how can I tell my team that their raises will be tiny?

A reader writes:

I manage a team of 12 IT staff. Over the last year, we were responsible for an extremely large project working long and hard hours. The cost savings to the company was supposed to be in the millions. We sang the typical tune, as instructed by HR, to demand everyone to work more efficiently and put staff on performance plans if they only met the status quo.

Well, now it’s time for pay raises and was told I am being given $5,000 to split between the 12 staff. This is completely demoralizing. How do I communicate this when doing performance reviews? (I can’t really push back on it because the “pot” is final. I’ve tried to ask HR for guidance on how to communicate this. Some staff already see through this that working harder to get a better rating has no bearing on salary raises.)

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • How to deal with rude schedulers
  • My friend is dating my boss’s boss
  • Do employers really have to interview a minimum number of candidates for every job
  • Should I be concerned that my job is going to go away?

{ 115 comments… read them below }

  1. Bee Eye LL*

    #1 – I work in IT for a city government and all the department directors just gave themselves a $1,000 raise plus a few other people, and we got nothing despite having new projects and things to be responsible for. My group is furious, but they are used to being screwed.

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      The OP needs to ask HR about how much has been budgeted for recruiting and replacing the employees who will undoubtedly be leaving.

        1. John B Public*

          This is exactly the #shotsfired message you should be sending to your decision makers, while giving your team indicators that this company sucks and that you’ll give glowing reviews to any hiring managers who call for references.

    2. Anon for this one*

      Yup. I know this question was asked several years ago, but if I were in the OP’s shoes, I would quietly tell my employees — at least, those I knew I could trust not to blab my name in exit interviews — that I don’t agree with the decision, and that I am happy to serve as a reference should they wish to job-hunt.

      I have done this, in fact, albeit on a smaller scale — TPTB were unwilling to let me give my direct report a significant raise once, so I took him out to lunch, told him my hands were tied, and offered to serve as a reference. He wasn’t stupid — he was already interviewing, in fact — and he took me up on the offer to serve as a reference. He ended up walking for about a 40% raise and a promotion, with my unqualified blessing.

      Then I was, all, “See, TPTB? Told you we were undervaluing him!”

  2. TootsNYC*

    I had to do something like this.

    I was honest without being negative about the company.

    And then I told them what *I* had done. I told them that I’d pushed back, that I’d made the argument, that I’d tried to fight for them.
    And I told them that *I* had high regard for what they’d done, and that I would do what I could to reward them in “local” ways–OK’ing a later start time or an earlier leaving time when I could now and then, giving them some free days off, etc.
    Things that were within my abilities.

    And I apologized and said, “You deserved better treatment.”

    I think it made a big difference.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      It certainly would to me. I would feel great knowing my manager at least understood the situation and tried to do better for us.

      Also, a good reference if they decided to leave would be a nice thing to do.

      1. Myrin*

        Off topic but Elizabeth, I’ve been meaning to tell you for days but somehow always forgot: I really like your new avatar – especially your hair looks gorgeous!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Thank you!! It was a salon selfie, hahaha! I hope we can get my professional headshot to come out this good.

          Something funny–if you look at the larger version (go to the About page on my blog through the link in my name), you can see the round selfie light reflected in my eyes. It looks like I’m part alien. O_O

      2. heatherskib*

        Agreed! I work in a state that really doesn’t believe in giving raises to govt employees. I work where I do because I have a great family friendly office that appreciates the hard work I do. Appreciation and flexibility go a long way!

      1. TootsNYC*

        I did have someone decide to not work for me anymore. I totally respected that. Then later he came back and said, “I’d be willing to work for you, because you did go to bat for us as much as you could.”

        When you can’t help the company’s reputation, then it’s time to make sure your OWN reputation is a good one.

    2. Camellia*

      “ days off.” This is awesome! I’ve had one great manager in my lifetime and she would do this. If someone was busting their butt, working overtime, etc., to get something done, and was in general an outstanding performer, she would only record in the official system half the number of vacation days for the next vacation they wanted to take. They didn’t advertise it or brag about it but it really helped.

    3. Koko*

      Yes, I was going to say – in previous letters Alison has usually given advice about offering them other rewards within your power. A couple extra Fridays off without having to take PTO, or getting to leave at 2 or 3 on Fridays during your slow season without taking PTO. Or especially since these are IT folks, even giving them a full day every X number of weeks where they can work on more fun and creative projects or learn new skills instead of their routine work. Treat them to a congratulatory team lunch, even if it’s pizza and soda/beer in a conference room.

    4. nonprofit manager*

      I had this problem this year at review time and handled it pretty much the same way. I also conveyed my respect and regard to the employees for the work they had done thus far and their professionalism and told them I would be more than happy to provide a glowing reference if needed.

      I also think it made a really big difference with my employees, though I do think I will be losing one soon.

    5. Liz*

      I had a manager who did this too. Budgets were cut company-wide, and our manager said he’d gotten us all he could (and he got us the max in most cases anyway, even if it was only 3%.) It made a *huge* difference not just to morale but in how much we trusted him to have our backs.

      5 years later, that team’s a little scattered but we all still do work on the side for our now-former manager (who retired and is now consulting). And he’s still the yardstick by which we all measure other managers.

  3. Screwedagain*

    You owe it to your team to push back as hard as possible. This type of crap is an outrage and is enabling the continual decline of the middle class. Shame on you.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      You must be new. We don’t do that here. Shame on YOU for blaming OP for something that is likely completely out of her control.

      The OP knows this is bullshit. She used the word “demoralizing.” She’s not asking Alison for advice on how to change the system, only on how to communicate upper managements’ complete brush-off to her team.

    2. Jadelyn*

      What, exactly, do you expect the OP to do? Go into the Finance department and hold their VP at gunpoint until he authorizes bigger raises? You’re talking about a first- or mid-level manager here, not someone with a lot of decision-making power above that. They even specifically said that they tried to push back and got nowhere, so the question isn’t “how can I fix this?” it’s “how can I help my people cope with it now that the decision is set in stone?”

      It sounds like this might be a sore spot for you, based on your username, but it’s deeply out of line to try to hold one low-level manager accountable for “enabling the decline of the middle class” like that. Not cool.

    3. nonprofit manager*

      What makes you think the OP didn’t push back? I did, when I learned of the pathetic pay increases for my team. It didn’t do any good, however.

    4. Chaordic One*

      LW#1 While I believe that the OP has indeed pushed back in order to get his department the raises they deserve, it would certainly be understandable if team members feel otherwise (and I certainly wouldn’t necessarily blame them). Given that there are so many bad managers and bad employers out there, the team members certainly have reason to be skeptical.

      The OP should be prepared for some pushback from his team. Maybe someone will quit outright immediately following the review (like the office manager last weekend who commented that she quit her job on the spot after being offered a 5 cent an hour raise, and that got a counter offer that added executive lunch leftovers). I would also expect to see a lot of sick leave being used.

      I do hope that the OP will provide strong recommendations for his team members to help them move onto better situations at other companies that are more deserving of their services, as almost everyone has noted in their comments. Personally, I don’t think team lunches are really that great of an idea. The company can’t afford decent raises, but they can afford to waste money on team lunches?

      I also hope that the OP will start looking for new employment himself. Management doesn’t support him or his team and his team is demotivated. It’s certainly not a situation for career success. More than one manager has failed because he did not have the meaningful support of management.

  4. HR Girl*

    A comment on #3 on Inc. – Assuming the boss’s boss is reasonable and professional, he should be the one to be worrying the most about this and/or avoiding social gatherings where you will be. Ultimately he has more responsibility to make sure professional boundaries are kept, no one gets a perception of favoritism because of your social connections, etc. Not that you shouldn’t follow all of the advice about your behavior and knowledge of their relationship, but I don’t think it’s on this person to avoid social gatherings as much as it is on the higher level person. If he’s not reasonable and professional of course, then steer clear.

    1. BPT*

      I agree that generally, the boss should be the one to (mostly) avoid events. Or in a friend group, the newer person/significant other of a member should avoid more if there’s a conflict so as to not push out an original member of a friend group.

      But as far as the OP’s question, this is just answering what she can do. She can’t force someone not to come. It probably wouldn’t even be advisable to ask him (to his face or through his gf) not to come if she doesn’t want to make things awkward at work. Yes, people who are socially adept will probably notice that OP isn’t attending as much, and would adjust accordingly. But not everyone is socially adept. And the friend shouldn’t be barred from ever bringing her bf around to meet her friends.

      If the manager or gf had written in and asked about the situation, I’m sure Alison would have given the advice you had. But this is just advice geared toward what the OP can actually do.

      1. Mike C.*

        She can’t force someone not to come

        While this is certainly true, it’s also useful to understand what reasonable expectations of behavior should look like so that the OP is able to reasonably advocate for herself if things start to go crazy.

      2. anonthis time*

        Also, I’d make sure you clarify specifically that you don’t want to discuss any bedroom activities that you would normally gossip about with your friend.

  5. burnout*

    Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon. Happened to my hubby, also in IT. Saved company hundreds of thousands off their annual budget. He was offered a $2500 increase. He walked.

    1. burnout*

      Oh and I might add, the company’s shareholders got HUGE bonuses that year. That was just an additional nail in the coffin.

    2. WellRed*

      Which makes this situation all the more unreasonable. If they split the money equally, it equates to an extra $8 per week per IT employee. Before taxes. That’s laughable and I wonder how much the manager pushed back.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I was in a similar situation (actually, worse: my freelancer rates were cut by $5 an hour). There was NO pushback I could have done that would have made a difference.

    3. Parenthetically*

      Happened to my brother as well, ALSO in IT! He streamlined the company in pretty major ways without cutting staff (about a $5 mil savings projected over the next 3 years), and they offered him a promotion without a pay increase.

    4. Anon today*

      Yup, every year at my husband’s company party we hear about the millions in revenue the company earned and the fabulous vacations the owners are taking. Never mind that they postpone Husband’s annual review for months and then give nominal raises (he is also on the highest earning contract).

  6. Meeeeeeeeeeee*

    I’m in a similar situation to #5, except the change (outsourcing a different department that we spend most of our time supporting) is officially at most a rumor. Unofficially I am pretty sure it is happening. Higher ups will not acknowledge it for now. I worry I will suddenly be laid off. But due to personal circumstances I really don’t want to switch jobs right now… If only they would openly discuss it, say “this may happen, if it does our plan is […], we expect the timeline to be […], but for now we will not make any changes because nothing is certain” I would really appreciate it.

    1. misspiggy*

      I think, sadly, the fact they haven’t definitely said your jobs are safe is a reason to start searching. Better safe than sorry, and you never know what might come up that could suit your circumstances.

  7. HRChick*

    $5000???? Ugh!!! Are they expecting you only to increase the salaries for your top performers? What if you have a whole group of top performers. Then, you’re making everyone else resentful that they worked hard and didn’t get anything?

    I feel bad for the HR people who have to communicate crap like this because usually this is so outside of their control.

    The situation sucks and I don’t think there is anything you can do to make it suck less. Just let your employees know that you feel like this is a slap in the face when they worked so hard.

  8. Rebecca*

    #1 – aside from telling your staff how much you appreciate them, and you’re sorry you have only a very small increase for them, please be a good reference for them when they seek out other opportunities. And as far as the performance plans for those just meeting the status quo? I suspect moving forward your entire team will be on performance plans. I’d just “fake” those, tell HR you did them, fill in some stuff, and make it look like everything is fine. It’s not as if the company values the employees. $8.68/week increase after all that work and saving the company millions of dollars isn’t a raise, it’s an insult.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m not totally sure that’s what the OP is saying though. It could be “the department has traditionally worked at a very leisurely pace. Now that we have a big project, we need people working at 100%, and we need to treat it as a performance issue if people aren’t.”

  9. Stellaaaaa*

    Ugh, op1 has my sympathies. Given to just one person, $5000 a year is a raise of a little over $2 an hour. I’d gladly accept that because it’s a standard annual raise in my industry…for one person! I really hate when higher ups lose touch with the employees. They’re making money so they kinda check out.

    OP5: I’d start looking for a position now anyway, provided that you’ve clocked a good amount of time in your current job and see room for growth across your general industry. You don’t want to spend your career being dressed and worried about whether there’s enough work to keep you employed.

  10. bopper*

    Is there a different pot of money for bonuses vs Raises? This seems like the kind of thing you should get a bonus for.

  11. Hotel GM Guy*

    $5000 for an IT department of 12? That’s much less than I got to give out to my $11 an hour housekeepers this year. That’s ridiculously insulting.

    Like a commenter above says, some things you can do for retention in the next year is to be more liberal with vacation days (especially if any of them are exempt) and use of sick time, be more lenient with start times, work from home days, and the like.

    And honestly, you should probably start interviewing for new staff now, that way you won’t be too screwed when your team finds a better paying company. Don’t forget to give good references for everybody!

    1. TootsNYC*

      And honestly, you should probably start interviewing for new staff now, that way you won’t be too screwed when your team finds a better paying company.

      Definitely. Alison is right that your team deserves to know what sort of company they work for, that this information is important for them to have.
      But it’s important for you to pay attention to this information as well, and to be ready for the problems that are an inevitable result.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      I agree. Do as much as you can with perks to help soften the blow of the crappy raise. I am currently job searching, but one of the things that has kept me here is the flexibility I have. My manager does not have a problem with us working from home, or flexing our hours when we need to. I am also in IT, and I do ERP implementations/support. As project launch dates loom, the hours go up and up. The flip side is that after go-live, when things calm down, no one is going to get bent out of shape if you duck out an hour or 2 early here and there or come in late once in awhile. My job ebbs and flows. We’re in an “ebb” period at the moment, so as long your work is getting done that’s all that matters. In a few months we’ll all be heads-down, charging for the finish line, working a lot more hours than we are now. It all evens out in the end.

      My boss’s reasonable approach to this is one of the things that has kept me here, probably a lot longer than I should have stayed. This kind of thing buys huge amounts of goodwill with people, and does make up (a little) for paltry raises.

  12. Memboard*

    LW1 I would give a raise to the top performers the one’s you want to keep. And watch the other ones go. Shrinking your dept is probably how your execs expect to make their higher numbers this year.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      That’s true, they probably want some people to leave, especially with the “good work is no longer acceptable; we need your 100% A-game all day long or you’ll be written up” thing. They’re implicitly pushing the consistent middle achievers (which every business needs) out the door.

    2. Mike C.*

      There’s no way top performers will put up with that sort of treatment. They’ll know when others received nothing for what seems to be a team effort and they’ll also know that they could just as easily be next.

      1. K.*

        And the raises for the top performers are still going to be very small. Say the OP picks the best two performers and splits the $5K between them. A $2500/year raise isn’t going to retain a top performer.

      2. DoDah*

        Maybe it’s the industry I am in (Los Angeles, Tech), but I don’t know that top performers care about the rest of the team. I guess I work with crappy people.

        That being said—I think the situation sucks.

        1. Mike C.*

          You don’t have to care about other people here. If a person is being perfectly selfish, they can still realize that the next person to not get a raise could likely be themselves, and increase motivation to start looking elsewhere. If they see that everyone is getting paid well according to their value, then this won’t happen.

          More broadly, I think it’s a sign of stability. If folks are paid well, things are good. If corners are being cut for stupid reasons, then it’s time to go.

      3. PK*

        Well, there’s a chance that the top performers won’t know anything about the other raises just to play devil’s advocate. I don’t make it a habit to talk about it personally.

      4. TootsNYC*

        top performers also notice when medium performers get treated shittily. And they assume that THEY can and will be treated equally shittily.

        I just got a promotion in a reorg that meant I lost someone on my team. It all made business sense–but I also didn’t get a raise. Put those together, and I really have far LESS loyalty to the company than I did before.
        I’m not eager to leave, and the new duties are definitely a step up. But there’s damage to the relationship.

        1. TootsNYC*

          (even if they don’t care that other people are treated badly–they know that THEY can be treated badly. They pay attention to what the company is like, and what its rep is. And now they know.)

    3. BananaPants*

      It is possible that may have done this with the expectation of attrition, which would let them avoid layoffs.

  13. ElleKat*

    #4 – Early on – in my career, I’d just gone through a recruitment for a new position and was hired. Apparently the organization had the minimum 3 candidate policy and I was pressured into applying for another job that I was not interested in. The interview was downtown which was an hour drive for me plus parking expenses (and I’d “lost” my cat to leukemia the evening before and I had no sleep) – all for a job that I had no interest in and was pressured to apply. HR told me that if I “valued my career” with the organization then I’d better apply for the job. I started my new position a few days after the interview for the unwanted job and my new supervisor was really wary about me and my dedication to what was a new position in a brand new department.
    This was years ago and it still irritates me.
    About 5 years later, after moving to the southern half of the state, the hiring manager for the unwanted job was representing another organization my then job was negotiating with. He made some sarcastic comment about remembering me as the applicant he didn’t give the job to… sigh…

    Long story short – those policies are ridiculous!

  14. Anonymous Educator*

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many situations like #1, in which workers must bust their butts to save an org/company a ton of money… and then get very little in compensation. Obviously, the millions saved shouldn’t all go straight to the workers, but if you’re saving millions, you shouldn’t be getting thousands back… and then splitting that among six people!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Businesses exist to make a profit for their owners, for one thing. If they’re not paying market wages, they should certainly bring them up. If they’re already paying market wages, there’s an argument to be more generous than market in order to be more competitive and attract/retain the best people. But otherwise, businesses exist to make a profit for the people who own them. (They should treat their workers well in that process, certainly.)

        1. Government Worker*

          In many cases it’s also good business sense to reinvest some of that money in the business through R&D, training for staff, a new ad campaign, paying off debt, upgrading facilities, etc.

        2. Team Player*

          I guess I’d have no problem with businesses existing solely to benefit their owners if people weren’t compelled to work for said businesses under threat of privation.

  15. K.*

    Yikes. $5K split among a dozen people is $416.67 per person for the year. People would rather get nothing than be insulted.

    I think what TootsNYC did is spot on. Tell them you fought for them as much as you could, that you’ll reward them in ways you can control, that you value them, and that you’ll be a reference if they decide to look elsewhere. And mean it, and do it. You’re going to lose people over it, so be prepared and graceful.

    1. BananaPants*

      Yeah, my husband got a 1% raise this year. His boss tried to make it out to be a GOOD thing because so many of the department got nothing and she couldn’t give any more than 1% to anyone. Nice try, boss.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I had to break the news of 2% raises. And yes, nobody could get more than 2%.

        But I sure didn’t try to make it sound like it was a plus! I just told them where my power didn’t lie, and promised to try to help in areas where my power DID lie.

        1. nonprofit manager*

          Yes, that’s really all you can do. The money decisions are often made long before they’re communicated. And in many cases, not necessarily correlated with performance. It’s just really tough to be in that spot and figuring out what to say and do, especially if you really value the employee and wish to retain him or her.

  16. NW Mossy*

    I’ve been on both sides of the “minimum number of interviewees” issue at my org – I’ve been one of the “yeah, it isn’t going to be you, but we’re talking to several people” and also the person that pretty much had it in the bag before the interviews. It’s awkward in both scenarios, because it makes the interviews feel like a performance set piece rather than a real and substantive discussion that’s intended to help both hiring manager and interviewee make a decision.

    Ideally, an org would treat the interview process seriously and be open to the idea that there may be multiple qualified candidates who should be evaluated carefully, rather than as a box-ticking exercise that does nothing more than confirm that Candidate X is not the type to poop in a potted plant and walk out. But if an org tends to have heavily favored candidates and knows that (perhaps because they have a clear queue/pipeline of candidates), it’d be better to simply acknowledge that and make them non-competitive openings.

    1. Government Worker*

      I’m not sure what my organization’s exact policy is, but it’s local government and they have to post jobs and interview even when they have qualified internal candidates in many cases. For my current job, they had a qualified internal candidate who they were informally planning to hire, but it turned out that I just happened to be uniquely well-qualified – the department was hoping to basically replicate a project that I had been working on at my previous job.

      There’s a lot to dislike about rigid hiring practices, but sometimes they work out as intended.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Or–especially for internal people–they say, “This time around it won’t be you. But let’s talk anyway, and get to know one another, so we can see what might be possible for next time. And you’ll have an idea of what we want, and whether you can make yourself even more competitive next time.”

      But interviewing outsiders is pretty silly.

    1. Candi*

      That bites.

      Second thought: how closely are your benefits tied to your hours? Because I bet at least PTO took a hit. -_-

  17. Lily in NYC*

    My office gave us all an extra week of vacation one year when they knew our raises were going to be crappy. I was psyched!

    1. SevenSixOne*

      See, this is how to do it– find a way to give employees SOMETHING OF VALUE, even when the budget’s tight.

      And who wouldn’t rather have an extra week off than ~$400?

    2. TootsNYC*

      especially because for many companies, there really isn’t a cash cost to vacation. Only if you have to hire someone to cover for them. Most of the time, everybody just works harder before and after their own vacation, and during the week that their colleague is out.
      It is often such a cheap benefit!

      1. midhart90*

        If you’re in a mandatory-payout state, the company would need to keep it on the books as a liability in case you leave before you use it. This is an especially relevant consideration if the low raises are likely to cause retention issues.

  18. phedre*

    The small raise thing happened to me. My boss really went to bat for me and ended up getting me $2,000 more per year but when I was only making $36,000 and bringing in tons of revenue it was an insult and far less than I deserved (as a side note, to give you a sense of how underpaid I was the next job I took started at $55K and 3 years later I’m at $70K). It wasn’t my boss’ fault, he tried everything and was shot down by the big boss.

    What I really appreciated was 1) I know he fought hard for me and 2) once it became clear I was never going to get more money, he encouraged me to find a new job, gave me a glowing reference, and was super flexible about me leaving to interview. He even would send me job postings and reviewed my resume for me on his personal time. And when I landed this awesome job he was so happy for me!

    I think so highly of him and would work with him again in a heartbeat. Just a fabulous boss and a wonderful human being. I learned a lot from him both about the field and how to be a decent boss.

    1. KEM11088*

      You give me hope. I have been out of undergrad for 6 years now, and just got a raise to NOW make 36k. (and yes, in my high cost of living area I am 28 and living with my parents). Unfortunately, I have been interviewing and my company is known to be low paying so I have had that against me in the interview process. It is insulting.

      Thank you for the hope!

      1. John B Public*

        Arm yourself with the knowledge of prevailing industry wages for your skill set and position. Any company you go to should value you based on that, not what one crappy company pays. Don’t assume it’s a strike against you! Good luck and do your best!

      2. Sarah in Boston*

        Come to Massachusetts! We may also be a high cost area but at least no one can ask you previous salary anymore.

  19. NotAnotherManager!*

    What is the rationale for the minimum or specific number of interviewees? I’ve had recruiting process that required meeting with only one candidate and some that go through many more. I don’t like to waste senior-level people’s time interviewing to hit a number if they like someone enough to offer them the job. (Most teams like to see two candidates for comparison, but we’ve certainly had instances where they met candidate A and loved them and also where they weren’t sold on either and we bring in candidate C et seq.)

    1. Mike C.*

      The idea is to ensure that you’re interviewing enough people to make sure that you’re getting the best talent available for a position rather than just cherry picking favored people for the job.

      Really though, you need to ensure that you’re interviewing enough people from enough different recruiting areas for this to really work.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I think sometimes it’s just doing your due diligence. I don’t think it should be an arbitrary number, but I did interview for a position once in which I was the very first candidate interviewed, and they subsequently interviewed a bunch of other people and then came back and offered me the job, because they said they really liked me and just weren’t sure that I was the absolute best until they’d interviewed all the others. It would have been silly for them to just offer me the job.

    1. Cat steals keyboard*

      That sucks for the first person interviewed…

      (I was the first to be interviewed for my current job so that hit home!)

  20. Anon24601*

    I am pretty certain that OP5 and I work–maybe “worked”, in their case–for different branches of the same parent organization (Based on some of the terms in their letter.)

    For the curious: At many branches, that particular department was restructured. The job descriptions themselves changed a bit across the board, but nearly all employees still kept their jobs.

  21. jm*

    I agree with everyone who said to explore options beyond the small pay raises —
    1. Everyone gets their birthday off (this usually ensures that staffing levels stay adequete, since most birthdays are spread out)
    2. If most people drive to work, and if you have a special parking place, give it up, and let the 12 employees use the spot for one month each.
    3. Our PD/Conference budget is separate from pay. Usually pay doesn’t increase at my org, but the conference budget is hefty. See if you can let each employee attend a work-related conference in an enjoyable locale.
    4. Like others said, have a pizza party or provide breakfast, once a month, if possible.
    5. If your office supply/technology budget allows, let each employee order a cool tool/supply (for example, my boss let me order a second monitor recently, which was a nice treat). What about really comfy new office chairs for everyone, if your office supply budget allows?

  22. candycorn*

    Re: LW1: My office is in a very, very similar place. And I’ll be honest: no one feels at all like our boss has done even an iota to push back or even soften the blow of basically insulting “raises” that we received this year. We are short staffed and can’t fill the vacancies because the positions pay somewhere near the tenth percentile of our market’s salary across the board–all of them do, filled or vacant–and so everyone is hauling extra work at the bad bad salary. Boss, I think, has just resigned herself to not trying to push for her staff and getting used to having to basically replace staff every 2-3 years in waves.

    I say all of that to ask this: When I do leave, and I have the opportunity to give some “exit interview” information, how do I share this frustration and say, basically, this is exactly why I’m leaving?

    1. TootsNYC*

      “The main reason I’m leaving is that you pay such low salaries. I would say your pay scale is in the tenth percentile.”

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Do you think they’ll take your feedback seriously? Because if they don’t think a proper salary is necessary now, I doubt they’ll actually take it seriously when you leave.

      1. zora.dee*

        They might not take it seriously, but what’s the harm in saying it anyway? It’s not like she’s saying something uncomfortable, like “my boss is a jerk.” I think she might as well tell them, clearly and dispassionately, as TootsNYC wrote in the script above.

  23. Cromely*

    For LW2, I’ve generally found offering them two choices gets a result. Instead of asking when they would like to meet on Saturday, ask them, “Would you like to meet at 11:00 AM or 2:30 PM?” It may be easier for them to just pick one option than to come up with one completely from scratch. If neither time works, they are more likely to propose a specific one on their own. It doesn’t always work, but those simpler choices sometimes do help.

  24. Red In SC*

    This has probably already been said, but there’s 100 comments to go through, but LW who’s having scheduling problems. I find it best to suggest a time/location when scheduling with difficult to pin down people.

    So, on Thursday, I would have probably said something like, Are we still on for Saturday? How does 2pm at Starbucks work for you? That generally gets people to commit to a time/location for meetings. if 2pm doesn’t work they’ll usually write back with, “That doesn’t work, let’s meet at noon” or something like that. It gets the ball rolling.

  25. LuvzALaugh*

    Yep………..gotta love that employees are labeled disloyal because we move on… took way pensions, anniversary checks and the current 3% (highest) raise available is a COLA not a merit raise. Just got my COLA (raise….ha ha ha) and said just that. Well what were you expecting was the response. To which I answered Nothing form a major corporation who does this and thinks they keep me.

  26. eliza d*

    I can tell you what NOT to do if your team is getting tiny raises. Don’t handle it like my manager and say things like “Don’t get your hopes up,” “You won’t be retiring on this anytime soon,” and “It’s better than being fired.” He thinks he’s hilarious – we think he’s a jerk.

  27. Workfromhome*

    Being honest as the OP has done is all you can really do. The WORST possible thing you can do is agree to spew some kind of spin that upper management gives you that everyone knows is BS> The only thing worse than a crap raise is being treated like you are stupid.

    I went though this more than once. Our year ended June 30 and raises were given out based on year end performance in September. They actually delayed any discussion about raises until November! In October it was announced a major client was going to leave us in 2016 (a year later). Then November comes and we were told Sorry no raises at ALL this year! Why? Well corporate says because we lost client x no raises. So not only were they freezing salary based on something announced months after the raises should have been finalized but they were freezing them based on a loss that would not actually occur for a year.

  28. midhart90*

    The true problem, of course, is that too many people are willing to stay put despite raises/conditions/whatever leaving something to be desired. I feel like part of the reason I am where I am today is that I don’t put up with this–if a company won’t deliver, I move on to one that will, making it clear why I’m leaving. As the saying goes, it’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

    Perks like new chairs and pizza parties are nice, but they only get you so far–in fact, in OP’s case they may even backfire as people question why the company is spending money on these things when raises are so small.

    1. Workfromhome*

      Very true. What really needs to happen in many cases is one or two key (top performers) need to leave and cite $ as the main reason. They froze our salaries for nearly 5 years. Two key people left within 6 months both for 25% plus increases. All of a sudden we all got raises. Not 25% but substantial ones because it had finally hit them that salaries were so low that people had become ticked enough to actually leave. If people simply suck it up then they have no reason to change.

  29. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I guess the answer is “it depends”.

    If OP’s company is extremely profitable, and they’re doing this – then the OP is being hung out to dry.

    What a lot of companies do – is establish an off-budget “slush fund” – yes, there’s no money in the budget for raises, but there is money SOMEWHERE for raises. If an ace employee resigns, you can counter-offer him. If it’s someone on your “B” list, and this happens, you can let him/her go.

    So if OP had a top performer resign over money, he/she might able to pick up the phone and fix the situation quickly. OP can give a “tiny tears” speech to the staff — but OP should let management know that there could be problems, and, ask, are there workarounds?

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