Asking for a Raise
December 24, 2003 8:20 AM   Subscribe

I need tips on how to ask for a raise at a job I started three months ago. I'm overworked and underpaid in the advertising industry which has high employee turnover and is barely recovering from a massive economic downturn. I am accurately paid for my job title and experience, but recently because of my skillset I've taken on responsibilites that are easily double my rate. How soon should I cave in on my "Highball request" and actually ask for what I'd be happy with? Should I write out my accomplishments? Note that I'm not pulling the "...or I'll quit" card, because I'm happy that I have a job; I'd just like to be happier.
posted by Stan Chin to Work & Money (13 answers total)
Well, you always have to have a counter offer.

I'd approach it as "I'm having trouble getting along in life with my current salary. It's causing me stress, which is decreasing the quality of my workload. I feel if I had $xxx extra monthly I'd find it easier to cover my bills and I'd be less stressed at work, leading to an improved product."

That way you aren't blaming the employer, and you're not threatening them either. Just explaining to the them that you'll give them that extra polish if they'll just give you some extra money.

Note: I've not asked for a raise yet. :-)
posted by shepd at 8:39 AM on December 24, 2003

Stan, do you have a scheduled review coming up? Does the company offer regular performance evaluations at 3 months, 6 months, one year? One good tactic might be to request an immediate performance review with an eye towards a follow-up performance review after another 3 months and a raise. Of course this puts additional income down the road somewhat but shows your employer that you aren't asking for a handout, you expect to give something in return. Only 3 months at the job and with a still high unemployment rate (at my company every job posting results in tons of applications - so we would not be inclined to give non-anniversary raises) means not such a good labor market from the standpoint of worker clout.
posted by vito90 at 9:08 AM on December 24, 2003

"I'd approach it as "I'm having trouble getting along in life with my current salary. It's causing me stress, which is decreasing the quality of my workload. I feel if I had $xxx extra monthly I'd find it easier to cover my bills..."

I wouldn't mention covering your bills, that makes it your fault for not handling your finances.

Lay it out to the boss logically. "Boss, I've taken on extra responsibilities (A) (B) and (C) that would normally be taken care of by someone else making (X), and through my extra work I've been able to provide (Y) to the company. I'd like to be compensated fairly for my extra effort."

[Make sure you know exactly what A, B, C, Y and especially X are] .
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:13 AM on December 24, 2003

depends on the atmosphere were you are as well...the last place i worked had scheduled quarterly reviews they Never actually had, because they never gave anyone raises. I had one review in a year, only got my first post-trial period raise--about 2 months after my trial period was over. Did you have a trial period?
posted by th3ph17 at 9:35 AM on December 24, 2003

You might want to consider going someplace else. I know you mention you're happy in your job, and that's important, but it can be difficult to convince a current employer to make a huge jump from your starting point (current salary).

A lot depends on whether they think you're currently being substantially underpaid for the work you do. Sometimes an employer knows they're getting a deal, and when you call them on it, they'll get closer to your true market value. You could try showing them salary surveys (although I don't give those very much weight), or reminding them of areas that you've added significant value to the company that exceeds what others that are making approximately what you're making have done.

A lot of times though, the employer really thinks the employing is being fairly compensated, and the only way to get substantial movement is to go someplace that doesn't have those preconceived notions of value.
posted by willnot at 9:36 AM on December 24, 2003

I faked a counteroffer 6 months ago, and was successful--You just tell the current place that you'd rather stay but they're offering X--can you meet it?...You have to be willing to leave tho, so think hard about doing it.
posted by amberglow at 9:37 AM on December 24, 2003

stupid fake tags:

I didn't notice that you'd only been there 3 months. You probably don't want to job jump that fast (even though advertising is traditionally very migratory).

I guess you could approach it from the standpoint of you hired me to do X, and that has a value of [current small salary]. Now that you've had a chance to appreciate the quality of my actual work, you can see that I also bring Y and Z, and that's really worth [really big figure].

on preview - amberglow - if one of my people came to me and said another company is going to pay me X, I'd generally say good luck, I hope you're happy. It's been my experience that if the employee is unhappy enough to go looking someplace else, a little extra money is only going to be a temporary fix.
posted by willnot at 9:43 AM on December 24, 2003

I agree with mr_crash_davis, your bills are not the point. You want to convince the boss that your responsibilities (and the skill and efficiency with which you fulfill them) are worth the extra money. There's no way of knowing what kind of response you'll get—it could range from "You're right! How does an extra $5,000 sound?" to "Sorry, we can't afford it." Whatever the outcome, you'll get valuable information on how the company deals with you. If you don't get satisfaction, by all means start exploring other options, as they say.
posted by languagehat at 11:12 AM on December 24, 2003

willnot: I don't know--it's worth your while to keep someone you trust and value happy enough to stay, especially if they told you they would rather. Yearly cost-of-living increases just don't cut it, especially when workloads change (and btw--I said I was called about it, hadn't looked, but that it was too good a salary to pass up, unless...) : >

I think you'd have to wait a while, Stan--3 months is too short a time to have really proven your worth to them, even in approaching them about something like a raise, unless they're incredibly free and easy about that kind of thing. You're paying your dues, and if it's your first job that's how it works--you'll jump to a much better gig after a year or 2.
posted by amberglow at 11:43 AM on December 24, 2003

I'd start looking for another job. Not aggressively, and not necessarily with a strong intention to jump ship, but as a backup.

Some companies will happily exploit underpaid labor. Others will recognize when someone is a good worker and remunerate appropriately in order to keep that person on board. We don't know (based on this discussion) which kind of company this is. If it is the former, you don't want to stay there long term. At some point (once you've found another offer that's more in line with what you expect), talk to your boss, say that your compensation is not in line with your contribution. If he says "tough," then you can play the "I have a better offer" card.

Playing that card is risky, so you better not be bluffing. If you bluff and the company calls you on it, I don't see how you could stay there. But I have heard of companies matching those better offers (when real, anyhow).

Your company will not pay you more because they like you, or because you deserve it. They will pay you more if/because it is in their own best interests to do so and they recognize that fact.
posted by adamrice at 12:05 PM on December 24, 2003

I don't think you can, not safely at least.

You've worked there three months -- the industry is in a slump and has a high turnover rate. Despite the change in your duties I'm not at all convinced that ninety days is long enough to 'demand' anything -- and no matter how nicely you put, it requesting a raise is always percieved by HR as a 'demand'.

I don't know the culture of the company, but it's likely that in todays climate that they may decide your not a 'team player' and suck another ninety days of uncompensated labor out of the next guy. Unless you have some concrete examples of ways you have directly benefited the company, and this means solid numbers, I would wait until the next scheduled review.

Pleading poverty is going to go nowhere, you agreed to take the position for a given wage and ninety days isn't long enough to claim drastic changes in circumstance (even if it's true). If your contemplating faking offers or ultimatums I'd make damn sure your prepared to leave, it's likely that they have less to lose than you and are fully aware of it. It would suck to made an example of, along the lines of, "nobody is irreplaceable so don't even try it."
posted by cedar at 2:49 PM on December 24, 2003

I was in a similar position in Australia a few years back. I was actually happy with my salary, more or less, but I found out that with the new raft of responsibilities I'd taken on, I was being underpaid, badly. The management was being shuffled around madly as the IT boom fizzled, but it wasn't yet panic stations. I ended up reporting to a much older guy who my team has worked with before -- he'd been with the company for a long time and was the maverick visionary with his foot in the (accounting and law) industries that our software house served -- and we liked each other.

I was running a very high profile project at the time. He pled my case right to the top of the management tree for me, citing my record of delivering them deliverables, and fairness and so on. My salary was almost doubled.

So I don't know how that helps you, but my only advice is to find a mentor-type champion if you can, to help argue your case. That's easier said than done, of course. I just got lucky.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:32 PM on December 24, 2003

Stan Chin, everyone's answers seem pointed in the same direction: leave out personal $ problems, it's risky to approach your boss for a raise so soon, and try to develop the job and the relationships more.

I've been in HR for 15 years (please don't hate me) and they're right. Your employer made a deal with you and you took it. The good news is that they are pleased enough with your work to add to your responsibilities this quickly. You would really shoot yourself in the foot to immediately ask for more money, no matter what employee-oriented salary sites might tell you you're worth. Find out when raises are typically given by asking your coworkers or reading your employee manual. (Could be anniversary date, could be first of the year, could be never depending on the company.) A couple of weeks before that date, create a short one-page accomplishment list, and a short summary of how your job has changed permanently. (Not the projects and one-offs, but the daily obligations of your job.) The summary should emphasize any financial responsibilities you handle for the company, the increase in complexity of your work, and any increase in leadership or management tasks. Ask your manager for a meeting, and very genially and professionally go over these two lists - tell her or him that it's just to make sure you both agree as to the history of your employment so far and what your current job description looks like. Once you both agree, ask if it would be appropriate to reprice the job based on these changes. They may say no, they may say yes, but if you approach it this way, you are much more likely to get what you want, and you will have that champion that stavros was talking about.

Two more notes - a) is really just a marketing tool to flatter employees into looking for other jobs. HR people, who generally price the jobs out if the company is very large, hold no stock in it at all. They also don't care what someone you play pool with says he's paid at the rival company to do the same job. We try to go by reputable salary and compensation surveys like the Hay Group.

b) If all these steps above seem like too much trouble, you could just quit and find another job. But any other employer worth their salt will look askance at an applicant who quit after three months because they believed themselves to be underpaid. It could be construed as irresponsible and impatient. Even in high-tech, lots of jobs in a short time may land your resume in the "no" stack before you ever get your foot in the door.
posted by pomegranate at 4:32 AM on December 25, 2003

« Older Linux meltdown   |   How do I make myself more marketable in the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.