where is my promised raise?

A reader writes:

At my one year review, my boss gave me a pay raise. I noticed on my following pay stub it didn’t show up. I asked her about it and she said to remind her before the next pay day. I did, still no raise. I asked her again and she said it will be on the next one.

Should my check show a prorated amount from the prior two? If I don’t get the raise on my next paycheck, should I say something again? I think this is odd.

This is weirdly common. Either your boss hasn’t submitted the paperwork or the person who runs payroll is slow/disorganized/has lost it. (There’s also a small chance your boss hasn’t had the raise officially approved yet, but it’s more likely one of the other two.)

You need to speak up. A week before payroll is next run, say this to your boss: “Since payroll didn’t correct my salary in the last two paychecks, is there anything we can do before next week’s payroll run to ensure it’s correct this time? Should I reach out to them?” (Even if she says no, this may prompt her to take action herself.)

You should also ask if the raise was effective on the date of your review or on some other date, so that you know if the prorated amount that was missing from the last two checks should be added to the next one or not. (And if she says that the effective date was indeed two paychecks ago, and you don’t see that prorated amount added in, you’ll need to follow up on that as well.)

Then, if the raise still isn’t shown on your next check, go back to your boss and say this:  “This is the third check that hasn’t included my raise. I’m concerned about the money that’s being lost here. What specifically do I need to do to ensure that my salary is corrected with the payroll service, and to ensure that the missing amounts from the last three checks are included in the next one?”

Do you have the raise in writing, ideally with an effective date? If so, that gives you some backup on all of this. If not, you may be at the mercy of your boss, unfortunately — until she makes the raise go through, you may still be earning at your old rate of pay.

Keep following up, politely but firmly, until this is resolved.

And I really don’t know why it doesn’t occur to some managers that most people take their income very seriously.

{ 31 comments… read them below }

  1. Dawn*

    I agree that this is common. It’s happened in my place several times. Most times it’s because HR didn’t input the change (happens with other things such as 401k and insurance enrollments also). A couple times it was because the manager didn’t send in the necessary paperwork. Definitely ask what date the raise was effective. If it was two weeks ago, you should definitely see the missing amounts in your next check.

  2. esra*

    I have been lucky at my current job, the raises are instituted on time, and retroactive to the date agreed upon.

    At previous jobs, however, this has not been the case. I found that the most effective tactic was to be straight up about my concerns re: lost wages with the continually delayed salary increase as AAM suggested.

  3. Nate*

    This is why it’s so important to get anything said that is *official* in writing. If there’s a problem, you have supporting documentation.

    1. Jamie*

      This is crucial – I’m a bit of a paranoid pragmatist, so for me if it isn’t in writing it didn’t happen.

      If you aren’t offered the raise/promotion in writing I would send an email referencing the details so you have a trail of the specifics and their agreement.

      I would also do all follow ups about the delay in the raise in writing as it will make it easier to prove retro pay is owed.

      I know it’s a common problem – but that baffles me. Payroll is a sacred duty – it’s something that needs to be right every single time.

      How can managers forget that salary is a very big deal…it’s kind of why we all show up everyday.

  4. Meredith*

    This sorta happened to me. When I was given a promotion, I received a raise. HR changed my title, but missed (or forgot) to update my salary. In my next pay check when I noticed that the title changed, but not the salary, I brought it to my boss’s attention. She was able to fix it that day by refaxing the necessary paperwork to HR. My next check had the new salary amount along with the prorated increase from the last pay period that I had missed.

    I echo the previous comments by saying I hope you have the raise in writing with an effective start date.

  5. Lisa*

    I don’t understand why this happens all the time!
    At the beginning of this year I had my commission structure adjusted, as well as a nice raise. When I got my check nothing was changed, I had to keep reminding my boss!

    Very annoying.

  6. Kyle*

    Interesting, I’ve had arguments with fellow managers about what the most important part of a manager’s job is, and I’ve always said pay… employees will forgive a lot but you can’t mess up their pay, and if it get’s messed up, it should be the #1 priority to fix it. Aside from simply being the right thing to do, I think employees appreciate knowing that their manager takes these kind of issues seriously, and won’t let it drop.

    9 years ago when I started this job I had a problem with 10% of my paycheck that was supposed to go to a savings account. 9 years later, I remember exactly what the problem was, how the company messed it up, and fondly remember the HR lady that took my issue seriously, made some calls and got me a check over-nighted.

  7. CallMeAl*

    I have a funny/sad raise-related story. Due to a financial downturn, my previous employer gave everyone “virtual” raises. We got the letter stating what the raise was but the increase in pay would not go into effect until a undisclosed future date.

    What could we do but laugh? My co-workers were joking about the “virtual” cars they were going to buy and paying their “virtual” mortgages. We eventually got the raises some months later…not pro-rated.

    So glad I got laid off from that place.

    1. Jamie*

      I think it’s awesome that you have a sense of humor about that – I wouldn’t have.

      A conversation about money being tight (if true) and a definite date to reconvene to discuss the raise – that I would understand.

      Calling it a virtual raise and giving it a dollar figure but no start date? I would have a very hard time not waiting for my “virtual raise” and gotten to work updating my very non-virtual resume.

      Well intentioned people need to run this crazy stuff by someone with common sense to see if it passes the sniff test. And as a general statement people shouldn’t try to be cute with office policy – I’m not alone in hating cute.

  8. Anonymous*

    Everywhere I search I says get it in writing. Okay I have mine in writing so what leverage does that give me? I’ve shown it to higher ups and still nothing.

  9. Lambo*

    I’m having a huge issue with my boss where he offered a raise and then actually gave me less than promised when the raise went into effect. When I brought up this issue with him, he’s saying that the amount I’m getting is what he actually said and will not budge. I’ve really lost my motivation for my job now.

  10. Rosa Jamison*

    I had my pay increase since last week of April of this year. I check with the manager, and his response is I am in system already. As of this date I never had it.


  11. David*

    So here is my dilehma. My yearly review was in April and I thought my raise was going to be affective on my start date which was end of Julyso i didn’t bring it up to my supervisor on the July Paycheck. I kept brining it up to my supervisor after that. Now HR is denying my back pay becuase it has been over 3 months. Is this legal in CA?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If there was no written agreement to change your pay, there’s probably not much you can do about it. You’d need to prove that there was a formal, written agreement.

      1. David*

        There was a written aggreement. but they are saying that becuase it was over 3 months they can’t give it to me.

            1. David*

              Ok, so i just found out that it was becuase my supervisor never finished the paper work on time. can I suffer lack of rerto pay becuase of his oversight?

  12. Chris*

    I work with someone that was promised a raise and has not received it yet after asking numerous times they asked about it. She has now refused to work the job until they pay her for any back pay + increase her wages. Can she do this? Not work? What can the employer do to protect themselves?

  13. Annoyed and fed up!*

    Here’s my story. Was promoted to assistant manager about a year ago. The store I started in was a very small low volume store so of course I understood the low pay rate. My boss said that she didn’t see me being in that store for more than 6 months, just to train. So my last day in that store was October 6th and the next week I started in a higher volume store. On my last day my boss stopped by and said that she got me a really good deal, that she looks out for her people and that she just had to talk to her boss and then we should be set. Well to this very day i have still not received the increase for now being in a higher volume store. I wanted to give it some time so I waited because we were also affected by hurricane sandy the end of that month and so I wanted to give her a little time there and so when I saw her around the end of nov I said something and very polite and she said oh yes that should be in my check soon. Almost mid January, still nothing. Asked her when I saw her again and was just like oh it must have missed the pay period blah blah. Now I am fed up. I got paid today and still nothing! I will follow the advise above and write her a polite but firm email. At this point my pay better be retro active because I am beyond done with this.

  14. Sarah*

    So I’m having a similar problem. I was promoted in October of last year and I kept asking my boss if it went through and he would say that he was going to check. I say a slight pay raise in my paycheck but come April I realized that it was just a hours increase and I have not been getting the pay raise I was told I was going to get. My manager contacted the HR people but they said I waited to long to notify them and will not give me back pay. I have all of the paper work that says the effective date and everything. Turns out my general manager never submitted the paper work. Now what?

  15. Wow*

    I got promoted and the acceptance letter said I started my new position on the 5th. As of today a month later) no pay raise has been done… When should the raise have been applied?

  16. Amber*

    My husband received a call from his manager that he would be getting a raise almost 2 months ago. We were very happy because before that my husband had sent them an email explaining why he needed more money. It has been a while since he’s received a good raise and he keeps taking on more responsibility. Today was payday, and still no raise on his paycheck. He has contacted the manager numerous times by phone and email. Each time the manager says he’s going to look into it. It seems like he’s being taken advantage of. How hard is it to file some paperwork. I’ve never had this problem at my jobs. They say I’m getting a raise and I always see it on my next paycheck. I swear companies make these false promises just to keep people as long as they can at low wages, until people get fed up and finally quit.

  17. ew0054*

    What about when you get in writing that your “salary will be raised to $x in 6 months” and it never happens? Happened to me. Lesson learned: don’t trust the boss, and having things in writing doesn’t mean anything.

  18. Donna*

    I negotiated for a salary increase and was told it would start at the beginning of the next payroll period. Shouldn’t the increase start the day the agreement was signed?

  19. Kenosi*

    I have been promised by both my Manger (via email ) and Executive (verbally) that my salary will be backdated to the 1 August 2013 as I was a secondment in the position since October 2012. On December the 1st I was officially appointed in the position and when I asked about the salary backdate the Executive told me that the Finance department will not allow that due to not having a budget for it.

    Now I have an email from my manager confirming the backdate and the Executive is not aware of the email.

    I would like to know how do I go about talking to him about it as my manager has just recently resigned.

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