Please re-raise my raise at work
May 9, 2015 5:00 PM   Subscribe

What is the best way to ask for a raise following a recent job promotion after I learned that people in my department at a significantly lower responsibility and title level were granted raises very recently that now put them above me in pay?

I wrote a novel, I apologize...

I learned today that I now make less than people in my department who have been given what my boss described as my "lower level" work that I was doing so I could take over higher level work formerly being done by Sr. Directors, VPs and the CFO. This is in accounting at a large non-profit. I was promoted internally into a job that I created that was a hybrid of my old job and a new very valuable role that I saw a need for and just went forward with until I submitted a formal job proposal.

My title is a coordinator position so I am also ranked two steps above their specialist positions (I was a specialist before). I was promoted in January, backdated to late September. In talking to one of my colleagues, she let slip that she makes slightly more than I do for a job that is much lower on the totem pole in terms of expectations, complexity and impact. It is an entry level accounting position she has. It is a non-profit and money is always tight, so in negotiating, my boss said that this was the best they could do and I grudgingly accepted. From what I gathered, at least two people in my department on the low spectrum just asked for and received raises that put them above me.

I can point to the large amount of money I've generated through projects and savings (I work in purchasing and special projects), and my track record at work is good. Additionally, we've shuffled around a lot of duties later and I jumped in and took over an extremely critical area of the business and rolled out a new system with it on an extremely short timeline so I believe I have a reputation as hard-working, intelligent and efficient.

If it matters about the other employees, besides our title gap, the difference in projects between us can be summarized as they manage our cell phone contract (a job I gave away - a few thousand dollars, low complexity, low impact) while I have projects like putting together a three hundred thousand dollar furniture deal for an expansion or setting up a large revenue generating program.

Since I was just promoted in January, can I come back to my boss now and point out all of the successful projects I've delivered and ask for another raise? Or is it just time to jump ship since they do not value the contributions I've made? I know that I can't go into his office and bring up their pay, but come on, I was clearly lied to about what we could afford and accepted it based on my goodwill for the organization. I have marketable skills and clear results so if the best answer is to suck it up and look elsewhere, I will.

tl;dr summary
I was promoted, my old work going to more entry-level employees while I got more complex, important tasks. Those employees now make more money than I do. How do I approach this with my boss?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
You are thinking about this the wrong way.

You seem to think you suddenly became underpaid by finding out other people are being paid less than you. This is not correct, and is not a very professional way of viewing compensation. A rational employer pays employees the lower of two numbers:
  1. The amount of money necessary to retain the employee.
  2. The amount of money necessary to hire an equivalent employee with all training/hiring costs included.
You should note that your responsibilities are not directly an input into that number, nor are your coworkers' pay an input to that number. If your coworkers are getting paid more than you, that means that either they are making the cost of #1 higher (ie, demanding more compensation, which you are not doing) or they are in a position where #2 is higher (ie, they are not easily replaceable).

You need to look at your pay in isolation. The fact that your coworkers are paid more than you does not change your compensation. The way to see this is to ask yourself if you'd rather be making $50,000/year when all of your coworkers are making $25,000/year or making $100,000/year when all of your coworkers are making $200,000/year. A reasonable employer will respond to comments about your coworkers' compensation somewhere between saying, "why does this matter to you?" and firing you for colluding on compensation.

can I come back to my boss now and point out all of the successful projects I've delivered and ask for another raise?

You can always ask for another raise. However, you need to know what the cost of #1 and #2 above is. If the cost of #2 is less than you make, no reasonable employer will give you a raise, regardless of your responsibilities.

is it just time to jump ship since they do not value the contributions I've made?

You agreed to your salary. Why do you think your employer should pay you more than you agreed to?

I was clearly lied to about what we could afford and accepted it based on my goodwill for the organization.

At the risk of guessing what your job is, it seems like you make purchasing decisions. Say a vendor offered to sell you the furniture you needed for $200,000 and it met every requirement you had. Would you then give them a check for $300,000 and say that you have the money, so you might as well spend it?

I have marketable skills and clear results so if the best answer is to suck it up and look elsewhere, I will.

If you are not willing to have a reasonable discussion about compensation with your current employer, I don't know why you would be able to with any other employer. You are not a special snow flake. You are doing work that you agreed to do and your employer is compensating you to the rate you agreed to. If you expect your employer to continually pay you more when you have never asked them to, then you need to change that expectation.

Those employees now make more money than I do. How do I approach this with my boss?

You don't. You go to your boss and ask for a raise because the market will compensate you more.

You are underpaid. Your coworkers have nothing to do with this.
posted by saeculorum at 5:15 PM on May 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


Don't say anything about your co-workers. This is not about them.

If you believe your skills are worth more in the market than you are making, then you can go to the boss with that information. That conversation goes something like this: "boss, I've been getting some recruiter calls recently. I'm not looking to leave, but from what I'm hearing I think market for my skill set is more like $X. Do you think we can get me there this year?"

If your boss is smart she will read between the lines and understand that it will cost her less to get you to market rate than to lose you, and have to pay someone else that same market rate plus the cost of finding and training them. But this only works if you are correct and you really are underpaid. Just because you are doing more senior work than the people coming in doesn't necessarily mean this. But it can mean that the org doesn't think your long term potential is as high as theirs. This, if true, would be a good reason for you to look elsewhere.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:31 PM on May 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Do you supervise them, and are you in one of those orgs that have rules about supervisory pay?
posted by Mogur at 5:35 PM on May 9, 2015


You are thinking about this the wrong way.

I disagree. You are paid on the skills you give to this organization and rightly are questioning that. You are not thinking the wrong way. What? That is the employer's point of view, not yours! Come on. That is not a valid answer to this person's problem, but a valid answer from someone from the employer's point of view, only.

If your skills are higher than others, you should be paid accordingly. If you feel others below your skill level are being given raises on a whim, you should address that. It's true.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:53 PM on May 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


Bosses don't want employees talking with each other about their pay because they may learn that decisions regarding compensation do not necessarily boil down to a completely rational process, such as it's based on

1. The amount of money necessary to retain the employee.
2. The amount of money necessary to hire an equivalent employee with all training/hiring costs included.

It may also include favoritism and the ability of employees to negotiate their salaries.

An alternative approach would be for all employees to insist on a transparent explanation of how compensation works within the organization, which I understand may not be a practical solution for you. But, I figure it's worth throwing out there.
posted by she's not there at 6:01 PM on May 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


A reasonable employer will respond to comments about your coworkers' compensation somewhere between saying, "why does this matter to you?" and firing you for colluding on compensation.

If you are fired for discussing compensation, that's illegal according to the National Labor Relations Act. While many companies will discourage or forbid discussing compensation with your coworkers, they are very much not supposed to.
posted by Weeping_angel at 6:03 PM on May 9, 2015 [29 favorites]


(Assuming you are in the United States.)
posted by Weeping_angel at 6:06 PM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


This has nothing to do with what your co-workers make, it's what you and your skills are worth on the market. Who knows maybe your organization is just poorly run and your colleagues are actually being overpaid.

If you think you deserve a raise then I recommend doing research to find out the salary range for your position in your market. You may want to interview to see if you can actually land an offer at the salary that you think you are entitled to at your current employer.
posted by seesom at 8:04 PM on May 9, 2015


Honestly, I think it's bullshit to say that it doesn't matter what you are making relative to your colleagues. There are all sorts of studies showing that people are happier when their salaries are comparable to those of their peers -- even if they are making less money. (In other words, if I make $100 and you make $100, I'm happy; if I make $150 and you make $200, I'm not happy.) Competent organizations understand that their employees see their salary not just in terms of a paycheck, but also as a measure of their value.

I would do the market research, present facts about how you have added value and saved the organization money, but I would also point out that you are paid less than people doing lower-level work than you. This is perfectly valid. You could be even more direct and say that this is affecting your morale because this makes it seem like the organization does not recognize your value as an employee.
posted by chickenmagazine at 8:18 PM on May 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


"You need to look at your pay in isolation. The fact that your coworkers are paid more than you does not change your compensation. The way to see this is to ask yourself if you'd rather be making $50,000/year when all of your coworkers are making $25,000/year or making $100,000/year when all of your coworkers are making $200,000/year. A reasonable employer will respond to comments about your coworkers' compensation somewhere between saying, "why does this matter to you?" and firing you for colluding on compensation."

This is a nonsense individualist apology for unethical, anti-labor policies. Even more to the point, it's giving illegal advice from the position of assumed authority: Under the NRLA, employees have the specific right to engage in concerted activities for mutual benefit or protection. You do not need to look at your pay in isolation, especially since how we decide what is fair is largely a relative decision. But more to the point, arguing that a "reasonable employer" would break the law to fire you for talking about compensation is bullshit and deleterious to both you and other askers who may be looking for the same advice — it's essentially the same as saying that a reasonable employer would dump toxic waste wherever they thought they wouldn't get caught, i.e. true for only insane libertarian definitions of "reasonable."

That answer comes from a user who routinely advocates an anti-labor, pro-employer perspective, including advising people against considering litigation for employment-related torts. In arguing that you should not talk to your coworkers nor base any of your perceptions of just compensation on relative salaries, they are effectively arguing against any form of labor organization, something that non-profits in specific should be wary of (much of their ability to function comes from continued goodwill in a way that a for-profit company does not).

Another reason to be cognizant of what people in similar positions in the organization make is because often enough salaries are used as a signal of authority — making less than the people who do "lower level work" implies a lack of authority in dealing with them. That should absolutely be a concern for a manager, if only because internal perception of relative status is important for morale and avoiding burnout, two significant issues for non-profits in particular.

A lot of how to resolve this depends on your relationship with your boss. I've worked at non-profits where it would absolutely be appropriate to bring up relative wages and to, at the least, negotiate improved benefits (e.g. more vacation). I've also worked at non-profits where the chronic lack of funding makes questions like that moot — if you think that's truly the case, then jumping ship is basically something that you should be planning for already because it doesn't portend well for the longterm health of the organization.

Just be aware that the answer I quoted is from someone who routinely advocates for actions that serve the interest of employers more than employees and leaven their authoritative voice with the knowledge that they're not necessarily giving you advice based on anything more than a severely truncated view of "reasonable."
posted by klangklangston at 9:10 PM on May 9, 2015 [30 favorites]


If an irrational arrangement of salaries may provide leverage in a negotiation for a raise, then ignoring those salaries, as if there's a rule against mentioning them, would be against the employee's interest.

Just commenting on the logic, and I'll let others hash out whether it will help in negotiation.
posted by spbmp at 10:07 PM on May 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


This exact situation happened at my first proofreading job in NYC: my boss discovered that new hires (like me) were being paid more than he was, he went to his boss and said this was wrong, and they gave him a substantial raise. Needless to say, you need to take into account the structure of the organization where you work and the personalities of the people you'd be talking to about it and structure your approach accordingly, but to say you should ignore the discrepancy is bullshit. You deserve a raise and should get one. Good luck!
posted by languagehat at 8:11 AM on May 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'll join others in pushing back on the logic displayed in the first response. It sounds very (coldly) rational, but it essentially maneuvers the employee into an impossible situation where they must bow to the inherent advantages enjoyed by the employer (control of wages, promotion/demotion authority, etc.) while willingly ceding their own (knowledge of the perceived error/unfairness of their wage).

That and, you know, the reams of evidence that it's not how wage theory plays out.

I've worked for some stingy/dishonest/whatever employers, but I've never known anyone to be that brutally "logical," at the end of the day. People in ownership/management positions just don't actually think like that, except in an abstract sense (i.e. they might, when justifying mass layoffs, but not when dealing with a valued individual employee's concerns). Managers are human beings and, as such, they are more emotional than rational. If you are employed by Freemarket McRobot, having a conversation about your wage will be instructive, as you will quickly learn that it's time to get out of there.

I actually found myself in a very similar position, several years ago. I had recently been promoted (with raise), which was followed by a normal merit raise. Happy as a clam, making more that I'd ever previously earned, with no grounds to complain, right? One day, a manager in another department left a list of his employees' pay rates sitting out on our shared workspace. Thinking it pertained to me, I read a bit of it before realizing it was "confidential." Before going, "Yikes!" and putting it aside, I saw the rate paid to another employee at my organizational level. This guy was 1) chronically undependable, 2) didn't hit targets, and 3) had a much lower work/responsibility load, compared to me. Yet, he was making more than I was, even accounting for seniority. Needless to say, I was pissed.

Here's how I framed it to my boss (trying to refrain from sounding whiny, and focusing on my perceived value): Boss, [positive comments about my new position, and so forth], but I recently accidentally found out that So-and-so makes more than I do, for what -- objectively -- amounts to less work. I don't want to disparage So-and-so, and for all I know his wage is justified, but I also know I'm doing more stuff, and to a high standard. I find this situation to be really frustrating [subtext, demotivating].

Because my boss -- rationally -- knew that losing me would mean roughly double my salary in direct/indirect replacement costs (for a few months, anyway), and because she was -- emotionally -- a human being, her response was, "Oh, wow. That does sound frustrating. Let me look into it, and see if we can make some adjustments." Which she then did.
posted by credible hulk at 8:15 AM on May 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Let me revise my response. What I'm saying is, when you go to the boss requesting a raise, she will almost certainly understand the timing of it. But keep the "you're paying more junior people than me" as a point to make -later- if she comes back saying they can't afford it. What you should lead with is YOUR value, including the veiled threat to leave, because what you need to know is, how much do they value you? And if you need to make a case, the case is going to rest on how much it would suck for them to lose you, not on how much they pay someone else.

I'm on the other side of this now as my org has been paying more to new hires, some more junior than the incumbents. We've done this because (a) the market is very hot right now and we haven't been able to find people as cheaply as when the incumbents were hired and (b) in a couple cases, we believe the incumbent doesn't have as much growth potential as the new hire and we're not interested in investing extra money in the incumbent. You need to find out which of these situations is going on in your org. If it's (a), they should be very interested in not having you leave, and will pay extra. If it's (b), you need to know that, and look around.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:59 AM on May 10, 2015


I disagree with many comments. Most nonprofits whose compensation discussions I've had opportunity to be part of are / were working to standardize pay by job category.

That said, I think I'd justify my request by pointing to industry-wide standards if possible.
posted by salvia at 11:07 AM on May 10, 2015


My personal experience: One of my largest bonuses & raises was after interviewing with a new company. The new company offered a 15% raise and a large signing bonus. I told my manager I didn't want to leave but that I couldn't pass on the offer. By the end of the day, my company matched the raise and doubled the signing bonus (but in company stock, not hard cash).

Of course, interviewing is a huge PITA...
posted by sarah_pdx at 7:55 PM on May 10, 2015


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