Negotiate a raise without issuing an ultimatum?
November 29, 2007 7:06 AM   Subscribe

How does one best go about negotiating a raise when one is not inclined to use resigning as a negotiating tool?

I've been doing my present job, 75% administrative/25% clinical, for a little over a year. When I was hired (promoted, really, to Program Manager) there was a full time Medical Director for my program who had a lot of experience and provided a lot of support. Soon after I started that person resigned and a new Medical Director started who works less than half time. While she is very good at her job, there are inevitably more things that I have to deal with as a result of being the only administrative person at the clinic three days per week. My current Medical Director is now starting a large research project that will keep her from the clinic for all but maybe a half day per week. There is plenty of medical support for patients and other clinicians, but there will be even more day to day stuff for me to field.

I asked for a raise a few months ago and was told (by the Clinic Director, but through my Medical Director) that since my job description has not changed, I was not really eligible for a substantial raise. (I believe HR was consulted about this, I work for a VERY large employer.) While it is technically true that my job description has not changed, and will not change, my job has changed and will change more. I'm not sure how to describe this substantial change.

It may or may not be relevant that I know the previous person in my position was paid substantially more. She had much more experience, so that seemed reasonable, but it also just so happened that the employer I work for was restructuring their HR just as I was offered my job, and I suspect that my position was downgraded in that adjustment.

So, the biggest problem with my negotiating position is that I like my job a lot. It's in a field that I really want to work in, it has a nice mix of tasks, the field I work in has a lot of flaky players but my employer is not one of them, and I'd like to stay. Additionally, I'm a social worker, and the money I make is actually pretty good for that field, and in order to match it elsewhere I would have to most likely search for a job substantially more administrative and, hence, boring to me.

I'd love thoughts and suggestions about how to make a strong case, and how to represent the non-technical change in my job, when I ask for a raise. I'm particularly concerned that I figure out a way to suggest how serious I am without having to threaten to leave my position. I'm not worried about making the case of me as a good employee, because I am and I'm comfortable saying so.
posted by OmieWise to Work & Money (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Can you write up a proposal for changing your job description to more accurately match what your job actually is? I would then book an appointment with HR (or whoever is appropriate) and explain that your actual job has changed, and as such you feel your job description and compensation should change if you are expected to continue doing the extra work you have been doing. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to say that while you took on this extra work in order to ensure the continued smooth running of the operation, and that you are of course happy to help out wherever necessary because you like working for this company, you also understand that it is necessary to have a clear job description to ensure that everyone knows who does what, and if they do not wish to change your job description, then can they suggest who should be taking over these additional tasks.

In other words, it looks to me like your first hurdle here isn't compensation, but the accuracy of your job description.
posted by biscotti at 7:17 AM on November 29, 2007 [4 favorites]

A raise is seldom a reward for what you've already done. You need to open the questions of how will the firm suffer if you are unhappy, and what will the firm gain by the new contributions you will make as the result of a change in pay?
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:23 AM on November 29, 2007

You have a lot going for you. Your biggest problem is actually your biggest strength: you like your job a lot and want to stay. Your task is to make them see that you will be more inclined to stay, and to stay longer, if you are compensated properly.

Your employers are in a position where they need you quite a bit and will need you and your experience even more in the near future, as your director takes on the additional projects. Because your job description has not changed, I suggest making a list of the new responsibilities or increased workloads that are falling within that job description. Go through your notes and files and start to document your successes - in whatever way you qualify or quantify them in your field. You say that you are well compensated for the field, but I wonder if you have a salary survey or any way to get a read on what the going rate in your market is for someone who does work similar to yours - that can be a good bargaining tool, to say "Our peers at Smith Clinic and Jones Clinic are paying the equivalent of $X an hour with X benefits." That doesn't constitute threatening to leave - instead, it tells your employer how they are positioned in the job marketplace competition.

Create a few-page portfolio summing up your accomplishments, changes in the job, reviews, peer institution pay scales (IF they strengthen your case), and other useful material and bring it to your conference with your boss. Present it and go through it point-by-point. You never need to threaten to leave; in fact, you can absolutely say "My goal would be to stay here and continue to grow in the job and support the organization for a long time to come. X $ amount will enable me to make that commitment."

I agree that threatening to leave is not the way to approach this; in fact, in most cases, asking for a raise does not have to be tied to such a threat. What worries me is that the natural time to discuss compensation is at the time of annual review - do you have an annual review coming up? Or does your organization not do them? If not, another way to approach the conversation might be to ask for a review, and make the compensation part of the review discussion.

You probably know about Hertzberg's motivation-hygeine theory - it seems to have borne itself out in my working life. The upshot is that compensation and job satisfaction are not linked directly. Compensation is considered a 'hygeine' factor - if it is high enough to prevent serious problems, and if there is sufficient positive motivation to keep doing the job, the employee will usually be satisfied, and increased compensation does not necessarily lead to increased job satisfaction. That has been your situation until now. However, there can come a point where the compensation falls out of proportion and starts to enter the poor-hygeine territory. When that happens, even if the work is very satisfying, dissatisfaction can set in. In your boss' shoes, my concern would not be that you were about to leave, but that I did not want you to grow dissatisfied and start working at below your potential contribution.

It does seem that you deserve a raise. Your predecessor was paid more, and you are quite seasoned now as well; your workload has increased and will continue to do so; your performance is very good; and you would like to stay. Your company should be supporting you - you're the kind of person they need and want.

Another thought: in nonprofits and other financially tight situations, thinking broadly about compensation might be an option. If there can't be a raise this year for you, is there anything else that would satisfy you? For instance, increased time off, some additional benefits, tuition, professional development programming, support for traveling to conferences?

A rambling and probably unhelpful comment. You should do it, though! Good luck.
posted by Miko at 7:33 AM on November 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

To recast rudely what biscotti would said politely: "Sorry, that's not in my job description."

Though, to avoid being snarky, you could begin forwarding tasks that demand more than your position requires to others. If someone comes to you with a task then send it to the Medical Director (or other appropriate person). When they come calling that they're overburdened you can enlist them to help get you a new job description.
posted by GPF at 7:34 AM on November 29, 2007

If you think it's the case that any one-sided consultation with HR by you will become a talking point afterwards in a discussion between HR and the Clinical Director then, as an adjustment to the ideas of Biscotti, I would refrain in the first instance from mentioning the salary issue. At all.

Instead, I would definitely see HR but I would make the primary focus your concern that your job description is inadequate in light of the practical changes/duties/responsibilities flowing from the Medical Director's role changing. Initially you might sound HR out about how one goes about (perhaps in a 'general sense') promulgating a changed job description.

Presumably this will all result in you having to present a written case for a change. And seeing as though you've already been knocked back for a pay rise already then, to my way of thinking, especially in a big organisation, your best option is to finesse a move of the goal posts - put the efforts into changing the job description which will form the basis for a subsequent raise application.
posted by peacay at 7:38 AM on November 29, 2007

You could propose hiring an additional person as an assistant, _or_ you could do the work of the assistant, but with more compensation for your increased time.

Alternatively - _can_ you change your job title somehow?
posted by amtho at 7:39 AM on November 29, 2007

From the sound of it you're not going to have success outside the normal schedule of (semi?)annual review, so if that's a long way off you may be in for a wait. I could be wrong but that's what I glean from your description of their reaction - they're not going to make ANY alterations outside the normal structure. I have no worthwhile advice on how to get this scheduled outside their structure, maybe someone else does. All I have is suggestions about how to handle it once you get it scheduled.

When you manage to schedule it (or the time rolls around), you need to go into this review process gunning for what you want. The core of your arsenal comes from documenting, documenting, and documenting.

One, document what people in your field doing what you do normally get paid. Troll the job postings. Look for salary surveys. Maybe even put your anonymous resume up on Monster or the like and see what emerges. In short, be aware of what they'd have to pay to replace you... even if that replacement would be inferior to you.

Two, document what you Do. Your organization, being sizable, surely has a proper job description for you. If you're lucky it's actually somewhat pertinent and "other duties as assigned" don't exceed 50% of your workday. A good place to focus - though you should be comprehensive - is those areas where you're a good liaison with other departments/people/etc. Competent people who are good generalists and 'fixers' are more valuable and more rare than people who are simply competent in their area. If you can show the ways in which you're a good cog that emphasizes the ways in which You Are Special.

Any marginally smart business knows that, for all practical definitions, everyone is replaceable. No matter what you do, there's someone else out there who can do it as well or better than you, and maybe cheaper. A business slightly smarter than that recognizes that there's value in people who are motivated and happy, that experience matters, and that ramp-up for a new employee has a cost. An even smarter business knows that said value is pretty high.

Lastly, keep a document of your successes. That's different from what you Do - it's where you've excelled. A great way to do this is to keep your resume up to date - almost all of us eventually will have to have a current one at some point in the future, so why not kill two birds with one stone?

Once you've got all this stuff, don't wait till your review to bring it out - you'll want to lay the foundation for this stuff before that point, since managers at larger places sometimes get lazy and just work with whatever HR sends over to them when the time comes.

If you've got a basis to claim you're below market average, buttonhole your boss 2 to 4 weeks before your review and plainly state that with your review coming up you're going to want to talk about how you think your compensation is not up to snuff with the market. Since you know that these decisions aren't made in a vacuum, here's the salary surveys/postings/astral charts that lead you to believe this so that you, Boss, have a chance to look them over before review time.

You can do the same kind of thing with your achievements.

I know this stuff feels treacly and weird, and a lot of us are trained not to do self-promotion or talk ourselves up. Reading about it (or typing it here) feels kinda gross and Eddie Haskel-ish. But the reality is that your boss is busy and has other people to think about. This may be part of why you're getting this brush-off on this - you do 1,000 things in a day but to them you are Cog 2839-P who does stuff. For a lot of us doing our jobs exceedingly well means being even less noticable - we're clearing the way for other things.
posted by phearlez at 8:08 AM on November 29, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the thoughtful answers.

The issue re. my job description is that as I see it it really hasn't changed. My jd is several pages long, covering all aspect of a job that covers a lot of ground. One whole section basically boils down to "manage the personnel who administer clinical services." Any increased work in that area doesn't really constitute a change in quality, simply a change in quantity.

To take an example from a previous job: it's as if my job has been to unpack boxes, and I when I was hired I was unpacking 25 boxes per day, but am now expected to unpack 40. I'm still just unpacking boxes.

So how do I represent that change in quantity as a change in quality?
posted by OmieWise at 8:10 AM on November 29, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, I missed phearlez's due to lack of preview. Thanks for the addition.

FYI, when I asked a couple of months ago for a more substantial raise, that was during my annual review.
posted by OmieWise at 8:12 AM on November 29, 2007

Let your boss know that it's a problem. Nearly everyone thinks that they are underpaid. If you say it, then HR will ignore you. If you boss (and her boss) make the recommendation to adjust compensation HR will take that seriously.

Speaking as a manager, fighting to get employees correct compensation, bonuses and job titles is a huge pain in my rear. However, it's a big part of the manager's job function. A manager is responsible to ensure that employees are treated fairly. Your Medical Director may not be willing to go to bat for you since she's willing to spend only a half day / week on administrative tasks. Convince her it's in her best interest to compensate you fairly so you aren't tempted by another offer in the middle of her research project.
posted by 26.2 at 8:25 AM on November 29, 2007

If you don't issue an ultimatum then they really have no reason to increase your pay if you will continue to do the work.
It goes like this:
you: I think I deserve a payrise
them: well we don't
you: ok then...

If they wont increase your pay because your job description hasn't changed then you need to refuse to do any tasks outside your job description - but be aware that if you're already earning above the standard for someone in your position then you'll likely be easy to replace.
Also, if these additional tasks are within your job description and the Medical Director was just doing them to help out, then you've really got no leverage.

Sorry to be so pessimistic but if there's no consequences of not paying you more, they've no incentive to give you more money.
posted by missmagenta at 8:27 AM on November 29, 2007

Two step approach. Tell your boss you think that your job description has changed and needs to be modified. Have a letter to show it.

Once that's done, you ask for the raise.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:42 AM on November 29, 2007

If you don't issue an ultimatum then they really have no reason to increase your pay if you will continue to do the work.

This is true.

If you don't issue an ultimatum then they really have no reason to increase your pay if you will continue to do the work.

This is false.

While correct literally, a smart organization understands that someone who is dissatisfied is (a) going to eventually leave and (2) may very well become a poisoning influence until such time as they do.

Eventually every negotiation is 'won' by the person willing to walk away from a deal. However you're not buying a car where you deal with the sales person for at most a few hours. You're in this negotiation every day that you stay in this job, as you're making the decision to come in again tomorrow.

You can't make them be smart, but you can provide them with the information where they can make smart decisions. Missmagenta is right that there have to be consequences to provoke action, but if your boss is remotely not a moron then demonstrating that you are aware of the market for your position and your skills is going to very clearly communicate that there's the possibility they could lose you, later if not sooner.

It's an advantage that you like your job and where you are. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
posted by phearlez at 8:50 AM on November 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

What is the review structure in your organization? A large company may not have the right measures in place to address your concerns without a threat, especially if you don't have direct access to a supervisor who can make demands of HR. However, if you can make your raise request a regular part of your interactions with supervision, they're going to do something eventually.

It doesn't have to be 'Can I have a raise?' every time: work different aspects each month. This month, hammer home the new duties and changes in the structure of your workflow. Next month, work on job description accuracy. The third month, start militating for an assistant to help you with additional work. The fourth month, focus on pay differentials across the industry. The fifth month, look around to see what other responsibilities you could take on, and write up an expanded job description and negotiate a pay raise with that new target in mind. The sixth month, start looking into educational opportunities that might make you more valuable, and see about negotiating for your employer to cover tuition and give you time off to attend. From having met you, I'm pretty sure you can be a squeaky wheel without being disrespectful or irritating.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:04 AM on November 29, 2007

I agree with phearleaz completely. An ultimatum will be counterproductive, but a strong case that demonstrates your value in the marketplace and the going rate for your skills would make any manager think " do I make sure I can keep this person?" The manager's incentive is not necessarily to keep the overall budget down at any cost. The manager's incentive is to have a team that excels, and sometimes that means a judicious application of better compensation to key team members. The setback they would endure if you left will cross their minds if they know you're looking critically at your job - you won't have to spell it out.

To take an example from a previous job: it's as if my job has been to unpack boxes, and I when I was hired I was unpacking 25 boxes per day, but am now expected to unpack 40. I'm still just unpacking boxes.

So how do I represent that change in quantity as a change in quality?

I think you present it both quantitatively and qualitatively in a point-by-point summation. For instance, see if you can represent the new responsibilities within your job description quantitatively, because numbers talk loudly: "Two years ago I managed 7 personnel, today I manage 12. The time involved in administration of their work has grown from 3 hours a week to eight hours a week. The number of clients served by my staff annual has gone from 800 to 1200. These six tasks used to be done by Susan, and now they are done by me."

That's the quantitative side. On the qualitative side, perhaps you can present any positive comments, thank-you letters, signs of improvement, higher satisfaction ratings, better client outcomes, or whatever else that demonstrates exceptional performance. Also emphasize your experience and facility working within the present system: replacing someone who has experience is a costly thing, as others have observed, and there is a decline in workflow quantity and quality whenever that happens. Also, talk about plans you might implement to streamline or improve the department, though be careful to phrase this as "some of my ideas include..." and "we could..." so that it becomes clear that you could offer the organization more, but probably won't go that far at your present level of compensation.

Since your review is up, you'll have to ask for a special appointment for this, I gather. Go ahead and do it. I believe that your boss will realize that this is a priority, because of the upcoming project. She can't afford to be worrying about a change at the helm in your department, which would drain her ability to concentrate on other priorities. That makes this an excellent time to negotiate.

Interestingly, I just came back from a long seminar on nonprofit administration which included a whole day on HR. The trend in many nonprofits of late has been to reduce the specificity of the job description. JDs can become like millstones, creating false expectations on all sides. THey normally contain a catchall clause such as "other duties as assigned," which make them functionally worthless as prescriptions for work. And they can limit the growth of people with many talents, preventing workplaces from acting more nimbly and applying individual skill to greatest use.

You probably can't change that fact about your organization but I thought you might want to know that the trend is to move away from the hyper-specific job descs of the 80s and 90s.
posted by Miko at 11:35 AM on November 29, 2007 [4 favorites]

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