the level of responsibility you have - but that and the outcome will likely depend a lot on how you frame the request.
posted by sm1tten at 4:42 PM on May 20, 2013

As a professional, you should want/deserve/make a case for a raise based on the value you bring to the company, not based on what other people make. Outside some form of discrimination, "it's not fair!" is not a reason for a salary adjustment.
posted by headnsouth at 4:56 PM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

New job prospects are a little thin at the moment

This is really all your employer cares about. Stop thinking in terms of "fair" - it really doesn't matter to you what other people get paid (would you rather get paid $100/hour when everyone else is getting paid $1,000/hour or get paid $10/hour when everyone else is getting paid $1/hour?). The ideal price to pay an employee is the minimum of the follow:
  1. The cost to replace the employee.
  2. The cost to keep the employee at the company.
So long as you keep #2 low by not having other options and by voluntarily accepting low pay, your employer won't give you a significant raise. You may be given a trivial raise to appease you in the short term, but it won't fundamentally change #2.

How do you fix this? Make #2 high by finding another job. Your employment arrangement is fundamentally broken at the moment, and unless your employer is willing to radically change your arrangement, you won't get what you want. Feel free to ask for a raise - like others here, I highly doubt you'll be fired for asking it because the cost of #1 is likely quite high. That said, your end goal is not a raise, it's a new job.
posted by saeculorum at 5:02 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

From the OP:
Yes, she is a contractor/freelancer. She is still below market value for an hourly job, not to mention much lower for a freelancer in her field. I am also technically a subcontractor/freelancer. I no longer live in the same city as my boss, so our work arrangements are similar.

I am considering a raise because I didn't think he was willing or "able" to pay that much to someone. I have always known I am underpaid. I accepted it because others were at similar pay rates to mine previously, along with no similar jobs in my old city - I recently moved. He has previously told me he didn't have the funding to pay more until we get more clients, so seeing her rate makes it clear that he can pay more and has chosen not to. He also has told me he wants me to be full time and pay me more, but has not shown it.

I am not even looking for comparable pay at this point as I am more interested in a new job, but having higher pay in the mean time - not knowing how long finding a new job will take - can help. Her pay-rate is more evidence that he can pay me more than he had told me before.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:27 PM on May 20, 2013

Don't mention her rate, your living expenses or what he can afford to pay. If you were willing to work more hours would your boss have hired her? Do you want to work full time? If so, speak up. Don't wait for your boss to broach the subject--tell him you want more hours at X rate, and if you don't get it, rev up your job search.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:34 PM on May 20, 2013

Don't make it about another worker in the organisation - make it about what you bring to the table.

But be prepared, many companies have a hard and fast limit as to what they can offer people already in the organisation. I worked at a large organisation and found out my new colleagues were earning more than I was. I looked around on the market and saw jobs offering MUCH more than what I was on. I talked to my boss and he said "you should apply for those if that's what you want, you'll never get it here".

I followed my bosses instructions like a good worker does!
posted by Admira at 5:41 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Part-time and specialized jobs are difficult to compare on an hourly rate basis. Beware.
posted by lathrop at 8:32 PM on May 20, 2013

You don't know what experience or education this person has. You're available to work more hours but your boss decided to look elsewhere. It's possible this person will take on higher skill work that your boss isn't confident you can do.

If you believe the job you are doing is worth more than you're paid, then ask for a raise. However, her wage doesn't drive your wage. Also, if you believe you are qualified for higher paying jobs, then go and apply for them. Take a dip in the free market and see what you're offered.

You're making this really personal when it's not. You're assuming that your boss lied to you and I'm not sure that's true.
posted by 26.2 at 9:30 PM on May 20, 2013

Asking for a raise in a rational and professional manner usually doesn't get people fired.

Inappropriately accessing someone's personnel file usually does.

Ask for the salary you think you deserve and stop snooping. It's none of your business.
posted by DWRoelands at 1:53 AM on May 21, 2013

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