your burning questions about salary, answered

If you’re like most people, talking to your boss about your salary is intimidating. You might even avoid it altogether because you’re unsure how to bring it up or because you worry about how your manager will react. It’s time to get over that.

At the Intuit QuickBase blog today, I take on six common salary questions and (hopefully) demystify them. You can read it here — and please leave your comments over there as well!

{ 11 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    What if it’s not up your Manager but up to the HR department? I work for a huge financial institution and my Manager has no say in it. So how do you bring it up to HR, or would you go to your Manager first and then HR?

      1. Works in HR*

        Firstly are you sure that HR really decide this. I’ve lost count of the times a manager has told an employee “I’d love to give you a payrise but HR won’t let me”. Secondly even if HR are responsible they probably are only custodians of the process that the business agreed. So perhaps this year there is no budget for salary increases or there are strict rules like only those with top performance ratings get one or the manager has already spent their budget. HR may be informing the manager that they can’t give you an increase or it can only be x not y but that’s not the same as HR deciding what the increases are.

        Of course it’s possible that HR really do sit down and decide how much money to give each individual employee but that’s not just a silly system it’s completely ridiculous. Although occasionally I wish I did have the power to prevent annoying employees get rises – mostly those managers who have blamed me for enforcing the rules that have been set. ;-)

  2. A nony cat*

    I know you hate it when employers negotiate salary based on previous salary, but as an applicant, there isn’t much one can do about it if asked, besides try to make the best of it.

    In those cases, if you have really great benefits (beyond the usual vacation and health insurance) that you are unlikely to receive in a new position, can you factor those into your previous salary, when negotiating? For example, could you say, “my base salary is $25,000, but I also receive a $2,000 yearly bonus, $1,000 in transportation benefits and I get a free lunch each day. I estimate these benefits are worth $4,400 making my total compensation $29,500 plus insurance and vacation time.”

  3. Anonymous*

    It could be worse. At our fortune 500 company there are NO raises outside of the standard percentage that everyone gets each year. The only way to get any kind of raise within the company is to change positions.

  4. Anonymous*

    As someone who works in HR – I can say that in larger companies – it usually goes through HR. When you are dealing with hundreds of employees…all with different job profiles, educations, skills, locations and seniority – it would be nearly impossible for a manager to calculate all of these factors into making a legally sound and fair salary adjustment. If a manager decides to adjust the salary of a direct report – but now the direct reports’ salary is too close to that of a line manager…you start to have major discrepancies not only with the fairness and uniformity of the payscale but there are also FLSA implications that are raised as well (as many salary adjustments are the result of increased responsibility). This is why companies have HR departments – specifically compensation departments that can take all of these factors and produce a fair, yet competitive pay structure.

  5. Editor*

    My current employer decides on raises at the corporate level. After they bought us, for several years we got a percentage between 1 percent and (once!) 4 percent. When the economy got bad they stopped giving raises and haven’t started again. I’ve been with this employer and the predecessor more than 12 years.

    You suggest not asking about raises in job interviews, which I would never have done before. But now, I worry that I will get another job and find out there is no flexibility, just the Annual Edict From Above. (Well, actually I also worry that being within a decade of retirement I won’t get offered another job, but that’s another story.)

    Is there a tactful way in a job interview to find out if there is flexibility with raises or a lockstep approach to compensation?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d ask about it once you have an offer, but not in the interview. Of course, if it’s a 5-step interview process, it’s reasonable to ask about it at some point later in those interviews, before investing more time.

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