I figured I’d bundle three somewhat-related salary-related questions into one post. Here we go…
1. Should my promotion come with a higher raise?
Today I accepted a promotion at work after waiting for the formal offer/salary for almost two weeks. The salary is about $5,000 less than I wanted (and I was aiming for $15,000 less than online pay scales state).
The thing is, it’s a decent raise from my current wage: 20%. It is also my first management position. However, I do bring skills that no one else in the company has and have produced work over the past year for which they would normally pay a consultant twice my wage. Am I being greedy in wanting more?
I feel foolish because I didn’t negotiate: the director who called me phrased it as though it was a great salary and I should be happy. I was stressed after waiting to find out the salary for so long (they told me right after my interview that they planned to offer me the job and they advertised for my current position a week ago). I felt like I had no choice but to accept.
They built this role up to sound very high-profile (significant responsibility nationally) and so I expected a salary closer to those I see online. Have I just accepted a much lower wage than this role would normally receive?
I don’t know. But it’s your first management position, so you represent a risk and you’re guaranteed to need to learn on the job, and so it probably makes sense for them to pay you less than they’d be paying a more experienced and tested candidate.
As for salaries you see online … are you talking about salaries that you see in job listings, or salary websites like salary.com? Salary websites, unfortunately, aren’t going to give you very accurate information; they generally don’t account for the fact that job titles frequently represent wildly different scopes of responsibility, or vary significantly by type of company or geography. (You can get a far more accurate idea by simply bouncing figures off of other people in your field, checking with professional organizations in your industry, or talking with recruiters.)
But what’s most useful is knowing what salary you can command on the market — you, with your particular set of skills, experience, and ability to market yourself. That’s very different from what knowing what a huge swatch of people all performing vaguely similar duties with very different skill levels at wildly different companies around the country can command.
2. MBA working as executive assistant, disappointed in raise
I’ve been an executive assistant at a large and prosperous firm for about a year now. Although being an EA wasn’t my original plan, when I graduated from my MBA program and spent many months applying like a madwoman and interviewing to no avail, I decided to take this job because of the security and great benefits.
I’ve ended up loving my job and excelling at it. I frequently have to ask if there is any more help I could offer because I finish my regular tasks quickly. I received shining evaluations from the two executives I work under, and was called in to talk about my “raise” at the end of this year. It was $1,000. I was disappointed because I have received nothing but praise since starting here, and was hired at nearly $10,000 less than what I initially asked for. I figured that after a year of proving myself, they would at least try to meet me in the middle. Now I know that I should have advocated for myself more, but I was in shock at the time and unsure how to react.
I’ve researched and even after my “raise,” my salary is significantly lower than even the low range of EA salaries listed on websites such as glassdoor.com. I have an MBA and finance/accounting experience, and now make even less than I did before I received my graduate degree. I am frustrated because I love my job, my firm, my coworkers and the company culture and don’t want to leave, but I also feel like I have sealed my fate by accepting what I was initially given and then this small cost of living raise. It’s now several months later and I feel it would be awkward to bring it up now. I don’t want to settle for less than I deserve, but I also don’t want to leave. Is it too late?
Well, again, websites like glassdoor or salary.com aren’t going to give you very accurate information. See #1 above. But you could probably get more reliable information by talking with recruiters or people with similar jobs at similarly sized companies in your area.
However, what you definitely don’t want to do is to base your raise request on having an MBA or on what you made before your graduate degree. It needs to be based on the value you bring to the company. Simply having an graduate degree doesn’t generally warrant a higher salary in most fields, particularly in a role that doesn’t require one; salary is about the value of the work you’re doing to the company. Are you using the MBA in significant ways in your role? If not, then you can’t reasonably expect that it will factor in to what you’re paid. (Although if you are using it in significant ways, and if that’s not something generally expected of the person in your role, then it can become part of your case.)
Keep in mind, too, that depending on what percentage it is of your total salary, $1,000 might not be such a paltry raise. The average raise nationally is 3%. I don’t know what you earn, but if you’re earning close to the national average income of $43,000, 3% is $1,290, or pretty close to what you got. Of course, if you’re not an average performer, you deserve more — but it might be useful to know that it’s not the shocking insult that it might have seemed at first.
In any case … It’s not too late to go back and say that you think you’ve earned a larger raise. Here’s some advice on how to make that case. Just make sure that you base it on your value to the company in your current role and what you’ve achieved there.
3. Boss doesn’t care if people leave over money
I have worked in the accounts department of a property management company for 5 years. There are approximately 45 employees. I am happy in my job, most of my coworkers are great, the hours are flexible, and it’s close to home.
My boss is the owner of the business and is very tight when it comes to paying anyone what he should or what they are actually worth. Four years ago, I spoke to him about a raise and questioned whether he does performance reviews because I had been there over a year and nothing had been mentioned. Prior to speaking to the boss, I asked a coworker about the procedure for a review and pay raise, etc. and they told me not to bother, because “the boss doesn’t give raises.” I was really surprised, but I didn’t let it stop me from asking for one anyway. So, when I spoke to the boss and stated my case as to why I deserved a raise, he confirmed he doesn’t do annual reviews, but would consider my request for a raise. A month went by before he told me he had decided to give me the raise, but it was a very small one.
Since then, I haven’t approached him about another raise, but I know I certainly deserve one! Mind you, the company has had quite a few employees leave because they have asked for more money and the boss has knocked them back. He thinks everyone is dispensible, so he doesn’t care if they leave. So, recently, I have been thinking perhaps I should state my case again, but instead of asking in person, should I put it in writing? I’m not sure if it’s going to be worth my while even though I know he doesn’t pay me what he should. I feel stuck inbetween a rock and a hard place — I don’t want to leave my job but I am finding it hard to earn so little. It also makes me feel unappreciated too. I’m not afraid to ask him for a raise in person but I feel like it would be a waste of time. What do you think my next step should be?
There’s no advantage to putting in writing over asking in person. In fact, asking in person is usually the better route, since it allows for an actual conversation.
But, you know, you’ve been there five years. If your boss won’t give you the salary you want, it would make more sense to either move on or accept that you’re staying for reasons of your own (whether it’s liking the work, your coworkers, the flexibility, or whatever). This is what your employer pays for the work you do and it’s up to you whether to accept it or not accept it, but it’s not really fair (or good for your own state of mind) to accept it and then complain that he’s cheap and not paying people what they’re worth.
So either you want to stay under these terms, or you don’t. But trying to have it both ways is going to frustrate you endlessly, and probably won’t get you what you want.