my employer makes you wait 3 years for a raise and is staffed by lunatics

A reader writes:

I’m just over two years into my first “real” job after grad school. My company (a large nonprofit) has a very strict policy that someone in my position has to be in that position for at least three years before they are eligible for a raise. Then, in order to actually get the raise, I have to submit a packet of documentation from myself, my supervisor, and my project leaders detailing why I deserve this raise and why it’s a good move for the company, which is then reviewed by a committee under HR.

I’m already overqualified for this position and have been working far above my level since I started and receive frequent praise. I feel like I’m being required to write a thesis defense for why I deserve to get compensated for the work I’m already doing. Furthermore, I’m very frustrated that when I started, the policy was a minimum of two years, but five months before I hit two years they changed it to three with no exceptions!

Is this normal? If not, what’s the normal process for getting a raise? How can I politely ask future interviewers whether they operate on a merit- or longevity-based promotion model?

Noooo, this is not normal.

First, three years before you can even be considered for a raise? One year is standard in most organizations. Forcing you to stay at the same salary level for three years is a really good way to ensure that your organization isn’t competitive on salary and won’t retain its best people, who will have other, better-paying options. (Also, keeping you at the same salary for three years means that in many cases your buying power will be decreasing during that time, because of inflation.)

Then, the documentation is ridiculous. First of all, your company should automatically be revisiting your salary on their own periodically anyway — a hell of a lot more frequently than every three years. And then to create such a significant burden on you to do the work of justifying it? It’s not unreasonable to be expected to present a case for a raise, but that case can usually be made by a quick rundown of how you’re contributing at a higher level than you were when your salary was last set.

And then a committee reviews that documentation? A committee?

No, it’s not normal. It’s incredibly bizarre and dysfunctional, and it’s got to making your organization less competitive.

Here’s what’s normal: Getting an automatic salary review each year. Or being able to make an annual case to your manager (not to a fricking committee) for why you deserve a raise. And having your manager make her own decisions about who on her team deserves a raise and for how much, within the confines of her budget for salaries, sometimes in consultation with her own boss or with HR. (Generally if HR is involved, it’s to advise on the going market rate for the role and how the person’s compensation will fit into the company’s larger salary structure, and to ensure that raises aren’t inadvertently creating problematic pay disparities.)

As for asking future employers about it, you can certainly ask something like, “Can you tell me whether annual raises are typical, and what the process for raises is generally like?” (I’d probably do this as part of salary negotiations, rather than earlier in the process.)

But I wouldn’t worry too much about encountering this particular model again, because this particular model is bizarre.

{ 105 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT

    Get out of there, OP. And run like the wind!

    I’m not sure if it’s an option for you, but if it is, you seriously need to get a new job. This is so messed up.

    1. Koko

      And strongly consider telling someone in your exit interview or otherwise that this was a driving factor in your leaving, so future employees may get a better deal and the org may have more success in their mission if they reform the policy.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        YES YES YES. You can’t always be candid in exit interviews — particularly when it’s an individual whom you’re trying to get away from — but I can’t imagine saying “our compensation policy isn’t competitive, and I’m going where I can be paid market rate” will get you bad references in the future. And if enough people say it, maybe someone in charge will wake up.

      2. MaryMary

        Agreed. I used to work at an organization who was underpaying individuals in several roles across the firm. It took a mass exodus of employees who were candid on their exit interview about leaving to do the exact same work for more money (also, kudos to our competitors for taking advantage of that opportunity), but eventually the company did a market review and significantly adjusted pay bands for certain roles. I got a 13% raise, and was still in the low range of the new pay band.

      3. Leah

        I can imagine that a place with this level of dysfunction doesn’t have exit interviews. I have worked at perfectly functional employers that did not have them.

        1. Intrepid Intern

          I worked at a pretty dysfunctional place that did exit interviews for interns. Of course, by “interview” they meant filling out an MS Word form, which meant writing over someone else’s exit interview from 2008, which had exactly the same carefully worded criticisms I wanted to make.

          But they did have exit interviews.

        2. Koko

          Yeah, that’s why I added “or otherwise.” I’ve never worked for a place with formal exit interviews, but there were certainly opportunities when giving notice or even by email after leaving to go on the record with plusses or minuses about my time there.

  2. Dr. Speakeasy

    I wonder if there are a lot of former academics there – a third year retention review by committee with the possibility of a raise then and only then sounds a LOT like academe. However, NO ONE should be borrowing personnel strategies from the academy. We are brutal to our young (career-wise young anyway) and in many ways the system is designed to make people quit.

    1. fposte

      This was exactly what I was thinking–it’s preparing a review/tenure packet. But I bet they don’t give tenure, either.

      1. Zed

        To be honest, for a moment I thought this was a satirical question from an academic. (Except then I was going to be shocked that this person’s pre-tenure review came with a raise…)

    2. LizzieB

      That’s what I thought too. No raise for 3 years? Review by a committee? Sounds like my husband’s job, but he’s a professor.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger

      I’m not even in academia (although I have a few friends who are), and when I heard that there was an excruciatingly long wait for decisions made by a committee, I immediately thought of academia.

      1. Lillie Lane

        Precisely. I worked for such am organization and they had policies like this. The packet of documentation was particularly bad because not many people wanted to go through the trouble…plus (this is anecdotal based on conversations with my coworkers) the women es

    4. Carolyn

      This is exactly what I was going to say! It sounds like you work in a university – and are doing a midcycle retention review. Unless that’s the case – run for the hills!

    5. Aunt Vixen

      +1 or wherever we are now.

      I had this at my last job but one. We did get cost-of-living raises annually (when the university budget wasn’t under total lockdown, which did happen for several years running), and merit raises ditto (though the lockdowns against those lasted even longer than the lockdowns against COLA), but there was a structure where depending on your degree and experience you weren’t eligible for a promotion (which came with a much bigger raise) until you had been in-title for a period of two years (or whatever). At which time you prepared a packet and it was reviewed by a committee.

      This was a university-affiliated research center and I do not have a doctorate. The review process was more strenuous for the PhD-having crowd, but it did exist down at the assistant level and it wasn’t bizarre or inexplicable. If you understood that it was to do with promotion, not just with annual increases.

    6. Artemesia

      It sounds exactly like the tenure review process; heavy review at year three with option to terminate the professor and then major review at year 6 for tenure. The candidate has to prepare incredibly time consuming materials for review and the time of another half dozen committee members is taken up evaluating, soliciting outside reviews etc etc. This is entirely inappropriate for work at a non-profit where you should be getting a small raise every year and have the option for being considered for more annually.

      If you can possibly move to another organizations, definitely do it.

  3. Brett

    Sounds like they tried to copy the worst practices of the public sector and merit review boards. Since merit raises are considered unusual circumstances for some local governments, they have to be documented and the documentation submitted to a merit review board to decide whether or not a raise should be granted and how much. It gets really bizarre when the raises are reviewed in a public hearing, where the worker might have to testify in their favor and others can testify against them.

  4. Adam

    I realize employers still hold the majority of the power in today’s economy, but this sounds way too much like they want you to justify “the privilege of them employing you”, let alone asking for a pay increase. I’m torn between asking OP to stick it out a little longer and see what happens or run to the next opportunity. I hope she likes her job at least!

    1. Leave Me Alone :-)

      “…but this sounds way too much like they want you to justify “the privilege of them employing you”, let alone asking for a pay increase.”

      +1 I agree. How dare OP even think about a raise! Doesn’t OP know who we are?

      1. Ruffingit

        I once worked at a place (for a very short time I might add because…) where if you dared ask for a raise, not only did you not get one, they would knock your pay rate DOWN and also push you out the door within a few months.

          1. Ruffingit

            It was during the recession. I worked there for a few weeks before quitting. The weird stuff with the raises was just the tip of the iceberg. And no, I didn’t ask for a raise after such a short time, I just saw that raise nonsense happen to several people who worked there. I was lucky to be able to get out because my (now ex) husband was able to support us on one income.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        Yes, I went through that — when I was low-balled = “We are ACME CHOCOLATE TEAPOTS. The greatest. But it’s US! US! We’re the best! ” and I said “yeah, you wanna know something, I’m The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2, how’s that strikin’ ya?”

    2. Adam

      Note: I realize that she said her job was of entry-level stripe and thus kind of boring, but I don’t think she was complaining about that in particular. More just expressing discontent with this company’s bizarro raise process. More I was hoping she liked what the company did at the very least.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        I think a good question to ask is – assuming that OP is not in an economically-depressed area, what’s the turnover like at his/her site?

  5. JayDee

    It sounds like this organization has financial insecurity such that giving raises is not something they can commit to. My guess is that they also rarely if ever fire anyone. They want to see how long they can keep you at a below-market salary. As long as you are at least meeting the barest level of competence, they’ll keep you but pay you a pittance. If you’re truly extraordinary at your job, either you’ll succeed at getting that raise approved, or you’ll find a new job while the request languishes in committee, or you’ll find a new job because ain’t nobody got time for that raise-by-committee-application-packet nonsense. If you quit, they’ll hire someone new fresh from school at the bottom of the salary schedule. If you stay, they get acceptable work for as little money as possible.

    Not that I speak from experience or anything…

  6. Leave Me Alone :-)

    Too many nonprofits hate to pay and give employees raises, even when it’s justified. It’s like a sin to expect compensation and those who work there should be content to be self sacrificing martyrs who serve a greater purpose–working a nonprofit. Ummmm….no thanks.

    1. Adam

      Let this be a lesson to all: just because a company is non-profit, doesn’t mean it’s staffed entirely by angels.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      For what it’s worth, I’ve spent my whole career in nonprofits and never really seen that attitude. I know it’s out there, but it’s not the majority of nonprofits, and certainly not the well-run ones!

      1. Dan

        I work for a non-profit that employs about 7,000 people. We recently had a meeting about P&D where a high level person got up and explained our comp strategy for the upcoming year. He basically said that we are targeting salary in the 60%-ile of our competition (however you define that). We have a huge 403b match (10%) and decent vacation. Considering that we pretty much all work 40 hour work weeks, what he’s telling us is that our compensation package is competitive. Are we going to get rich? Not really. But we’re certainly not below market.

        And “Market” gets tough to define, because while we are a non-profit, more than a few of our employees go work for the likes of Google. So, if we’re below market, we quit to work for Google at a faster pace, which the company doesn’t want.

        1. telex

          My organization is that like. Decent pay (at least for mid- and senior-level staff – it’s a little low IMO for junior staff), plus decent hours most of the year and good benefits for everyone.

    3. Koko

      Another nonprofit lifer here, and I see that attitude far more commonly among donors than among the people running the nonprofit. It’s usually a situation where the nonprofit suddenly gets a lot of heat for paying “lavish” (AKA not poverty wages) salaries. “Why should I donate my money when you pay your Person X more than I make??”

      The only nonprofits I’ve been aware of that don’t pay well or offer raises are usually fairly small/struggling ones that are in dire financial straits and/or have flat income YOY.

      1. Adam

        Oh boy does this drive me nuts. I work for a non-profit (not the cute cuddly kind) and *some* of the population we work with, who are all licensed professionals, once became incensed that our organization’s rent was too high since we had the nerve to have our office downtown in the metro area where the vast majority of said population was located. And I guarantee you the vast majority of said population makes more then I do.

        Yes, let’s move our office out to the sticks and vastly alter the lives of the 100+ people that work there. Genius!

        Thankfully it was a very small group that were mad about that, but said group was willing to poke at whatever they could.

        1. Natalie

          One of our tenants, who is downtown because they need to be near the courthouse and embassies and such, used to have a very nice office that was cheap because it was a sublease. They moved to our less nice building solely because having the very nice, but cheap, office was hurting their fundraising efforts.

          Nonprofitland can be weird sometimes.

      2. Dan

        One man’s lavish is another man’s below-median-income for the county in which he lives. Which happens to be the same county my non profit’s office is located in.

        That’s a straight-up observation, no cynisism implied.

        1. Koko

          Absolutely – especially in the DC area where the bulk of nonprofits in the US are headquartered. A $40,000 DC salary is roughly equivalent in standard of living to a $25,000 Tulsa, OK salary.

    4. Kelly O

      It’s not just nonprofits.

      My current employer does not give annual raises. Ever. They obviously don’t disclose this when you’re hired, but unless you change positions within the company, where you start is where you are, unless you do something amazing.

      Just to avoid tarring nonprofits with a brush also meant for extremely tight-wad-esque and very much FOR profit companies.

        1. Kelly O

          Most of the staff are hourly, part time workers, so the high turnover gets attributed to other things, and they’re the sort of staff who never stick around long enough to figure out they’re not getting raises, and if they do stick around, they’re moving up and around and getting raises that way.

          Corporate level and administratively it varies. There are some people who have stayed a very long time and lateral-moved their way to raises, but otherwise the turnover is fairly high. Naturally this attributed to everything else but the no raise policy.

  7. Sascha

    Sounds like a university, and not just for faculty compensation. Every single promotion, raise, or new job created has to go before “the hiring committee” at my university. Thankfully I don’t have to present my case to this committee – my VP handles this – but in order for my promotion to go through, my department has to create a new title for me and get it approved by the committee. Even a raise under my current title has to be approved. Oh and they only meet a handful of times a year so this whole process is very, very, slow. I’m full-time staff, btw.

    1. Lia

      Sounds like us, only there is a very small pot of money for each department for raises, and no universal rules about its application. At best, it would amount to <1% raise if given to all in our area. There is sometimes the ability to get additional money for compensation, but it can only be bonuses, not applied to base salaries.

  8. MR

    A lot of non-profits are horribly run and this sounds like another one of them.

    As Alison said, they are cutting your pay on an annual basis by not giving you a raise. Is this a place you really want to be associated with?

    If your resume isn’t together, I’d recommend that you get it together and start looking elsewhere. Then mention this as a reason why you are leaving if you do an exit interview.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Just to be fair, a lot of for-profits are horribly run too (we read about them here all the time!). A lot of employers are horribly run.

      (Sorry, I have to point that out when I see it because the stereotype drives me crazy!)

      1. Mimmy

        Off-topic, but have you thought of dedicating a separate post to debunking myths about nonprofits? (If you have, I apologize–too busy right now to search the archives :( )

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        I always wonder if the people who post comments like these work for nonprofits or not. Where are they getting these ideas?

    2. Observer

      As Alison pointed out, this is not an non-profit issue, it’s an employer issue. If reading this blog isn’t enough to convince you, perhaps you should go an a Dilbert dive. That didn’t come out of the non-profit sector.

  9. Joey

    My HR also focuses on the validity of the actual justification. Like is it something specific that can be quantified or is it an ambiguous and a hard to prove “Jane does an excellent job therefore she deserves a raise.” Is it part of the normal expectations (you’d be surprised)? Will it or has it been rewarded in a separate way (ie commission, bonus, last years raise)?

    I don’t necessarily think a committee is crazy. I’ve seen a committee of managers collaborate on raises. Its to ensure the raise Jane gets for good performance is consistent with jacks raise for good performance. And that both “good” performance ratings are consistent.

    The other stuff though is a roundabout way to make it harder to justify raises. I bet there were some pushover managers that gave out raises when they really shouldn’t have.

    1. LBK

      I think the committee thing would be really dependent on the size and makeup of your department. The only person who’s in any appropriate position to judge the quality of my work is my manager, because no one else has oversight or visibility into what I do. I’d be livid if my raise were put up to a committee that included a bunch of random people who had no business being involved in my compensation.

      1. Joey

        It’s not about a committee judging your work. Committees usually judge the justification that the manager is using to support the raise request. In other words if the manager says you’re great the committee is looking for verbiage that clearly illustrates great performance.

        1. LBK

          I guess my question is, why does it matter to anyone except your manager how much you’re getting paid and how that decision is made? I can maybe see an argument for your manager’s manager participating in this conversation, since giving valid feedback and appropriate recognition is one of the manager’s responsibilities, so their boss should be aware of how well they do it. But a committee? I just don’t get who other than those 2 people has any standing in this conversation at all.

          1. MaryMary

            I hadn’t thought about it as a “committee,” but in my last job people managers met semi-annually to manage raises to the overall compensation budget for the division. So if your manager thinks you’re a superstar and deserving of a huge raise, they need to get the buy-in of the other managers in the department. If you get a bigger piece of the pie, your coworkers (even on other teams) will get less. It may be entirely valid: sometimes an entire team is comprised of low to average performers and it makes sense to shift some of their compensation dollars over to another team with a superstar or a couple of strong performers. Other times, a manager may think their direct report is a very strong performer, but other managers don’t think the size of the raise is appropriate for the level of performance.

            I get where you’re coming from in saying that your manager is in the best position to judge your performance, but when everyone is working from a fixed budget, part of your manager’s job is to fight for your share, just like it’s the other managers’ jobs to fight for their direct reports. Particularly if you work with other teams and departments, there are other individuals who can judge your performance, or at least parts of it. We talk all the time here about managers with blind spots, having a group meet and discuss performance across teams can help minimize some of those issues.

          2. Joey

            One managers great is another managers average. Its for consistency. To ensure your employees are being awarded in a consistent fashion as others in the organization.

  10. Victoria, Please

    “But I wouldn’t worry too much about encountering this particular model again, because this particular model is bizarre.”

    Unless you work in a unionized, academic organization.

  11. sunny-dee

    One other thing for future jobs — the culture in larger companies can vary by department. For example, almost everywhere in my company, raises are given for merit yearly, as are bonuses, and are determined by the manager (although I think cost of living adjustments are done every two or three years and are company-wide). Except in my department. The previous manager created an incredibly dysfunctional environment, where bonuses and promotions were given first by seniority within the company, and second by if you were senior but a crappy employee (people with complaints were reassigned to new projects or given special positions). So, if you had 15 years of experience but it was your first year with the company? No raise! You had five different projects kick you off for poor performance, but you had lunch daily with the manager? Promotion!

    It created this really skewed set of incentives — but upper management had no clue and (I’m pretty certain) HR wouldn’t have been able to tip you off during an interview because nowhere else in the company operated this way.

  12. Rebecca

    ” Forcing you to stay at the same salary level for three years is a really good way to ensure that your organization isn’t competitive on salary and won’t retain its best people, who will have other, better-paying options. (Also, keeping you at the same salary for three years means that in many cases your buying power will be decreasing during that time, because of inflation.)”

    YES YES YES! I’ve been trying to tell my manager that I cannot keep sliding back in take home pay (back to 2008 levels now) because I can’t earn a merit increase and the company doesn’t give COLA increases. Insurance costs increase yearly, though, so pay goes DOWN. And no, a small bonus that may or may not arrive in December does not make up for no raises and higher health insurance copays during the year!

    I cannot tell you how much I want to print this off, highlight this passage, and lay it on her chair.

    1. Snarkus Ariellius

      Did you ever think your boss just doesn’t care?  Unemployment is still pretty high in this country, and the employers have all the advantage right now.  Sure not everyone has to tolerate low pay, but I’m not surprised at the high number who do.

      For example, I saw a job opening in DC for 3-7 years of required experience and the salary was $27K.  This was only a few years ago.  Did I apply for that job?  Hell no because the salary was a joke.  Did that nonprofit get a bazillion applications anyway?  I have no doubt it did.

      Look at it from your boss’s point of view.  If you were to walk out today, how many applicants could she get for your job in 24 hours?  I’m guessing a lot, which is probably why she isn’t too motivated.  Sure she’d have to train and acquaint a new person, but sometimes the salary savings are worth it.

      1. Rebecca

        In this case, the entry level wage is $22,880/year, so even if they got someone with experience, who would stay? And if that poor person who actually took the job had to cover themselves and a spouse on health insurance, they’d be working for ~ $17,500 before taxes, or about $8.41 an hour. Woot.

  13. AVP

    I really can’t wait until you get to your three-year anniversary and the requirement suddenly changes to four years!

  14. GrumpyBoss

    I worked for a for-profit, publicly traded company that did this. It is of little consolation, I’m sure, but if I had to find a silver lining, it’s that OP’s company at least seems to have a policy around this that is published and known. In my case, you would have to inquire, “hey, how about a raise? Or at least a COL adjustment”.

    I eventually left (for a ton of reasons not related to compensation). But in the exit interview, I was asked if is be open to a counteroffer. For grins, I tossed out what I felt was a fair number that included the past 3 years of no raises, and the assumption that I wouldn’t get another raise for the next 3 years. They said they could do that, with no hesitation. That pissed me off so much more than never getting the raise in the first place. It signaled to me that they knew salary was an issue and they kept a slush fund for when people had enough and threatened to quit. Knowledge of a problem and ignoring it is so much worse than not realizing your policy is flawed.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      Ooh, yeah, that would chap me too. Basically that’s an admission of “we want the wool over everyone’s eyes as long as possible.”

  15. Adam

    Off topic: I think you’ve answered this before Alison but do you generally choose the titles for articles where you answer questions or do you often go with the subject line of the writer’s email? If you pick the titles always, many of them, this one included, made me laugh.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I pick them :)

      Occasionally a writer sends an email with a perfect subject line that works as a title, but far more often the subject lines are things like “question” or “my job search,” which do not make for good headlines!

      But I find that a very dry statement of the problem often makes an excellent title.

  16. Nerdling

    This is very similar to what I had to do earlier this year to justify the possibility of getting paid a competitive wage by Uncle Sam. However, at least at the entry levels, you only have to get your manager to buy in and wait a year. The three- and four-year waits are for the final two promotion levels, and your packets are reviewed by committees of complete strangers.

    I would say run while you still can. It’s demoralizing and frustrating to be subjected to promotion situations like this. Trust me.

  17. chewbecca

    I cannot ‘This!’ enough the suggestion of asking about their raise structure.

    My company doesn’t do annual reviews or performance based increases. In my four years here I’ve gotten two small COL increases, but they were barely noticeable. My first year I thought my boss missed them because he had back surgery, my second year I kind of figured it out. It wasn’t until about 6 months ago I learned it was a company-wide policy and not just my department.

    I probably would have taken this job anyway because I’d been unemployed for a year and my unemployment benefits were about to run out, but it would have been nice to know going in to it.

  18. iBex

    Alison, I’m so glad that I read your site. I am fairly new to the job market and if I were in the situation, I would accept it because I don’t know any better. I wonder if other employees at this non-profit are questioning this practice.

  19. OriginalYup

    The answer to your question “how does it normally work” is “it depends” because nonprofits come in all shapes and sizes, but here are some typical models:

    1. Boss or department heads get a budget and makes the decisions. In this model, the head of a department or division (or even the whole organization, if it’s not very big) gets a certain pool of money for compensation. Salaries are set a the time someone accepts a job, so it’s up to the boss to divvy up the available pool as needed. The employee probably have to justify why you should receive more based on what you contribute, but the boss has autonomy to decide this (sometimes in partnership with HR, who has their eye on what’s standard for the industry and the region).

    2. There’s a standard model or metric for increases. Usually this kind of model is laid out in an employee handbook, where employees are eligible for raises in a range of X% to Y% after a certain number of years of services. Once you reach a certain milestone (1 year, 5 year, 10 year) you’re eligible for an increase of, say, 2%- 8% if you’re in good standing. So a top performer might get the top raise each eligible period. Usually the ranking comes form your performance evaluation

    3. Job role ranges. The organization has pay scales or bands that specify what a person in Job X can make. You can earn increases within that range as long as your evaluations are good and your boss (or whoever the decision maker is) agrees, and you can make a case for why your work merits a certain amount more. But once you get to the top of your range, you’d basically have to get a different job with a higher range in order to keep increasing.

    There’s all kinds of variations on these, and in nonprofit world a lot of the decisions are based simply on whether there’s any money available. Grant funded positions in particular are explicitly tied to funding sources. But what you’re describing at your current job is an incredibly idiosyncratic way of the doing things, and it’d definitely not the norm across the sector. Increases are meant to retain great staff members and to keep people’s pay commensurate with what they do and with the marketplace, so this whole “submit your thesis proving your worth” is kinda… nuts.

  20. MaryMary

    Many organizations follow Best Practices, looking around at what other companies do and using what works best for many similar organizations. Unfortunately, OP, it sounds like your company has created a Worst Practice.

  21. pajh

    Wow, this is incredibly dysfunctional. I echo the comments above about the bizarre self-importance of the employers. Don’t you know it’s a privilege to work here, etc. I can imagine Google trying to get away with this, but no one else.

    One thing though—I’d suggest maybe asking if “annual salary reviews are typical”, rather than “annual raises”, especially at the interview stage. No need to sound greedy before it’s necessary.

  22. Jake

    I can’t wait to ask my boss for a raise this January. I know it isn’t an automatic review here like most places and my boss will pay as little as possible for anything and everything, including staff. However, a large portion of my job is negotiating contracts… It is going to be one of those “what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object” type interactions. Non automatic salary reviews are lame and 3 years is unreasonable.

  23. Alas, Bab Anon

    I work for a Fortune 500 company, and my last promotion required the preparation of a “package” (we’re talking a PPT document plus a 40 page Word doc), along with letters of reference from people I’d worked with (both inside and outside of the company), multiple reviews by a committee (where my manager graciously ‘went to bat’ for me), and if I passed the first round of decisions, there was a 2nd, more detailed “package”, a personal interview, and I had to prepare and give a presentation to the committee. Who eventually decided I was worthy, yay. The promotion came with a 4% raise. The level I was promoted to was *not* VP or C-level or Director or anything posh – it was essentially “Senior Tech Guy”.

    1. Cheesecake

      I have also worked (and am still working) for Fortune 500 companies. Never had such an outrages process! Bizarre!!!

  24. Not So NewReader

    Given that five months before the two year mark they moved the goal to the three year mark, I would anticipate seeing the same thing at three year mark. Time to start looking around, OP and move on. They are showing you their true colors.

  25. OP

    It’s such a relief to hear that I’m not crazy for thinking this is crazy! Thank you, AAM and commenters, for all the feedback and support!

    To address some things I read in the comments:
    *It’s not a university, but I do work for the education/academic “section” of the company. I don’t know if the PhDs have tenure. However, the documentation on HR’s website suggests this raise model is across the organization.
    *We do get annual cost-of-living raises that work out to ~1.5-3% so long as it’s in budget. The aforementioned 3-year raise would be ~20%.
    *The company claims to be competitive on salary because they pay above market rate.
    *We do get annual performance reviews, but salary has nothing to do with it.
    *Yes, it’s very hard to get fired.

    I was just reading a snippet on HR’s website that said they operate on this model because it promotes teamwork instead of individual competition. Personally, I don’t see how paying my coworker who does a worse job than me a higher salary simply because he’s been here longer promotes teamwork.

    1. Auditoholic

      Your annual cost of living increases are the same as the merit increases at my company for a “typical” performer. All salaried employees where I work receive 2-3% if they are performing at meets expectations. I could definitely live with waiting for 3 years for 20% if I was also getting 1.5-3% cost of living each year. However, the committee and having to submit a packet to argue why I deserve the raise still seems really odd.

      1. hayling

        Hmm. The nonprofit I worked at paid 3% “merit” raises each year. That plus a 20% raise after 3 years is quite a bit for a nonprofit. However the packet and committee thing is ridiculous.

        1. OP

          A cost-of-living increase is supposed to offset inflation. A raise is supposed to put you in a better financial position. They’re not the same thing.

      2. Windchime

        Yes, 2-3% is a typical annual merit raise where I work, also dependent upon working at a “meets or exceeds expectations” level. I would do a packet and bake a batch of brownies for a 20% raise.

      3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        Nah, in the IS/IT world, “submitting a packet” consists of giving your notice to leave. Then, the counter-offer comes in (or it doesn’t). Not all that unusual.

  26. AB Normal

    OP, because it’s your first “real” job after grad school, I think you should read carefully the comments here, and make sure you don’t just passively accept the situation. Start networking aggressively and looking for a new job. AAM gave you a great template to follow when asking about raises when you are interviewing for your next job; make sure you get as much information as you can not only from the hiring manager, but also from future coworkers, to understand what the culture is like, including for promotion / rewarding good work. Make sure there aren’t any red flags, and negotiate a reasonable starting salary, so that if you don’t get a raise after a year, you aren’t too far behind. (It may seems easier said than done, but you’re currently employed, which in itself is a positive in your favor when looking for a new job. And given the situation, you’d also have a great answer to the question, “why are you looking to change jobs?”. Good luck!

  27. Cassie

    We don’t have regular salary reviews (public university, non-faculty) – there are mechanisms on the books for equity and merit increases but it is ambiguous what really qualifies. As a result, those who ask (and have supervisors who like them) get increases frequently and those who don’t ask (or whose boss doesn’t like them) get nothing.

    This is why our dept is considering implementing a procedure where staff are evaluated every other year, and it’s up to the staff member to provide some background on what he/she has accomplished in the past review cycle. It doesn’t have to be a dissertation – but sometimes the supervisor is not the person giving work to the staff member (that would be faculty). So if you have a really bad supervisor, or one who only cares about if you say good morning and goodbye to her, you’re kind of screwed.

    We do have cost-of-living adjustments every couple of years that are about 3 or 4% (we got two years in a row after a series of nothing for a few years thanks to budget cuts).

  28. JCC

    Clever on the employer’s part — if the employee quits before 3 years, they’ll risk picking up the dreaded “job hopper” status, which nobody wants in this economy. Also fairly mean-spirited, since it seems to operate under the assumption that if the employee is too afraid to quit, things like raises are unnecessary.

  29. Cheesecake

    Every time when i read ” I work for non-profit” it all goes downhill with all these weird stories :|

      1. Cheesecake

        Thats why i love the blog – because of weird stories :D I mean maybe because i’ve discovered the blog only recently the most weird stories i’ve read started with “i work for non-profit”.

  30. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    Never worked for a company that set out to be a non-profit.

    When they became non-profits, I bailed. I’m writing a book of weird stories, almost all of them were at for-profit companies.

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