Is it crazy to ask for a raise mid-contract?
June 8, 2021 5:44 PM   Subscribe

I didn't negotiate well for my first job and I've learned that my coworkers make much more than I do for the same work. Is there any way to address this without it seeming like a wild money grab?

I was hired for my first post-college job, and when the recruiter asked how much I was looking for I said $20/hour, which seemed like a lot of money at the time (I was working at Taco Bell). He sounded taken aback and said sure, that was the lowest end of their range (perhaps hinting that I should ask for more?). The job description did not match what I have been doing, but did mention a preference for people with one year of experience.

3.5 months into the 8-month contract, and I've long since learned that my three coworkers make $30 an hour. They do have more experience, but most of the work we do involves data entry, installing devices (we just follow a pdf guide), and other low level tasks that don't require any knowledge base. One of my coworkers has a lot of experience that has come in handy, but I don't feel like the other two use apply their previous knowledge at all.

The main reason I feel like I deserve a raise is that I'm doing the same tasks as everyone else and my output has been equal or greater to those two coworkers. We did data entry, and I have 800 entries while my other coworkers have 400 and 100 (my third superstar coworker has 900). I also took on two large projects and completed them alone, while my other two coworkers were "working" from home (not working). I've also installed more devices than anyone, mostly because I come in on time and don't take a two hour lunch.

I've discussed this with my direct manager, who was supportive. But my other coworker brought up the fact that I don't have as much experience, and renegotiating at this point looks greedy. I know regardless of the outcome this might tarnish my reputation with the company, but since I'm not trying to work with them again I'm not concerned (my manager is happy to be my reference). He also suggested that I should prepare to be fired, which I wasn't worried about previously since onboarding takes about a month and it's very difficult to find people with technical skills in my rural area (I do have a degree in computer science).

I'm not trying to get $30/hour, but to ask for $25-26, with hopes that we can settle around $23-24. Is this entirely unreasonable? Should I just wait it out and do a better job negotiating at my next job?
posted by fern to Work & Money (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you actually have a contract? Or are you an at-will employee? If you’re at-will, go for it, nothing to lose. If you’re contract, you contract may have terms about this sort of situation.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:00 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]

Asking for a raise will not tarnish your reputation, at least not with any company I’ve ever heard of. Do it respectfully, of course! Asking for a raise is totally normal. And your manager was supportive!

Your coworker is full of it and, I might add, kind of a jerk for insinuating that you will be fired for asking for a raise.

Ask for $30. Know your worth.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 6:04 PM on June 8 [18 favorites]

Mid-contract implies that you agreed to work for a fixed period of time like a year. Generally in those kind of situations you cannot renegotiate once the time period has started and trying to do so would look bad. But the rest of your question makes it sound like this is a normal employment setup with no end date, so this is basically asking for a raise which is a normal thing to do if the pay doesn't match the responsibilities. This could theoretically backfire on you, but only if you ACTUALLY come across as greedy by asking for more than your coworkers or something like that. I agree that because your manager is supportive there is a good chance this will work, and that your coworker is being paranoid and/or selfish by telling you to not do it.

Personally, I think asking for $25 is a bit low and asking for $30 is a bit high, but I would probably go with whatever number feels the most comfortable to you. When you are making the request, I would focus on the fact that you didn't fully understand the nature of the work when you applied, and now you realize that your work is more valuable than $20/hour. I would not mention what the other employees make if you are afraid that would come across. Good luck!
posted by JZig at 6:36 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]

You shouldn't feel bad for asking for compensation in line with what your coworkers are making for similar work. Does the company "feel bad" for underpaying you? No. No, they don't. They got a good worker for cheap.

Employees should not apply moral standards such as loyalty or empathy towards an employer. Those are for reciprocal relationships like friends and family. Employers almost without exception have no real interest in your welfare. You need to advocate for yourself.

When you ask for a raise, point to examples of your good work as well as noting what the going rate seems to be at that company. Avoid saying anything negative about your coworkers or their work-from-home habits.

Be very matter of fact, not apologetic. This is business.
posted by Flock of Cynthiabirds at 7:20 PM on June 8 [12 favorites]

It's capitalism, both you and the company are supposed to be greedy.

It sounds like the company has more to lose than you do, which puts you in a good negotiating position. Also, just asking for things like this is good life experience, even if they say no (something I wish I did more of early in my career!).
posted by meowzilla at 7:21 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]

Pitch $25-30, claim you recognize your skill set and that of your coworkers, ignore concerned coworker. Business tone.
posted by firstdaffodils at 7:32 PM on June 8

I don't think you're very likely at all to get a raise halfway through an 8 month contract. That said it sounds like you can handle the risks of asking (particularly since you don't plan to return) so maybe it'd be worth it for the practice negotiating.
posted by randomnity at 7:45 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]

What is your plan if they say, no? I think they will say talk to us in a few months when your contract is about to expire. Or they might say yes, starting at the 8 month mark. Are you willing to walk now? Are you willing to tell them unless you get a raise in line with your peers that you are out? Are you OK with being let go bc of it?

If so, go for it. You have nothing to lose.
posted by AugustWest at 7:53 PM on June 8

I think you have a case that the work you are doing does not match the job description and you want to be compensated for the job you’ve shown that you’re quite good at. See if you can find some comps (glassdoor, job ads) to back you up and place your wage somewhere above $25/hr. Your benefits or lack thereof can also be used to spin your comparison postings. Good luck!
posted by momus_window at 8:23 PM on June 8

Find your BATNA and ask for that.
posted by flimflam at 8:33 PM on June 8

If you ask for a raise by saying what you said here (it was your first job out of college and you didn't realize the market rate) you won't tarnish your reputation. If you threaten to walk away from a short term contract* you've already signed if you don't get your way, maybe. But in all seriousness politely asking might improve your reputation. And your direct manager is supportive? Ask away.

The fact that you have only a few months left might mean, even with reasonable good will, bureaucratic inertia will eat up any change before you see a raise. But that just means ask sooner rather than later.

I would recommend that, if you need to, you justify your request based on your current performance and not based on the fact that other people aren't "using" their prior experience. Also if you're not playing hardball, I'd approach it by not asking for a specific number but say you feel you are significantly under paid, because you didn't know the market rate, so you are looking for a number. If they want a number, say you understand the $30 is the market rate. Don't pre-negotiate with yourself and toss out lower numbers. Unless you are threatening to walk, they will know they can lower the number themselves if they want to.

*As mentioned, is it really a contract? Or an employment agreement for an job that sunsets at 8 months? A true contract has more of an implication that you've agreed to serve that time for this agreed amount of money, and neither party can terminate except as spelled out. An employment agreement anyone can end at either time, and making changes in pay rate, etc., is more common. But either way I think asking is fine.
posted by mark k at 8:51 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]

It is so crazy to me that companies are expected to take advantage of people who don't know what they are worth and it's just accepted, and the blame is put back on the employees for not psychically knowing the maximum the company will be willing to pay and asking for it in the first place. It's wage theft and the only thing that will ever solve this problem is to make pay information completely transparent.

I had something similar to your issue happen to one of my reports, an Asian woman, a few years ago (she had been hired before I started so I wasn't involved in her salary negotiations) and when I tried to go to my management to rectify it I was told that the company had an absolutely unbreakable-under-any-circumstance rule of NO pay rises outside of a specific once-a-year period, never more than 5%, and ONLY after the employee had been there a full year (so if 'pay raise week" happened 363 days after your start date, you had to wait until the following year). Funnily enough this rule only applied outside of the c-suite but that's another discussion, I suppose.

When I pointed out that the less-experienced, less-well-performing white guy that had been hired the very same week was being paid 17% more, and that lots of people across my department had started to compare their salaries and notice differences like this, HR got real anxious and that once-a-year 5% max rule was suddenly forgotten. So if you're not a white man, or if there is a chance you're being discriminated against because of age or disability, consider Asking That Question when you bring up your request.
posted by cilantro at 6:47 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

Was it your coworker who suggested you might be fired for asking, or your supervisor? If it was your coworker, I'd ignore them. They sound like a bit of a jerk, to be honest.

The main reason I feel like I deserve a raise is that I'm doing the same tasks as everyone else and my output has been equal or greater to those two coworkers.

This is an excellent, 100% defensible, completely reasonable reason to ask for a raise. It is actually the best possible reason :) You would be totally fine to ask for $30/hour, and then accept less if you're offered less and are willing to accept it. Renegotiating is not greedy: it's totally normal.

And you don't need to feel like you did a bad job negotiating your original pay. Before you take a job, it's hard to know what's expected and how you well you'll be able to do the work. But now you know, and you are doing great, and you deserve the same pay as your colleagues.
posted by Susan PG at 11:49 AM on June 9

Everyone else makes $30? And you're almost as productive as the top performer? Don't settle for $23 then! Expect $30. Maybe compromise at like, $28 if it feels necessary to offer a concession. Since you're already going-on 4 months, it'll average out to $25/hr even if you start at $30 at the start of the new month. They should've foreseen this and headed it off, frankly.
posted by slidell at 1:15 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]

I've known several people who were in situations like this. They always either get a raise, or become miserable and quit.
You're not doing your employer any favors by not asking. You won't look bad.
Employers value enthusiasm, and they value the good employees. They also need to be nudged into remembering this. Otherwise the good people bleed away, and the mediocre ones stay, and enthusiasm dies. The company suffers.
At the best place I ever worked, the boss would walk around and give raises to the good people.
At the next best, my manager would drag me into his office. "No, this isn't a performance review. Are you never going to ask for a fucking raise? No, more than that. Jesus Christ, let me deal with this."
Companies run by people with brains don't mind paying good money to good people. They don't want to be too lavish, but they want to keep them around. People who have the wit to ask are looked on with more respect, because they're not just filling in hours.
Contracts suck. Robert Townsend said that a contract is a statement that they have to lock you in because they have nothing to offer that will keep you there. Any contract can be renegotiated.
You have nothing to lose by trying. If they say they can't do it until the contract ends, start looking around. Don't burn your enthusiasm working for clods.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 3:59 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]

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