should I get a raise for taking on more work?

A reader writes:

My coworker is leaving in two weeks, but my company has a hiring freeze and will not be able to hire anyone for some time, which the HR dept has not specified. The head of my department is planning to ask me to take on some of my coworker’s duties in addition to my regular, full time duties. I heard about this in a very informal meeting with my supervisor, who wanted to get an idea of if I would willingly take on the additional duties.

I asked about a raise and my supervisor said that she didn’t think to even ask because of our budget crunch. No one in the company has had a raise for last year or this year. I think that I should get a raise because I will have to be trained to do this co-workers duties, the job is usually filled by someone with a Masters degree (which I do not have), and because I am doing extra work.

I’m just out of college, and I feel like this job is a good fit for me because it is in my chosen field. I’ve been in this position for about six months. I would prefer a raise (who wouldn’t!), but if I wasn’t offered one, I suppose I would continue to stay and do the extra work.

So, my questions for you are: Should I have even asked about a raise? If so, how much should I negotiate for? If I cannot get a raise, would it be appropriate to ask for something not monetary, like more vacation/personal days? And, is there something here that I’m missing or not thinking of to do or ask about?

Thie is happening at companies all over the place, as the economy makes hiring freezes and layoffs widespread. And the reality is that as staffs shrink, the remaining employees have to pitch in and pick up additional work, and raises rarely come along with it.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing in it for you though. In fact, this sounds like a very good thing for you, because this is how people get promoted: by taking on new responsibilities, increasing their skills, and proving themselves at something beyond what they were originally hired to do. And if it doesn’t eventually get you promoted at this company, it’s going to help you when you’re looking for your next job somewhere else.

So I think you should be looking at this differently:  Six months out of college, you’re being given higher level responsibilities in your chosen field.  This is something to be excited about.

And as for the raise, this is how people eventually get them — not at the start, but later on, after they’ve been successfully doing the new work for a while and have shown that they do it well. I wouldn’t push the raise issue now, when the company is in tight financial straits. (And when the rest of the country is too, meaning that more experienced people would likely line up to do your expanded job, and probably for less than you’re currently making.) Instead, now is the time to jump in and prove yourself. Eight or 12 months from now is the time to ask for compensation that reflects what you’ve accomplished, when you can point to a track record of doing well.

So tell your boss you’re excited about the opportunity for new responsibilities and go prove yourself. Then later on, at your next salary review, you’ll have plenty to point to in support of your case for a salary increase then.

Seriously. Think long-term on this one.

{ 23 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike*

    I would just warn this individual not to be taken advantage of. Many companies and industries are doing fine or even growing in this recession, and still asking for cuts in compensation and increases in productivity to raise profits.

    Some companies will remember you for the person went the extra mile in a tight situation and others will remember you for the door mat that doesn't need a raise.

    You need to figure out what kind of company you work for.

  2. Anonymous*

    You may also want to ask for company support in working toward a master's degree if this position usually requires one. Ask if they'll reimburse you working toward one one class at a time or something along those lines. The money may just not be there, though.

  3. Anonymous*

    The other thing to do would be to ask for a time line for a wage review at a later date. I think that if the company is indeed in a tight financial situation, it would not be a good time to insist on a raise. However, speak to your boss to try to set a check-in date for down the line. If you are successful at the work, and the company is in better shape, I think it is fair to ask for more compensation.
    I agree that a title change could be a real benefit as well. It is a way you can show other potential employers that your work was so good your company wanted to promote you.

  4. Karl*

    I like asking for a title increase, and getting a wage review in the near-ish future.

    A few years ago at a previous company (30 employees), one coworker left and another moved to a new department. I became responsible for all three jobs (technically, 2.5 jobs). The COO told me I'd get a 10% raise (which, she said, was "very generous"). I guess it's all relative.

    But that involuntary sacrifice ultimately worked out well, partly because I was able to eliminate unnecessary tasks along the way, and then moved to a new position in the company a year later.

  5. Anonymous*

    I like title change suggestion as well
    What about asking for flexible work hours or even better , if your complany has the technolgy, allow you to work from home part of the week, costs them nothing and save you time and gas, and more focused to complete the extra work. Good luck!

  6. Anonymous*

    At my job, I'm leaving soon. My position includes a heavy caseload of work, requires lots of training, and guarantees a certain amount of stress. They've asked the receptionist (who's become very familiar with what we do) to interview for my job, but let her know there will be no raise because "her rate is already what we start the specialists at".
    The company is not struggling financially. It doesn't seem right that she wouldn't get more money, as it's a whole new position she's actually interviewing for, with a ton more responsibility than answering the phone and greeting people…No doubt she'd get a title change, but knowing the job, I hesitate to recommend it to her.

  7. Charles*

    All good advice from AAM and commenters, but there two more things that I would like to add.

    First, I would like to say to this recent college grad. Count your blessings, even if you don't see it – there is one big one that jumps out at me:

    "I heard about this in a very informal meeting with my supervisor, who wanted to get an idea of if I would willingly take on the additional duties."

    Too often I have seen additional duties thrown at people with no feedback from the employee as to whether they can even do the work. Far too often I have seen additional workloads that end up being impossible tasks and the employee blamed, and eventually let go because they were expected to do far more work than one person ever could. The blessing is that your supervisor is seeking your imput on this – cool!

    Second, I will add this one small piece of advice. Yes, by all means see this as an opportunity to learn and to possibly (but with no guarantees)get a raise/promotion down the road. However, be sure that you give immediate feedback to your supervisor if the work becomes too much for one person to handle (emphasizing that it is not a workload YOU cannot handle it; but, rather, emphasing NO ONE can handle such an increased workload)

    If you supervisor is as flexible and open-minded as she seems hopefully such feedback will not be seen as a failure on your part.

  8. Anonymous*

    I'm the person that emailed – AAM, thank you for the great advice and the quickest response ever! I've decided to stop being resentful and to instead start thinking of this as a positive step. I will be learning a different side of my chosen field, and that can only bring good things. Thanks!

  9. Anonymous*

    This came at just the right time as a similar thing just happened to me last week. Thanks for the advice! I may do the same.

  10. Anonymous*

    The corporate office receptionist at the non-profit I work for has been continuously given new responsibilities and more work to do without being given a raise (she hasn�t had a raise in over 4 years) and is afraid that if she tells them that since she is being given additional responsibilities she would like an increase to her compensation that reflects these new duties they will just replace her with someone new. She�s been working at the same job with the organization for 25 years and isn�t looking to move up or expand her responsibilities beyond answering the phone and being a receptionist.

    The idea of taking on the new responsibilities with a �can do!� attitude and then bringing it up at the next performance review sounds nice, but the inevasible answer would be the same stock answer the organization has been giving for the last four years �the downturn in the economy and a reduction in both donations and state funding is preventing us from giving raises to our staff at this time, we are currently looking into the matter and hope to increase our labor budget with the next fiscal year which will allow us to give raises to the staff�� All this while the executives were able to find it in the budge to reward themselves with significant raises recently, but were unable to give the rest of the staff a raise due to �the ongoing financial downturn��

    It�s nice to take on new work and new responsibilities with the expectation that you will be rewarded at some point in the future, but that is often not the case. Many times you are just taken advantage of until you are fed up and quit and a new person comes in who will also be taken advantage of. Employees are afraid to say anything for fear of being fired, which just empowers the unethical employers to continue taking advantage of them.

  11. Anonymous*

    How is it unethical for a company to pay market rate? You may not like it but if lots of other people are willing to work for less, then that's what the market rate for that job is.

    Smart companies will go to high lengths to keep really really good employees from leaving but it doesn't make good business sense to give financial incentives to keep someone who doesn't want to go beyond the basics when they can hire someone else who will be happy to have the job.

  12. Mike*

    @Anon 1:05

    It's unethical because one is being asked to do more for no compensation.

    Secondly, your simplistic view of the employee market doesn't make long term sense and leads to abusive situations.

    Sure, that single mother with three kids is willing to do any sort of work to be able to put a roof over her kid's heads and feed their bellies. Does that mean it's completely ethical to make her work 80 hour weeks to do so, simply because the alternative is complete destitution?

    Furthermore, you completely ignore issues of retention and ability. I've seen plenty of places fire all of their most experienced people because they had the highest wages. Sure, they could be replaced by folks who were willing to work for less, but they didn't do as good of a job and lead to other problems like high turn over.

    Yes, supply and demand is Econ 101, but don't forget that it's only the beginning of economics.

  13. Piper*

    There comes a point in time when taking on extra work and going outside your job description absolutely deserve a new title and a pay raise. The problem is, in my experience, this rarely happens.

    I am very much a go-getter and find that I quickly outgrow jobs. I know this about myself, but rather than job hop, I just begin to take on extra responsibilities and projects. I've been very successful at doing this (with statistics and very positive reviews as proof), but I have yet to have a company actually recognize it with any more than just a pat on the back. No raises, no promotions, no title changes.

    My only solace is knowing that after I've put in my time and collected my accomplishments, I can take it somewhere else to a better company. So far, I've only worked for companies who promote people who work in sales (which I do not). But maybe someday I'll work somewhere that actually does promote people who work in other departments.

    1. Demy*

      You expressed my attitude towards work and the fruits of my eagerness mirror yours.

      I start a job with intensity, a real go getter who can be counted on to get the job done. All this cooperation and flexibility has got me is meager raises and “pats” on the back. It’s seems if you don’t negotiate a pay rate at the top or above a given position an employer will walk all over you. What happened to the reasonable employee who starts with a salary that relates to their experience and in time, proves their worth and is rewarded? Nowadays, you start low, you stay low and get walked all over.

      I hate to be cynical, but I’ve gone through this cycle too many times. Do employers think we are children? Do they really think the ra, ra, pats on the back really work? It’s an insult to my intelligence when employers add all this “noise” with their awards, and recognition in front of peers when we all know it is designed to distract from how cheep they are. This way, the salaried fat cats can get their new Mercedes while skilled hour-lies drive their broken down piece to work.

  14. Anonymous*

    I'm about to move on to a new job, after completing my contract, but almost two years ago I was in the same situation as the OP: my boss left, they 'promoted' me. Because the company was in financial trouble, they did not raise my salary to match my departed supervisor, even tho the spectrum of the job had actually changed entirely and gotten bigger. A few weeks ago, I went in to discuss the renewal of my contract: they are unwilling to give me a raise now, as they feel it's not need- after all, I've been doing the job at this pay rate. . . so I have said goodbye and moved on to something better.

    THAT SAID: this does not mean that those two years were wasted! Quite the contrary. I was only a year out of university when I got this job, and within 6 months I'd been promoted. Within a year, I'd had two title changes, and while it was stressful (and now I'm stuck in a rather impossible situation trying to find a replacement for a job that on paper- and perhaps in reality- is undoable as it's about to grow even more) and the pay sucked, I found myself in a much better position. People I interviewed with were impressed that I'd taken on the work load and responsibility I had, it looked good on me that I'd taken on the extra load, and I had that title. When they're not willing to give you a raise, milk the title! Because I had a senior position title on my resume, I was being offered more money- new employers often assumed I had the salary to go along with the title.

    Plus, it gave me a really clean exit strategy: it wasn't about performance or conflict with management or anything else. It was cut and dry about money, which makes it easier to leave, and easier to explain to next bosses.

    So take the title, buckle up, and give it a try! Oh, and try your very very very best to not let resentment fester: it will be tough, but that was the biggest morale killer for me.

  15. Anonymous*

    Good luck getting a raise, most people just get: more work, no recognition, backbiting from peers that weren't chosen for more responsibility and snubbed for being an overachiever even if the crap is just dumped on you.

    The American Dream turns into the American Drama pretty fast in these situations. BTDT, wishing you the best of luck!

  16. Anonymous*

    You should get a raise, but never will. The co-worker is leaving to cut costs these days, they feel you can and will do it for what you are already compensated. At the end of the day, refuse, even do a substandard job and you'll be the next to leave.

  17. Anonymous*

    You know what I would ask? Ask if you can have a change in title along with the added responsibilities. Then if you move on to new opportunities, this will appear on your resume as a promotion, and progressive amount of responsibilities, and look better for you to potential employers.

    1. subtotal*

      I’m not sure about this person’s company, but I know that at my company, employees are told that titles do not matter; I have also been told this by recruiters, that it is silly to want a different title.

  18. John K.*

    Too many times have I personally had the displeasure of accepting additional work with the promise of better financial compensation or title change … and it has never materialized. I guess I'm just a sucker – one is born every minute.

    Every time I brought up the subject, I am told "HR won't allow it, it's out of my hands." Hogwash! I don't want to work with a wuss manager – I've switched jobs whenever I was not given what I had asked for (title change/raise), and I couldn't be any happier.

    Screw them.

  19. subtotal*

    Just a word of warning to the writer.

    I was (and still am) one of the people who “took on additional responsibilities” to prove themselves. I never saw a promotion, and only the minimal yearly raise that everyone else in the company gets.

    Not just “do some extra filing”, either – specialist, technical jobs that required a lot of learning on my behalf. In the years of 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 I had more and more piled on my head – and still no promotion to speak of. I was hired as a filing clerk and now I’m doing programming, but I’m still titled as a filing clerk. Additionally, I often get scolded for not being up with my filing. (There is no concievable way.)

    And, as an aside – in British Columbia at least, I’ve called the employment act, and they’ve told me that an employer can hire you as a filing clerk then ask you to fly a plane for the same pay – your choices are: do it, or quit.

  20. sloanmorganbrooks*

    You wont get a raise but you should always ask every year, they are going to be cheap now and have one person do 3 or 4 jobs until you drop. A title change means nothing, I dont care if I am CEO or garbage man I want the money now. I was never told my job description would entail this much and I am so stressed. You should look for another job always look for the money, the assisted living communities are 5 to 6k now. Will you have the money?

  21. CRCobb*

    Your best negotiating position comes from having an alternative to what your employer is offering. What would that be? A real standing job offer, or your own sideline biz that you can ramp up to full-time “pay.” Those options seem really hard to come by, especially with the current economy. But they’re possible.

    But your best bet may be to make yourself appear very valuable to your current employer. And there’s the rub. If you take on added responsibility, and you can’t handle it, then you become a liability (not just a weak point in a business, but an embarrassment for the manager that put that employee in the position of added responsibility).

    I would ask for a clear explanation of your added responsibility. Asking “Does the new position includes a pay increase?” shouldn’t be threatening to a manager, since you are not literally asking for a pay raise. And I think asking for a new title makes sense, if the new responsibilities warrant it. You can use it in your future job search, and it can give you leverage for future salary negotiations for the new position (responsibilities) or other positions within the company.

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