Asking for a Pay Raise
July 30, 2018 8:51 PM   Subscribe

I work in screen printing, and have worked for this company for 3 years. I got my foot in the door by taking a very low paying job, without a degree. In one year they promoted me into the position of scheduling both the press, all of the work for the artists and juggling the responsibilities of running the art dept. without actually calling it management. When I was promoted I was given a raise to twelve dollars an hour. In my area, that's barely making it, and fifteen would be 'average' for this type of work. Since then I have not received any further raises despite one 'stellar' job review. We do not get scheduled reviews, or raises, or even much of a chance to discuss a raise. Besides the easy answer of going elsewhere, what would you do?

To complicate matters, the last person to schedule the press had other responsibilities that were not passed to me but rather to another employee and no one in that position has juggled the art dept. responsibilities. My job practically defies description in that I am doing two very distinctly different jobs. My manager who hired me and promoted me has since left. The art dept. no longer has a manager, and while I am filling in the gap there is also a senior designer who gets to make most of the big decisions and leaves the paperwork to me. There have been two people hired to manage the dept. who have not worked out, but before going were both fighting to help me get a raise.
New software is being brought in that will be able to schedule the presses with just my oversight. Questions are being raised about what I will do with the 'free time'. I have offered a few suggestions, but honestly during peak season it would be best if I could focus on the primary task of what I do for the art dept. I've recently asked one of the two owners if we could discuss a pay raise. At our business, this is how it's done. The owners have the ultimate say and will not allow anyone else to make these decisions. I was given a review in early spring, of my performance without any promise of a raise along with all of the other employees (as in, we were all reviewed but no raises were promised or offered). In that review, I was told that there was nothing to be improved upon. In all areas, I was told that I am performing either at or above expectations.
Here's where it all gets tricky...The owners, for whatever reason, have a reputation for doing the following. You have to ask several times to be granted the chance to ask for the raise. You have to ask outside of peak season. If they postpone it into that season you don't get the raise. They always postpone it by several months each time you ask but some employees have managed to tough it out and get a meeting within six months. I've been told that those who receive the raise more or less promise to increase their productivity tenfold, or rather pie in the sky types of promises.
Ultimatums like finding other work at higher pay and asking them to meet or match are highly discouraged. The only choice seems to be playing the waiting game. It's been two years, I had a stellar review, and there is no room for promotion beyond where I'm at. There is not really that much more to take on in responsibilities although I am willing.
posted by itsthreeam to Work & Money (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Besides the easy answer of going elsewhere, what would you do?

The easy answer here is the correct one. Your management has no interest in paying you more. Your management is interested in minimizing the cost of labor. They've succeeded - seemingly, they've convinced their organization that stellar reviews are expected and hence, are unrewarded. They've convinced you that there's no way to get a raise, and hence, there's no reason to try.

These are not the sort of people you can negotiate with. You find a competing offer, ask them to match it, and either take their counteroffer (which I'd discourage) or leave. There's nothing else to it.

At $12/hr, you don't owe them any loyalty.
posted by saeculorum at 9:01 PM on July 30, 2018 [27 favorites]

You look around. If you find another offer, you can always offer to stay if they'll give you a raise. I wish it weren't so, but in most careers the fastest path to higher positions and / or better salaries in the beginning is to bounce around for a while. They wanted cheap labor and were willing to train someone to get it. It worked out for both of you. Since they seem highly motivated to keep their costs low, you probably need to go if you're going to get what you're worth now.
posted by xammerboy at 10:01 PM on July 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

Wait until days before peak, ideally with some critical jobs right about to launch, and quit.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:58 PM on July 30, 2018 [12 favorites]

Besides the easy answer of going elsewhere, what would you do?

Is your office unionized? If not, how do the other workers in your office feel about the uncertainty and lack of appropriate pay raises? Have you talked to any of the other workers about your work conditions?
posted by corb at 11:42 PM on July 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

This is the definition of a dead-end job, and they way they treat their employees means that you don't owe them any loyalty. They are consciously choosing to under-pay and deal with the churn rather than pay people competitively and keep them long-term. You're not going to change their mind on the business side of things, so the best thing you can do is get out.

> There have been two people hired to manage the dept ... but before going were both fighting to help me get a raise

Not only should you look for a better job, but maybe you could even start with these people. Where did they wind up? Do they know of any better jobs / would they be good references / might they even hire you?

(I know nothing about the hiring market in your area for your skillset ... but based on what you've written, you're rocking this job and have been demonstrating the ability to take on additional responsibility and succeed. This bodes well for your ability to get a new, better job. Since you already have one, you can hopefully interview with less stress, and be pickier about which job you take in the end. Good luck!)
posted by Metasyntactic at 1:35 AM on July 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

If you can't swing a pay raise, could you get them to agree to a change in title to better reflect your role within the company? A lady I used to work with was able to do that when it was clear that her pay rate was set in stone as far as the higher ups were concerned. It'll make your resume look all the shinier when you start job hunting, because it sort of seems like that's ultimately what you're going to have to do if they don't address your pay discrepancy.
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:57 AM on July 31, 2018

Wait until days before peak, ideally with some critical jobs right about to launch, and quit.

It sounds like you're a great employee: you take your job seriously, you've been entrusted with additional responsibilities, and you value your own contributions to the company. You're really set-up well to begin branching out and seeking new opportunities.

Whatever path you decide to take, however, I encourage you to continue embracing your current commitment to your position. Money matters, but it isn't the only thing that matters. While at this company, you've also invested in yourself. You developed a transferable skill set that gives you a great foundation to make a pitch for a raise or begin looking for other employment.

Don't make the mistake of burning bridges while you walk out the door. I'm consistently surprised by the number of requests I receive for employment recommendations years after I've worked with folks. While you may not respect the pay practices of your current company, you'll never regret the respect that comes with leaving well.

(It sounds as though you like your job, though - so I'm hoping you get the raise you deserve!)
posted by WaspEnterprises at 7:32 AM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately, I've seen much better results from the "I bring this much value to your company and make you X amount of money, so I'd like to see a substantial raise to bring my salary to market rate for my responsibilities and position" strategy versus telling your employers "It's unethical to underpay me as much as you do."

Both things can be true, but it's easier for management to get a raise approved based on your excellent performance than it is for them to officially acknowledge flaws in a system they benefit from.

I've had a lot of really positive results following tips and steps from, which really does what it says on this tin.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:24 AM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Also wow, don't quit without even asking for a raise! That's wild.

If you can double-dip and use the resume/portfolio/descriptions of experience you're preparing to look for new jobs to also argue for your raise, that would be most efficient. Basically, you need to sell yourself as a top candidate that's worth decent wages, to both your current employer and prospective employers.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:26 AM on July 31, 2018

1. Can you get promoted to managing the art department?

2. You have to show the owners how much money you can save them (or how much more money you can make them) and then ask for some portion of that as a raise. In your position, I might say something like "Combining my experience with the efficiencies of the new software, I estimate that we can run X more jobs a month than we do now, representing $Y in additional revenue, assuming Sales and Art can keep up that pace. A raise of $Z per hour represents just W% of that additional revenue, and would bring me up to a more competitive market rate."
posted by Rock Steady at 8:32 AM on July 31, 2018 [3 favorites]

Metasyntactic is spot on. I know looking for a new job sucks, especially because you are aware of your own value and want to be recognized for your current work. But it's time you find a situation elsewhere that will satisfy you.

I had a very similar experience in a very similar kind of shop once. Moved "up" in the shop hierarchy pretty quickly as soon as they saw my ability and contentiousness. I was making $10.25 at that point. Before getting a review (which I had to beg for), I calculated I needed $10.65 to break even on my (already minimized) living expenses. They raised me to $10.50. I countered with my minimum, $10.65, but they wouldn't budge.

In retrospect, I can laugh about what pricks they were to fight over the 15 CENTS which would help me to not put beans on my credit card, but it was degrading and humiliating at the time. The boss came by a few times a month in a BMW (not always the same one), and would joke around in the shop telling people to "get back to work" while they were the ones actually working. He thought he was hilarious! The shop manager (an MBA who had no clue about manual labor and considered anti-fatigue mats a regrettable expense) ate it up. But I digress.

Does this sound like it could have been your shop, or has any similarity? If so, GET OUT NOW! Don't get stuck. There are greener pastures.

I worked ~15 years at jobs which at one time would have been considered trades or skilled manual labor. With few exceptions (mostly construction related trades) these jobs are no longer valued. It's far easier/cheaper for them to get new bodies to do the work than to treat people decently. This is hard news to swallow for people who find this kind of work appealing (like I do).

Sorry for the personal anecdotes, but your question felt so familiar.

You may not have a degree, but there are options for motivated individuals like yourself who work hard and can communicate clearly. I would wager that you can write an excellent cover letter.
posted by quarterframer at 10:05 AM on July 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

It'll make your resume look all the shinier when you start job hunting

Ditto this. But if they refuse to change your job title officially--which seems likely, given their apathy towards reasonable wages & especially their coy pay-raise waiting game approach-- you can still change your job title on your resume, to what it "should" be!! I have done this before, as have friends, with no pushback or questioning from prospective employers. As long as what you list as your job title sounds plausible (i.e. in your case, includes the word 'Manager'), you're not being dishonest. IMHO. And that will help you with future job applications where your resume is first read by algorithms.
posted by yunhua at 4:31 PM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

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