should employees have to ask for a raise?

A reader writes:

I’m a manager of a large team, and I recently found myself in a disagreement about an issue with another manager: Should an employee have to ask in order to get a raise?

I’ve always felt it’s incredibly important for employees to ask for the raises they want — ideally, that means setting a meeting with me and coming prepared with a document including: (1) all their achievements over the past months or years (2) what they plan to achieve in the coming months or years (3) a specific number request for a new salary.

As a manager, I sometimes push for top performers to get raises even if they don’t ask. But I’m much more likely to advocate for someone if they ask.

The other manager disagreed. She said it’s important to reward people regardless of whether they ask, and I shouldn’t put so much emphasis on who asks and who doesn’t.

What do you think? And if employees should indeed be expected to ask, what should a reasonable manager expect when it comes to the quality of that request? I’ve had people super casually say “oh hey, a raise would be cool,” for example — and to me, that doesn’t really feel like a solid “ask.”

Employees should not have to ask to get a raise!

I’m curious about why you think it’s so important for employees to ask. After all, think about the function that raises serve for you as a manager: Ultimately, they’re about attracting and retaining great employees, right? So why should they have anything to do with whether someone is assertive enough to ask for a raise or enough of a go-getter to put together the kind of document you want to see? That’s not what you should be evaluating people on when it comes to fair pay for their work.

It’s in your best interests as a manager — and in your employer’s best interests — to pay people fairly whether or not they ask you for a raise. You want your salaries to work for you as a retention tool — something that helps you retain your best people — not leave it up to whether or not they happen ask for more. What you’re doing now is opening the door for someone to swoop in and entice your best employees away with better, fairer salary offers, because you’re being passive about ensuring that you’re paying them the right amount.

You’re also probably creating an unfair, inequitable salary structure on your team. Your system means that you could end up paying lower performers more than higher performers, depending on who asks for more. And it also means that, statistically speaking, you’re likely to have inequities that are based on sex and race as well — because there’s lots of data showing that white men are more comfortable asking for raises and that women and people of color are less so. The law requires you to ensure that you’re paying people fairly, and it can’t just be based on “he asked and she didn’t.”

It’s your job as a manager to make sure that the salaries on your team are serving their function: that they’re attracting the candidates you need to attract, that they’re helping you retain your best people, and that overall they’re part of a fair and equitable structure that you could defend if ever called upon to. Don’t leave that up to other people.

{ 546 comments… read them below }


    LW, don’t be that person. At my last job, we had a great employee on our team for over a year with a relevant higher-ed degree. We hired a new person who had way less experience and no relevant degree…for more than we were paying our current employee. My manager’s rationale? The new hire had asked, and our current employee hadn’t. And this wasn’t an insignificant amount – it was about $6,000 more, for no reason that I could see.

    The new hire was white. The current employee was a minority.

    I told her about the pay disparity, she went to HR and got a pay adjustment (not a raise, IMHO, because she should never have been paid that little compared to a new hire) and quit less than three months later. She was followed out the door by two other employees, both minorities, for the same reason.

    So, yeah, you’re going to lose employees over this.

    1. Snark*

      “The new hire was white. The current employee was a minority.”

      There’s your reason, right there.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        Are you implying that the hiring team, in this instance, chose to pay someone a higher salary because he was white?

        1. Lauren*

          Of course they did. They hired someone with less education and experience and paid that person more based on colour.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Or they just paid more because that person asked for it, and didn’t give any thought into broader salary inequities on their team. The outcome is the same and needs to be addressed either way, but it doesn’t mean they deliberately set out to pay differently based on race. This is really important, because if we paint all salary inequality as “this is about companies paying more based on race,” then it’s really easy for managers to think “oh, we don’t do that” — when in fact, if they took a more thoughtful approach, they’d realize that their intent doesn’t matter; the outcomes do.

            1. Junior Dev*

              Yes, thank you. So much discrimination in the world can be handwaved away with “well we didn’t do it on purpose,” when at the end of the day the pay disparity is there whether you meant it or not.

            2. Snark*

              And decisions like this also get influenced by things like which college they went to, which internships they did, how the person is dressed, how they speak, their age relative to the experience level being hired for, their previous salary history (if provided,) and how hard the person negotiated (discussed elsewhere).

              1. Justme, The OG*

                And so many of those things tie back to race and the systemic racism and injustices in the system.

              2. Kate 2*

                Yep, like whether you were in the same frat as the hiring manager and whether you go yachting on the weekends.

              3. Wintermute*

                There are ample studies on how people react to all kinds of personal attributes. Tall people are perceived as having more authority and power, attractive people routinely negotiate better than less attractive people, how likely people are to judge a woman’s requests favorably can even be affected by the requestor’s hormone level (!).

                OP do you really want pay in your company to be based on whether someone was ovulating when they came to ask for a raise? Or systemically favor tall people in your business?

                1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

                  This is great phrasing, because the counter-argument is always “we pay based on merit, not based on age, sex, race, or whatever. We don’t want to give anyone an artificial leg up just because they’re black/a woman/etc.” If you actually care about creating a meritocracy, you have to look at outcomes over intent. If you don’t want to systematically favor certain traits that have nothing to do with the work, you have to actively prevent that from happening! Neutral is biased!

                2. Specialk9*

                  @Kimberlee “If you don’t want to systematically favor certain traits that have nothing to do with the work, you have to actively prevent that from happening! Neutral is biased!”

                  Perfect way to put it.

                  OP, your way creates unintended injustice. That doesn’t make you a bad person, that makes you human – we do this very thing en masse. Which is why social justice studies how to neutralize the implicit bias that we all have, through active and careful measures.

                  So now you know – it’s your job to make sure that you’re advocating for your employees, and to double and triple check that you’re applying your managerial bonuses ($, mentoring, etc) evenly.

                3. selena81*

                  i strongly disagree: there should not be a black/woman/handicapped ‘bonus’ in things like pay or college grades.
                  in order to work towards a meritocracy differences should be covered up instead of emphasized: making everybody take the same test, music auditions behind a curtain, removing identifying information from resumes, etc.
                  otherwise i feel it IS justified to complain ‘you want equality when it suits you, and inequality when it suits you better’

            3. Jesca*

              Yes. Completely agree. The outcome is exactly what matters. I never really care how someone internalizes it to get there. Like if the employer sat and thought for one minute about the fact that in order to hire a new person with less skills than their current staff they had to pay a significant amount more, they would have realized they were paying under industry standard. Way under. And if the kept it up, they could lose people and have them think very awful things about them to boot.

            4. Jaybeetee*

              This is rather what I was thinking. I doubt anyone on that hiring team was twirling their mustache going “He’s a cis white male, pay him a higher salary!” I.e. I doubt the decision was overtly based on race. On the other hand, it does show ignorance to the reality that, say, a white male might feel much more comfortable negotiating for salary than a POC, and thus end up with a pay inequity as a result. It just goes to show that haggling for pay or raises (as OP described) is just generally bad practice, because quite a few people simply wouldn’t be comfortable with that (or wouldn’t be good at it even if they did try), and wind up with lower pay as a result.

              I’ve worked in public and private sector, as well as non-profits, and few places I worked for had any space for that kind of salary negotiation – the pay was the pay, everyone made the same amount, going to management to try to wrangle more money wasn’t really a thing.

              1. SpiderLadyCEO*

                Absolutely. You are going to see more cis white men willing to negotiate over pay then you will women or minorities. This policy (of paying people when they ask for the higher sum) is going to result in unintentional discrimination.

              2. Triple Anon*

                I’m astounded by the differences in the way men and women negotiate (or don’t), just speaking anecdotally from my own experience. Men do things like threatening to quit unless given a raise, interviewing elsewhere just so they can get a counter offer, etc. Meanwhile, a lot of women don’t even ask and aren’t aware of how men are negotiating. This is mostly non-minority men, btw – ie, people who were taught these things at some point. I think we should all be taught how to negotiate, how to shake hands, all of that stuff. Add it to the standard high school curriculum. These should be considered basic life skills.

                1. Pudgy Patty*

                  But then women are are punished for negotiating, so they are damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

                2. Gazebo Slayer*

                  Can we stop with this blaming women for pay inequities?

                  White men need to learn to sit down, shut up, stop being pushy egotistical money-grubbers, and let other people have a turn.

                3. CoveredInBees*

                  Negotiation is a skill but there’s also a different perception when women and POC take the tactics you describe. Women are shrill b*tches, African-Americans get perceived as angry or threatening, east Asians get viewed as sly (east Asian women get the double whammy of being called a “dragon lady”) and so on. There is something to people who have had access in previous generations will pass that access on, but that is certainly not the whole story.

                4. Specialk9*

                  Research shows that women ask at the same rates but get turned down 1/4 more then men.

                  And then let’s look at who managers are. 3% of CEOs are women, so 97% are men. In my field, 50% of workers are women but only 10% of executives are women (and I’ve never seen anything as high as that, personally).

                  So… no, women are NOT responsible for men paying us less than men pay other men.

                  We won’t take the blame for being underpaid. If we had that much control, we’d use it to… get paid more.

                5. JM60*

                  @Gazebo Slayer

                  “White men need to learn to sit down, shut up, stop being pushy egotistical money-grubbers, and let other people have a turn.”

                  People have the right to negotiate for raises. The way to fix the problem of women not exercising this right (on average) as much as men isn’t to tell men to stop exercising their right, but to encourage woman to exercise their rights. Someone shouldn’t have to “sit down, shut up” just because they happen to be a man, and other men will more often exercise this right than women.

              3. Wintermute*

                the best description of this I’ve seen is “even if you don’t intend to, you will favor the guy that looks like he could be your son/grandson.”

              4. BethRA*

                ” I doubt anyone on that hiring team was twirling their mustache going “He’s a cis white male, pay him a higher salary!” I.e. I doubt the decision was overtly based on race.”

                You do realize that people don’t have to be mustache-twilling, white-hood-wearing villains to have race influence their decisions, right? Google “implicit bias” if you do.

                I can’t speak the example in question, but bias does not require specific intent to be real and to be harmful.

              5. selena81*

                Yeah, the whole ‘some people will be judged as go-getters while others are judged to be pushy and many do not even have the nerve to ask for a raise at all’ is the main reason why i think there should be only very little wiggle room in salary-negotiations/raises. The salary should be tied to the position, and hiring managers should be discouraged from trying to ‘get a deal’ when they sense a new hire might lack assertiveness.

            5. Jennifer Thneed*

              > intent doesn’t matter; the outcomes do

              That’s exactly what the “You’re standing on my foot” racism analogy is saying. (Sure, there’s lots of ways my foot ended up under your shoe, but in the end, the result is that you’re standing on my foot and it hurts, so please move your foot.)

            6. Artemesia*

              Yes but there is a fair amount of evidence that women and minorities are punished for negotiating for salary coming in. I personally know of women who have been mistreated for doing this and we read about women having offers pulled when they try to negotiate. The same is true of buying a car. A black man or a white woman may literally have the company refuse an offer that a white man will have accepted; he is a ‘hard bargainer’, someone to be admired — they are pushy and uppity.

              So any system that rewards ‘hard negotiators’ is likely to punish women and minorities. And they know the and so even in systems where that may not have happened they will be reluctant to press.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                This is the part which makes it so infuriating to me. “Well, it’s not really racism/sexism; we just think everyone should ask,” even if it’s true, is a problem for the reasons Alison described. But there is lots and lots of evidence that it *isn’t* really true… that in most settings, only privileged people are permitted to get away with asking. For the rest of the population, it’s a no-win situation: if they don’t try to negotiate, that becomes an excuse for paying them less, while if they do, they are penalized for being tone-deaf or aggressive.

                All of it is just a complex way of saying that our society expects people who are not white and male to know their place.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Absolutely this. There’s a reason there are books like Women Don’t Ask which go to painstaking lengths to try to balance asking + the backlash women and POC (and all intersections thereof) experience for asking.

                Outcomes matter. And those outcomes, including who’s “allowed” to ask, are often driven by the same inequalities we see in society at large.

                1. Adhdyanon*

                  I haven’t read Women Don’t Ask for 10 years – I’m not sure if it holds up, but I’m so happy you cited it! It is an amazing, evidence based book that totally changed the way I think about salary and ask for increases. Probably isn’t so revolutionary now, especially thanks to people like Allison, but that was an amazing book.

            7. FloralsForever*

              This is exactly what went on at a previous employer! The people who ask received more with no real oversight. Thoughtless is a good way to describe it. Everyone was nice, but there was no thought in how people were paid or how the work was organized. The squeaky wheel got the grease, so to speak. But, not everyone is a squeaky wheel, nor should they have to be. This actually flows into how they organize work and treat people as well, but that’s a story for another time.

            8. CMDRBNA*

              This is really what it was (both employees were women, BTW). The new hire was also paid more than I received when I started…and I had several more years of experience and a relevant higher degree, and she didn’t. The rationale was that she asked. Which, good for her – but why do we have enough in the budget to pay someone more just because they asked, versus employees who have relevant qualifications and a solid track record?

              And yes, I do think it was at least partly based on race, if only because the white candidate felt comfortable asking for more money and the minority employee didn’t – maybe not necessarily overt discrimination, but the OUTCOME is still the same – the more qualified minority is making less than the less qualified white person. All of the employees who followed her out the door were also minorities.

          2. Squab*

            Also it doesn’t matter the specific reason why – the optics AND the ethics are terrible, regardless of what they thought or felt whilst making their hiring decisions.

        2. Natalie*

          Maybe, maybe not. Lots of discrimination happens on a level in our brains that operates somewhere below a completely conscious choice that a person could give voice to if they were probed. But that doesn’t mean that racial bias wasn’t a reason.

        3. Princess Loopy*

          At the very least, it looks that way. And there’s substantial potential that it IS that way, due to unconscious (or conscious) bias.

        4. Jadelyn*

          Consciously? Not necessarily.

          But the law doesn’t only care about what the intent was behind an action. They care what the outcome is. You can have all the good intentions in the world, and if you still end up with a group of employees where the white employees are consistently making more than the minority employees, the law will still consider that discrimination and treat it accordingly. The company can say “but these people asked and the others didn’t!” and the law will go “so? You’re still paying white people more across the board, and that’s not okay”. Unless the company can show that in every single case, there is a job-related reason (different job duties, complexity of work, experience or education some employees hold and others don’t) for the disparity, they will still be liable for pay discrimination in the eyes of the law.

          But, for that matter, there might well have been some bias at work on the hiring team, whether consciously or unconsciously.

        5. yet another Kat*

          It doesn’t really matter whether whether the hiring team was consciously racially biased. Their behavior contributed to structural racism, especially when you consider that white people are more likely to negotiate salary/raises (bc structural racism) AND that people of all races are more comfortable discussing salary/raises with people of the same race(on both sides of the table), so if most of the hiring team and/or management happen to be white (which is likelier than not, bc structural racism). By putting the original employee in a position where she had to advocate in a potentially hostile room for less than equal treatment, they effectively made their team less diverse.

          1. Em Too*

            I know there’s pretty good evidence that women are more likely than men to get a negative reaction if they ask for a raise, and suspect that holds for minority employees too. And even if that wouldn’t be true for your personal raise-giver, the employee can’t know that.

            So yeh, lots of reasons for rewarding good work rather than good raise-asking technique.

            1. UnKown*

              When I was hired at my current job, in the interview process she said she gave out yearly raises. After a year and a half and still no raise, I asked to meet with her. I met with her and as professionally as possible (shes not the most professional person around) I listed the reasons I felt I deserved a raise (which was very detailed) and why I felt I was an attribute to this company. She got so upset her hand went over her heart and she started stammering “how could I” (even though when I was hired she said she gave out yearly raises) and she told me that I would not receive a raise. I still remember her “how could I” clear as day in my mind. Meanwhile shes given every coworker of mine a raise and specifically says “I shouldn’t have been pushy and maybe I would have received something by now.” I am being punished for expecting her to hold up her end of the hiring deal. I’ve been job searching for a year now. I don’t think I’ll ever ask another boss again about a raise, and I did it as the OP wants and still am being punished.

              1. Specialk9*

                Please don’t let her teach you that lesson. You could sue and win, if you’re a woman. (The subtext of that story sounded like you are.) She’s full of it.

              2. selena81*

                Your boss sounds like a terrible spiteful person. This is bullying.

                The hard lesson to be learned: always gang up on your boss in a way that makes it difficult to determine that YOU were the one instigating the rebellion (never put your name on top of a list f.i.)

        6. Snark*

          Oh, I’m coming right out and saying it. It might not have necessarily been conscious or intentional, it may have been the product of multiple choices rather than one, but yeah, the outcome speaks for itself.

          1. AKchic*

            I 100% agree here. It doesn’t matter how we get to it, the optics and end result is all that matter.

        7. Bellaroni*

          They are implying if you are hiring for the same job, and one person is paid higher, then yes the lower paid employee will be looking for a reason for the pay difference. It behooves the company to ensure that any pay difference clearly reflects differences in job description/performance.

          1. sssssssssss*

            Yes. And when I discovered the pay disparity – I made X and she made X + 8K for the exact same job – I was hurt and really confused. I had a BA and she only had high school and no college (this was in Quebec, so to say she only had high school, that meant, in Quebec, she finished only Grade 11) and back then that meant something. I was clearly the higher performer and yet I had to fight for pay parity.

            Ultimately, I think what happened was, she asked for it when hired; I was happy to be offered a salary that was more than what I already made and didn’t push for more.

    2. Recovering academic employee*

      Years and years ago I was the current employee whose counterpart was hired on with a 10% higher salary, despite my having a higher degree and a 5-year job history that included multiple promotions. The new hire was so awful that I ultimately left because of her. They fired her a year late because she was so inept.

    3. HS Teacher*

      I have a master’s degree and had 10 years experience in my prior field when my employer hired someone who had worked with me at a previous place. She was white; I’m black. She has no degree and at that time had about 7 years experience to my master’s with 10 years. They paid her almost $10,000 more than they paid me, which I found out when she got drunk at a company party and told me.

      I demanded and received a raise, which brought me TO her level, not even above it. Yes, the pay was fine, but the whole process left a bad taste in my mouth. I started job hunting soon afterward. By the way, my boss’s reasoning was that she was a single mother of two little girls. Since I am single and childless, I didn’t need to make that much, regardless of my qualifications. So I was being punished for not having children? WTF?

      That entire industry was so toxic I finally left it for good three years ago and never looked back. One thing I really like about teaching is my salary is based on my experience, and I don’t have to play the negotiation game.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Oooh, the whole “you’re a parent so I’m going to pay you more” thing drives me absolutely nuts. Why are my personal reproductive choices a part of your decision about my salary? Gross.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Really! I am a parent myself and I think this is horrible. Both because it’s totally unfair to people who choose not to have children AND because it makes the whole concept of who has children a criterion for employment decisions, which is good for none of us, no matter what our actual reproductive choices may be.

          1. Betsy*

            I guess it also raises the issue that if you take into account children, then how do you set criteria for other salary raises based on personal need? If another employee has to pay a lot more due to a medical condition, if someone’s grandma becomes seriously ill and needs nursing care? How about someone with a dependent spouse?

            1. Specialk9*

              Well, this employee is an addict and needs to buy cocaine*, so we gave her a higher salary. What? What?

              *Is that still a thing? Bath salts and meth? I’m behind the times.

        2. selena81*

          while i agree that it shouldn’t play a role i’d like to point out that it WAS a very normal practice in the past: when a dude got married he got a big raise (and his wife got fired), when he had kids another raise.

      2. FloralsForever*

        Right! Sometimes it’s not about the pay, but how this seeps into other parts of company culture as well.

        1. selena81*

          Whenever i hear from people who found out about a big pay discrepancy it’s usually not ‘i want more money’ but ‘i want to feel respected’.
          It hurts that people looked at you and thought ‘i was thinking about paying you X, but now that i got to meet you in person i bet i can get away with Xminus’. And it is most definitely indicative of a broader culture of abusive behavior.

    4. willow*

      I have seen this happen, too – a new guy making more than the older-timers, because he asked, and the management did not see anything wrong with paying him more. Guess what that did for morale? Until we all went out to the bar one night, and he admitted that’s why he was making more. We all gaped at him, said good for you, and then laid our anger where it belonged – on the spineless manager.

    5. Basia, also a Fed*

      When I was the manager of a fairly large team in private industry, I discussed raises with the VP under whom I worked prior to each review. It was all merit based. We always agreed on a maximum number, but company policy was if they asked for less, we would only give them what they asked for. During the reviews, I would ask them for their raise request, and if was too low, I would tell them to try again. I told them what was going on. As far as I know, they didn’t let this slip to other teams.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        We always agreed on a maximum number, but company policy was if they asked for less, we would only give them what they asked for.

        That’s an incredibly shitty policy. I hope everyone who ended up on the losing end of that one up and quit.

        1. Basia, also a Fed*

          Yes, karma kicked in and most of the best people have left. Now I work for the federal government, and I can pretty much figure out what I’ll be making when I retire!

      2. Specialk9*

        Well that’s nice that you helped your people game the system. (I’m imagining you pointing upwards and mis-hearing them say the top number. “Uh, $45?” “Did I hear you say 55? Done!”) But man crappy process.

  2. Ms. Minn*

    YES, Allison, YES to ALL of your points! Why on earth should I have to ask for a raise? Even if it’s not performance-based, there should be cost of living raises. Employers don’t hesitate much to pass on insurance hikes to employees, so in some cases it feels like a pay decrease if you don’t at least get a small annual increase. And these days so many companies are not passing on increased profits in the form of raises to their employees either.

      1. Natalie*

        Yep. Inflation exists, if you don’t adjust your employees’ salaries to account for it they *are* taking a pay cut every year. The only difference is that it’s less explicit.

        1. Starbuck*

          Yep. My rent goes up each year when I renew my lease, even though I’m staying in the same place and not getting anything more for that extra money….

        2. selena81*

          an automatic inflation-correction raise should be the bare minimum for anyone trying to be NOT A TERRIBLE EMPLOYER.

    1. AMPG*

      I came into the comments to specifically ask about COL adjustments, which in my mind are totally separate from raises and are something an employee should NEVER have to ask for. If you’re not keeping up with inflation, then you’re making your employees lose money every year they stay with you.

      1. Jurassic Butterly*

        By sheer coincidence today, I had looked up my starting wages in 2010 and what they would be in 2017 dollars. I’m actually making less than it said. Sad.

      2. Oxford Coma*

        I worked somewhere that was always incredibly cagey about whether January increases were merit-based or COLA. I always assumed it was to try to get people to stop asking for either.

        1. Ms. Minn*

          This comment thread is making me realize I’ve never heard the difference in my career between a COL and performance raise! And making me angry as a result as I look back over my raises, especially my current one (I hadn’t had one in 2.5 years and it was ~5%)! Ugh.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s worth distinguishing and fighting over! COL adjustments should be routine when possible, and performance raises should be distinct. Otherwise employees end up losing money the longer they stay (which is completely antithetical to using pay as a retention tool!).

            1. JustaTech*

              I had a job where we were told about a year in that because we were state employees and the economy had just crashed (2008) that there would not be any COL pay increases. OK, fine, I get that.
              What was not even slightly OK was when I learned (years later) that we did have a budget for merit raises, because we were on a grant, but the person who was in charge of that didn’t want to do it because it was too much work.

          2. Specialk9*

            Well 5% is actually not bad as a 2.5 year inflation buster. 3% inflation is a good rule of thumb, but last decade was 1.86%, and it’s so far 3.16% for this decade.

            1. selena81*

              a lot of policy-makers see ‘2% a year’ as the ideal inflation: high enough to encourage spending, low enough to avoid any kind of social unrest.
              so the 5% seems like reasonable inflation-correction (but not more than that!)

      3. Mabel*

        I agree, and yet — when we do the annual reviews, my manager never knows if the company is doing cost of living increases. I haven’t had one in a while, and the only time I got any significant raise (2 times) was when I put together a package of information showing why I should have one and asked for it. Granted, my managers (each time was under a different manager) really went to bat for me and got me a decent increase, but it seems that I shouldn’t have had to go to all of that trouble, especially since my annual reviews have always been very good. This year I got my highest rating yet, so we’ll see what that translates into in dollars.

      4. Starbuck*

        I love this idea but it seems to not really be a thing at non-profits. I don’t think anyone I work with has ever gotten a COLA; the only raises I hear of are when people complete an advanced degree or certification (say an online masters program).

        1. J.*

          When I was ED of a tiny nonprofit, I had to fight my board tooth and nail to give my staff a 2% COLA. I only made it two years and bailed because the board was so toxic. Given the hand-picked person they replaced me with, I shudder to think what’s happened since. (i.e.: probably none)

          1. Starbuck*

            To be fair, I joined the org knowing that this would be the case, and they do their best to make up for it with what I think are pretty decent benefits in terms of time off and schedule flexibility. I’m willing to stay for as long as I can, but housing costs in the area are going up a lot (it’s a tourist town) and the availability of long-term rental units is actually going down (darn Air B&Bs) so I know it’s a probably just a matter of time before I’ll be priced out of town and have to find a new job.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It depends on your nonprofit! I’ve worked at several where COLA is a given if income remains constant (i.e., our income doesn’t have to increase for COLA to be granted), and merit raises are treated separately.

          I’m now on the Board of a nonprofit in which the majority of staff are unionized, and COLA is built-in, while merit raises are distinct and discretionary. Non-unionized staff also receive COLA, but the organization is just now building out performance criteria for managers. The org has an old school ED who doesn’t seem to understand that not wanting people to take the job “for the money” is not a good excuse for failing to pay managers a living wage that, at a minimum, is competitive with other nonprofits. The Board has been pushing on this for years, and I think we’re finally going to achieve something close to a fair policy in the coming year. Sometimes it can help to appeal to the Board to do a wage survey, especially if they have a wider array of management experiences than current leadership.

        3. Legal Beagle*

          Same. I’ve gotten merit raises, but I’ve never had a non-profit employer even mention COLA.

          1. Ms. Minn*

            I don’t think this is exclusive to non-profits. I’ve worked in for-profit businesses my entire career (law offices, financial services, a big retail company, etc.), and no one has ever brought up COL increase vs. performance that I can remember.

    2. AP No Noir*

      My HR department admitted that wages are not based on COL in my area, but cost of labor. We are in one of the highest cost of living areas in the nation but apparently labor is cheap here?

    3. Chickaletta*

      I just saw this stat recently: “Today, hourly wage earners — who constitute nearly 60 percent of the workforce — are only making slightly more on average than they did forty years ago. In fact, if the federal minimum wage kept pace with the average hourly wage and average productivity since the late 1960s, it would be over $18 per hour today.”

      Which is why, even when the stock market is doing well and the upper class is growing, a lot of people are being left behind. Perhaps they just “forgot” to ask for a raise? */sarcasm*

  3. Snark*

    “So why should they have anything to do with whether someone is assertive enough to ask for a raise or enough of a go-getter to put together the kind of document you want to see?”

    This is what this boils down to, for me. Obviously the issues of fairness and retention are super-important, but….OP, what are you paying your people for? What is the value they bring to your org? Because I sincerely doubt “Displays enough moxie to demand a raise” is actually in their job descriptions. Compensate them for what they do, not for satisfying antiquated, unwritten, and idiosyncratic expectations around go-getting and gumption.

    1. PlainJane*

      All of this. Consider what you want to reward vs. what you are actually rewarding, because what gets rewarded, gets done. Reward people who are performing at the level you want to see, who are displaying the behaviors you want to see. Unless your goal is to have a team of people who know how to ask for a raise, stop rewarding that and start rewarding more important skills, abilities, and actions.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Weapons of Math Destruction is a great read relevant to this bit about incentives and proxies for metrics (instead of actual metrics).

      2. Chinook*

        Plus, you are rewarding them for understanding unspoken rules. If you don’t come from a white collar background, you may not realize that asking your boss regularly for a raise is a thing that needs to be done. I certainly never knew that until I told one boss I had to leave a part time position to make more money and he thought I was negotiating and offered me full time and more money. I left that meeting enlightened to how the white collar world really works.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Especially since OP has really specific ideas of what a person has to bring before they even request a raise: all their achievements, their future planned achievements, and a specific number. That’s really not reasonable as an “unwritten” or “unspoken” requirement, and it’s incredibly skewed by SES, race/gender, etc. At a minimum, if OP is going to keep up this “policy” (which I think is incredibly unreasonable and unfair), at a minimum they must provide a clear and transparent merit raise review process where the process and expectations are in writing and made broadly available without employees having to request them.

          OP should be having retention and raise conversations in tandem with performance reviews every year. Putting the burden on OP’s reports is essentially an abdication of OP’s responsibilities as a manager.

    2. EA*

      I think the OP values the moxie.

      I also think the OP might not understand all the reasons someone may be hesitant to ask for a raise. It isn’t always about not having the guts. Someone could have had a bad experience asking in the past.

      1. Snark*

        There’s a lot of reasons why someone could not want to sit down and beg for a raise – among them, the distasteful, paternalistic kind of vibe such a meeting always has.

        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          ^ This. I’m a bit long in the tooth to be asking my parents for an increase in my allowance. If my performance doesn’t inspire my manager to give me a raise or bonus, and I work in an organization where those are the norm (i.e. not government where these things are weirder), I would look for a job with higher pay if I felt I wasn’t being compensated competitively rather than ask for a raise. My job is to work and the employer’s job is to properly value that work.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          Yes. In addition to this probably skewing against women and/or people of color, it’s likely to also wrongfully favor people of a certain personality type.

          1. Random comment*

            While I broadly agree with AAM’s advice on the question of whether employees should ask for raises, the squeaky wheel will always get the grease to some extent.

            1. Mookie*

              Depends on the shape of the squeaky wheel. There are consequences to appearing unduly confident, ambitious, and “uppity.” And then there’s the puritanism around pay, such that when you ask about it at the appropriate time in the hiring process, there are a number of employers who find the idea of openly discussing compensation distasteful.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                So much this. I’ve found the identity of the wheel makes a big difference in whether it gets grease. If the wheel’s identity is disfavored, they often get treated terribly or saddled with undesirable work until they move on.

            2. selena81*

              I think there’s only one valid reason for ‘you have to ask for it’ rationals: if the job itself also entails a lot of ‘moxie’ (i am thinking of sales-jobs and such).
              Though in that case you should not string along the people who fail to be as forceful as you want them to be: set Gil Gunderson on the path to a career better befitting his temperament.

        3. Fluffer Nutter*

          Woman in my late 40’s. I have never asked for a raise- (nor negotiated salary) I can’t begin to imagine ever doing either. My reviews are stellar and if my employer can’t be proactive and recognize that, I’m out of there. Cost of living issues raised by others are valid here too. LW- I know you’re getting piled on a little bit here. Kudos for writing in, so many people won’t ever ask for advice or admit they need to change a process. I hope we’ve convinced you.

        4. Anonymouse for this*

          Can I just say I now have a vision of employees queuing in front of manager for pay raises , cap in hand, saying “please sir, can I have some more” per the scene in Oliver. :)
          I think a manager should be advocating for their employees not forcing them to jump thru hoops of the manager’s choice to get a raise.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        This. Women and monorities actually get dinged when they ask for a raise. That means the risks they encounter are higher than white males. So right off the bat, you have created a higher standard for one group Vs another. And that is the heart of discrimination.
        And asking for a raise may not even be relevant to the job. You could have a shy analysis that outperforms everyone on the team. Gumption has no part of their job duties. Yet you just made an arbitrary judgement that it does.
        When you force your employees to advocate for a raise you are abdicating a major part of your job. That is to take care of your people so they can do great things for the company. Stop pushing your work off in your reports.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Just to clarify — they get dinged in the aggregate, not every time individually. And in research studies that may be different from real world condition. Lots and lots of women and minorities ask for raises quite successfully, with no dinging involved. I say this not to suggest it’s not a problem, but because I don’t want people’s takeaway here to be that they should stress about asking. They should ask. The long-term financial consequences of not asking are worse than asking (and research shows that too).

          1. Engineer Girl*

            I know this. I worked in a male dominated industry.
            On a personal level I received a “Who do you think you are” reply on more than one occasion. And it was always from bad managers. On one occasion the manager tried to pull a promotion. I did not receive any pay raises until the next manager came in. At that point I received a 40% pay increase to bring my salary in alignment. So I know that retaliation is real.
            In case you’re wondering why I didn’t leave – I needed FMLA for a family maneuver and the bad manager blocked all my transfers. So I had to temporarily deal with it.
            The risks are very real.
            Part of the issue is that the OPs reports are penalized while other reports in the same company are not.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah, I get that you know — but I’m always very worried about the message that more junior women will take away from this discussion if we use shorthand, so I always want to clarify that.

              1. Mookie*

                Sure, but the solution here is what you advise above. Don’t, in the long-term, rely on people asking for raises when developing metrics for raises is something management should already be doing and then regularly and fairly implementing. The problem is not an individual one, it’s a systemic one, so focusing on a handful of young female readers and readers of color and their hypothetical choices and takeaways is not going to solve the problem one way or the other. It’s important to contextualize the problem as institutional, even when it manifests, like all political phenomena, in the personal.

                1. Working Hypothesis*

                  Sure. But it sounded as if part of what Alison was trying to do was say, “For managers and other people with institutional power — work to change this at a systemic level, because it’s not fair. For junior employees who may have little choice but to work at institutions which *haven’t* changed this yet at an institutional level, here’s some of what you can do in order to get the best outcome possible from within a situation that you shouldn’t have to cope with, but do.”

              2. Specialk9*

                Agreed – woman in my early 40s. I asked for, and got, a 25% raise once (and not as entry level or junior either). Which was awesome, but also highlighted how wildly underpaid I had been in that role. I switched companies a few years later and got another 25% raise. So women can get the raises we ask for. (We’re just apparently less likely to.)

      3. JM in England*

        Perhaps some employees think asking for a raise is too pushy and could put their job in danger?

        1. Bea*

          Or they’re looked at as someone looking to leave for greener pastures and treated as if they have a foot out the door

        2. miss_chevious*

          This is definitely a possibility. I was given the opportunity to take on a significant line of business for my company a few years ago, and when I asked what the change in compensation would look like the gasp in the room was almost audible. It worked out fine — I think my boss realized that the ask was reasonable and made an adjustment to my salary — but the initial shock was real, and a different type of manager could handle that shock very poorly.

        3. Working Hypothesis*

          And some employees are right, especially if they are members of a group from whom pushiness is not socially valued.

      4. Kathleen_A*

        The “moxie” angle was the very first thing I thought of, too.

        Look, OP, in most organizations, there are jobs in which a high quotient of moxie is important, but there are plenty of other jobs in which it’s not – or even in which moxie would be a bad thing. But by requiring people to have moxie in order to gain raises, what you are saying is “I don’t think you deserve a raise unless you have this particular quality.” Is that what you really want to say? I don’t think so.

        I mean, at a car dealership should the accountant have the same level of moxietude as the sales staff, and should the receptionist or the repair people have the same amount of moxie as either? Of course not. In fact, I’m going to guess that moxie is absolutely not what you’d want in an accountant.

        So why reward that quality above the overall quality of their work? That just doesn’t make sense.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Yep. And just how strongly should they argue? Is there such a thing as “too strongly” where you give them less of a raise because they were fierce?
      OTH, what if their talking points were modest and understated? Does that mean less of a raise?

      1. Revolver Rani*

        My first significant raise at my current job (6-7 years ago now) came as a big surprise to me. I did not have any way of knowing that I was on my way to becoming a high performer. How could I possibly have known? I did not evaluate my peers’ work – my manager did that. I worked hard, but I was still learning my job, and I was very focused on all the things I could be doing better or did not yet know how to do.

        I was delighted by that raise and felt appreciated and rewarded for working hard and making an effort to get really good at my job. If they’d waited for me to ask for it? I never would have. I would have had no basis to know that I might have been deserving of one.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*


          I know from personal experience that making a case for *anything* in a work environment takes, guess what?, more work in the realm of research. It is common not to be able to get all the info.

        2. BlueWolf*

          I had a similar experience at my current job. I received a pretty good raise + promotion that I was pleasantly surprised to receive, especially since I hadn’t been in my job that long. Sure, we have to submit a self-evaluation as part of the annual review process, but it doesn’t involve directly asking for a raise. Fortunately for me, my company does not make assertiveness a requirement for pay increases (or so it seems from my perspective).

        3. nonymous*

          The first company that I worked at after college annually offered a COLA increase on time, but would dwaddle (like 6 mos of delay) about actual raises. They would always backpay to match when COLA increases kicked in (so you’d get a one-time payment of ~$250 before the $20/paycheck kicked in). It would probably take me a while to figure out that my new employer wasn’t the same, honestly. And I’d be furious that my boss didn’t clue me in, but I think this attitude is pretty common in very small businesses.

    4. Tuesday Next*

      That’s what I came here to say. If your criteria for “deserves a raise” is “asks for a raise”, how are you rewarding people who do their *actual jobs* well? Because if you aren’t, someone else will.

    5. doubleblankie*

      Could not agree more. People who find asking for raises easy may not always be the best workers- the two groups might not necessarily overlap.
      I’ve sometimes found that people who ‘brand’ themselves well and make themselves look of value are reluctant to do the nitty gritty stuff that actually needs doing. I’ve worked with colleagues who essentially kept the office working efficiently, to the point where it would fall apart when they went on holiday, but wouldn’t have dreamt of asking for a raise.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      This really mystifies me. It’s like OP wants all raises to be purely gumption based. Rather than a way to retain talented employees.

  4. AdAgencyChick*

    If you make them have to ask, some of them are going to ask a competitor to give them that raise instead.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      There are places around here where applying at a competitor means an automatic raise from what you were getting.

      1. Oxford Coma*

        I’ve worked at a place like this. Nobody got an extra cent or a promotion unless they threatened to leave, with an offer in hand.

        1. Rebel GRRRL*

          I think that’s how my employer is. It’s so frustrating. I LIKE MY JOB. I mostly like my workplace. I don’t like that I’m paid ~$10,000 less than people with similar titles at benchmark institutions. I’m asking for a raise at my next evaluation and am SO NERVOUS about it.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Good luck! If it helps, think of it like job hunting – highlight your accomplishments, especially any new responsibilities or skills, and check the salary for your position and age. If you can come in saying, ‘hey boss, I decreased the time needed for this low-value paperwork, leaving me more time to support quotes for the sales team, leading to faster turn-around on the quotes, leading to more sales’, it becomes *really* hard for a boss to take offense.

          1. Specialk9*

            So… Why aren’t you playing the game? It sounds like you know the rules. Go interview, get an offer letter, bring it to your manager.

            1. selena81*

              maybe she can lie about it: less effort, and it sounds like an automated process.

              but frankly, if i were working at a place like that it would be difficult to not have my job-satisfaction drop to the level of ‘once i get another offer i will NOT use it for blackmail’

        2. Close Bracket*

          If I worked at a place like that and got a counter offer elsewhere, I would threaten to leave to get a raise, and then leave anyway. I’m petty like that.

    2. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      I can find a good job in a month. Literally. If my current employer isn’t going to treat me well, including market-appropriate compensation, I can and will leave.

    3. 2 Cents*

      Or, it could be like what happened to me. I did ask, repeatedly, at every review, but was told that there was a freeze on raises (for 4 years! I know I should’ve left sooner, but life). When I finally did leave, my manager, in all seriousness, said, “I know we couldn’t raise your salary, but we gave you more responsibilities (aka WORK), so you got more experience.” And then her boss offered to match what I was getting at the new place. Only when I had 1 foot out the door, suddenly they had money!?

      1. Just Peachy*

        “I know we couldn’t raise your salary, but we gave you more responsibilities (aka WORK), so you got more experience.”

        Was this supposed to make you feel GOOD, or…?!?

        1. Koko*

          My response would have been, “And I’m grateful that experienced helped me grow and graduate to the next step in my career.”

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        She said this with a straight face?! “Check it out, we wouldn’t give you more dough, but we sure could give you more to do”? whoaaaaaaa

      3. neverjaunty*

        As a wiser person than I once said in response to this attitude, “You didn’t care about the problem when it accepted me. You only cared about the problem when it affected you.”

      4. AKchic*

        I feel you there. I frequently had job offers from other agencies when I worked at my last place. One I was tempted to take and actually took an interview for. Well, the manager got excited and called the CEO to brag that I actually took the interview. Within a week, I was given a new title (oooh, “senior assistant” – blah) as if that would have actually made a difference. I took the interview to be polite and to see if the salary and benefits were worth it in the long run. The benefits weren’t.
        When I did leave, they asked if they could try to match my next place. We all knew they couldn’t.

      5. Properlike*

        The academic version of this: “There’s no money in the grant to pay you for training, but you should see it as an exciting opportunity for professional development.” I had literally just handed in the paper work on a series of professional development classes that the college had PAID me to attend.

    4. Sarianna*

      This happens where I work. But people also like the work environment here, a lot. It’s not uncommon to see people leave for a while, pay off their debts and build up some savings, and come back to a higher pay grade. It’s strange to me.

    5. Bingo*

      Yup. They say that the easiest way to get an increase is to quit and take a job with another organization. OP – don’t make your people do this.

    6. Fortitude Jones*

      That’s what I did. My ex-company gave me a 3% “merit” increase last year after bringing in $260+ million dollars the year before, told me they knew it was small, but “there’s no money in the budget for anything more.” I found out they gave higher increases and promotions to a couple of people in my division who had less tenure than I did and did less work – one of the guys who got promoted had only been with us four weeks! But they apparently asked for it and I didn’t, so they got it. Never mind the fact that my performance review was glowing, and the whole year before they kept singing my praises about how I was one of their best employees.

      I dusted off my resume, found a better paying job with better (and cheaper) insurance, and I will not look back.

    7. AC Slater*

      Tomorrow is my last day at a job that I loved. This company it pretty much requires a competing offer to get the raise you want. I have had 3 promotions dangled in front of me over the last year that would have been moved me up to the next grade level and been a significant salary increase. Each time, my (fabulous) manager advocated for me, the hiring manager for that team wanted me, but the business was refusing to approve backfills. Thus, it was determined I was too essential to my current team to leave and lose that headcount.

      So on Monday, I start a job at a new company with a 40% salary bump (and it’s a step or two up on the career path). My manager here was actually able to get agreement to counter and match the salary increase! But I’ve been burned too many times to believe that I would get career growth opportunities here in the future. I’m sad to leave all the people that I love here, but I know it was the right thing to do.

  5. Sugarbaker*

    At my company, it is part of the managers job to not only have a succession plan, but to have a development plan for the employees she supervises. It is part of her job to make sure that I’m being given opportunities to develop my skill set, and it is part of her job to help me gain a promotion or better position in the company. Additionally, the company has awards that are supposed to be given to those who perform well. All of this creates a culture where it is not on the employee to prove their case in regards of deserving a promotion. The manager should know and acknowledge – if she doesn’t she is not a good manager.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It’s cute to make the dog sit and beg for a biscuit. Doing that to a human being is the opposite.

        1. Cherith Ponsonby*

          I would do that to a dog. In particular, my old dog, who was utterly devoted to his boss (my partner) – while he loved me, he saw me as an ineffectual team lead and would occasionally make a bid for my position. It’s very difficult to put an English bull terrier on a PIP.

          He did not, however, have to make a case for why we should go for a walk or why he deserved bigger bones now that he was a bigger dog. (Although he did. Repeatedly. Full of gumption and moxie, that boy.)

          1. Cherith Ponsonby*

            And by “beg” I mean “perform a trivial task on command to reinforce the pack hierarchy, such as it is” not “do something humiliating for my amusement”, I should clarify.

    2. Luna*

      Yes, thank you! It is shocking how many people make it into management without understanding this very basic and VERY important part of what it means to actually manage other people.

    3. Antilles*

      It’s not just your company, it’s most (functional) companies. One of the best things a manager can have is being able to point to her subordinates and show that they’re successful…because it shows that she can be trusted to have even *more* employees and responsibility.
      And conversely, there’ll also be at least one manager whose career growth hits a hard ceiling because upper management recognizes that Jimmy just can’t keep staff, so they don’t want to risk putting him in charge and causing a lot of turnover on Key Project.

    4. InfoSec SemiPro*

      Exactly. A huge part of management is not just building/maintaining a team that delivers today, but growing your people so they can deliver more tomorrow. Retaining and training staff requires making it as much the manager’s job as the staff’s to get raises and promotions. The staff member has to deliver and do the work, but the path and the opportunity and the visibility and the motivation are the responsibility of the manager. Raises and promotions are not held out to get staff to beg for, they are motivational tools to reward and inspire development and performance.

      I think the OP is missing a deeply valuable management tool in their work by taking this perspective.

    5. ProximaCentauri*

      From my read of the letter, everything that the manager thinks employees should do are all things that should be covered in annual reviews and goal setting. That’s what good managers do. I think the employee needs to take a more active role from a promotion perspective (you own your own career), but the manager should be having those development discussions on a regular basis. For a raise? That’s what a manager should be evaluating and deciding on an annual basis.

    6. Coalea*

      This sounds glorious, Sugarbaker! I recently had a frustrating discussion with the senior management of my company because I feel like there is not enough in place to help facilitate employee development. Their attitude is very much “The possibilities are endless! And it’s up to you, as the employee, to figure out what you want to do with your career and make it happen. We’re awesome because we don’t hinder you from fulfilling your dreams.” Yeah, okay, but you also don’t help me identify those dreams or provide guidance about what it takes to achieve them or incentivize me to go above and beyond in my performance.

    7. LBK*

      Very well said – you identified what was bugging me about the tone of the letter that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. A manager should be actively advocating and fighting for their employees to receive the compensation they deserve based on their work; a manager who is knowingly allowing one of their employees to be underpaid simply because the employee hasn’t asked for a raise yet is not doing their job correctly.

  6. kms1025*

    kind of astounded that anyone really believes the burden should be on the employee to ask for a raise…so an outspoken poor performing employee is more likely to get a raise than an introverted high performer???

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I had a boss who believed angry employees worked harder. So guess what that boss did. There’s all kinds of strange belief systems out there.

      1. InfoSec SemiPro*

        I’ve had a boss who believed only in negative reinforcement. They thought you should understand that when you got no feedback that meant they couldn’t find anything wrong and thus, you should glow with pride at the high compliment.

        It was jaw dropping.

        (Don’t do this, even as a terrible psychological experiment. Its awful.)

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          This may tie into the ‘positive / negative politeness’ concept that got discussed here last week. It’s a really illuminating conversation. For example, I’m *really* self-directed in my job; I’ve trained three managers now on what they need to do to support my function and am the ‘go-to’ person for all questions in my area. I am fine with the ‘no feedback = ok performance, compliment = something exceptional’. But I make a point to tell people who are doing ok (and their managers) that I appreciate how their consistency makes my job easier, because my way is not everyone’s way.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, in fairness to the OP, she might say that her answer to the poor performer would be no (that’s presumably where “show me the reasons” comes into play). But yeah, it sounds like that high performer may never get the deserved raise.

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        You’re totally correct. And the high performer might think to himself: “so, I have achieved abc, gotten verbal compliments from my coworkers for xyz (and even a written compliment from my boss), and I still have to show documented evidence of why I deserve this??”. It could feel somewhat insulting.

        1. Lance*

          And as for that point of showing accomplishments… would the manager presumably not already have such records from performance evaluations?

        2. B*

          This right here! If they are working hard for you and the company, do not insult them by saying oh well you didn’t ask and bring me anecdotal evidence along the way. If you and the company value the employee give them the raise, show them you appreciate their hard work, and they will keep working hard for you. Otherwise, why should the employee bother working hard.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Outside of normal pay reviews, grandboss arranged for me & colleague to get a small rise because we’d done some extra work on a project which had long-term benefits. GB noticed and made sure it was recognised. I love GB…

            And yes, it’s one of reasons I’m still at job. I’m respected, I enjoy what I do and being appreciated means the longer than ideal commute isn’t enough to make me move. If I wasn’t appreciated…. I’d be working closer to home by now.

        3. Miles*

          Yep, it would make me think my boss isn’t actually paying attention to what I do and don’t do. If my boss isn’t paying enough attention to know that I rocked Project A and received Award B, why should I worry about maintaining a reputation as a competent, professional, achieving individual? I just need some accomplishments that look good on paper and can slack on the day to day stuff.

        4. Jules the 3rd*

          Well, my company likes to have annual accomplishments documented. Everyone has a recommended format and required tool for recording performance and accomplishments. And that requirement is on each employee. As I said to Rebel GRRL, I look at each review as a new interview / resume iteration. My mgr has 20+ people under him and sits in a different continent. There’s no way he could know how I’m doing day to day. If he was involved in my day-to-day work, it would be a signal that I’m not effective in my job.

          I consider the documentation an opportunity, not an insult. Keeps the resume fresh too, just in case.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            However, as part of the review, my mgr tells me if there’s going to be any raises or COLA adjustments. I don’t have to ask, and I know if I hit a certain grade, I will get a raise if they’re available that year.

            If I had to ask for a raise, I would expect my manager to tell me he has that expectation when we first start working together. Requiring people to guess your expectations is demoralizing .

      1. sin nombre*

        That’s not, like, a law of nature. Humans can, and should, decide to reward other humans for traits other than noise-making.

      2. Laoise*

        Until my most recent union job, squeaky wheels got the Pink Slip. I tried very hard to never squeak because I’d seen too many good women shot down and even fired for it.

    3. einahpets*

      And even if you do think that an employee is ultimately the most responsible for their career development, they might just be going about it in a way the OP isn’t recognizing.

      Beyond introversion/extroversion: my current job did a two day workshop on different personalities in the workforce, and one of the biggest distinguishing factors were ‘ask-directed’ vs ‘tell-directed’ personalities. Some people are completely forthright about telling others what they’d like (ie. that ‘gumption’ to go to their manager with the plan like the OP noted here) while others might be trying to get at the same thing by trying to get more information by asking a lot of questions for direction.

      For me, I’m a total ‘ask-directed’. When I did want to get a raise/promotion at a previous job, I started asking questions like ‘what would I need to do next to get to the next step? what could I start doing better? what are your thoughts on what I need to do to fit in the next step up? etc’ in our weekly one-on-ones. I didn’t do it presuming that my manager isn’t already fully capable evaluating my performance and whether it is what I should be doing to move to the next step.

  7. Lil Fidget*

    Having said this, if you are on the employee side: ask! Alison’s description of how it should work is absolutely right, but people (women especially I think) are socialized to believe this is the way it actually goes, and in reality – oftentimes employers are lazy, and you need to advocate firmly for yourself.

    1. starsaphire*

      Anecdotes not being data and all that, but… I would sooner crawl over broken glass than ASK for a raise.

      Am I a good worker? Sure, I think I am. I’ve been promoted and given raises often in my career. I regularly perform at or above expectations. Am I a hard worker? Sure, I think I am. I go above and beyond when necessary; I take work home sometimes; I never kvetch about putting in extra time.

      But take the initiative to book a 1:1 with you, put together metrics of my performance, walk to your office and slap it on your desk, and tell you I deserve a raise, when it isn’t even performance review time? Nopeing right out of that. How ’bout a nice root canal instead?

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Really? Never? I mean, I agree it’s unpleasant, but I’ve found that I’ve had to do it several times. My pay wasn’t being adjusted and new employees were being hired on with better salaries than I was getting after several years. I pointed it out, and it was corrected. I don’t know if they ever would have gotten around to it if I hadn’t done that – or I certainly would have missed out on several year’s worth of money.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I think maybe you should take starsaphire’s word for what they would feel comfortable and willing to do, even if it’s not the same for you.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            I didn’t mean to de-value starsaphire’s perspective, apologies – but for anyone else reading this, I would still advocate asking if you believe you can make a good case for a raise and you haven’t seen one coming.

            1. Ceiswyn*

              And what if you don’t believe you can make a good case for a raise because you have Imposter Syndrome?

              By the time I was commanding a salary 33% above industry average and still regularly getting raises and bonuses I was just about prepared to believe that maybe I might be good at my job. Maybe.

              My colleagues had noticed that well before I did. So even if *I* wouldn’t necessarily have jumped ship for a better offer, *others* would likely have spotted the issue and come to their own conclusions. In fact, I once had a colleague come to me specifically to point out that my employer was taking the mickey with the amount they expected me to do, and that they would be happy to help me advocate for a solution. Because employees do talk to on another…

              1. Althea*

                Actually, assembling documentation to show you should get a raise, and thinking through your argument for it, is a great way to combat imposter syndrome. You have to actively remind and convince yourself, sometimes – people get in the habit of comparing their own insides to other people’s outsides, and breaking that mold can be really good for you.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          And another anecdote. I’ve worked for a passive aggressive asshole who punished people for asking for raises. When HR forced him to give raises, he sulked.

            1. Middle School Teacher*

              “Dear AAM, I’ve been at my job for three years, without a raise. I finally got up the courage to ask for one.

              Good news! I got the raise.

              Bad news: it came with a punch in the face.

              Should I just let it go, since I did get the raise? Or should I say something? Is punching people in the workplace normal? This is my first job out of college.”

        3. Observer*

          Also, for the OP pointing out that you hadn’t gotten a raise in years isn’t “really” an ask. You need the whole dog and pony show to prove that you are worth the raise.

            1. Valerie*

              Exactly, pointing out that new employees were being hired on with better salaries while you have not gotten a raise is not the same as having to schedule a meeting with your boss, prepare documentation of your achievements and arguing your case and coming up with a number that you feel is appropriate.

              1. Lil Fidget*

                I feel like in a normal office (maybe not in the case of the letter) this happens anyway during the annual performance review. It’s just the final stage of the review is me explicitly stating the amount I’m looking for.

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              hunh. #1 and 2 of his requirements are the standard performance process for my employer (fortune 100, >100K employees). #3 is not, but calling it a ‘dog and pony show’ seems weird to me. It’s more that this is a ‘big company’ standard, maybe?

              1. Observer*

                No. Because the OP is not doing a performance review. The OP is requiring all of this documentation specifically for the purposes of asking for a raise, because if you don;t do that you not REALLY asking for a raise. I’m not sure that they think the employee is doing, but that’s what they say.

        4. Darren*

          I would just leave. If you aren’t willing to pay me what I’m worth I know half a dozen other companies that would be happy to.
          I have never asked for a raise (or promotion) in my life, and I’m not about to start now.
          I would find it a very unpleasant and uncomfortable conversation and I don’t want to have it.
          I’m a manager now and when one of my employees asks about a raise I would indicate the truth, it’s unnecessary for them to ask and won’t change anything. My current work handles all of this as part of the review (which also includes merit based bonuses), and I advocate very strongly for my people there is no need for them to ask for a raise, if their performance merits it I’ll already be advocating for it.

      2. Software Gal*

        U understand that it can be unpleasant, but many necessary things in life are unpleasant, and few have such important payoffs.

        I agree with Alison, this shouldn’t all be on the employee, but the way the world works, some of it inevitably is.

        I’d really suggest reading this, it helps put things in perspective:

    2. Cassandra*

      Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. There’s substantial research on this, and so far it indicates that not only are women viewed more negatively when they ask, they may even end up worse off than if they stayed silent.

      Decent summary article linked to my handle.

      1. kajastet*

        I don’t think I’ve ever asked for a raise. I have left jobs where I thought I was being underpaid. In hindsight, even if I’d known I could have resolved this by asking, I probably still would have left. The thought of asking and being told “nope, not in the budget” or “nope, you’re not deserving” would have been too great a fear to overcome. So yea, you are definitely risking losing people who figure the easiest way to earn more is to leave.

          1. Mike C.*

            Even the budget excuse I find hard to believe, given changes in the tax law and the number of companies hold serious amounts of cash.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I asked once. It went down like a lead balloon. When a recruiter first called me about that job, he told me that pay would be $X. When he later called about the job offer, he said my pay would be 12% lower than $X, with no comments about it other than “it’s non-negotiable”. My new boss said he was aware of the discrepancy, and would make up the difference after I’d been there a year. So at my annual performance review, I asked if I I was going to get the salary I’d been promised a year before. I got a 3% raise, an explanation of how my boss could not justify that big of a raise to the HR “because you haven’t led a project ” (nowhere in my job description) “and the customers aren’t asking for you by name” (what customer ever asks for a programmer/analyst by name?), and a reassurance that my lower-than-promised pay is “at market reference point”.

          Never tried asking again. But then, I was usually given without having to ask and supply documents.

          1. PB*

            Ooooh this reminds me of my last performance evaluation at my old job. I was told that I wouldn’t get a raise because the major project I’d successfully led happened in the wrong financial year. If the project had begun in May instead of June (something over which I had no control), they could have given me a raise.

            I was gone six months later.

      2. Lil Fidget*

        While this may be true, I still advocate for everyone to ask in situations where they think they deserve a raise and haven’t seen signs of one. How else can we ever change the system? It’s like saying “women are penalized for negotiating – so don’t negotiate, ladies!” but I believe Alison has said in the past that we shouldn’t let that become the status quo. Women need to try to negotiate because that’s the best way of getting more money – *and also* we need to work on the structural barriers to women’s equal salaries. I’d say the same of asking for a raise.

        1. Parenthetically*

          I’m of the opinion that, while it may be useful as a coping mechanism to help people to learn to survive in a crappy system, the way you change the crappy system is to focus on the SYSTEM — so, in this case, not to say, “don’t negotiate,” but to turn from the people who are getting the bad end of the deal TO the people responsible for that bad deal and say, “Implement a transparent structure that fairly and equitably rewards performance because it’s better for your employees and better for you.”

          Putting the onus for change on the people getting screwed over by an unjust system is, like, the least good way to go about things.

          1. Parenthetically*

            And sorry, Lil Fidget! I sort of launched into agreement with you at the end. I think people tend to focus on one area or another — not that it’s bad to teach/encourage women to negotiate more or better, but that people’s focus is different and that’s what you’re seeing, IMO. I realized as I reread my comment that it sounds more adversarial than I intended. :)

            1. Lil Fidget*

              Not at all, I agree it’s super frustrating that some people are “damned if they do, damned if they don’t.” I guess in that circumstance I’m biased towards DO (try!), but it still sucks.

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              This, right here, was the basis for the late 60’s phrase “the personal is political”.

      3. Dovahkiin*

        That article is terrifying.
        One method my mentor taught me in order to lift other women as I rise, was to encourage final candidates in a phone call to negotiate their offers and then I would also follow up with HR myself to let them know how much I valued the candidate and to ask them to attempt to meet the candidate in the middle.

        It doesn’t fix the problem. But it’s one way at least, as I climb a narrowing ladder, for me to not become the problem.

      4. Lora*


        Every time I have asked for a raise or promotion, it was based on the fact that I was already doing the damn job as an “interim (whatever)” or “designee”. Already doing the job, in one case for over a year, and not getting paid at the rate for that job; getting paid often substantially less.

        Every time, you know what happened? They hired someone with less experience and expected me to train them, and explained that I didn’t seem technical enough (when I had done more technical projects than anyone in the department), didn’t wear enough makeup, didn’t have exactly the degree from exactly the school they were looking for (when they had paid for my graduate degree at the university of their choosing). I dutifully trained the new person, then lined up my next job and handed in my notice.

        Asking for raises or promotions has never, ever worked out for me. In every instance, I was perceived as overly aggressive and b*tchy, as if I were ridiculously arrogant in asking to be paid market rate and given a title in accordance with the work I was already doing. For me, steps up have always come when I changed jobs or was working somewhere that promotions were more or less scheduled.

        Agree w/ Sugarbaker, it is your job as a boss to develop your employees.

        1. Gadget Hackwrench*

          Didn’t wear enough makeup? That seems illegal… unless they make the guys wear it too.

          1. Lora*

            That boss was fired about a year after I left, though not from the vast catalog of sexual harassment and discrimination complaints he had generated. He actually got fired for being mouthy around a regulatory inspector. But yeah, dude was an a-hole.

            And OP, this guy also thought he was the Best. Manager. Ever! And suffered majorly from Dunning-Kruger Effect. He was SURE that of all the managers in the world, he deserved to be promoted more than anyone else, and he absolutely refused to go to any kind of management training because he felt he was just so brilliant nobody needed to teach him a blessed thing. He would be all up in your face every day about deserving a promotion, while his peers and direct reports did nothing but file HR complaints and complain to you about his douchebaggery all day.

          2. Doe-Eyed*

            I mean it probably is but I’ve been told the same thing. I was a younger woman and I did not wear ANY makeup. The only people I saw during the day were like the owner, the operations manager, and our accountant. No customer facing duties. The owner had the accountant give me a talk about how I was a pretty girl if I’d put on some makeup and then maybe I’d go places. Left there like a bat out of hell.

        2. A*

          They actually used the amount of makeup you wore as a reason not to give you a raise?? I’m shocked that your boss was willing to be that overt and obvious about their sexism.

      5. Liz T*

        There’s research, but I wouldn’t call it substantial. The study people usually point to is a good study but uses mostly non-managers, and measures the opinions of third-party onlookers. (When you’re in an office negotiating with someone, who it would look to someone not involved in the negotiations isn’t particularly relevant.)

    3. Not So NewReader*

      If employers are lazy about raises that is my cue to open my eyes wide and look around to see what else is being ignored. There may be safety violations and other things going on that are an even more immediate concern because it’s not about my paycheck, now it’s about my well-being.

    4. Brett*

      Unfortunately there are too many work cultures out there where employees are punished for asking for raises. (And in some cases, only certain employees.) This might the culture of your employer, of certain departments, or even the culture that a current employee came from out of last job.
      As an extreme example, public employees often have to go through a public civil service hearing for a raise request, and a lot of outright racism and sexism can emerge once you bring public comment into play in a process. Now imagine coming out of that environment, and your willingness to push for a raise.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I am really quite surprised that this is such a pervasive attitude! It is making me second-guess myself for sure. I would have said that occasionally having to advocate for a raise was fairly standard through the course of professional life (and having to accept that you can’t always get one, too). Even though I agree with Alison that managers shouldn’t have this mindset, I would have thought it was common.

        I’m curious, do people also feel this way about negotiating new job offers? They just – don’t do that? (for the record I’m a young female in a white collar office job who had a lot of professional advice given when I first started out).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I would have said that occasionally having to advocate for a raise was fairly standard through the course of professional life (and having to accept that you can’t always get one, too).

          It absolutely is standard to need to do that occasionally! Don’t take away from this that you should expect not to need to do it. But this is about how good managers will structure things (and even then, you still might need to ask or ask for more).

        2. Kiki*

          As a 30-something woman with a white collar office job who comes from a blue collar family, I was taught growing up that a job was something you should be thankful to be offered and that negotiating would make me look ungrateful. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized I should be negotiating. I have negotiated since, but that means I set a low salary bar for myself early on and missed out on earning potential.

          As for asking for raises, I did so once when I was in my mid-20’s and I definitely deserved one in that case (long story). I was told that I was too young to be asking for a raise and even got a condescending quip about me not having a family to support and not really “needing” the money. This experience put me off asking for a raise and I haven’t since.

          1. JeanB in NC*

            I never understood that “you don’t have a family and so don’t need the money”. It’s partly because I don’t have a family that I need as much money as I can earn – I have to support myself! (Not that it’s valid either way, it just always struck me funny.)

            1. Indie*

              As though businesses are kind donators of free family support to those whose work doesnt warrant it? Nah, not buying it. Do their clients and customers also pay more if the CEO has children? This has always struck me as a ludicrous argument.

            2. Bellaroni*

              Agreed. What you are paid has nothing to do with what you ‘need’ – it has to do with what the company needs and what the position is worth. Did the company do a financial check on your manager before they decided on his salary need?

              It’s work, not a college award – you don’t determine how much the employee requires, or what their parents should be contributing.

            3. Mookie*

              I never understood that “you don’t have a family and so don’t need the money”

              It’s a rather recent invention designed to justify blatantly biased hiring and promotion practices under the risible premise that employers care about “families” and “breadwinners.” If that were true, we’d have this healthcare fiasco in the US fixed in a jiffy. Culture of Life, they call it, whereas in practice, it’s something quite different.

              1. PhyllisB*

                No, it’s not a recent invention. Back in the early seventies I worked at Howard Brothers; ( a store similar to Walmart, but smaller chain.) Three people were hired close to the same time: Me, another woman, and a man. The other woman discovered the man was hired for more than we were (don’t remember exact amount. Maybe a dollar an hour more?) She went to complain to the store manager. His response? We were students still living at home with our parents and didn’t need as much, while he was a married man supporting a family. I can’t believe that I accepted that as a good reason.

                1. Mookie*

                  Early 70s is “recent invention.” The dawn of modern history, as Americans and Europeans would have it, dates back to the 16th century. In this instance, we’re talking about the expansion of the workforce to middle- and upper-class white women.

          2. Fluffer Nutter*

            I was taught growing up that a job was something you should be thankful to be offered and that negotiating would make me look ungrateful.

            This- 1,000%

          3. Clewgarnet*

            “I was taught growing up that a job was something you should be thankful to be offered and that negotiating would make me look ungrateful.”

            Absolutely the same.

        3. any mouse*

          As a 2008 college grad, my friends and I had it *rough.* I worked at Macy’s and Starbucks and still couldn’t afford to live with roommates. A friend landed an offer and it was pulled because she negotiated. Another managed to squeak out an extra $1/hour, but then didn’t receive an annual raise. When I finally got a job in my field I just said YES THANKS ILL TAKE IT.

        4. saby*

          I’m in a similar boat to you. I always negotiated job offers until my current job, where I had a bad experience. I don’t think it’s related to being female (I’m in an overwhelmingly female field) so much as indicative of my employers being cheap and taking advantage of a surplus of graduates + recent layoffs in the field. In this case, they offered me the bottom of the entry-level, straight-out-of-school pay band and when I said that I was not entry level or straight out of school HR basically told me my experience didn’t count because it wasn’t in the same subfield and I should be grateful to have the chance to work at such a prestigious organization! I later learned that this organization just doesn’t negotiate salary, everyone starts at the bottom of the pay band assigned to them and raises are performance based as determined by management (and actually quite generous). It is unionized if that matters.

          1. krysb*

            It appears we are slowly entering into an employees’ market. I’ve been waiting my entire adult life for this.

        5. Indie*

          I think its very much a class thing too. Im working class and would sooner have set myself on fire than haggle salary as a young professional. My middle class friends, particularly males, did far better because our boss was like the OP. An expectation of performance related pay is something managers should model and lead by example as part of professional development and encouragement. Not sit by and wait for them to do the managing themselves.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            I do suspect this may be class related. I was definitely told by my (white collar) father, along with other career mentors, to advocate for my salary throughout my career – both at the time of hiring, and at your annual performance review.

            1. Collarbone High*

              There’s definitely a class component. I grew up hearing things like “we’ll have to put off fixing the car until dad gets his step increase in April” and “If I get made a line supervisor I’ll get an extra $2 an hour.” In a lot of blue-collar jobs, raises and promotions are a thing that just happens to you, not a thing you can ask for, especially if you’re in a union shop.

    5. Cringing 24/7*

      I just feel like if I have to TELL my manager that I’m a good worker who deserves to be paid more, either they’re not a good manager because they haven’t been paying attention, or I’m not as good of a worker as I think I am. I know my work and I know my worth and if my manager isn’t going to pay me commensurate with my worth, I know exactly which companies will.
      I just don’t see the argument for HAVING to ask at all. If a manager can’t keep their employees, are they really a good manager?

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I agree it would be better not to have to ask. But there’s been lots of times when I was happy at my current job, did not want to start looking for a different job, but wanted more money / felt I deserved it / suspected that other people were getting it. The perfect solution for me was that I made the case and asked for it, and got it. I don’t know if the company would have *ever* realized I felt this way if I hadn’t done this. I think they would have offered me standard COLA every year until I quit.

        Soo, even though this employer is wrong to deliberately set it up this way, I also think employees should plan to use this tool in their career. Based on some of the comments, I’m seeing that not everybody agrees, which is surprising to me.

    6. einahpets*

      I would go so far to say that it isn’t even that employers are lazy about raises. Sometimes it is intentional based on prior stuff or job market, etc.

      I actually recently just accepted a job in a corporation based in NJ, so they have the equal pay laws in place now, so it gives me a little perspective. My starting salary is nearly double what I was making at another company about a year ago. The other company hired me during the recession + 6 months of unemployment after graduation, was pretty heavy with middle management (so worker bee salaries were lower to pay for the manager’s manager), our department director was not well liked by senior management, and the company as a whole made a poor business decision to acquire another company that cost the company as a whole a lot of money for a few years. They couldn’t/wouldn’t pay cost of living increases for two years in there, much performance raises.

  8. Nolan*

    Something I thought while reading the letter, are you transparent about this expectation? Do your reports even know that you expect this document and a meeting to get a raise, or are you just assuming they’ll somehow know about this requirement without being told? I’m guessing it’s the latter based on the “a raise would be cool” story. So that’s another thing to consider, your reports can’t read minds, so even if this was company policy, you’d need to tell people about it and not just expect them to know on their own.

      1. RB*

        It’s also rather passive-aggressive on the part of the manager. Not only is he shirking one of his main roles as a manager, he’s expecting his staff to read his mind. Incredible.

        1. Steve*

          “Negotiations” which are really “guess what number I have in mind” games are THE WORST. In this case, it seems that the OP’s managees aren’t even aware the game is being played.

    1. ContentWrangler*

      Yes, I had the same thought. That document is very specific and definitely not an insignificant amount of work. That isn’t something you should just expect employees to figure out if that’s seriously the only way they’re getting a raise from you.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Are the employees allowed to assemble the documentation on the clock or do they have to use their own time?

        1. Antilles*

          They’re absolutely doing it while on the clock. They might not *admit* they’re preparing raise documentation on company time, but they definitely are.
          After all, “reviewing past projects to mentally compile arguments for a raise” looks visually identical to “reviewing past projects for a work-related purpose” (data accuracy, to use as a template in the future, etc).

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Well, they should be doing it on the clock. I have had bosses give me evals to work on at home… off the clock. OP, do you instruct them to do this on company time? And how many hours of productivity does the company lose from this?

    2. Princess Loopy*

      And where did this “prepare documents” expectation originate? Even if I did decide to ask for a raise, I don’t think I would prepare a white paper on myself to present during the conversation.

      Maybe an employee did this one time and it went over well with the OP, or maybe OP herself does this when she asks for a raise (OP, out of curiosity–do you?). I just don’t think this would ever occur to me unless I was explicitly told I should do it.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Interpretive dance would at least be presenting some sort of new information in the context of most jobs. (Like “My employee managed to get a giant gerbil ball in here somehow” or “My employee can kick higher than her head.”) What is in this printed out document that the manager doesn’t already know?

            1. Evan Þ*

              Knowing that the employee recognizes what value he brings to the company and knows how to present himself well?

              Or, less charitably, stuff the manager doesn’t care to look up?

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                If it’s the latter, then I am so going to have led a revolution that ushered in a technical utopia with adorable mini robot horses ridden by Pokemon go characters while raising 47 orphans and perfecting an award winning brownie recipe.

                If the former, it’s like awarding people for their basketball prowess by measuring their height. Yeah, there can be some correlation, but shouldn’t you look at the thing you directly care about? (Plus the thing about your salary and that of your coworkers being something management knows but you usually don’t. I can’t argue that you should pay me more than Wakeen unless I know everything about Wakeen’s job, including what management pays him.)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I have asked for many raises (I love money) but I’ve never prepared written documentation. And frankly, if my manager asked me to, I’d do it but I’d be annoyed and thinking, “Since I know that you’re familiar with my work and how I’ve met/exceeded a bunch of ambitious goals this year, this feels like making me jump through hoops and not treating me like you value me” … and that is when good people become a lot more open to looking around or taking calls from recruiters.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Seriously. If the “asking for a raise” meeting requires more than interviewing for a new job, guess which one I’m going to do.

          1. Indie*

            It’s got to be pretty demoralizing for her staff to realise she hasn’t been paying the slightest attention to their hard work.

        2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          I wonder whether OP is even doing regular 1 on 1s or performance reviews? If not that might explain why they expect a presentation packet… although it raises a whole host of other issues since those are that most logical time an employee might ask for a raise anyway.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            Yeah, I feel like the evidence should be presented in a performance review, and additional presentations by the employee are superfluous. Even if the manager isn’t totally aware of the employee’s great work, a performance evaluation should be the time to discuss that, and then salary adjustments made accordingly (or not).

            Every place I’ve worked, raises were given (or intended to be given) after performance reviews. Why would I need to do more than that to get a raise? It seems like excessive hoop jumping.

        3. Nerdling*

          Government employee here. It’s required for people in my role once you get to a certain level. Down to a series of metrics you must meet. They revamped the process two years ago to make it less subjective; prior to that, it wasn’t unusual for someone to get rejected five or six times (you could only put in every six months) before finally getting a promotion – and it was not unusual to have one panel reject you for the changes you made based on the prior panel’s rejection. I got turned down twice and still haven’t managed to recover since.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Fortune 100 company, >100K employees here: It’s expected that we will document our annual goals and achievements relative to those goals. Out mgmt chain shares their goals, and we are encouraged to use them as the starting points for ours. The goals and progress are discussed at least quarterly and evaluation / raises are discussed annually.

            As I said elsewhere, my mgr has 20 reports and sits in a different continent. If he’s involved in my work daily, then I’m not being effective at my job. I need the documentation to keep him up to date.

      2. AMPG*

        My boss asks me to do this as part of my performance review, which he then uses to justify my raise. I don’t mind it because a) my work is easy to portray as monetary value to the organization, b) it’s a tool for my performance evaluation, and not just a dog-and-pony show for a raise, and c) I’m high enough in the org chart that our Board signs off on my raise, so having everything on paper for them is useful.

        1. Anon for privacy*

          Asking your manager for a raise and having her respond “I’ll advocate for you to get the raise, and I need X, Y, and Z to do that effectively, so can you write something up?” is totally different than having to write something to convince your manager that you should get a raise.

          Having to provide that sort of documentation to satisfy bureaucratic demands is pretty common. Having to approach the raise conversation with your manager like you’re a vendor doing a hard sales pitch for a new product is not.

      3. Althea*

        This is an odd question to me, although maybe my experiences are unusual. If I’m asking out of the blue, I’ll pretty much always make a list of accomplishments since the last pay change or hiring date, and indicate the ways in which I think I’ve done great or gone beyond the job description. If I’m expecting to have a performance review, I do the same thing for the review period. My managers will sometimes ask me in advance to prepare such a sheet, because my own accomplishments are often clearer to me than to them, or the exercise reminds us both of something I did a while ago that might not be considered due to time elapsed.

        Often, my managers would use this as a tool to draft other performance docs and make the case for a raise to anyone else who needs to concur, or even just for HR files as backup.

        I don’t think I’ve ever discussed my performance without having such a document. It’s super-useful!

        1. LBK*

          I think there’s a difference between putting together a cheat sheet for yourself so you can organize your thoughts/arguments during the conversation and preparing a formal document for submission to your manager, as seems to be the ask here. The OP also says she requires plans for future accomplishments and a specific numerical request for the new salary, which I don’t think are things I’d naturally assume I’d need to have ready in a conversation like this.

    3. twig*

      I was wondering about this too. I would NEVER think to do this.

      Did the OP actually tell the “a raise would be cool” person what it would take to get a raise or did they just say, “Nope!”

      At this point the OP is rewarding mind-reading and sales skills.

      1. Alienor*

        I wondered too! Even if I somehow intuited that my boss was waiting for me to ask for a raise, I’d have no way of knowing that they expected a written document with sections A, B and C as outlined in the letter.

      2. Limepink22*

        What if their team are sales people for Ms.Cleo? Then this would be a great exercise in showing their skills.

    4. Brett*

      I’m thinking back to public sector days and cringing at the thought of preparing a document like that and then having that document turn up in a sunshine law request! (Emails related to salary negotiations and pay increases were a pretty regular request from the local media, and I’m not sure a document like that would be shielded as a personnel record.)

      1. Katiedid*

        Yes! I was thinking the same thing! I am our public records person (and I work for the state, not the federal gov’t, so that may be different). In my state, I think I could make a valid argument that it is exempt, but I’m not 100% sure. Also, in my state, all salary increases have to be posted on our website and have to be approved by our governing body at an open meeting. So…yeah. It’s one thing when it’s the whole organization at the end of the year, but one-offs are extra public.

  9. LiterallyPapyrus*

    Alison, I can’t love your response any more fully. So, so important for managers to reward performance over personality for all the reasons you listed. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  10. NotMyRealName*

    This is just bizarre.

    I don’t doubt I’ve had managers with a similar ideology, before.

  11. Arya Snark*

    As an employee who has done exactly what the OP has said those wanting a raise should do, the only reason I did so was to give my employer a chance to finally give me the pay I deserved or I was going to go elsewhere. I didn’t say that in the meeting and it all worked out in the end, but the reason I was there was because I hadn’t been given the pay I thought I had deserved after several years of great reviews, additional responsibilities and stagnant pay.
    You’re going to be much better off and have a much happier staff if you don’t make people beg/threaten/prove their worth. Their work should speak for itself and you should act accordingly if it’s in the budget to do so.

    1. Chris W*

      Yes! For lots of people, asking for a raise is a stressful and aggravating process, especially if your boss expects you to have a whole presentation about your accomplishments and a specific number in mind. For those people, by the time they actually ask for the raise, they’re already feeling underpaid and probably have a foot edging toward the door. If you make the process difficult for them, they’re likely to decide it’s just as easy to get a job with a higher salary somewhere else.

      1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

        Once I’ve prepared that presentation, I’ve basically prepped my entire interview talk and have all of my new resume points figured out.

        Why sit up and beg for the 3% COL raise when you can shop yourself around and easily get way more than that at a new gig?

      2. Pollygrammer*

        90% of the time, asking for a raise isn’t saying ” you should reward me.” It’s saying “my salary isn’t in line with my experience and performance.”

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Oh, good point. Alison always says not to make any threats about leaving when asking for a raise. OP, if someone asks you for a raise, please, go ahead and assume they WILL leave if they do not get a decent raise. Just take it for granted that they are going if this conversation does not go well.

      1. Arya Snark*

        Exactly. My manager at the time responded with telling me how much he valued my work and didn’t want to lose me so he would do his best to get my pay up to market value….and he did. He knew I would be looking elsewhere if I didn’t get what I was asking for but I didn’t have to say it or even hint at it. However, I was prepared to do so and went into that meeting ready for battle armed with all of the different responsibilities, projects, accomplishments and accolades I’d received all in a neat timeline with my relatively flat (COL only increases for several years) salary history and market values charted out.
        My current job (I left the one above after they moved) is so different. My boss gives what he can when he can. I’ve never had to ask for more money in 5+ years but I’ve received significant raises that corresponded with new roles & responsibilities. I liked the old job too, but care to guess which one I feel more compelled to go above and beyond for?

    3. CatCat*

      Similar to what happened to me, but with a different ending. HR at my ex-employing organization said if I could get a competing offer, they could match it. My manager found this approach just as absurd as I did, but despite either of our efforts to bring my pay up (and in line with what my similarly situated peers were making), it was for naught in the face of Large Government Bureaucracy and Rigid Policy.

      So I don’t work there anymore. I work elsewhere for quite a bit more money.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      One of the weirdest things I’ve read on AAM is the existence of companies that refuse to give raises until you get another company to give you a written offer at the new salary. I’m astonished that anyone goes through all that work and then stays with the first company.

    5. einahpets*

      Amen to this!

      I still stay in touch with coworkers at an oldjob and they sometimes ask if I’d like to come back. I left to try and new opportunity, but when I realized how disparate oldjob was paying me versus industry (and even fellow coworkers hired at different times), it was an ultimate no, never.

      I am fortunate to work in an industry I love, but ultimately I am working for a paycheck and finding out that an employer didn’t value me enough to pay me a decent wage for years? Nah.

      1. Snark*

        Nope. Arya Snark is just a masterful punster. But Mrs. Snark has posted here a few times, incognita.

  12. chocolate lover*

    Having always worked in Universities that had very defined processes and timelines for reviews and fixed, designated budgets for raises that only occur at particular times, asking for a raise sounds completely foreign to me. Asking wouldn’t remotely matter. In some cases you can advocate to your boss why you’d like a larger raise, but frankly my boss has only the smallest amount of discretion over amounts and distribution.

    1. Pam*

      At my university, my team was just able to ask for ‘critical skills’ bonuses. We had to ask, and you can bet we passed out process onto other employees.

      The normal raise process is through our collective bargaining agreements.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t care for this type of setting either. But I do see one difference, with OP’s system no one gets raises unless they ask. Again, I don’t think that your university’s system is much of an improvement over OP’s system, very sorry.

      1. Observer*

        I agree. But it’s just one more example of an environment where people get trained around raises VERY differently than what the OP envisages. Unless the OP is very clear with staff about what it takes to get a raise, these kinds of environment ensure that even people with the “right” personality may not ask.

    3. One of the Sarahs*

      It was the same when I was a civil servant – set timescales, criteria, and the opportunity to challenge refusals etc, to try to stop the biases coming in. The idea that different managers can give out raises in such *wildly* different ways raises so many questions! How have HR not noticed that Team A get raises regularly, while in Team B, it’s random and occasional?

    4. Dr. Doll*

      And at my university, the *only* process for getting a raise is initiated by the employee. Yes, there are some union-negotiated increases, but any kind of merit increase must be initiated by the employee and it’s also very very difficult to get raises based on merit only. You pretty much have to show that you are doing more work or taking on more responsibility.

  13. BlueSky*

    Wow. I would expect that type of a formal plan for an upper level promotion as the person would then be in charge of a higher level of strategy.

    But for a basic annual raise? That type of jumping through hoops can demoralize employees who should be appreciated.

      1. Observer*

        I was thinking something likes this.

        You have to ask for the favor of a raise and prove your worthiness to partake of the largess of the employer.

    1. ArtK*

      At one of my previous jobs, to reach a certain level you had to put together a whole promotion package, working with a sponsor. But that was for the top two technical levels and was appropriate because you’d be evaluated by a company-wide committee that wouldn’t necessarily know your specific work. (Company > 300,000 people.)

    2. Lil Fidget*

      I would definitely agree that this shouldn’t be necessary for an annual COLA – I would be really turned off by that. Then again, in years where I want a big out-of-the-norm raise, I do go into my performance evaluation with some kind of argument in mind (not a written report, good lord!) – but a few accomplishments to point to specifically, a specific salary number I’m looking for, and a reason for why I think that number is reasonable.

      NOT that I’m defending OP’s perspective that this should be the only reason anybody ever gets a raise, but – I don’t want people to think this approach isn’t a good idea from the employee’s POV.

  14. Jaguar*

    People who ask for raises get them. People who don’t ask for raises get them by finding a new job.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Same here. Fortunately, most of my bosses have hit me with unsolicited raises to appreciate the work I do and to retain me. Yeah, if a place made me ask for raises in order to get them, the result wouldn’t be me asking for raises; the result would be them losing me to a competitor.

  15. PB*

    In my job, finances employees generally get raises every year. It’s scaled so higher performers get higher raises, and the process is tied to our annual performance appraisals. Are employees supposed to ask for a raise every year? Or ask for a larger raise every few years? I don’t understand how this would work. And yes, it’s likely to chase high performers to organizations with a more equitable pay structure.

    1. michelel*

      Yeah, my company has annual performance reviews that result in a score that gets sent to the salary review board, which takes the review/score into consideration when deciding whether and how much to adjust someone’s pay. All reviews for that month are assessed at the same time; it’s probably a couple of hundred people being evaluated in each meeting. I’m not aware of any route in which folks at my company could just up and ask for a raise — or rather, they could ask, but it wouldn’t really go anywhere, because their managers wouldn’t have the power to do anything but take it into consideration at the next scheduled review.

  16. AndersonDarling*

    I can see the possibility that a manager doesn’t know that the market rate for an employee has changed and in that case, the employee needs to bring it to the manager’s attention. But if one Rice Sculptor says they are underpaid, then all the Rice Sculptors need to have their salaries adjusted, not just the one who spoke up.

  17. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I know that you don’t meant to imply this, but I came away with the sense that people who work for you get more money because they asked and not because they’re paid according to their work performance.

    This outlook quietly contributes to the unfortunate trend of very incompetent people making a lot of money. You see the end result when some high level executive makes a really simple mistake or says something totally horrible and insensitive that people wonder how that person got to that position in the first place. John Thain, David Bonderman, Donald Trump, Travis Kalanick, and Satya Nadella. (The last one is especially relevant to you because he thought women shouldn’t ask for raises but rather “trust the system.”)

    AAM touched on this, but I want to take it a step further. One of the driving reasons the gender/race pay gap isn’t going away is because a lot of people, myself included, see how wide that gap is wonder why certain people get more money for no other reason than they asked. Because that’s really what your argument comes down to, yes?

    Not only that, but given my pretty heavy workload, a very common characteristic in the American workforce, I know have to remember to ask and present a convincing case for a raise too?

    1. Princess Loopy*

      OP would be a very lucrative employer for all the people who write in to AAM with questions like, “I’ve been at my job 3 months and don’t like my salary. Can I ask for a raise?” Or rather, the ones that don’t write in and just ask anyway.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        “I’m on a PIP. I want to get off the PIP which is stupid, and get a promotion and raise instead.”

    2. Observer*

      Well, to give Nadella credit, he walked that back and pretty much apologized for that. And, MS has apparently started taking measures to try to rectify pay disparities.

  18. Not So NewReader*

    There is more than one way a boss can thank their employees for their hard work. Of those many ways, a boss can know and understand the level of effort an employee puts into their job and not make them have to justify their own raise.

    Most places I have worked automatically give annual raises. In some of those places if an employee chooses they may advocate for a larger raise. In a setting like what you describe here, OP, I would probably start looking for a new job.
    I am not sure how this policy can help with employee retention. And, no, I probably would not explain why I was leaving. A manager advocates for the company by helping the company retain its people. You can ask for raises for your people and still be advocating for your company’s best interest. If I have to explain to my boss that I am doing a good job, I probably need a new job.

  19. Lumen*

    “As a manager, I sometimes push for top performers to get raises even if they don’t ask. But I’m much more likely to advocate for someone if they ask.”

    That right there tells me that you probably already have employees who think you show unfair favoritism, and you don’t even know it.

    Alison is correct: raises are a retention tool. At my company we have annual reviews, annual raises, and annual bonuses. I don’t go asking for a raise because I know I don’t have to. I don’t spend valuable time or energy at work (or home) worrying about when I think I ‘deserve’ a raise enough to ask for it, and whether it’s worth the potential risk of my bosses thinking I’m out of line, or if this time next year I’ll be able to afford my increased rent because my bosses have forgotten that inflation exists in the real world.

    I know that at this time, I will have the opportunity to show what I’ve accomplished and advocate for myself. I don’t have to worry about it being an interruption or coming at a ‘bad time’. And my manager has no excuse to avoid this conversation or claim that it’s a ‘bad time’ for the company. Everyone gets the opportunity. And I know that at bare minimum I will get a yearly raise to keep up with the ever-growing cost of living, and if I perform well, I will get a larger raise and a larger bonus.

    Instead of worrying about any of this or feeling like my contributions are never acknowledged, I spend my precious time doing good work, thinking of new goals, and maintaining a healthy professional relationship with my bosses. It’s really that easy. Stop making it so hard because of some weird idea of what a ‘high performer’ looks like and, by default, punishing people who expect their managers to manage.

    1. Lumen*

      And another thing, because this sort of thing just lights me right up:

      People work for employees for money (please show me the employee who would really show up every day if they weren’t paid), and the cost of living in developed countries is on a roller coaster that only goes up. Give. People. Regular. Raises. This should not be a debate based on personal preferences or people behaving just like their boss would in their shoes or rewarding the ones who can magically read the boss’s mind. Employers need to be a stable and responsive source of income for their employees or, shockingly, they will discover that they cannot maintain a stable workforce because people will keep leaving. Employee Loyalty is not the problem; too many employers are not giving employees any G-D reason to remain ‘loyal’.

      *throws up hands* I’m gonna go cool down before I break all of Alison’s commenting rules.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      “As a manager, I sometimes push for top performers to get raises even if they don’t ask. But I’m much more likely to advocate for someone if they ask.”

      Behind your back, OP, your employees are saying you play favorites. At best they speak of you as an average boss. At worse they are praying you leave soon.

      Assuming people will ask you for raises also assumes your people see you as approachable. I never worked anywhere that no one there was afraid of the boss. There is always one or more people who for Reasons are afraid of the boss. And some of these bosses were extraordinarily good bosses. But they still had people who were afraid of them. One boss was very nice but he had a mind like an encyclopedia. His intelligence intimidated some folks. Because they feared his smarts, they never got to know him which in turn raised their fears higher.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s conceivable that there are employees who don’t want a promotion (that would entail less of the work they like, more stress, etc), don’t want a change in title, and so on. Unless you’re paying at the poverty line (and a scattering of people risk losing subsidized housing/etc with a tiny raise), you can be confident that all of your employees would be delighted with more money.

      1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        Back at ToxicJob, I’d have been happy with no raise for the rest of my time there if all the other dysfunction had somehow been resolved.

  20. Nita*

    OP – why don’t you set up the raise-discussion meeting yourself, on an annual basis, with every employee? Do you already do annual performance reviews?

    Is it official official policy that people have to ask for a raise to get one? If so, do your employees know that you don’t “just” ask, you have to set up a meeting and bring certain documentation? If this is all implied and the information is spread by hearsay, you’re setting some people up to fail. If you also nudge a few people to go for a raise (“hey, why don’t you stop by and we’ll discuss your performance?”) but leave others out, you could be knowingly or unknowingly discriminating against others.

    1. Ophelia*

      This is what I was thinking – I think raises *should* be tied to performance (unless they are cost of living adjustments, which are different), but it sounds like you are asking employees to do half the work of performance management in how you’ve set up managing your team. A more effective way to do this would be to set up annual performance reviews for everyone on the team, and ask them to bring information about their performance vs. goals, and use performoance information as the basis for determining raises. Setting up a transparent and equitable performance review process would also go a long way toward resolving what I suspect is some inequity on your team.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, writing up my own reasons for a raise seems to me like doing the boss’s work for them.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Where I work now, they send us an email that performance evaluations will be done in (timeframe) and we need to fill out our info in this document they attach by (specific date before that timeframe). It walks us through accomplishments, goals, development, etc. Everything they want to see about what we think is clearly spelled out. And then the actual performance evaluation happens, and then raises, which are part COL and then adjusted by evaluation.

        Are we more or less making a similar case to what the OP wants? Yes, but to me it feels very different, because there is a procedure; it is a work task; it is clearly defined when and with what data they want to see it. No mind-reading required, on either side.

        1. Nita*

          This is how my company works too. It would be nice if the manager already had a good picture of all the employees’ accomplishments, but sometimes that’s not realistic – maybe the employee did their best work for someone else in the department, maybe something just slipped the manager’s mind. It helps when the employee can list their own accomplishments.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          My company has a similar process – it’s the ‘no mind reading required’ part that is a critical difference.

      3. Bagpuss*

        We have a form for appraisals which summarises the things we look at (performance against goals, future goals etc) staff get it, together with a copy of their previous appraisal, ahead of the annual appraisal.

        They don’t have to fill anything in ahead of time, or bring extra information, but have the opportunity to prepare / bring extra information if they want. We’re also very clear about when we review salaries each year.

        We do occasionally get people asking for a raise, but not often. And in fact thinking of the last few requests, one was someone who we had already approved for a raise, but there was a short delay notifying her as a result of our HR manager being sick, and other recent one is someone whose performance is well below standard (and who has been told this, and told what needs to improve, and who still thinks that demanding a raise is a reasonable thing to do. …)

    2. Lord Gouldian Finch*


      The LW expects “coming prepared with a document including: (1) all their achievements over the past months or years (2) what they plan to achieve in the coming months or years (3) a specific number request for a new salary.”

      If you are doing your job as a manager you should ALREADY have (1) because knowing this is what managing is about. (2) should also be part of a manager’s regular job, because they should be having regular performance reviews. (3) assumes the employee knows the budget of the organization, which seems unlikely. It’s the manager’s job to say “based on the budget and organization guidelines and your performance the raise I can offer is X.”

      The LW sounds like they’re actually asking their employees to do the manager’s job.

  21. Kate the Little Teapot*

    What about if you made this a process every year, for everyone, OP?

    What about if your employees had to come prepared with such a document once a year, and you helped them add accomplishments they might not have thought of? Then you used those documents to do raises, get people thanked, to raise the profile of your team in the company, etc?

    How would that change who asks? It seems like your system disproportionately favors those who know how to ask, which is not everyone because some folks come from jobs where you can’t ask for a raise.

    PS: Also, the super casual request is supposed to be a way to feel it out, possibly from somebody who doesn’t know how to do it – so, at that point, you can tell the person they can make a document as you’ve requested.

      1. Djuna*

        It’s so weird to me that a company could do annual reviews and not tie them to salary adjustments.
        Like, why would you even?

        1. VexedPanda*

          My company actually does this. They’ve made promises to change though. I’d say I’m cautiously hopeful…

        2. Brett*

          Salary adjustments are only one of the reasons for annual reviews.
          You can also have: planning professional improvement, identifying weak performers, finding holes in your workforce (e.g. everyone in a unit is overworked), discovering opportunities for expanding roles, discovering outdated roles that need to be changed or eliminated.
          And my favorite, sometimes annual reviews just become perpetual ceremony in the face of poor finances. Take them away, and it becomes even more clear how much financial trouble the organization is in.

        3. Deus Cee*

          Mine does that. I think it’s meant to be a “we can’t offer you more money, so how can we develop you better as an employee”, but largely involves me explaining to my latest line manager what my job is, then listing all the training and development opportunities I organised for myself because they don’t know what my department requires.

        4. MrsCHX*

          We don’t tie pay increases to performance reviews.

          Conversely a close friend who is upper management is losing it over a recent change at her company. A composite 2.84 for one of her employees equals a ‘2’ and so the employee gets no increase this year.

          There are totally pros and cons to both ways!

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Especially amen to your last paragraph. The super casual ask isn’t the end of the process, but the part that involves feeling out how the manager wants the process to look like — whether it’s “bring me some polished documentation” or “let’s set up a time to talk” or “hang on, I’ve got something in the works for you.”

    2. mf*

      Yes–the way my former boss said it was, “When you do your performance review, I want you to make the best case you can for why you deserve a big raise. The information and evidence you give me, the better job I can do in advocating for you in trying to get you that raise.”

      1. Lance*

        That’s fair. It’s not asking for all this documentation, it’s not asking for an amount, and the onus isn’t wholly on you because the meeting is happening for performance review reasons anyway.

        1. mf*

          Yes, exactly–the onus isn’t wholly on the employee and it shouldn’t involve much documentation. It’s more like the manager wants to partner with the employee to ensure that the employee gets the best raise possible.

          And while managers should know generally what their direct reports are doing and how they are doing their job, most managers don’t know all the details of what their employees do. So it makes sense to ask the employees to fill in the gaps a bit.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Exactly. The time to show what you’re doing well is at a performance review. Surely the OP is doing this? Then why make the employee do it again, separately, as part of some secret requirement?

    3. Mockingjay*

      A good manager should know her employees’ accomplishments. You don’t have to know what they do, hour by hour, day by day, but you should have a solid grasp of their work ethic, quality, and value added to products and processes throughout the year.

      I can understand you asking a quick writeup as a refresher (“hey, give me a few bullets highlighting your work on the XYZ project back at the beginning of the year”), but I shouldn’t have to give you a business proposal in order to get a raise.

      If you take a hard look at your employees, I’ll bet that the most productive persons are likely your ‘quiet’ team players, who are reliable, consistent, and methodical. They shouldn’t have to scream “Pick me!” like Donkey in Shrek to be noticed.

  22. nuqotw*

    There is evidence that different types (not white and / or not male) are often penalized for asking in the first place. This goes to AAM’s point – how do you evaluate what is a request you receive with favor? With this situation, it might be damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        But still – negotiate! Ask! It’s good practice and you can make a lot of money this way. And if you ask and don’t get it but believe you deserve it … look for a place where you CAN get it, and then go there.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Oh yeah, saying that women often get penalized for negotiating doesn’t mean don’t negotiate — but it does mean don’t just blithely tell women that they should negotiate (especially with the implied ‘so really, it’s your own fault you’re underpaid’ tacked on there).

  23. Yet Another Lawyer*

    If OP feels so strongly that he cannot properly evaluate an employee for a raise without the dog and pony show he detailed, then I would suggest he set these up on an annual basis and let his employees know that he expects to see (1) all their achievements over the past months or years (2) what they plan to achieve in the coming months or years (3) a specific number request for a new salary. It should be on OP to explain what he needs in order to evaluate them AND to coordinate specific times with each employee so that everyone gets a fair shake at it. Otherwise, this has discrimination written all over it.

  24. Anonymous Engineer*

    YESSSSS to everything in Allison’s answer!!!

    Also, LW, your question makes me think either your company does not have an effective performance review process, or you’re not using it effectively. Otherwise you’d KNOW what your employees had accomplished over the last year, what they plan to take on in the future, and whether you’re on the same page about their development and how their pay is keeping up with it.

  25. The Supreme Troll*

    Absolutely agree 100% with Alison here. As an employee, I wouldn’t feel great if my manager expected me to prove that I deserve more money (by showing documented evidence of what I had achieved in my job role). I would have thought that my manager already knew well enough of my performance that I am going above and beyond my job duties (which I really do try to, and I don’t want to come off conceited…).

  26. Anon for this*

    Compensation is my bread and butter. I live, breath and eat this stuff. I wish all managers care a whole lot more about rewarding people appropriately. If you advocate for your employees and get pushed back, ask for market data to prove you wrong. Because the market is warming up. Your employees have options now. When you come to me freaking out about your best performer leaving and getting a $20,000 pay bump, there is nothing I can do since you decide to cheap out for the last 5-10 years. This money doesn’t come from the sky. Somewhere, it needs budgeting and since you didn’t, nothing can happen. Part of your job as a manager is to take care of your people so they don’t worry about who has their back.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Absolutely agree. I really hate the “it’s not in the budget” excuse. You know what else isn’t in the budget? Replacing your best employee at the current market rate.

      1. PB*

        Yep. At my last job, I tried to negotiate a raise. My argument was that I had two master’s degrees and eight years of experience (five there), therefore I should not be making the minimum that a person with one master’s and no experience would make. This wasn’t hyperbole; they were paying me their minimum after five years of high performance. Their answer to my request? “Pay increases create disparities.” Well, no kidding!

        So, I took a new job where my pay was $10,000/year higher.

      2. medium of ballpoint*

        This, definitely this. At my last company, there was significant difficulty retaining staff of color. After I’d been there for five years, I went to my boss, outlined all I’d been accomplishing (including making inroads as one of the few POCs on staff) and asked for a raise. He said that was only possible when I’d accomplished X, and I reminded him I’d accomplished X several months prior. He then gave me the budget excuse, said he’d try to make a case to the higher ups, and then never followed up. I checked in with him and got crickets in return. I amped up my job hunt and ended up taking a new job with much less stress, a much better boss, and a $15k salary bump. They lost me and another POC about a month later.

        When I had my exit interview, I was crystal clear that it was his lack of response (and the disrespect inherent in that) that caused me to quit. If he’d at least made a case for me, even if there was no raise, I likely would have stayed (not the best career move, but life, etc.). He didn’t even make an attempt and now they can spend all the money they want on travel, interviews, and relocation services for multiple new staff: money that would have more than covered the raise I asked for and kept me and my institutional knowledge.

  27. Kickin' Crab*

    I work in an environment where raises and payscales are mostly fixed once you’re in, so the only negotiation/salary discussion happens at the time of hire. I recently had offers from three places that started with the same exact same salary, which is about 25% percentile of market rate for this particular position. I pointed this out to each hiring manager, and their responses were telling.

    Hiring Manager 1 said, “You know, we usually take new hires at the 25th percentile, but we really want to you come and you have a related masters degree so I can get approval for the 40th percentile for you (aka 10k more).”

    Hiring Manager 2 said, “We’re not budgeted for that much, I’m sorry. But we can do an early review at 2 years instead of 5 and possibly adjust then.”

    Hiring Manager 3 said, “Why are you looking at market rates? Salary data is all lies. You can’t compare because everyone is different. The only person you should talking to is me.”

    Guess where I ended up?

      1. Kickin' Crab*

        Yup. It was otherwise a great job in a perfect location for me, but attitudes like that… that’s a deal-breaker. When I called my main contact person to tell them that I was turning them down, it was hard, but I was frank about it. As though the 50% turnover rate since HM 3 became department head wasn’t obvious enough.

        (In case it’s relevant, given the discussion upthread, I am an ethnic minority woman with a reputation for being “the quiet one.” I did feel HM 3 punished/berated me for daring to think about salary instead of doing the job out of the goodness of my heart, but it actually was a massive red flag that helped me steer clear of the crazy, so all good in the end.)

  28. Kiki*

    I have asked for a raise once in my life, much in the manner the LW is describing (set the meeting, brought documentation, etc). It did not go well. I was younger and earlier in my career then and the experience definitely scarred me. I don’t think I could ever ask for a raise again. I’m more likely to move to a different company if raises aren’t forthcoming after a few years.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Aww, it can be super disappointing when it doesn’t work out – I have been rejected and it really stung. But I say, keep trying – as the benefits of success even ONE TIME can be worth it. It’s good to ask and be aware the answer may still be no, and that doesn’t mean you “failed” – it means you confirmed you are being paid the most that your employer wants to pay you.

      1. Bea*

        The problem isn’t hearing “No, we can’t offer you a raise right now. Budgets blah blah blah.”

        It’s when you have an unhinged manager who seeks to belittle and hammer you for having the audacity to even ask for more compensation. I’ve seen it before, it’s ugly and that’s what scars people.

        I leave fast. Others just take the beating and do not trust anyone in a place of power.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Yes, that is definitely way outside of norms and a sign of clear dysfunction. I agree, make your exit plans immediately.

  29. CatCat*

    Yeah, the employees who are not asking for raises are probably still going to get them. They’ll just get them by going to another employer.

  30. nnn*

    What jumped out at me is two managers in the same organization have different approaches to how employees get raises. There shouldn’t be this kind of inconsistency within the same organization!

    1. Dankar*

      Oh, good point. I’m guessing that a raise at this org requires the managers to start the process, which one manager is happy to do based on performance and the other (OP) feels the initiative should come from the employee who would receive it.

    2. Nita*

      Yes, very odd. That company seems to have deeper management problems than what’s in OP’s letter.

    3. AMPG*

      I agree with this, especially because the OP describes their team as “large,” which means this is not a mom-and-pop business. There should be consistent policies around compensation.

  31. LQ*

    I wonder if there are problems here since the OP mentions they are a manager of a large team and that they want a lot of the work done for them about the promotion. If that team really is unsustainably large it might make sense for the op to wait if they are overwhelmed with the amount of work in managing an unrealistically large number of people. In which case part of the fix is for the OP to go to their boss and advocate for additional support, maybe team leads, supervisors, whatever the company has, to make it a better structure to reasonably manage the team.

    OP If you’re overwhelmed by the work of identifying top performers and helping them to stay (raises, etc) then advocating for yourself to get help is the most important thing here.

    1. LQ*

      Sorry, raise not promotion. I’ve got something else on my brain. (Which may or may not be factoring in. But the OP did lead with the large team thing…)

  32. Where's the Le-Toose?*

    OP, as a fellow manager, I’m just really stunned about rewarding moxie and gumption. Those are the two least important metrics to rely on. I think folks above have given you great alternatives on what to do, such you initiating an annual review regarding salary.

    I manage at a government agency, so I don’t have to worry about salaries because those occur based on time in service and it happens automatically (absent a PIP) until the employee promotes to a higher rank. But I do have a say on who promotes. And I don’t wait for employees to come to me and say they want a promotion. I actively seek out employees who I think would make great Senior LLama Wranglers, or fantastic Supervising Llama Wranglers, and I mentor them and encourage them to apply for a promotion when one opens up.

    I do all this because I want my best employees to one day either replace me or be next to me at the management table deciding in what direction our agency needs to go. I don’t want to collaborate with the subpar manager with moxie. I want the best and brightest to be in the room.

    Please reverse course today!

    1. mf*

      “I’m just really stunned about rewarding moxie and gumption” –> Me too. I think we’ve all had that one coworker who has TONS of moxie but doesn’t have the work ethic or skills to back it up.

      1. RB*

        There’s one or more in every workplace, and I’ll bet if salaries were less private, we’d see that they’re the ones making more than everyone else.

  33. Former Retail Manager*

    It just sounds to me like the OP is shifting her own managerial duties onto her employees. Reviewing work on a consistent basis and really keeping track of each employees accomplishments/opportunities for improvement takes a great deal of time and effort and it’s something that good managers do. Stop asking your employees to do your job for you/make your job easier. Your employees shouldn’t have to make their case for why they deserve a raise.

    1. Anon because this might be too identifying*

      Exactly. If you don’t know if an employee deserves a raise until they compile all that information for you, I suspect you’re not managing them very well.

      1. RB*

        This is the part that really has me baffled about his mindset. It is weird to want your staff to prove themselves to you when their work is already performing that function.

      2. Em Too*

        I can see that bit – with a large team, it’s easy for that extra project someone did 11 months ago for a different division to slip your mind, or for you not to realise that other project was significantly harder because it required figures that weren’t on the usual system or somthing… which is a reason to ask everyone clearly and regularly for a summary of achievements. Not this.

  34. mf*

    OP, the obvious outcome to your system is that the people who get raises will be the ones who ask for them. And often people who are willing to ask for what they want =/= people who are the best performers.

    This means that you’re completely doing away with pay for performance. You are rewarding chutzpah, not excellence.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Since the OP thinks people should ask for raises, I assume the OP asks for raises. There’s probably no way of knowing if the boss expects things to happen this way.

  35. Jay*

    At my first job out of univeristy was at a large multi-national corporation. I was under the impression that everything was very open and documented. We had annual raises once a year around April as a merit increase from our previous year’s work (this was your opportunity to also demonstrate and ask for a higher raise). It wasn’t until I was at the company for over two years that I heard through co-workers that there was an unofficial second time of year raise time every September…but only in my office and only those that asked. Well how the heck was I supposed to know that? I dutifully went and asked and got myself a raise – I was even back-paid for it…but seriously, how ridiculous is that? Employees could go years missing out and only because they weren’t in the know. Even though I got my raise I actually ended up feeling cheated and the whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth with my office’s management team. Please don’t be that manager.

    1. CM*

      So much this!!! More than once, I have been in the position of hearing, way after the fact, that there were unwritten rules that certain people knew about and I didn’t. It sucks and I felt really devalued and demoralized each time I learned that no matter how I performed, what mattered was whether I was in the club.

      OP, if you have expectations that affect people’s compensation, you need to make them clear and equal. Train each employee on exactly how and when to ask and what documentation to prepare, and give them regular openings to ask. (But better yet, listen to the advice of those who say you shouldn’t make your employees jump through all these hoops — it’s to everybody’s benefit if you pay them what their work is worth.)

  36. Student*

    There’s a huge information disparity that works against your employees asking for a raise. You know what your employees all make, and probably what similar people in your org make. If your org is like nearly every org on the planet, your employees do not know what their peers make, and your org and local social conventions probably discourage them from discussing it among themselves.

    If I don’t know that the biggest slacker in my peer group is getting paid significantly more than me, then I don’t know that I need to ask for a raise. You, as the manager, should be able to see such pay/productivity disparities and should actively fix them. You should do this because, if I find out through the grape vine that my slacker peer is getting a lot more money than me one day, I will leave for an org that values my productivity. Then you will gradually be stuck with over-paid, under-producing employees.

    1. accidental manager*

      When an employer creates/tolerates a custom of requiring employees to create the case for them getting raises, the employer is also fostering an atmosphere where people want to know what all their co-workers make. If that information is not already commonly available, the employer is providing an incentive to snoop, gossip, and pry.

      That may not be a desirable consequence.

  37. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    I’ve managed over a hundred people in my life. Some were incredible. Some were not. All of them (except one who was let go) has gotten a raise. NONE ever had to ask me for that raise. They may have wanted a larger raise, but I NEVER waited to reward performance.

    Two simple questions for you, OP: (1) did you ask for every raise you ever received, and (2) if not, did you get raises anyway? If the answer is yes, then you should have refused them due to your lack of initiative.

  38. NewBoss5000*

    At my institution the only raises that have been given out as long as I’ve been here are %1-%3 percent “merit” raises. Basically, they’re COL increases (which don’t come close to covering the increased cost of living in this area, but that’s another story) that they’ve forced managers to treat as merit raises. Which means if I want to evaluate my staff appropriately, I have to live with the fact that I’m denying them a COL increase. Or I can make sure they get that raise at the cost of being clear about how they’re performing. And because this is an institution with very strict job titles and pay ranks, I can do little to improve my staff’s pay.

    My institution is also infamous for underpaying pretty much across-the-board (though our benefits are okay). For example, at a similar institution in the same region, the average salary for a person of my rank is 12% higher than my current salary. In addition, I am aware that others who are equivalent or less than my rank are paid more than I am because their positions are considered more high-profile than mine, even though I have worked here longer. There is a group here working to rectify pay equity issues, but they haven’t made much progress. I have applied for other jobs, but have been preparing documentation to request a raise as well.

    This is a frustrating situation overall, and I wish my administration would work harder to reward their strong employees (then perhaps we wouldn’t also have a mysteriously high rate of turnover in our department).

  39. Yorick*

    OP, your employees are now spending what’s probably a good chunk of time preparing a presentation about why they deserve a raise instead of either doing their actual jobs or having some downtime that might let them avoid burnout. This isn’t great for your department or the company.

    1. SallytooShort*

      I doubt they are doing that because I doubt this expectation has ever been properly communicated to them. So, they don’t know they have to do this to get a raise. And most of them probably don’t do this.

      I think this because taking the initiative to figure this out seems to be part of the “point.”

      1. Yorick*

        Sure, but the ones who do are likely spending their work time to come up with the “I want a raise” pitch.

  40. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I say take it one step further. Have them beg for every paycheck. Tell them to come prepared with a “Why I believe I need medical insurance”-themed song and dance during the open enrollment week. With each PTO request, have them submit an itinerary of the vacation and a document outlining how the vacation would enrich them and increase their value as an employee.

    Seriously. Every single place I’ve worked, we’ve had annual performance reviews, and raises that were tied to the marks that we got on our performance. It works. Why replace something that works with something else that doesn’t?

    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      That was a feature in the dystopian satire “Jennifer Government”. Employees had to pitch for their pay at performance evaluations and those with bad pitches could have their salary reduced or get fired. OP, don’t have any management practices that would fit in a dystopian satire.

  41. Observer*

    I want to highlight what Alison said about creating disparities. The chances that you are creating gender based disparities is close to 100%. It’s not quite as bad for minorities, but still pretty high.

    The reason is that not only are you requiring that they ask, but you are requiring that they ask in a fairly assertive way – something that women are generally punished for doing. So even if you do not punish women for being “aggressive and bitchy” when they ask for a raise this way, they probably won’t do it, because the lessons of their careers and that of their peers and mentors has taught them that it’s dangerous to do so.

    1. DumbQuestion*

      I don’t think you meant it this way, but there are minorities who are women and it’s been shown time and time again that white women “outearn” (at least on a median hourly scale) black and Hispanic men and women.

      1. Observer*

        Oh, sure. If you are dealing with women of color, fugedabout it. They are getting hit from both sides.

  42. Rincat*

    OP, the things you are asking an employee to present to you in documentation are things you should already be aware of, especially if you are doing regular performance reviews. I don’t expect every manager to know the exact ins and out of my week, especially if they have a large team, but to be entirely unaware of their major accomplishments and goals sounds like a very uninvolved, hands-off manager. This is not a good way to manage. I have left managers like this. My last manager was this way, and I *did* ask him for a raise and provided him documentation in the manner you described. He was very surprised about everything I did! And he was also skeptical. So you are also placing a burden on the employee to “prove” herself to you. How can you trust what this person says if you’re not already aware of their accomplishments and goals? I could see this method really being abused by people who might inflate their worth or claim credit for others’ work.

    However, if you are involved and you simply want the employee to come prepared with a presentation – again, why? This seems like unnecessary busy work. Overall, it just sounds like you’re saying you will advocate for people who have gumption, not people who are excellent employees. Excellent, raise-deserving employees come in all flavors.

  43. Tuesday Next*

    Maybe sleep deprivation is causing me to overreact, but more I think about this, the more it bothers (infuriates) me.

    Why do people have to motivate for a raise if you *know* they deserve one? If you’re a good manager then you *know* what they’ve achieved – they shouldn’t have to sell that to you. Making them come to you, cap in hand, seems manipulative and distasteful. As though you’re exploiting the power imbalance. (Also as though you don’t really know what’s going on in your team, and you’re relying on the people who’ve performed well to let you know about it. Not a good look for a manager.)

    You’re going to lose good staff for a dumb reason. Because they will leave. How will you explain that to *your* manager?

    1. Yorick*

      I don’t mean to say that the OP is like this, but it would look like the boss just wants to feel big and powerful with employees crawling in to beg for raises.

      1. AKchic*

        I’m going to flat out say that the LW makes him/herself look this way. I’m not going to pull my punches or sugarcoat it.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          I think y’all are reading too much into this, and not considering that there are business situations where OP’s 1 and 2 are *normal* requirements. The comments about ‘rewarding moxie’ are fair, but assuming OP is on a power trip is a big stretch.

  44. Gadget Hackwrench*

    Another reason a lot of young people, of ANY gender don’t ask for raises is that MANY people who joined the workforce in the past 10 years have held jobs for wages well below what they were worth, with workloads well beyond what any one person could be expected to be able to do, because there were 40 more applicants in the wings who would take that job if they couldn’t soldier on with a smile on their face. That kind of experience in one’s early career puts the fear-of-god into a person about asking for ANYTHING from their employer beyond what was originally offered.

    And if OP doesn’t give that kind of a person a raise, they’re not going to ask for it. They’re just going to see this as yet another company that wants to get the most work out of them for the least money and they WILL move on, in search of what they consider to be the ultimate rarity of an employer that is actually going to pay them a wage that is comfortable and lets them make payments towards their mountains of student debt.

    1. Kiki*

      +1000 on this. I graduated into the recession and was one of the many people working multiple jobs in order to make rent. Even though I know that both the economy and my own position in the workforce are better now, my previous experiences definitely shaped how I approach things like compensation and work-life balance.

    2. artgirl*

      Also millenials are judged harshly, publicly, and regularly as “entitled” for things like asking for raises when boomers don’t think they are deserved. Unless your employees know you expect this kind of request, there will surely be some people working hard, keeping their heads down, and hoping to be recognized lest they be seen as unappreciative and over-confident.

        1. Gadget Hackwrench*

          Where in the HELL are all these beanbag gourmet food demanding Millennial? Most of us consider ourselves supremely lucky if our job has HEALTH INSURANCE. *Mutters in a corner.*

    3. Gazebo Slayer*


      (And even people who graduated more than 10 years ago will likely feel and behave similarly if they’ve had bad experiences with work.)

  45. EddieSherbert*

    I got an unexpected/unasked for raise last month – and one point I’ll add is that being recognized for all your hard work… without having to ask your boss to recognize it… is great for moral!

  46. Anonymeuse*

    Am I the only one who’s confused by the requirement to outline “what they plan to achieve in the coming months”? I can see why someone asking for a raise should be ready to justify it based on their past performance and recent projects, but upcoming goals? Either you’re compensating employees who’ve proved themselves to be valuable or you’re looking at non-salary ways to reward them (if that’s their thing, anyway), but why are you making them justify a raise on both a past and future basis?

    And isn’t it weird to let the employee decide how much extra responsibility they plan to assume, then use that to justify a higher salary?

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      In my large company, it’s normal to know what changes might be upcoming (new order system, new supplier) and to include them on your annual goals. New responsibilities would not be normal, but new skills are a good filler when I have a rare year without any major systems / vendor changes.

      1. Anonymeuse*

        Yeah, I get how it’s relevant to discuss with your manager (I work in government and it’s part of our performance review process), but why would it be a pre-requisite for raises? I thought a raise was supposed to reflect your contributions to the business and your current market value, not your expected future market value.

  47. Jessica*

    This is pretty terrible. I hate looking for work with the blazing fire of a thousand suns because no matter what line of work you’re trying to be in, looking for it is like a sales job, which I hate and am terrible at. I’m widely acknowledged to be excellent at my actual job, and I spend my work time on accomplishing my actual job duties, not on self-promotion.
    If I worked for you, when I realized that no matter how great a job I did, ever getting my contributions recognized with a raise would depend on showing gumption, crafting a sales pitch, and navigating the weird murky tangle of bias and discrimination that is trying to get anything done in the corporate workplace while being a woman? I’d probably start looking for other jobs. At least that would consist of making a sales pitch to someone who MIGHT appreciate and respect me, instead of someone I now know doesn’t. And my bitterness about it would be directly proportional to the number of years I’d worked for you before realizing this was your policy.

  48. Bingo*

    I have never asked for a raise at my current job, despite receiving 10 raises in the past 5 years (seriously, I just counted them) not including the increase I received with my promotion. I work hard and “pay my dues” so the company will hopefully recognize my contribution, and the regular merit increases plus out-of-cycle merit increases tells me that I am valued and that my hard work is recognized. This is one of the reasons I still work where I do, and intend on staying as long as they’ll have me. For the record, I’m a millennial, so to get us to stick around at a job long-term is no easy feat. This is one way to do it.

    If my company expected me to present a business case for my raise every single time I would choose to no longer work here.

    1. MommyMD*

      I get a raise year in year out. The way it should be. If an employee doesn’t deserve this, fire them. Because all decent employees do.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I get a COLA every year, but I don’t call that a merit raise – somebody has to make the case for that to happen, either me or my boss. I wouldn’t expect one every year. But I’m in nonprofit, not some super in-demand field. I feel pretty lucky to get the COLA.

  49. One legged stray cat*

    I was hired for one low paying office job, but when I got there, they had me doing a completely different job of a much higher skill set. I ended up excelling at that and they continued to add to the workload. I was eventually doing three times the output of coworkers with the same title and was still paid half of everyone in the department. I waited four years for them to fix my salary, thinking they were not paying me more simply because I technically didn’t have as many years of experience of the job as others. After four years I picked up enough about others salary that I realized I was being taken advantage of. I was ready to quit. I finally talked to a manager about a pay raise to the standard rate of my job. They gave me it, but by that point I was a changed worker. Seeing how they were not willing to make things fair without me demanding it, I no longer had much interest in doing things above and beyond for the company. I did exactly what I was paid to do and had no motivation to do more. I did my work but did not push myself to go faster or improve the processes. I took my earned vacation days and did not really care about having them on days that would be easier for the company. I refused to miss a break or cut my lunch short. After one year working with such low motivation, I quit. They ended up having to hire three people to replace me, all with starting wages higher than what I ended with.

    Pay people what they deserve. Companies that only make things fair when asked develop employees who only care about protecting their own interests .

    1. I Like Pie*

      This is so relatable that it hurts. Even when we give companies a chance to right the wrong, it seems so hard for them do it.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      One of my cautionary employment tales, observed thirdhand, was the temp who kept being put off for becoming permanent. For valid reasons–budget, layoffs, immediate supervisors wanted it but the decision was above them. By the time they were laid off they were bitter and doing the grudging minimum, and the immediate supervisors who would have given them glowing recommendations a year or two earlier were now tempered.

      Try to leave before you’re bitter.

    3. RES ADMIN*

      Similar story here, too. I am not the type to ever ask for a raise or even help. Over the course of several years, I asked for training after I was bumped up to a newly created position (“not in the budget”), I asked for help because it was more work than one person could handle, esp. without backup (“not in the budget” and “stop asking”), and I finally asked for a raise (“not in the budget”). Keeping in mind that they were hiring new people in that unit all the time at much higher pay rates and no experience. So I took a demotion (3 steps down) to another unit–with a very large pay increase–and my old unit hired 4 people to replace me, all at much more than I was making. Old manager hasn’t spoken to me since I turned in my notice. No exit interview. Nothing.

  50. I Like Pie*

    This post is so timely! My company (about 30 employees) doesn’t give raises or bonuses – though the 4 sales reps do get a commission on top of their salary. After taking a 10% pay cut 3 years before, I asked for a raise in Aug ’16. (I had taken on more work from a co-worker who was laid off, plus new clients came in that went to me.) The boss offered to have one of our outside clients pay me $15/hr to work for them on my 2 furlough days. So I’d be losing 2 days off, and making $0.10/hr more than I did working for him FT on those 16 hours. I ended up getting back my 10% pay cut, but still losing furlough days, which gave me a raise of about $1/hr.

    I asked again in January, showing all the new clients I’ve taken on (I went from 15 to 22) that at least 3 more were coming on board within the first 6 months of the year, what personal goals I set for myself (I’m the only one who does my job, so I set goals that will make my life easier, which in turns makes it more efficient for me to do my job) and offered a suggestion for new goals this year. I asked for my salary to be closer to those in similar positions. I have to wait for him to receive his “end of year” reports – which I know he got last week. He won’t follow up with me unless I bug him.

    6 years of work, which he acknowledges to be excellent, happy clients all around, and I am left to basically plead my case to get more money. Meanwhile, I know the other ladies in the office are all under paid, and that the men (btw, all sales reps – the ladies handle all the admin & production work. W/O us, there’s nothing to sell, no one to ship, and no one to collect) don’t notice the difference in the way the ladies are treated by comparison. And that is why I’ll take a job offer that starts out paying me less; because at least I know now not to sign on with a company who doesn’t value their employees or their work.

    1. slick ric flair*

      Well, without those sales reps, you wouldn’t have any bills to send or packages to ship, so that one goes both ways.

      1. fdjla'*

        Her point is that the men who do sales are more valued and treated better than the women who do admin work, but that admin work is important too. I don’t see how your comment is helpful, because she’s not saying “WE ARE THE BEST” but “we also are important.”

      2. JHunz*

        Companies that treat non-sales employees badly all end up selling garbage, because everyone who’s competent at producing whatever is getting sold will see exactly how much they are valued and get out.

      3. Gadget Hackwrench*

        Yeah, that’s what management told us at my most horrible job, every time Sales promised someone an irrealistic timescale to make a buck. They got the big bonus for the sale and those of us actually developing the custom software we sold got a bunch of extra work and extra hours for no extra pay. It SUCKED.

      4. Lil Fidget*

        You could just as easily say, without a dependable product that is delivered correctly, sales wouldn’t have anything to sell.

    2. I Like Pie*

      One rep that I work with is notorious for making special deals with his customers. (We make DVDs) He will send me a list of 10-12 scenes to put together to make an “exclusive” for the customer to sell in their stores; in turn the customer orders a larger quantity. He ALWAYS says “you’ll have it in a couple of weeks.” He knows that’s an unrealistic timeline, so each time I tell him, “based off our current priorities and the workload involved in this project, the earliest it could arrive is X weeks, no later than Y Weeks.” My team always manages to get it done w/in about 3 weeks, I get a “hey, thanks!” and he gets an extra pay bump. Every. Month.

      And yes, without sales I’d be making nothing to sell (though not true, as licensing is big in our business and they need me for that) – my point was that they’re treated as Gold while the support staff are often told, “well if you don’t like doing your job, we should look for someone else.” (Actual words said to a coworker.) Sales reps say jump, the boss says “how high do you want them all to jump?” The ladies who support and the guys in our warehouse do not get anything close to the consideration that they do.

      1. Clewgarnet*

        I used to work for an ISP with one salesman who was notorious for selling things we didn’t actually offer. We’d then have to scramble to design a solution that would do what the customer wanted, usually spending more on new kit than the customer was bringing in, and ending up with a network that was even harder to manage and support because there were so many special, one-off solutions in place.

        But the salesman still got his commission.

  51. stitchinthyme*

    I have only worked at one place that did not give me at least a little bit of a raise every year; even the ones that were struggling did. And now I’m wondering if the boss that didn’t thought like the OP — I was there nearly five years and only got one raise in all that time, so finally I had enough and found a new job. I told the boss when I left (it was a small company so the owner was my boss) exactly why and he protested that he’d been about to give me one…but as far as I was concerned, it was too little, too late. One of my coworkers had left a couple years before that because he’d found out he was being paid far less than his market value, and when he asked for a raise, the boss said no — only to offer one when the coworker gave his notice. Coworker said, “I shouldn’t have to threaten to quit in order to get what I’m worth” and left anyway.

    1. stitchinthyme*

      Also, every company I’ve ever worked at (except the one that didn’t give raises) has had regular performance evaluations. I don’t *need* to document why I deserve a raise; that’s what my performance review is for.

    2. Close Bracket*

      > Coworker said, “I shouldn’t have to threaten to quit in order to get what I’m worth” and left anyway.

      My hero

  52. Observer*

    OP I’m going to join the others and ask why you are doing this? Why is this important to you?

    People have covered much of what puzzles me. But one other thing jumped out at me. You say that if someone just asks causally you don’t see that as a “real” ask. Why? Do you really think that someone who asks you for a raise REALLY is NOT asking for one if they don’t have the whole dog and pony show? This just makes no sense. But that’s the only explanation I can think of that doesn’t make you look like a power-tripping jerk.

    Maybe I’m missing something. What is it?

    1. AKchic*

      I have to agree here. The whole “wine me dine me” thing stuck out like a sore thumb waiting for another hammer strike.
      Casual “I’d like a raise” isn’t a real ask. This person needs an actual sit-down meeting. With a presentation, a highlight reel showing what this employee has done for Manager recently to earn extra dolla dolla bills, and a convincing “ask not what our company can do for you” speech about what the employee will do for the company for the next 6 months to prove can continue to earn that walk-around money. Who cares that they are consistently good employees (otherwise, why would they still be employed?), no – this Manager needs to be dazzled, so get to dazzling. Tap shoes are optional.

      1. CM*

        Also, the casual “I’d like a raise” person needs to be coached in how to ask for a raise. The manager shouldn’t be like a despot, deciding at his whim whether this person pleases him and rewarding them accordingly. If an employee is asking for a raise in a way that’s not appropriate, a good manager should say, “Here’s what you need to do if you’re looking for a raise,” and lay out steps and establish expectations. After that, it’s fair to be annoyed if the employee comes back and casually asks for a raise again without following those steps.

  53. Indie*

    Oh good lord. When the staggering BBC wage gap re race and gender was revealed one of the clueless excuses put forward was ‘but they didn’t ask!’ So what? Are your mouths broke? Then actor Tom Chambers helpfully reveals the men dont ask for themselves, but for their stay at home wives… *facepalm* Wives who can’t ask at their own jobs mayhap? LW, if you don’t wake up you’re going to have the same egg on your face that the Beeb is currently clearing up. Don’t reward the guy who is better at living up to a male provider stereotype than he is at his job. Don’t reward the kid who went to a privileged school where he was taught to put himself forward regardless of personal merit. Some people assume everyone had this upbringing (do you?) without stopping to think what it would actually be like if everyone were like this (it wouldn’t help managers filter any more than if no one did it). Besides which, remember racism and sexism are invisible; how are people supposed to know you won’t punish them for what some see as overstepping?

  54. NW Mossy*

    OP, you can skip the middleman here and assume that everyone who reports to you wants a raise, because the overwhelming majority of people would like to be paid more. This is a feature of people trading labor for money in a capitalist society, and you don’t need to prove an in-built feature.

    What I can see an argument for is disproportionately rewarding employees who are consistently engaging in behavior that yields strong business results. In a lot of organizations, those behaviors can include initiative, the ability to advocate effectively for needed resources, presentation skills, and a drive to tackle problems rather than set them aside as intractable. Your thesis-defense-for-a-raise approach can show you some of these behaviors too, but it’s a lot more direct to interrogate their actual behavior and performance in their jobs. Otherwise, you’re looking through a dirty lens for the info you need, rather than moving it out of the way and looking clearly at your object of interest.

    1. Gingerblue*

      “OP, you can skip the middleman here and assume that everyone who reports to you wants a raise, because the overwhelming majority of people would like to be paid more. This is a feature of people trading labor for money in a capitalist society, and you don’t need to prove an in-built feature.”

      This is the best comment.

  55. AliceW*

    Maybe the LW only has adequate employees so he doesn’t care if they leave. As a manager, I know which of my employees make my life a whole lot easier. I try to get such employees as much money as possible in either a raise, promotion and/or bonus. Those employees who are dispensable, I don’t advocate for, but I will still try and get them a COL raise.

    1. Serin*

      Giving raises only to people who put together a presentation advocating for them is a great way to wind up with only adequate employees. The ones who would rather work than self-promote will go do so elsewhere.

    2. SallytooShort*

      Maybe all the stellar employees left for places where they were properly compensated without having to beg.

  56. AnonFormerAssistantNowBoss*

    I don’t know how to handle my current situation. Like Alison says, I don’t think I should have to ask for a raise.

    I am making $45,000 less per year than my predecessor. It’s been really getting to me lately. He had a master’s, and 15+ years of experience in the field, but I am doing the same work. He lasted 8 months then was terminated. Since his termination, nearly two and a half years ago, I took on all of his duties.

    I report to the president of the company who often makes remarks about how he was the company’s biggest hiring mistake and tells me things like “Don’t be like -predecessor- or else”…if I ask too many questions, other Execs will say things like “Predecessor got too involved. He was a pot-stirrer. He pushed for too many changes.” Statements that, to me, seem like warnings to back down.

    While I can understand I don’t necessarily deserve that high salary yet…I feel like I should be a lot closer to it than I am. I’ve received one raise…went from $38k per year to $44k over the past year and a half (the first year after her termination they didn’t give me any pay increase because they thought they would hire a replacement…then they said I was doing a great job and gave me a 6k/yr raise). I have access to all employee’s salaries and know that predecessor, and his predecessor (a woman, so I don’t think this is a sex-discrimination issue) made 90k and 95k salaries.

    I feel so stuck. I feel like I need more money, but that I am being told if I ask for it I will end up like my predecessor/former boss and get the boot. I like my company and the managers seem to give frequent raises/promotions…(they really don’t like it when employees ask for raises because they feel like they give them when they are deserved)…a 6k raise was decent…but I feel like even if I try to get to 55-60k, they’ll just get rid of me and bring on someone with a degree.

    I keep telling myself that If I can last another 6 months in this position, I can -hopefully- find a position with another company. 3 years of experience as sole -insert my title here- at a medium sized company hopefully would count for something.

    1. Liz T*

      Oh my goodness you’re making HALF what your predecessor made???

      Please ask a for a salary adjustment–you’re still less expensive than a new hire with a degree. Saying “don’t stir the pot” could mean a lot of different things, but it sounds like your predecessor didn’t get fired for negotiating his salary! Also keep an eye out for other jobs because this is ridick.

    2. J.B.*

      I might put together documentation in this case – a couple of paragraphs of what you bring and what salary increase you want based on that. And recycle that documentation into cover letters. And IMO start looking. Unless your previous stays were short there’s not that much difference between 2.5 years and 3 years. Good luck!

    3. AlwhoisthatAl*

      HALF the salary, they are taking the mickey there. It sounds like they are deliberately trying to keep you “meek and mild” so it doesn’t cost them money. Look at what you have achieved over the past couple of years, they said you are doing a great job and you have been. “While I can understand I don’t necessarily deserve that high salary yet…” – says who ? says the people who don’t want to give you any money, well they would say that wouldn’t they.
      Basically you have taken over from a highly qualified predecessor – you have expanded to fit that role in just a couple of years and been a much better person to work with. They should be worshipping you as a goddess at this point !
      I believe they are treating you very poorly and making the massive mistake of assuming you are the person they first employed.
      Personally I would a) start enquiring about having your pay brought up to the correct level and b) start job hunting and c) stop doing yourself down. You have done excellently. “3 years of experience as sole -insert my title here- at a medium sized company hopefully would count for something” no no no no, no hopefully about it. You have done very well, act on it. These people are just trying to bring you down, they possibly even resent how much you have achieved.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        The good news is that you know your work has been valued much higher at some past point – now that you have the experience of doing this work that is worth this much, will somebody else pay you that much? I have had very poor luck at budging employees much higher than their starting salary if I’m not getting a promotion, even if they say I’m doing very well – they’re stuck on my salary as an anchor point, so they feel very generous going 5K up, even if I should be making 20K more. But … usually that should mean you can leverage your experience to another job that DOES value you 20K more. Start looking.

    4. ANon*

      Ok, I’m going to play devil’s advocate here.

      Your predecessor had a higher degree and roughly, say, 10 more years of experience than you. It is very, very likely that you’re not doing *exactly* what predecessor is doing, and/or that there are different expectations for you vs predecessor. Think of it this way: if you went back and got a masters, would you want to be doing this job in 10 years? And if so, would you have the same expectations for yourself and your level of work now vs in 10 years from now?

      My guess is that, while they kept the same title and the same general responsibilities, your company decided they didn’t need someone to perform at as high a level as your predecessor. The role has changed/morphed. This would be a totally valid reason to have different expectations regarding salary. Now, does it mean you’re NOT being grossly underpaid? Maybe, maybe not. You need to do research to see what generally is the norm for someone in your role, given your level of experience.

      That said, I see no reason why you can’t ask for a raise. Them saying predecessor stirred the pot is not implying that you, too, would be stirring the pot to ask for a raise. I would just be mindful that your company probably doesn’t expect you to have the same salary as someone with significantly more experience than you.

      1. ANon*

        Caveat: Some companies will pay someone more than someone else solely because the former has more experience/education. That’s not right, assuming the two people are performing exactly the same role. So, if you know for a fact the predecessor was doing the exact same thing as you, then your company is being unfair and you should speak up.

  57. it manager*

    Additionally, companies need an actual way for bosses to get raises for their employees. In a previous position, I had an excellent employee who more than deserved both a raise and a promotion. She was my best employee, lowest paid, and lowest titled employee. I spoke to my boss about getting her a raise and promotion. He agreed she deserved one and would always say he was working on it. Every week for a year I asked in my 1:1 where that raise and promotion was. Every time “he’s working on it.” Eventually *I* quit. She got the raise and promotion within a month.

  58. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

    I once had an excellent manager who, when he realized that new hires weren’t willing to work for our company’s pay rates, hired good new people at 115% of our salary-and then bumped us all up 20% to thank us for longevity. Miss him. Sigh.

  59. Emily*

    Strange how much this letter writer’s logic reminds me of self-proclaimed “anti-feminists” who manage to simultaneously believe that the gender pay gap is somehow both fictional *and* women’s fault. Probably just a huge coincidence!

  60. CBH*

    I personally don’t agree with your point of view on requiring people to ask for raises. I think a lot of what I am thinking and debating has been said above.

    I am curious though, do you ask for your own raises in the same matter?

  61. AKchic*

    LW – I can tell you from experience that if I have to beg to be adequately compensated for my worth, I know that I will be better valued elsewhere. I spent 8 years being underpaid working in the non-profit sector. I understood that I would be underpaid because that is the nature of the non-profit world. My benefits weren’t the best, but my leave time was excellent. It was a trade-off and I accepted that. Once I got to the point where I could no longer tolerate my supervisor or coworker, and that the negatives to my personal well-being outweighed the positives, it was time to go. I more than doubled my salary by leaving, as well as dropped the majority of my stress.

    If you value your employees, you wouldn’t act like some dictatorial parent smugly looking down on errant children asking for arcade money.

  62. J.B.*

    I prepared documentation to get a raise once. That documentation was because I was so incredibly angry that I was making less than the average salary of male employees a level below mine (and that was 20% less than male employees at my level). It got me closer to parity but the whole process was sucky. A few years later another female employee and I got a correction without needing to ask for it and that led to much better feelings.

  63. anonasaurus*

    I have been laid off* for asking for a raise after assuming the work of 2 employees and the reporting/sales projection duties of a C-level executive. I made $15/hr when I was let go. Many companies, especially in at-will states can and routinely do punish women for asking for what they deserve. It took me years to advocate for myself again & even with a much more protected job, asking for a salary equal to the person in the role prior to me – I was promoted – has created tension with my new manager. I still make 7k less a year then she did and my old role hasn’t been replaced.

    *fired for having a bad attitude, after my third attempt to have a meeting to discuss a salary more in line with my increased duties. I was asked to produce written documentation (which I did) and then punished for doing so.

  64. Newt*

    LW, there’s research to suggest that women who ask for raises are seen negatively by their employers, compared to men who ask for raises who are more likely to be seen as go-getters and ambitious. The same is true across race lines, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it translates across others as well.

    This means that women and POC and disabled folks and such are less likely to ask for a raise, because they may have learned in the past that this backfires and has a negative effect on their careers.

    If you expect your staff to ask for raises in order to receive them, you’re privileging the members of your team who have already been taught to believe they deserve more for what they do, who have already been taught to be assertive and aggressive in their careers. Those aren’t necessarily always the best performers in a team. And regardless, you’re at risk of creating a pretty monochrome top-tier of your team.

    1. SallytooShort*

      And those resentments can linger. So, a woman or POC may get their raise but they’re “attitude” or “not willing to be a team player” will be held against them in other contexts.

      Most people don’t intentionally do this. But assertive or proactive women and POC are just viewed as more aggressive.

  65. hmmmm*

    LW, I don’t mean this to be negative, I mean this from a very constructive place, but has it occurred to you that you are a bad manager? Like you sort of forgot along the way that you kind of made up all the rules for how you manage, and they’re all kind of passive-aggressive “challenges” that you designed, and they are not based on best practices or what is best for your direct reports? “Butts in seats” managers are usually the textbook example for this, but they idea that employees need to schedule a meeting with you and give a presentation to get a raise…. despite this not being in your employee handbook as a rule and there not being a defined metric as to what constitutes a good presentation and what amount raise it would make them eligible for triggers all my alarm bells. But you’re here and you’re asking for help! That’s the first step. The next step is comprehensive management training. Maybe even working with a consultant hired by your HR dept?

    1. MommyMD*

      This manager thinks employees should be excessively grateful to have been hired imo. She forgets employees are important and it’s a two way street.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you’re extrapolating too far here. There are lots and lots of managers who are basically good managers but have a couple of beliefs or practices that need to change. In fact, I’d say that’s true of pretty much all good managers. We don’t have any info here about the rest of how the OP approaches her job.

  66. Rainier*

    Oh hey, this is me this week and it sucks. Yes boss, part of your job is knowing how much your employees make and working to ensure that they want to stay. Yes, I’m going to be really angry when I learn I make 20% less than coworkers at my level who all have been here less time than I. I’m glad things leaked and they are forced to do damage control but it shouldn’t have to happen like this. Also best week I’ve had at work in a while program wise so its been a strange one.

  67. ThursdaysGeek*

    And this is one of the reasons it bothers me that initial salary negotiation is so important: you’re rewarding the people you hire that have gumption and negotiate well, which in many cases has nothing to do with the skills you’re hiring them for.

    I’ve been penalized for being a poor negotiator, even thought I’m a good geek. And since I’m nearing the end of my career life, it’s resulted in a lifetime of lower pay. Until I found AAM a few years back, I’d never even heard that negotiating was something to do: here’s our offer, take it or leave it.

  68. SusanIvanova*

    Silicon Valley software engineer here, at the level where “oh hey, a raise would be cool” is pretty much what everyone says. And it would. It says “hey, I appreciate you; here’s how much.” Other than that, it’s not all that exciting, but if we have to ask then there’s a strong implication that the manager doesn’t know or appreciate us, and there are other places which will.

  69. Manager Mary*

    There is a great Forbes article about how people who stay in jobs for more than 2 years get paid 50% less because the average raise is 1-3% while the average job change nets a pay increase of 10-20%. If I know I’m getting a raise (yearly or better) tied to a fair performance evaluation, I’ll stay at a job I like, because job hunting is the absolute worst. But why would I beg for a 3% raise from you when I can go beg someone else for a salary that is equivalent to a 10-20% raise?

  70. Genny*

    This letter bothered me and I couldn’t quite figure out why. Then it occurred to me, this method is essentially stealing from an employee. LW, you’re willing to take more productivity from your employees without adequately compensating them for that added value until they ask you for more. They’re holding up their end of the employment agreement (add value), but you’re not holding up your end (pay them a commensurate rate for the value they bring).

  71. MommyMD*

    LW, remember, employment is a two-way street. You are not some benefactor bequeathing your will on someone. You’re attitude is very dismissive.

  72. P*

    I once worked for a mid-sized company where the brown people who did all the manual labor made minimum wage and would be told “If you don’t like what you’re making, then you can find another job” if they asked for a raise (and of course they were the last people who could afford to be unemployed), while the white people who worked desk jobs received generous promotions, pay raises, bonuses, etc.–presumably because they asked. Arguably the discrimination was based on educational level rather than race, but I thought it was a good representation of how things really work in the U.S.

  73. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    Are your employees aware of your policy with reference to raises? Or are they supposed to be mind readers and magically appear with all the criteria you described? Raises should be 50/50. The employee presents his best case for a raise and you give your best case to give them a fair one.
    I once worked at a job for two years without a raise even though the owner would give them out randomly to other staff. She finally offered me one when I gave my notice. It was too late.

  74. Sandra Stout*

    Another thought: Do you want your employees working hard for you, spending their time doing stuff that needs to be done? Or do you want them working on documenting their achievements so they can make a case for their raises? (Or do you want them doing on that documentation during their own time?) I’m glad I’m retired. I worked hard, every day, often going the extra mile to save a manager who wasn’t very good. The idea that I should have spent even more time and effort making a case for a raise is very distasteful.

  75. Sara without an H*

    Hello, OP,
    You’re probably feeling a little bruised by now. Take a deep breath. Alison is giving you very good advice.

    Does your firm not do annual performance reviews for employees? If you do annual reviews, and do them thoroughly, you should know enough about employee performance to award raises without going through the “asking” process you described in your post. Doing an annual review, but requiring a separate process for requesting raises is extra work for both you and the employee, and redundant work at that.

    In addition to the danger of potential inequities based on race or gender (and earlier posters have done a thorough job of outlining the problems there), your employees really don’t have enough information to ask for a specific amount, ex.: the employee requests 5%, but your HR department says that the raise pool this year is only good for 2%-3%.

    So read the comments, breathe deeply, and stop asking employees to jump through an extra hoop to qualify for raises. Is there someone in your HR Department you could talk with to get a better handle on how your firm approaches raises? Obviously, at least one of your fellow managers is handling it differently.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah I feel like people were pretty harsh with this letter writer. I must be in the minority, because while I believe it’s not best practice to set things up this way, and that OP should make the changes Alison recommends, I don’t view this type of mindset as particularly unusual or so horrifying as others seem to. OP, I hope you don’t feel too piled on. You asked an important question in good faith, and that shows you care.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Yeah, I am again disappointed with the commentariat. Waaaaay too much assumption of bad intent.

        1. slick ric flair*

          100% agreed. Yes, the OP’s expectations of raise negotiations may be a bit off and put too much on the employee’s end, but expecting employees to occasionally advocate for themselves or spending more time/effort developing someone who asks for it doesn’t automatically mean you are a racist.

  76. The Friendly Comp Manager*

    “The other manager disagreed. She said it’s important to reward people regardless of whether they ask, and I shouldn’t put so much emphasis on who asks and who doesn’t.”

    This! Alison, I could not agree more with your response to this question. This may have already been mentioned in the comments somewhere, but the “asking” requirement also can get into the muddy waters of pay equity between males and females, because females tend to — generally and backed by trends research — NOT ask for raises, while males do. So, males should make more, continually, because they tend to not ask for increases?

    That puts a lot of people at a disadvantage. There do exist high performers who do not feel comfortable asking for more. Does that mean they should lag the market? Absolutely not. They should be paid what they are worth.

    Great answer, LW, please reconsider your position on this one!!

  77. SS Express*

    For me this question highlights the fact that some managers really don’t believe their staff should feel “entitled” to compensation/perks/whatever – they believe people should work for it and be grateful for it. I’ve seen so many who won’t let people use their flexitime without a “good reason”, make you feel like you’re asking a big favour when you want to use your leave entitlements, say “oh there you are, I was looking for you, are you okay?!” when someone whose agreed hours are 10-6 instead of 9-5 arrives at 10 on the dot, expect people to come to a performance review with a folder full of evidence as to what rating they deserve. For people whose salary package includes things like cars or housing or gym memberships it’s common to be told “you’re lucky you get this at all” – nope, it’s literally what the company gives you in exchange for your labour and without it they’d need to pay you a lot more.

    Work does not mean I do whatever you want, whenever you want, and think myself lucky to receive anything at all from you. It’s a trade between two parties who each have something the other values. Could I come in only when I felt like it, ignore half the emails in my inbox, tell my boss she’s lucky I do anything at all and still expect my full salary? If my salary hasn’t gone up with inflation can I drop down to 90% of my workload? Of course not, so why would anyone think it should work the other way around?

  78. Wintermute*

    There’s a few things every company gets (in fact I think that’s going to be the title of my book, when I finish writing it “the things every company gets (whether they want it or not)”…)

    the #2 thing every company gets is what they reward. This means you need to align your incentive structure with the behaviors you want to see.

    Are these positions where negotiation skills, self-advocacy, etc. are key job requirements? If not, you are tying the core compensation of the job to things that are not essential to the job.

  79. pcake*

    Making people ask for raises makes no sense at all. Besides the other issues, making people ask for a raise means that introverts are less likely to get raises.

    I wonder if the OP lets his/her reports know that they have to ask for raises or if part of the “test” to get a raise is asking without knowing this.

  80. AlwhoisthatAl*

    What baffles me is the total assumption that somehow employees are being done a favour by being allowed to work for them and their company. In the UK there has always been a them and us situation due to the class system anyway which promoted this. in the ’80s Thatcherism largely destroyed the unions and since then there has been the massive erosion of worker rights, pay rises etc continuing to the present day and the economic insanity of Brexit. This seems to have created the ideal capitalist society where workers can be treated like dirt, fired at a seconds notice, “zero hour” jobs, minimum pay levels etc. What they seem to have not understood is that they have also destroyed company loyalty and any motivation an employee will have. Personally I would do an absolutely cr*p job because if you fire me, I just get another one down the road. What you get is a workforce of 50 people doing the work of 20 dedicated people because they don’t care.
    I have been given a pay rise about 4 times in my working career, twice I have quit the next week after being told there was “no extra money in the budget” and in one place after being told I would get nothing as I “looked a bit scruffy” I spent the next 9 months letting my work slide from Excellent to Non-Conforming while I job-hunted and customised my motorcycle. Treat people badly and they will find a way to get their own back.

    TL;DR – Treat people like that, the good will leave, the ones who don’t will turn bad

  81. AlwhoisthatAl*

    And before I forget, anyone seen the news that in the UK Tesco may have to pay out nearly £4 billion in equal pay wage claims.

  82. AlwhoisthatAl*

    Many years ago I worked on the rigs as a geologist, we had PCs (x86 and 286’s!). A guy back on shore wrote all the programs that we used to monitor our myriad of instruments, detectors etc he’d been with the company for 6 years. This was in Aberdeen in the North of Scotland. Now since he started they had kept him in a portacabin in the office car park which was freezing and he always had heaters on and often a jumper and fingerless gloves. The management used the serviced offices. He designed a system called “Drillbyte” which all the Oil Companies loved – a graphical representation of how we were doing on the drilling.
    He also liked to drink Guinness so we’d always go out for beers when we were passing through, one night we got drunk with a bunch of guys from “rival” companies who had brought their Developers out with them. So he finds out he’s being paid less than half of the salary of the most inexperienced developer.
    Next day, there are ructions. Basically he goes to the MD and says why are you paying me this, look at my working conditions etc MD argues back saying they’ve given him a great chance, lots of experience and finally ends with “I don’t know what you are making all this fuss about we will match the salary of the other guy”. So after keeping him in a portacabin for years, they grudgingly offered him the lowest salary that the other place paid. He walked out, that day. Went over to the other place and was hired on the spot at a very good salary (“You wrote the Drillbyte system ? On your own ?!).
    Next day, phone calls from management to all of us geologists “Erm, hi, do you know anything about the Drillbyte system ?”

  83. boop the first*

    Nice! I have a horrible guilt and self esteem problem, so not only do I ask about money, I feel really uncomfortable and undeserving if managers play like they’re going to bat for me over it, out of the blue. The result of this is winding up being paid an entire $2/hour less than my male coworkers – which is a lot!
    Even if I was directly taking over the exact position of my coworker (who left), I still got $1/hour less than he did. For no reason, just because they knew I would just internalize it and keep my mouth shut. But then new teen hires were getting a *starting* rate much higher than mine, and I was done.

  84. Sheltered*

    Just a curiosity question…do most companies give cost of living increases? Is it based on company size? I work for a small company where the good performers get increases when the budgeting permits. Those who are just so-so at their jobs can work here for years without ever getting any raises.

    As to the original post, why would employees have to detail their achievements? I could understand this scenario is someone were managing a very large department, or were not managing on-site, but I don’t understand why managers would not see what their employees are accomplishing. Again, I’m not working in any of these types of large corporate situations and don’t have the input.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      COLA increases vary by industry and country, I think.

      Your list of why people would need to list achievements is spot-on. It is common in large, multinational companies. My mgr has 20ish employees, and sits on another continent. If he knows my day-to-day work, I’m not being effective. I need an annual list for him to use to advocate for me. These lists are required by my company for all employees; I get to see my mgrs goals, and am encouraged to use it as a guideline for my goals.

  85. OP*

    OP here. Thank you for the insightful comments. Some were not so insightful, veering on hurtful, and I’d like to address one of the worst ones as a way to give a little context: the one that asked if it ever occurred to me that I was a bad manager. I’m a young, female manager. My parents didn’t have traditional corporate-type careers, so I’m not able to ask them for advice on this kind of thing. I’ve struggled to find a mentor. So I think *all the time* about whether I’m a good manager, and whether I belong at all in the corporate world or “deserve” to be there. I care deeply about the people I manage. That’s why yes, I do yearly reviews and offer regular feedback to them. Of course I remember their accomplishments. (Though I think it’s a good idea for employees — including myself! — to keep a running list of things you’re proud of from every year or quarter, in case you forget. I know I sometimes forget.) Everyone on my team gets an annual cost of living/general raise. If they want more, I need a short document (can be a few paragraphs max) about their accomplishments in order to show my boss to make the case for them. Of course they can write these paragraphs during their work hours. Of course I would never demand someone make a powerpoint. And if someone asks casually for a raise, I explain what I need from them to help make the case, and why. I care deeply about diversity and pay inequity and think about that regularly in regards to my team, and use what power I can to address it. I talk to all my employees about their career trajectories and try to find ways to help them achieve those goals — even if it means leaving my team. I know people work for money, and I want to help every one of my employees advance as much as I can.

    I think it can feel really good to smear a fictional evil boss on the internet — I imagine many saw me as the monopoly man with a monocle, cackling at his poor employees who are toiling away for years in corporate obscurity. I assure you that’s not the case. That being said, I do see now that it’s not a good idea to prioritize the “squeaky wheel.”

    I’m worried that some women might take away from this question that they should never ask for a raise. (One person even bragged she’d never done so in her entire career!) Speaking as an employee (rather than a manger), and especially as a young female employee, I would really encourage every woman who thinks she deserves more to ask for it. There are many wonderful resources out there that can help you figure out how to do it, and do it well.

    1. J.B.*


      Thanks for responding and for providing more insight. I think the tough thing from many of our perspective, is – how do employees know they need this? I get needing the documentation (and have done so myself) – but have you ever nudged anyone to say you should probably ask for it? I was grossly underpaid for years because no one bothered to clue me in to this fact.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      This came up a few times upthread, but: How would employees know whether they are being paid the same as people with similar job duties and performance? Unless you’re an office where all salaries are publicly available, I don’t see how employees would know whether they are at the top or bottom of a pay band.

      It sounds like you’re rewarding Fergus, a mediocre employee who figures “Why not ask them to double my salary? You never know if you don’t ask” while punishing Wakeen, an excellent employee who figured the company would pay everyone fairly based on their performance and what was in the budget.

      (And when I had an office job, I knew to ask for a raise at 6 months only because other employees with slightly longer tenure told me. Management–both my regular supervisor and the grandboss I asked for the raise–never mentioned it.)

    3. Snark*

      “I think it can feel really good to smear a fictional evil boss on the internet — I imagine many saw me as the monopoly man with a monocle, cackling at his poor employees who are toiling away for years in corporate obscurity”

      I understand that it can sting to have this kind of aspersion cast at you anonymously, particularly when you know and believe yourself not to be, and I understand the impulse to defend and justify yourself….but please consider that if your practices are eliciting this kind of mental image, this kind of reaction, you may need to sit with this a bit and interrogate yourself and your practices more. Because it’s really clear that you care about diversity and pay equality and your employees’ advancement, but this practice is counterproductive to furthering those goals. I’m quite certain that you’re an excellent manager in many ways, but this is not a good practice, and it’s not a hill to die on.

      One thing in particular jumped out at them:

      “If they want more, I need a short document (can be a few paragraphs max) about their accomplishments in order to show my boss to make the case for them.”

      Is there a reason why you require them to do this, rather than do it yourself? As a manager, I make a practice of tracking employees’ accomplishments and performance, because that’s critically important to managing them – so when it comes time for raises, I already have all the justification I need. It feels, again, like you’re requiring them to show gumption to deserve a gift.

      1. slick ric flair*

        It’s completely reasonable to expect the employee to do some of the legwork here and OP is not a bad manager for not just doing it herself.

        OP I feel for you – you sound like you are trying really hard and making a great effort as a manager. I think you can take some of the comments at face value around clear communication, setting expectations, and supporting employees who might not know exactly how to navigate the raise situation.

        But you don’t have to buy into everything. The person who bragged about never negotiating or the people who have such bad anxiety that they would never ask, does not mean that asking for employees to advocate for themselves is a bad thing. It’s not ‘expecting gumption’, it’s ‘expecting basic social and corporate communication norms’ which is completely reasonable.

        1. Snark*

          It’s completely reasonable to expect the employee to do some of the legwork here

          Hard, hard disagree. OP isn’t a bad manager for it, but this is an inherently managerial task and expecting them to craft a little essay that contains the same information that is (or should be!) covered in their performance review is unreasonable and duplicative of effort the manager has already (or should have) done themselves.

          It’s not ‘expecting gumption’, it’s ‘expecting basic social and corporate communication norms’ which is completely reasonable.

          You’re off base; these are very much not basic social and corporate communication norms, they’re exceptional and outmoded. An employee should not have to “do legwork” to be compensated fairly for their performance and production, because that’s not their job, and current management best practices realize this. You’re claimin old, counterproductive, increasingly rejected norms are universal.

    4. Jules*

      If you have a one-on-one, it would be a great idea to have a shared document about win(s) and loss(es) which then both of you can use to build a case, which you update at regular meeting and no one person has to keep a running list. That also means during merit and bonus, you can review the list so you can give award fairly. I’ve worked with people who become outstanding when it’s close to merit and do so-so the rest of the year, gaming the system. Sadly, it does work because it’s not all leaders documented all year round performance and they don’t realize the bias that could happen if it so happens something tanks near merit.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I am not understanding this part:

      “That’s why yes, I do yearly reviews and offer regular feedback to them. Of course I remember their accomplishments. (…) Everyone on my team gets an annual cost of living/general raise. If they want more, I need a short document (can be a few paragraphs max) about their accomplishments in order to show my boss to make the case for them.”

      But you already have this document. Their yearly review (a portion of which they complete themselves as part of their annual review process) is that document! Please tell me this paragraph does not mean that everyone, regardless of how well or badly they did on their review, gets the same COL increase unless they beg for more with additional documentation in hand.

      IME, my employers have always been, with a few exceptions, tying people’s raises to their performance. In the few cases where everyone got the same 2% across the board, the top performers left quickly.

    6. Midwest*

      OP, I want to give you a hug. I’m in the same position. Young, female, blue-collar roots, and in my first management position. I feel like I’m drowning because NOBODY TEACHES PEOPLE how to do this stuff. I’m very much learning on the fly. I have a good deal of common sense and generally I know what I don’t know … but not always. There’s a lot of unwritten rules around this kind of thing and it’s easy to blunder without intending to.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This stuff is taught. At some places in formal management training program; other people learn from a mentor.

        Now I have tons of sympathy for the disparity between “Mentors are critical, you should get one” and “…. Umm, I dunno, crawl around with toothpaste on your nose? In stories they just sort of fall out of trees onto needy workers…” But I don’t think most managers figure out what to do by asking their parents.

    7. Tiger Snake*

      OP, I’m not going to touch on whether you’re a good manager at the moment or not.

      But to improve and become a better manager, consider this:
      You know that for staff to get raises, you need to present justification to your own boss.
      (There’s a question there as to whether the staff member needs to do that – a lot of people would argue that pushing for this when your staff deserve it is a part of your responsibilities. But let’s say that your boss has mandated that staff to provide that justification themselves.)
      Then, as their manager, you’re role is to observe when they are doing a good job, actively suggest to them and encourage to ask for those raises when they are, and help guide them by telling them what you’ve seen them doing so well at to argue their case. You should know who your superstars are, and how often each of your staff have been given raises in comparison with each other and if that’s fair given the work they do. If staff need to ask for raises themselves, then you need to guide them on how to do that.

      So, to improve yourself as a manager, try to ask yourself, how are you doing at actually initiating this conversation?
      – How often do you go to your excellent staff and tell them “The way you went above and beyond on the latest activity, and achieved X and Y are really good. You should note those down as some of the reasons for your next raise request.”
      – How often are you encouraging people who are doing well to start considering and writing down the reasons they’re justified a raise?
      – How does that compare to how often people come to you without prompting? Which staff are these, and how does their number, and work, compare to those that aren’t asking or ask less often?

      If you need people to write their own raise requests and the justifications therein, then you as their manager need to advise people that you think they should request a raise. You need to help them see that they do have achievements to be proud of, and that you recognise their hard work.

    8. Observer*

      I’m confused. You say “I’ve always felt it’s incredibly important for employees to ask for the raises they want ” and “I’ve had people super casually say “oh hey, a raise would be cool,” for example — and to me, that doesn’t really feel like a solid “ask.”

      Why is it important? And why would a casual request not feel like it’s “solid”?

      Blue, white or pink collar – people don’t “casually” ask for a raise that they don’t really want. They may not be ready to quit over it, but that’s not the metric you should be looking at.

      Nothing about these beliefs make it easier or more likely to decrease wage disparities or increase fairness. You’ve taken a good first step in realizing that prioritizing a squeaky wheel is not your best course of action. But you need to go further than that and really think about what you believe, why and how it interacts with your stated desire for a fair and equitable workplace.

      Keep trying to find yourself a good mentor. Also, there are resources for management. Some, like this blog, are informal, but there are also courses etc. that you might find useful. Management is not easy and any help you can get won’t be too much.

      Realize that you are not unique. If you read blogs like this enough, you will realize that you are far, far, far from the only one who can’t turn to their parents for “corporate” help, even ones who DID have that kind of background. This is true for many different reasons, but it means that there are a LOT of people looking for good help.

      Lastly, use your personal experience to think about how your should be dealing with your employees. Given your doubts and worries, I’m willing to bet that it has been very hard for you to go to your bosses over time and advocate for higher raises etc. for yourself. Understand that it’s likely to be at least as hard for your employees. Please don’t fall into the “well, I had to pay my dies, now they have to do the same” trap. I do not know ANYONE who appreciated this kind of “dues paying”. Please don’t pay that forward. Instead try to change the environment for anyone you can.

      PS I agree that women should ask and advocate for themselves. But that’s a separate conversation.

  86. Gene Forsythe*

    Well run companies have regular performance review programs (minimum twice yearly), and scheduled, annual periods to consider wage increases.
    Promotion or outstanding results should create a raise opportunity at any time. The initiative shown by the employee should trigger management initiatives to compensate associates.

  87. WorkRobot*

    How alarming to think that a boss could “withhold” a raise because an employee didn’t sell himself/herself according to an arbitrary, undisclosed process. I say that with all due respect, because people are different, and have different standards.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I am absolutely afraid of asking for a raise. I put my head down, I stay quiet, I do what’s expected—and more—and I work like a machine. I think that’s worth a raise. I don’t think I should have to put on a dog and pony show to get one.

  88. The Beleaguered One*

    I used to work as a paralegal for large well-known law firm. In order to get a promotion, a paralegal had to apply for a promotion by writing a document justifying and demonstrating through examples why he/she deserved a promotion. If the firm decided to grant the promotion, it did *not* come with a raise, so I never bothered to apply for the promotion. After working there for many years and receiving good evaluations and becoming well-respected for my work, I noticed that my hourly billing rate was at the top of all the paralegal billing rates (yes, we all knew each other’s billing rates). And that the “senior” paralegals (having titles higher than mine) were billing at a lower rate than me. I thought that was very telling, so at my next performance evaluation, I suggested that I be promoted. I was informed, as usual, that I must apply in writing for a promotion. So I pointed out that my billing rate was higher than my senior colleagues’ rates, and that this directly demonstrated how much the firm valued my work as compared to that of the senior paralegals. You should have seen the look on my manager’s face!

    So guess what happened? The firm raised the billing rates of the senior paralegals to match my billing rate. I still get a laugh out of that… kind of. Well, maybe it’s more like rueful chuckle than a laugh.

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