asking for a raise is easier than you think

With lots of employers doing performance reviews and year-end raises this month, now is a good time to ask for a raise. But will you?

I’ve been shocked – horrified, really – by how many people tell me they never ask for raises. Some people rely on their company’s system of merit raises (or worse, cost-of-living raises, which tend to be lower) and just take what they’re offered rather than ever requesting more. Others work at companies that don’t do regular salary reviews and thus go on for years at the same salary, rather than broach the issue.

And yes, asking for a raise can be nerve-wracking! But people who don’t ask are leaving huge amounts of money on the table, to the tune of thousands of dollars a year. At Slate today, I wrote about why people don’t ask, why they should, and how to do it. You can read it here.

{ 278 comments… read them below }

  1. Flossy*

    My company gives raises to everyone annually. Everyone gets a minimum of 3%. I’ve gotten 5% every year (sometimes slightly more to keep it a round number) and last year my boss got me 7% because he felt my work went above and beyond that year.
    I’m not highly compensated by any means and I’m paid hourly so I get OT but I feel this is very fair especially considering we get a minimum of 2 weeks pay as a bonus and most years it’s closer to 4-5 weeks pay. We also have some pretty great benefits.

    Should I be asking for even more when I know I’m consistently getting a raise and, most years, getting more than the minimum to begin with?

    1. Notthateasy*

      I don’t think what your company does is fair at all. Why should everyone get a raise? Rather than have everyone get a minimum your company could reward its staff based on performance. Where I work we have a bell curve. The top 10% of the team get’s an annual raise of 10-15%. The middle get anywhere from 1% to 3%. The bottom 10% of the staff are usually new or on a PIP and don’t receive an annual raise. Big surprise – the only group we ever get complaints about are the bottom 10%.

      Our turnover is small because the best people want to work here and can make a great living. The only folks who complain about this system are the bottom 10% (big surprise). I’d like to see a system in place where we could just fire or decrease an employee’s salary to reward the performers but of course in this day and age we can’t do that.

      1. The Tin Man*

        I admit 3% is high for a baseline, but because it is to adjust for cost of living increases and the company seems to be able to afford it? Otherwise you are giving employees a paycut every year. Though it sounds like your company only does this to the very bottom of performers who you want to leave anyway.

        Plus it sounds like Flossy’s company still reward high performers. All they are doing to everyone else is preventing them from getting an effective paycut.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Because cost of living is constantly increasing. A 3% raise is simply a COLA. My rent increases every year, rather I get a raise or not.

        By doing this by percentages you’re actively hurting others and keeping some people impoverished depending on your lowest wages paid.

        This means everyone has a bottom 10%, many places don’t have anyone on a PIP. Why would you keep those people around? The review process is the key here, if someone is on PIP, then they usually get passed over for an annual raise for that exactly reason. But everyone who is squarely in the middle, get their COLA because why would you hurt them by pushing someone into that bottom 10%?

        It is that easy. It’s very easy. Fire people who are a problem. Have a probationary period. So if someone hasn’t been here long enough, yeah they don’t get a raise when annual raises roll around.

        1. Notthateasy*

          Thanks for the advice on how to run our company:) As I’ve already said, our reward structure works out for everyone. The folks responsible for the majority of our success stick around. I’ve been in the middle of the pack before. Instead of crying about how unfair it was I decided to actively better myself and a few years later I’m in senior management. I also have an employee who at the beginning of the year was on a PIP. She got pregnant and reassessed her life and is set to get a 7% salary increase this year. I’m glad I didn’t fire her.

          1. X Ray*

            So you drank the company Koolaid, congratulations! Enjoy working for a company that doesn’t have a fair, reasonable pay strategy. I’m sure there’s no way that can ever go wrong for you.

            Everyone else, run away from this sort of bulls(h)irt. These companies are mistreating their workforce, paying people badly AND telling them how good they’ve got it. Some of their poor employees are even stupid or inexperienced enough to believe them!

            1. Notthateasy*

              Dude, what other company gives people a chance to earn 10% raise?Nobody’s mistreated. A measley 1 out of 10 people won’t get a raise – big deal. Most get between 1-5%.

              It’s not even like this is uncommon in the industry.

              What’s not fair and reasonable about that?

              1. Gaia*

                1-3% for 80% of the staff is absolutely terrible. That’s not a raise, that is a COLA. And where I live, it would amount to a paycut. 3% should be the absolute minimum. Most staff should be seeing more than that.

                And I say that as a high performer who regularly asks for and receives annual raises well above 3%. Even if I got that 10-15% I’d leave because of how your company treats the rest of the staff.

              2. Dr Wizard, PhD*

                I work in a government job and get approximately 10% every year through nationally union-agreed pay scales, so…

          2. Mike C.*

            This is a dumb, terrible policy, and is a terrible way to run a company.

            You can’t even explain how to manage the case of a team where everyone is doing well.

        2. Sun Tzu*

          Rather than a _raise_, I see that as an _adjustment_ of your salary to inflation. I think that any decent company should do that annually.

            1. Hermione*

              See the bottom of the “commenting rules” page, which is linked whenever you go to reply to a comment.

              It’s basically bold text, italic text, underlined text and quoted text, but without the percentage marks.

            2. Two Dog Night*

              Let’s see if this works….

              <b>Bold text here</b> Bold text here
              <i>Bold text here</i> Italicized text here
              <u>Bold text here</u> Underlined text here

        3. CAA*

          >> A 3% raise is simply a COLA

          Actually U.S. inflation for the past 10 years averages out to 1.55%/yr and Social Security’s average COLA was 1.52%/yr over that same period, so a 3% annual raise is nearly double what a simple COLA would be. I point this out because lots of people do seem to feel that 3% is not a “real” raise or it’s “just” a COLA, and that is just wrong in the current economic climate of low inflation. The last time we had 3 consecutive years of 3% or higher inflation was 1991 – 1993, which is kind of mind-boggling for those of us who started our careers back in the days when inflation and raises were in the 10%+ range. Of course your personal cost of living may go up more than that in any given year, and there are regional differences as well, but for most people, a 3% raise should not be regarded as an insult.

          I don’t disagree with anything else you said though. I worked in a place that had the philosophy that “the bottom 10% should be managed out”. It was completely dysfunctional with way too much churn and all the top people would leave within a couple of years because of the instability and back stabbing. It was so bad it’s the only time I quit without having another job lined up.

          1. Quill*

            It’s probably area dependent though? Cost of Living isn’t only inflation, it’s also related to rents and the prices of everything like food and transportation.

            1. Me*

              +1. Very very cost dependent. A 2 bedroom apt in my parts runs about 1300 for basic, 2k+ for nice/luxury. WHen I started renting 20ish years ago my 2 bedroom was 800 a month.

              To put it in perspective the income a 2 person household can make in my county and still qualify for the state’s mortgage insurance program is well over 100k. I do not live in the most expensive county in the state by any means.

            2. CAA*

              >> Cost of Living isn’t only inflation, it’s also related to rents and the prices of everything like food and transportation.

              The inflation rate is the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index, which includes “rents and the prices of everything like food and transportation”. So yes, inflation/deflation rates describe increases/decreases in the purchasing power of a nation’s currency, or phrased another way, changes in the cost of living.

              1. wittyrepartee*

                For many people who are commenting, they live in an area where the COL is increasing more rapidly than that. So, yes- 3% would not be an actual raise for them.

        4. Wendy Darling*

          Yup. I got a 2% “raise” last year. Inflation was 1.9%. My rent went up way more than 2% last year because housing costs are rising in my area. I was… not pleased that this was called a raise because it was actually a only partially effective effort to keep my pay stable relative to my cost of living. My boss actually apologized for it. It wasn’t great. I’m actually really glad to see the Slate article because I’m planning on asking for a REAL raise next month and if I don’t get one I will be actively looking for a job with better pay.

          1. Door Guy*

            Last year at my previous job, I got my 3% review raise, but our insurance premiums went up too. My take home pay dropped $20 a check. The same thing had happened the year before as well. I took home more when I started that job than I did when I left 2.5 years later, despite nothing changing on my end for deductions, withholding, 401K contribution, insurance plan…

      3. Me*

        Because cost of living. And because in principle if you are still employed you it reasons you should be performing adequately.

        People who perform higher and go above and beyond clearly get more. Seems reasonable to me.

        Not everyone is a superstar employee – they still deserve to be able to eat.

      4. voyager1*

        I work at one of the top 20 banks in the USA. This would never fly where I work. I mean how do you determine these levels of compensation unless you have clear metrics. Now sales has clear metrics, you either sell or don’t. But something like HR or payroll or IT or Operations. Umm how would bell curve those? Whenever I have seen someone try to put performance in banking, it usually ends with people cutting corners EX: Wells Fargo and the fake accounts that were opened.

  2. Chili*

    One thing I recommend doing, if you feel worried about being perceived as ungrateful or silly for asking when you “should know it’s not in the budget.” Look up your CEO’s compensation. Go in to that meeting knowing there is someone who is receiving several times what you’re being paid (maybe several hundred times what you’re making, CEO pay is wild) and dare them to call you ungrateful.

    1. Lance*

      Why the CEO, though? That seems rather… needlessly aggressive and specific. The more ideal thing would be to look up the going market rate for your general job and area, and see how you compare to it… then make a case revolving around your accomplishments, not based on ‘what the CEO makes’.

      1. Mill Miker*

        I think the idea is less to use the CEO’s salary to justify your need for a raise, and more to soothe your own conscience. It’s a lot easier to feel justified asking for a 5% increase to match market rate when you know the CEO personally earns twice that during their morning coffee break.

      2. Always Learning*

        +1 to Lance’s comment.
        The CEO makes more because they’re worth more. Their contributions have a greater impact and their decisions hold more risk if they’re bad. If the CEO leaves, the impact is far greater than if Joe Smith in Accounting leaves. People like to demonize CEOs because they make more, but the amount is not arbitrary, and is 99% of the time not a good measuring stick for how much the individual contributors should be making.

        1. Mockingjay*

          I don’t think it’s the amount so much as the percentage of that amount. CEO salaries can be grossly inflated against the work a CEO actually performs. I’m not dissing all CEOs; there are good ones out there – my own company included – who make hard decisions affecting the viability of a company. That’s a lot of responsibility and should be compensated. But there are plenty of workplaces that reward upper tiers at higher percentages than lower ranked workers.

          Joe Smith in Accounting probably has a bigger effect than a CEO leaving. Joe is the one who makes sure the accounts are reconciled each month, so everyone gets paid, including the CEO. If the CEO leaves, the board will appoint an interim director; meanwhile Joe keeps the receipts balanced so business can continue as normal. Joe’s reward is 3% – 5% COLA while the CEO gets 20% increase plus stock.

        2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Right. The inflated CEO pay is usually because that is the “market rate” for a CEO position based on other CEO wages. If an org wants the best and brightest CEO, they have to pay that wage or end up with whomever is willing to put up with a lower salary. When it comes to running an org I depend on for my livelihood, I guess I wouldn’t necessarily want the lowest bidder in the top job.

        3. Wired Wolf*

          I would suggest basing a raise request on (if you can find it) the salary of one’s immediate supervisor if you know that the general duties are similar. In the job I’m in now, the only useful task that our “supervisor” does that’s above ours is print price tags–which I was doing before he showed up. He can’t communicate clearly (with us or customers) and definitely can’t manage people.

          My job used to have the employee do a self-evaluation ahead of the actual review, which we thought was great as it actually fostered discussion about any mismatches. I had a review two weeks ago and found out that they did away with that; overall it was positive (I did get dinged for “chatting” with a coworker who is herself the problem) and I got a small raise…which hasn’t kicked in yet and my manager didn’t fill in an effective date. Would I be out of line to go to HR and inquire where my raise is (and if it will be retroactive to the review date)?

      3. Chili*

        I don’t mean presenting the CEO’s pay in the meeting, I meant more as a psychological booster. I find it hard to ask for more money because I have enough money, technically, and I am blessed to have what I do, so I feel like I’m being selfish for advocating for more for myself. So it’s good to get a reminder that there is someone at my same company who is currently getting a lot more and is probably unafraid to ask for even more on top of that.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This may make you feel better on a personal level but the people you’re approaching will still think you’re out of touch with how pay bands are crafted to say the least.

      Yes, executives make a ton of money. There are a ton of reasons why they do. Starting with how few people are capable of doing the job itself, how hard it is to recruit and find a placement for a high stakes kind of position, etc.

      I do suggest remembering it’s business. It’s all business. This is a business transaction, with what you are worth.

      1. Chili*

        I meant it only on a personal level! Do not bring up the CEO’s pay in the meeting, that will sound ridiculous. I just think there are a lot of people like me out there who feel greedy to ask for more money, even if they are worth it. Knowing someone at your same company is getting even more can free up those mental inhibitions.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Ah yeah, I’m on board there.

          Honestly, know as many salaries as you possibly can so you can see what you’re working with. You have to advocate for yourself! Lots of people have fallen into large gaps over the years. I have personally seen it and been able to help rectify it in most situations.

          Also assume your company is in fine financial health unless you have proof otherwise [layoffs, shift reduction, benefits gutting, etc are signs that there’s a financial crisis going on.]

        2. CM*

          I agree with you! It’s so easy to talk yourself out of asking for a raise because you think, “I make enough, and there’s only so much room in the budget, and if I get a raise maybe I’ll be making more than my coworkers and that wouldn’t be fair… and… and…” I like the idea of reminding yourself that some people in your company make WAY more than you do and they’re not sorry. You don’t have to apologize for asking for more or justify yourself either.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Also, remember that you actually don’t know what is in the budget unless you are at a high level or privy to the organization’s finances. You are not silly for asking something you have no real way of knowing

      1. TNT*

        Also, if you are budgeting in a responsible way, there IS BUDGET that is allocated for salary adjustments!

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          Well not necessarily. Where I worked, you’d write a responsible budget and your boss would take a red pen to it. So you had to figure out that magic cushion number that would give you the number you needed after the boss hacked it to bits.

  3. Notthateasy*

    Most of the time, you can briefly reference a few specifics of the good work you’ve been doing and then say, “Could we talk about increasing my salary to reflect that?” or (if you have a dollar figure in mind) “I’m hoping we can raise my salary to $X to reflect that.”

    The problem is, most employees expect a raise just for existing. I’ve managed people for over 5 years (mostly millennials) and they expect raises for the most arbitrary reasons. For example I hired a recent grad who wanted a raise after six measley months because he thought that longevity warranted a more senior wage. I’ve also had countless employees tell me that they “deserve” a raise because of tenure. If you can’t show me why you’ve earned a raise (increased sales, decreased costs) then you shouldn’t get one. Performers get raises, I’m not going to reward stagnation.

    Sorry, not sorry.

    Asking for a raise should be easy – just make sure you bring more to the table than “I’ve worked here x years”.

      1. blackcat*

        Without COL increases, an employees pay will DECREASE year after year. That’s not even accounting for things like an increase in health care premiums.

        1. Notthateasy*

          “Without COL increases, an employees pay will DECREASE year after year”. That’s the idea. If you’re contributing negatively to the company, you get a negative raise. This isn’t really a big deal since it typically only happens to PIP’ers anyway.

          1. ampersand*

            At my last job, it was typical not to get a raise or a COL increase, though sometimes we did. One year I got 3.8 percent, which was HUGE in my office. I was grateful but it didn’t feel good to know that because I was getting a raise, someone else wasn’t—and it became very awkward when work friends talked to me about how they did not get raises. I sidestepped that topic as much as possible. So people’s salaries effectively decreased year to year, including my own, even though I was a productive, efficient, well-liked employee.

        2. ThatGirl*

          someone tell that to the university my husband works at, not only has nobody gotten a raise in 5 years, everyone took a paycut at one point (that has not yet been restored).

          1. Wendy Darling*

            When I was in academia no one at my university had gotten a COL increase in NINE YEARS by the time I left. This coincided with a massive cost of living increase in my city — I lived in the same apartment for seven years and my rent had more than doubled by the time I moved out.

            It was rough. I knew adjuncts who were on food stamps. I knew TAs who had applied for food stamps but were denied because our tuition waiver was considered income so on paper we made like $50k/year even though we saw less than half of that.

      2. notthateasy*

        No, our president doesn’t live by the philosophy that everyone gets rewarded for participation.

        1. Amber Rose*

          How is keeping your same rate of pay with inflation count as being rewarded? If anything, not giving COL raises means everyone is being punished for participating.

          1. Notthateasy*

            If we gave COL raises to everyone, we couldn’t give the top 10% such a high raise year after year.

            1. Amber Rose*

              Wow, that’s… disgusting. Eff 90% of your company, the top 10% get to be grossly overpaid every single year while everyone else struggles to keep buying groceries.

              May I never work for your company.

              1. Filosofickle*

                The first time I was told about this kind of “raise” philosophy, they referred to it as “starve the dogs, feed the eagles”. O_0

              2. Notthateasy*

                Amber, it doesn’t work out that way. Nobody is getting “effed”. Yes, the top 10% are rewarded the highest but even the middle of the pack mostly receive about a 5% raise. What other company does that? Conversely, if someone is literally the least effective employee of their department (bottom 10%), why should they get a raise? It makes sense not to distribute bonuses and raises to reward poor performers at the price of top performers’ raises.

                1. Amber Rose*

                  You can’t have a top without a bottom, and if you attract good people, the people at the bottom don’t have to be poor performers to still not be at the top.

        2. KitKat*

          It’s not being “rewarded for participation”. It’s literally money to cover inflation of prices year after year. How do people not understand this?

          1. Notthateasy*

            “It’s literally money to cover inflation of prices year after year.” As an employer, we’re not required to adjust the salary of everyone for that. Like I’ve said before, it affects 10% of our staff. The majority see at least a 2.5% raise and some folks reach double digits.

            1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

              There’s what’s required, and then there’s being a good employer and recognizing that COL is a thing and stagnant wages will cause people to leave. Your company’s pay scheme is pretty heartless.

              1. Notthateasy*

                No, it’s not. It’s usually the lowest performer in each department. 90% of the company receives a raise and/or bonus. Again, not many companies can boast that.

            2. Derjungerludendorff*

              If your best argument for something is “it’s not literally illegal to do this”, you’re probably doing something awful and should stop.

        3. Fikly*

          It’s not being rewarded for participation. It’s compensation for doing your job, which is what a company is legally obliged to do.

    1. ...*

      Hmm I understand your viewpoint but I do think there is something to consistent work that’s only good. Those people can be super valuable! But their wage increase would be quite gradual rather than giving a significant amount for someone who can truly justify it.

      1. Notthateasy*

        Where I work we have a bell curve. The top 10% of the team get’s an annual raise of 10-15%. The middle get anywhere from 1% to 3%. The bottom 10% of the staff are usually new or on a PIP and don’t receive an annual raise. Big surprise – the only group we ever get complaints about are the bottom 10%.

        1. blackcat*

          1-3% though is barely keeping up with COL increases.

          What is turnover? My guess is that the employees who are solid, but not necessarily top performers, don’t complain, but just leave.

          1. Notthateasy*

            Let’s just say we keep who we want to keep. The top performers at the company tend to stick around.

            1. Avasarala*

              Wow you’re not really selling this scheme. Something something how we treat the least among us…

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          Ewwww, stack ranking.

          My employer only gives “merit” raises that barely keep up with inflation. But at least they don’t do stack ranking, which pits teammate against teammates, and fosters an environment of internal cutthroat competition.

        3. alldogsarepuppies*

          Yes, its often the case that only the people being treated unfairly complain. For examples please see all of human history – those that speak up against injustice of other groups are celebrate because they are often so rare.

          I have the feeling you are this stingy and rude CEO you keep praising though.

        4. Allypopx*

          You could absolutely afford to distribute that more. The disparity there between top and middling is really gross.

          1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

            Exactly this.

            Effects of stacked ranking include:

            – Incentive to sabotage your co-workers, passively or directly
            – Incentive to make sure you’re on a team with worse employees than yourself
            – Incentive for a boss to hire worse employees than themselves
            – Incentive to puff up your accomplishments as much as possible
            – Ending up having to get rid of or punish good people for being on a good team

            Setting aside the sheer lack of compassion and dog-eat-dog screw-you-got-mine mentality that post conveys.

    2. Rugby*

      It’s definitely not unreasonable to expect a raise every year. If you’re not giving you’re employees at least a cost of living raise, their salary is actually decreasing every year. And “working here x years” is a really good reason to get a raise because people generally improve at their job over time and it is to the employers benefit to retain them.

      1. Notthateasy*

        We’ll agree to disagree. Where I work we don’t do COL raises. As a matter of fact, if you perform well your raise would be 3-5X what a COL raise would be. Working somewhere for x years is NOT a good reason to get a raise. If you haven’t learned anything new, improved a process or increased sales then your value is the same as it was last year. Because of this philosophy, my company hires and retains great talent. In fact, we see turnover mostly in the bottom 25% or so of performers. This works out well for everybody. My boss always says, “If you want a guaranteed raise for taking up space, you should have worked for the government”. While a little derogatory, I appreciate his sentiment. There are two types of people in the world – those who feel entitled and those who want to earn what they have. Everyone wants a raise but not everyone wants to earn one. If you find that “unreasonable” it’s clear which camp you fall into.

        1. Amber Rose*

          OK, but if my value is the same as last year, but I don’t get a COL raise, my effective pay is less. So you’ve devalued me even though I’ve put in the same effort. How do you not see that?

          1. Fikly*

            Exactly this. It’s essentially theft. New hires sign a contract saying I will do x job for y pay, and now a year later, they are doing x job for y-1 pay.

        2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          Yes, but the bottom 25% of performers is subjective, if that crew is largely leaving. As you onboard new staff, you might have some otherwise good staff end up in the bottom of the barrel because the hire bar got raised by the existing staff. (Think of how the senior class at a college is less qualified than the freshman class, as schools focus on selectivity. Should they kick out all the seniors?)

          So you’re not consistently churning out the bottom 25%, you’re just consistently churning 25% of your staff based on where they arbitrarily fall against each other every year.

          1. Quill*


            Probably this system is just punishing people whose jobs really don’t have dramatic ways to improve: so, people who are in the lower ranks who don’t have input on policy & have to rely on their managers to make their contributions known… but who do the majority of the work that keeps the place running from day to day.

            1. Someone On-Line*

              If you don’t have long-term HR you have no one to point out how lousy your retention rate is.

        3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          How do you handle raises for support staff like payroll, IT, HR, admin, etc.? They tend not to have the kinds of performance goals you mention. I can see maybe some space for process improvement or learning new skills, but it would be more limited than for someone who is in sales, a SME, project lead, etc..

        4. BRR*

          But if you want bad performers to leave, you shouldn’t try and torture them out. You manage them. And I get the part you’re saying that is if someone is on a PIP, but it sounds like there is a group of employees who are meeting expectations but aren’t top performers that aren’t getting colas.

        5. Lora*

          What do you do when you have Department A that is staffed by high performers (due to an especially good manager that people enjoy working for) vs Department B that practically has “Two Drink Minimum” over the door?

          When I’ve worked places that forced a bell curve (although they did COL raises), they consistently lost people out of Department A because some paste-eater who could just about tie his own shoelaces in the morning was still in the top 10% of Department B (due to his colleagues not being able to put the right and left shoes on the right or left foot) and therefore got a 9% raise, and the Quite Competent person in Department A got 2-3%. And the dribbling idiots in Department B stuck around foreeeeeever because they *couldn’t* get jobs anywhere else, whereas the good performers in Department A found other jobs easily. The Department B guys were really, really sure they were great though….the rest of us were just jealous of their awesomeness. Mmmmhmmmm…

        6. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

          You have a quarter of your employees leaving, which means you’re losing money hiring and training people that you may be able to retain with a COL raise. And yet you sound proud of that.

        7. Brett*

          “If you want a guaranteed raise for taking up space, you should have worked for the government”

          Which is ironic since so many government agencies have stopped giving any raises at all since the 2008 recession.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            It’s also quite offensive. We work really hard here in city government. Sure, there’s some people who are just doodling and waiting for retirement, but I’ve met them in big private companies as well.

        8. Gaia*

          Aahhh nope! Your friendly data worker calls BS.

          Stacked rankings are inherently flawed. If only 10% of your staff can be at the top but 15% are actually tied for top performance, you have to artificially move 5% down a notch. And then they leave and you say “well all our top performers stayed” but actually no, 1/3 of them left.

          I have seen this play out time and again. Stacked rankings are a TERRIBLE method and lead to self fulfilling prophecies.

      2. SomebodyElse*

        Eh… I’d be careful of making this assumption.

        “And “working here x years” is a really good reason to get a raise because people generally improve at their job over time and it is to the employers benefit to retain them.”

        I’m not sure when the tipping point happens, but if an employee stays in the same position too long, there tends to be a degradation in effectiveness (in my experience, on average, and I have experienced exceptions to this). Of course an employee who is in a position 2 years is usually much more effective than one who has been for 6 months. But an employee in the same position for 10 years can be less effective than one in the 2-4 year range for a variety of reasons.

        Now that being said, There is something to the idea that retention is important for a lot of reasons, and I’m not saying there isn’t. I am saying that ‘time served’ isn’t necessarily a good indicator of performance or effectiveness.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah, how do you actually rate these employees and their performance? Are these subjective reviews by managers who always put their favorites in the top 10% for those fat raises? You know, the ones who think, act and look like them? Or do you have actual metrics and only metrics that you’re basing this on? Instead of “Plays well with others!” and “I listen to all of John’s ideas but hate how Linda presents hers, so even though she could update a process, nah we don’t like Linda here.”

      This is why your system sucks and isn’t used by every company, it’s too easy to manipulate by people who are naturally bias and you know, human.

    4. Ben Marcus Consulting*

      I’m not sure that the millennial qualifier was warranted. I’ve experienced these same issues with employees aged 40-80.

      I agree that no one deserves a raise because of tenure or seniority (promotions based on this are also absolutely ridiculous). Automatic COLA raises make sense in a lot of situations, but even those shouldn’t be guaranteed. A successful organization should be constantly shopping the salary bands for each position, and ensure they’re within market norms. If an employee is still within the set bands, then COLA makes sense. However, at some point even those need to stop or you could easily end up with a long-term employee making far more than their position warrants.

      1. Venus*

        Since Notthateasy is throwing around generalizations I’ll add mine to the mix, by guessing that a company with a cut-throat attitude like theirs may have more than an average number of millennials working for it, as older folks are likely to view it as an unhealthy environment (as noted by many commenters here) with a high turn-over. Plus they note that they have managed people for over 5 years, which suggests that they haven’t been managing for a long time, so they likely don’t have many older folks with which to make this comparison. The “Pfft, millennials these days!” comment is easier to make when someone is only managing millennials.

        1. Academic Addie*

          Juxtaposing “I’ve been managing 5 years” with “ugh millennials” is the cherry on the tone-deaf sundae.

          1. Tinker*

            Heh. I’d be somewhat surprised if they aren’t actually themselves a Millennial; someone with this sort of aggressive front and who’s been a manager for only five years, I’d expect to be a fair bit younger than me usually.

        2. Allypopx*

          Yeah this is a lot of self-righteousness from a relatively new manager. Especially one who hasn’t been in the game long enough to understand the difference between “ugh, millenials” and “people new to the workforce have to be taught workplace norms”

          That particular individual may have also been confused since that rate of turnover probably *does* make them a more senior member of a team comprised of mostly junior members.

          1. Tinker*

            That too. I mean, I wouldn’t think of six months as being particularly senior, but then again I’ve always worked for places with a better failure rate than that.


          2. Notthateasy*

            I’ve managed people for 5 years, worked in my industry for 15 years as an IC before that. I’m not being self righteous. I work in an environment where this type of pay works as evidence by the company’s performance. To all of the people commenting about “how bad” it must be to work here – you have no idea. You read “performance based raises” and crap your pants. Yes, a small portion of people don’t last here – but ones who do stick around and earn a substantial income.

            1. Allypopx*

              Performance based raises are great! Just not at the expense of understanding basic economics, which your company doesn’t if you think 1-3% is anything. You give raises to 10% of your company, you don’t withhold raises from 10% of your company.

            2. eyeroll*

              To all of the people commenting about “how bad” it must be to work here – you have no idea. You read “performance based raises” and crap your pants.

              Working for you does sound terrible! I’m surprised anyone sticks around.

          3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            Yup. I had the pleasure of training a few new managers over the years. Inevitably they’ll be blustering on bombastically to me about something, and I’ll say, “Oh but what about X?” and their face will fall and they’ll say “oh s–t you’re right.”

            Also, the more bombastically they bluster early on about how great they are, the faster they get fired.

        3. Notthateasy*

          I have almost 20 years of experience in my industry. Yes, I’ve only managed people for 5 years but I also work for a company that performs relatively well against our competitors. I can also tell you that the people who flourish here don’t find the environment “unhealthy” as many of them support their family with the compensation package we’ve had in place for the past 5 years.

        4. Notthateasy*

          Venus, it’s not cutthroat. We have people here who regularly received raises in the 10% range for the past few years. The no raise folks are literally the bottom 10%. In other words, only 1 out of 10 people receive no raise or bonus.

      2. blackcat*

        See, I don’t get this.
        COLA basically means paying the employee X, year after year. X goes up 1.5% per year. Do your pay bands not to the same thing each year, too? Do you not increase the maximum of each band? So of the max was Y, why isn’t the new max Y x (1.015)?

        1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

          Salary bands aren’t so formulaic. The whole point of them is to keep your compensation ratios within the norms for your industry and market. Simply adjusting based on COLA each year without a market survey is contrary to that concept. Most organizations don’t shop their positions yearly.

          There’s also the total compensation aspect. Some years, salaries may be allowed to expand, others may see an increase in available benefits (or an improvement in quality). This is why I always include a total compensation statement when discussing raises with employees.

          1. Echo*

            This is how the place I work (large company) does comp, too. We don’t do individual raises outside of annual reviews (unless you change jobs), but the reviews are still an important time to self-advocate.

    5. Parenthetically*

      “If I don’t rate your work highly, I’ll make the compensation issue increasingly annoying and burdensome until you remove yourself, rather than actually taking the trouble to manage you. Oh, and if you’re between 22 and 40 (which is all “millennial” actually means), I’ll throw in some insults about your age, to boot.”

      1. Allypopx*

        ” rather than actually taking the trouble to manage you. ”

        Yep. If everyone but the top performers quits, it looks like I am a great manager who retains top talent instead of someone in way over their head who just throws money at problems (or withholds it) and hopes they solve themselves.

      2. wittyrepartee*

        Thank you! I’m 32. I graduated with my BS right after the recession and have been clawing my way into the middle class ever since. CLAWING.

    6. Dasein9*

      I would hate spending 40 hours a week with the kind of people who thrive in such an environment. Worrying about just how the people I’m supposed to be collaborating with are actually my competition seems like an incredibly wasteful use of time and attention.

      Employees deserve fair compensation with raises tied to the quality of their work, not a gamified pay scale that compensates each employee according to a rubric outside that employeess control.

      As for COLAs, yes, these are deserved even for employees just above the PIP level up because the market value of labor changes along with the cost of living. Refusing COLA amounts to placing the burden of the national economy entirely on employees’ shoulders while still reaping the benefits of operating within that same economy.

    7. wittyrepartee*

      What’s with the millennial hate? We’re doing good work with a less than ideal hand that was dealt to us.

  4. Goliath Corp.*

    Any tips for pushing past the original “no”? My company acts like salaries are set with no room for negotiation, but it’s clearly not true. But… how do you push past that without resorting to an ultimatum about leaving?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If they don’t budge, then your only option is to leave if you really want more money. Don’t threaten or try to get a counter offer if you start looking and get an offer for say 20% more. Read up on how counter offers can explode in everyone’s face.

    2. Me*

      Ask what your performance would need to be to merit a 5% (or whatever) raise.

      They’ll either give you concrete examples related to your job performance or they will say something like it’s not in the budget/we don’t give raises.

      If it’s the later then it’s time to move on.

  5. Anonymous Educator*

    I know Alison’s advice for the employee is the main focus of the article and is solid advice, but employers should pay special attention to these parts:

    Employers should regularly review employees’ salaries, assessing them against the market and for internal equity with what colleagues are earning. Too often, though, they don’t—which is terrible management in the long run, because underpaid people eventually get frustrated and leave

    Even when companies do offer regularly scheduled merit raises, people who ask for more often end up with it, while people who don’t are left behind

    If you’re okay with having pay inequity based not on performance or value but based mainly on who asks for a raise, you may want to do a bit more introspection on how you run your computer. And if you’re okay with letting good employees go, because they’re too busy doing their actual job to ask for a raise you refuse to give them an unsolicited but deserved raise, well… don’t be surprised when you keep losing good employees.

    1. CM*

      Yes, absolutely! I have worked in so many places like this and only rewarding those who ask has a DRAMATIC effect on pay equity over time. Guess who feels more entitled to ask for a raise? And guess who is penalized for asking?

      I will never forget the time I found out a more junior (male) coworker’s starting salary was more than mine. I had slightly more experience and had been with the company two years with glowing reviews and a major project that I was running. I hired this guy. I happened to see a printout showing he was making ten thousand dollars a year more than me!! In the space of about five seconds I went from feeling happy and satisfied with my job, to feeling outraged and devalued. When I went to talk to the boss, he shrugged and said the other guy had negotiated his salary and I hadn’t. (True. I was young, and at the time I had no idea this was a thing!)

      1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        So what happened after he shrugged and said you hadn’t negotiated? Tell me he immediately adjusted your salary for reasons of a) fairness and b) litigation avoidance.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        When I went to talk to the boss, he shrugged and said the other guy had negotiated his salary and I hadn’t.

        This system is ridiculous. You should be paid according to your qualifications and how well you do your job, not according to how aggressive you can be about asking for more money. Should you ask in the horrible system we currently have? Sure. Is the system still horrible? Absolutely, and that needs to be called out more.

        1. Derjungerludendorff*

          Also, guess what going to your boss and asking for more money is called? [i]Negotiating your salary. [/i]

      3. Ataloss*

        What happened after this? I’m in this exact position now and have no idea what to do about it. I’ve already spoken candidly with my supervisor and HR and invoked California’s Equal Pay Act, which got no response. What do I do?

        1. CM*

          In my case, I made a big stink and they agreed to raise my salary $5K now and another $5K in six months. I was still mad but I didn’t argue that much because I knew I would be leaving about six months later to go to grad school.

          In your case, you might consult an employment lawyer.

      4. Wired Wolf*

        Over the summer, one of our managers posted everybody’s pay rate in the warehouse along with the weekly schedule. Ooops. I was off that day and nobody else thought to take a picture of this; when the same thing happened before when we first opened, the culprit was fired immediately. This recent happening was done by an assistant manager and it was explained away as “I pressed the wrong button”. Since there was no physical proof he had done this after he took the page down, we couldn’t go as a team and demand an explanation.

  6. Phoenix Programmer*

    I’ve only ever worked at places that have a number rating system and raises are tied to that. Negotiating always gets the same “hr sets it” blow off.

    1. Volunteer Enforcer*

      My employer is kind of like that. A raise can only be earned if you get the top performance review rating – literally only COL if your rating is one digit under.

  7. Dasein9*

    I’d like to know what a reasonable raise is. I’ve gotten 3-5% at my current job, but don’t have any idea whether that is typical. How do we find out what is typical in a given industry?

  8. The Original K.*

    When she asked for a raise, a friend of mine was told she’d need to have another offer in hand for the company to “try to” match. So my friend did get another offer … which she accepted. She said her boss was shocked. [eyeroll]

    1. Leela*

      They weren’t going to give a raise unless they could check against another company’s offer? Are they so incompetent that they can’t possibly come to a figure on their own? Good on your friend for getting out of there, what terrible management and retention strategy

      1. Just Another Manic Millie*

        I bet that they knew all along that they weren’t going to give her a raise, and if she had gone to them with another offer (which she had not accepted yet), they would have said, “Too bad, we can’t match it. Good-bye.”

        1. Calicogirl*

          Or, they match it and throw a little more in to sweeten the deal. Then, over the next few months, she goes from being a high performer to being on a drummed up PIP (cherry-picking and spinning up any mistakes she makes to make her look like an ate-up, tore-up-from-the-floor-up, soup sandwich, dirt bag terrible employee) with no hope of actually overcoming it because the goalposts keep shifting and she is being actively sabotaged until they have enough dirt on paper to justify showing her the door.

  9. Rugby*

    “Some people rely on their company’s system of merit raises (or worse, cost-of-living raises, which tend to be lower) and just take what they’re offered rather than ever requesting more.”

    I’m curious to hear other people’s experience with this, but everywhere I’ve worked in the past 10 years or so has had a standardized annual performance review process that is used to determine merit raises and the process doesn’t allow for negotiation. In these systems, the employer uses a formula to determine each person’s raise based on the total amount of money available and how well each person scored on their performance review. Is it just me or are these systems becoming more popular? Has anyone successfully negotiated for more money on top of what they get from the performance review process?

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      This is all I’ve ever encountered, as well. You are offered a COLA, slightly weighted based on performance, with consideration of pay equity across the department, and there’s just no option for negotiation.

    2. Help Desk Peon*

      I work for a major university, and that’s how it is here. If I want a significant raise (ie more than the 3.5% cap), I need to argue that I should have a new title/position, which comes with an avalanche of paperwork my boss needs to do, and takes 6 months to a year, IF it’s successful.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I also work in IT for a major university, in a high cost area. Our “merit” raises match the national rate of inflation, and no one gets an actual merit boost – it’s all just “meets expectations” or a PIP. The other benefits are okay, but because we don’t match local inflation our effective pay keeps dropping. The biggest complaint in staff surveys is the below market pay. We have university employees living in RVs. New employees come in closer to market, long time slows drowns in red ink.

    3. scoot*

      My company has a system like that too, but there’s usually room for flexibility within that system based on manager discretion. The trick is to talk with your manager about wanting a raise before they go into the annual review process so that (assuming they agree about you deserving a raise) they can lobby for you during the process.

    4. BB*

      Thank you. Same experiences here. I had an employee try to bring up a (deserved) offcycle raise and was confirmed we don’t do that. You can only negotiate raises where a promotion is involved.

      As for year-end cycle raises I suppose an employee could ask, but by the time the employee is given their raise amount detail next year’s budget is set. There is no more money to negotiate for. It’s a zero-sum game: for you to get more money less money goes to others in the department because the budget is set by someone in HR.

    5. fhqwhgads*

      I’ve experienced what you describe, but I’ve also worked places where, yes, the time when your raise comes up is review time, but the method for determining what that will be is not nearly as structured as what you describe. Some managers might put a lot of actual data and math into it, others do not. At all. It depends on if the company has a pre-set formula used for all employees or if it’s just up to the manager to convince the higher ups that you’re worth whatever number they come up with. In places like the latter there’s definitely room for negotiation if, for example, you manager is A) reasonable and B) didn’t already go in with a ton of data, but then you do. There are also some terrible managers who never give anyone a raise unless/ until they ask for one. That’s more possible in places with less specific processes, but it definitely exists out in the world.

    6. CAA*

      Yes, this is how it’s been done everywhere I’ve worked as well. I’ve been on the manager side of this for about 20 years now, and it varies just a bit from company to company, but in my experience, appraisal season has actually been the worst time to negotiate for a raise. This is the time of year when I have a fixed amount of money to distribute among my team for next year’s salaries, and that overall pool is very unlikely to increase once it’s been given to me. Going up the chain to get more money when budgets are fresh rarely works. I’d have to be able to point out some major change in the local labor market that was overlooked by everyone above me. (That happened once, when a major company opened a facility here and pay rates for an entire type of labor went up due to scarcity, and I was able to get an extra 2% added to my budget as a result of making that argument.) It’s also a time of year when people are looking at the big picture for compensation, analyzing pay equity, and filling out EEO reports, so it’s really hard to do something different for one person.

      The people who have been most successful at negotiating raises with me have been the ones who came to me and made a good case about 5 to 7 months after the last appraisal period. That’s when I’m most able to carry that to upper management and not get pushback like “we just did raises” or “we’re just about to do raises”. By that point in the year I can also usually point out that someone left and we haven’t replaced him yet, so we’re under on the labor budget, and maybe this or that other thing changed, so some other budget can be flexed a little.

    7. ThatGirl*

      What I’ve experienced is roughly the same at my last two jobs – I do my year end review, I get a number from that, and that’s weighted against the budget for “merit increases”. I think the highest raise I’ve gotten was around 4% and the lowest, about 1% (but that was after I’d started in late July so it didn’t feel terribly unfair). I’ve never even thought to ask for more, although if I ever had a truly outstanding year and/or felt I wasn’t being paid fairly I might.

    8. Alienor*

      Yeah, I’ve been a manager under a system like that. We were given a percentage number and told it had to average out across our team, so if it was 3 percent and you wanted to give someone 4 percent for being an exceptionally strong performer, you could do that, but then you had to give someone else 2 percent. In effect this meant we ended up giving the same percentage to everyone so that no one got punished to enable someone else’s reward.

    9. DustyJ*

      We’re even worse. We get an across-the-board COL increase (usually 7%), nothing to do with performance at all.

      If you want more, you have to apply for another position and go through the full interview process, in which you’ll be competing against external applicants (who the city would much rather hire over an internal applicant so as to avoid filling two positions).

    10. DCBA*

      Same where I work. Managers are given 2.5% for everyone on their team, and while they have discretion to adjust that up and down on an individual basis, the pot doesn’t change. So, in order to reward a higher performer, they’re robbing COL from an average performer. There is almost never any money for merit increases or out-of-cycle adjustments. It’s BS.

  10. Mill Miker*

    I think I’m going to ask for a raise this year. I’ve been in this role for a little less than a year, but the duties have turned out to be a lot more than I expected.

    I’m just having a hard time finding a reasonable number. Looking on various salary estimation sites, for my role, experience, education level, and geographic region the average salary is between $36k and $150k, which is … not useful data. And that’s not one source says 36, and the other 150, it’s that they all give a range like that.

    1. BRR*

      Ive found it more useful to find a posting with a listed salary range (obviously may not work in all fields and easier said than done to find a posting with a salary range). Even in a different COL area, if it’s not dramatically different my manager was more receptive to knowing what other organizations pay my role.

  11. Willow*

    After spending months doing large portions of my boss’s job on top of my own (she was sick and often out), I asked for a raise to reflect my new responsibilities. Boss looked at me like I was crazy and said “we don’t do that here,” which was a total lie–I have colleagues who have gotten substantial raises when their responsibilities changed. I know why boss said it–she can’t admit to herself that she has needed help and that the burden has fallen on me. But this massively sucks. I’ve dusted off my resume and am now saying “no” whenever she asks me to do things outside my regular job. There’s no incentive to work my butt off for her any longer.

  12. Carla*

    Even before my review, my supervisor flat out told me that the annual reviews mean absolutely nothing and that the company does not give raises. not even cost of living adjustments. How do you ask for a raise after that? Pretty frustrating and discouraging to hear after putting in the work and going beyond what even the senior staff in my department have done.

    1. texpat*

      I’m baffled by what you’re supposed to do at a company that doesn’t offer cost-of-living adjustments. Do they just expect you to keep working at a 2019 salary in 2030, after 10 years of inflation, even before considering that you’d also gain 10 years of experience and increased responsibility? Or are they outright admitting that they only expect to keep anyone for 2 years at a time?

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Yeah I briefly worked at a company like that too. You got a COLA adjustment if, and only if, all 25 branch offices met their budget. Otherwise, you’d get a small bonus at the end of the year if your branch office met its budget, which still meant you weren’t getting a year-over-year raise because raises compound but bonuses don’t.

      2. Duck Duck Goose*

        I absolutely believe that the company I work for right now would keep my salary the same if I was here for another 10 years. We do not do COLA, period. It sucks.

      3. pally*

        Yes. They do. In fact, our CFO likes to say that “No one is entitled to an annual pay raise.”

        And folks have been here for decades. It is simpler to just work with a limited paycheck than find another job.
        To be fair, we do get some pay increases. Maybe every 2+ years or so-before the economy went south. These are modest increases like 3% (over 2 years doesn’t even equal the cost of inflation). In fact, I went an entire decade without a single pay raise. Had my pay cut by 10% for most of that time.

        I’ve been job hunting for 4 years now. No offers. And I have learned that my salary is below what these jobs are offering.
        They know folks are not going to leave. It’s not as easy to find another job out there as folks think.

        I wouldn’t dream of asking for a pay increase. They’d just fire me.

        1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

          My workplace has a lot of the same ideas about COLA.
          We don’t get any, and raises are a max of 3% every two-three years if you’re lucky.
          I recently argued a raise for myself and offered sample salary comparisons for my job title, duties, and seniority, and was told that I was already the highest paid in my job grouping. Considering that even after my raise, I’m still underpaid, that’s disappointing.
          My current job is so niche too that there is really no lateral move somewhere else. I’m likely only going to be considered for lower level positions (and even lower pay), so I haven’t left yet.

      4. Someone On-Line*

        I work for a certain state’s government and yes, that is what they expect. And yes, turnover and morale are awful.

      5. Brett*

        One interesting factor with COLAs is whether or not the company has retirees on pensions (not current employees, but retired employees). Any US company more than 40 years old almost certainly has retirees on pensions.
        Giving employees a COLA can trigger a Cost of Living increase on some or all pensions. By never giving a COLA, they can avoid ever increasing pensions for people who have already retired.

    2. Rebecca*

      Same here. I’ve one 50 cent per hour increase in the past 9 years. And I was expected to be grateful and be positive about it. The area I live in is a really crappy job market, there are jobs, but at maybe 50 – 70% of my current hourly wage, warehouse jobs with 12 hour shifts on your feet, that type of thing, so I’m now looking out of the area. This is ridiculous.

    3. Parenthetically*

      You don’t. You find another job where they don’t expect gratitude for employees sticking around watching their salary get comparatively smaller and smaller.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Because I’m British I read this as jell-o not jam, and I am utterly tickled by the idea of a monthly jell-o subscription. Thank you for the smile!

        1. wittyrepartee*

          Except you know one day they’ll send you one of those 1950s jello and ham monstrosities. *shudder*

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      For the people saying get a new job, my employer is the same (COLA only, 2% or so the past 3 years, nothing for a time b4 that), but it is considered one of the more desirable employers in the area.

      Where are these amazing jobs that you think we should get?

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Alternatively, I suggest you work your way up to the higher levels and try to change this policy. It’s not good labor practices, even if they are considered a good employer.

  13. Rockin Takin*

    At my company, us managers are pretty much unable to push anything forward. We have some wiggle room in our annual raises, but it’s tied to performance and usually we can’t offer our team more than 4%.
    To get someone promoted can take years and they constantly reject promotions because there’s no budget for it.
    If someone asks for a raise, I would fight for them but it would probably result in nothing.

    We are just such a large company and our HR is run like an IT dept (seriously, if you have an HR question you call a help line or put in a ticket).

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Putting in a ticket to the HR department is not a problem! Now, YOUR company’s HR department might be problematic, but ticket systems are not the reason why.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        If it’s anything like my company, it might be meant as “we used to have dedicated HR reps assigned to small groups of people, and that was all outsourced so it’s now run like a call center.”

  14. Hooray College Football!*

    I’m capped at my Gov’t job, except any COLA given across the board. No performance raises once you reach a certain level. There is some bonus money (both end of year and on the spot), but I keep telling them I’d rather have a time off award. Last year they listened and gave me 27 hours of extra leave to use during the year plus some cash. I’d like it all to be leave this year.

    1. Kheldarson*

      I don’t even *get* raises at my gov’t job except at the governor’s behest (due to teacher’s strikes, we’ve gotten raises the past two years, but I’m not holding my breath out for a third year).

  15. merp*

    So, is this worth doing at state jobs? I’ve always assumed no because of general pay bands/etc, but I’m realizing I never really looked into it. And we certainly don’t get raises every year.

    1. ouchie*

      I just don’t think this article is realistic. In higher ed it’s especially unrealistic. In state-funded higher ed it’s impossible. You’ll take your 1% COLA increase and like it.

      1. Steggy Saurus*

        Yeah, it seems pretty unrealistic for a) salary-banded government workers and b) state-funded higher ed. There’s a little more flexibility in private higher-ed, depending on the school.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Not that much in private higher ed. They actually cut people this last year, mostly early retirements. We only get “merit” increases equal to the national inflation rate.

          1. Steggy Saurus*

            I guess it depends on the institution. There’s some flexibility here, but then, we’re very small. I think the difference to me, between (some) private and public is that it isn’t outside all bounds of possibility to ask for an additional raise and get it. At a state or government job, with salary bands and ranges, there’s just not even any point in asking.

    2. Joielle*

      For me, no. I work for the state under a collective bargaining agreement – it’s the pay band, years of service, and review scores, and that’s it. Once you get to the top of the pay band, it’s just COLA until you get promoted into a different band, which is rare in my area because there just aren’t that many positions. I don’t mind, though. I make plenty, and for me, the trade-offs (great benefits, flexibility, interesting work, pension) are worth not having unlimited potential for salary growth. I feel like this article is aimed more at private sector workers.

    3. BRR*

      I don’t think there’s harm in asking once to get a gage on things. I have found information on raises somehow doesn’t get widely dispersed. But it might not be a thing where you are.

    4. calonkat*

      State jobs can be reclassified if the work has changed from when it was created. It takes support from your bosses and HR (and a lot of patience), but it’s happened to me twice based on the responsibilities of my job. Basically I’m still in the same position, but my official job title (and hence hourly rate) has gone up twice because the position itself got more things added to it (partly because of budget/staffing cuts mandated by the state in years past due to some unfortunate tax experiments…)

    5. CM*

      I don’t think you can just ask for a raise in the same way, but sometimes there’s something else you can ask for — joining the union if you’re not in it, reclassification, title, vacation time, figuring out how you can get to the next band.

    6. Brett*

      Honestly, you leave. That is your best option.

      I started working at a county job in 2007. They had already abolished COLAs in 1986. Three months after I started, they froze merit raises. A month after that, they froze all annual increases. They kept extending the freeze, until they made it permanent with a plan to lift it after 2020.
      (2020 budget just came out. Pay is still frozen.)

      So, I left in 2016. And I made it very clear I left because of pay. It was not a radical change in career field, but it was definitely a very different industry that I left for. Three years later, I am more than double my old pay. I have the potential to triple my old pay rate next year.

      So, yes, you leave.

      1. Brett*

        I’ll add that one huge benefit of your situation is that, if you are a merit employee and not a patronage employee, you have property rights that protect your continued employment.

        What this means is that you can job hunt with greater security than a private sector employee. You cannot be fired just for seeking a job elsewhere. Your bosses also cannot take measures against you to push you out as retaliation for seeking a job elsewhere. Since you don’t have raises and promotions, you cannot really be punished by being denied raises and promotions either.

        Do be careful not to use government resources for your job hunt, as this could be an ethical violation. (But, you would have to be warned and show a pattern of misuse before any action could be taken against you for that.)

        If you are a patronage employee instead of a merit employee, all bets are off. You can be fired at will with no protections. But if you are a patronage employee, you should always have your next job in line anyway since normally all it takes is an administration change for you to lose your job.

  16. Data Analyst*

    I coached my husband through asking for a raise this year, using AAM’s guides. He went into it thinking it was “unseemly” or “weird” to ask. But he had started as a business analyst and eventually became a product manager. This came with no raise because “the company thinks of these roles as being on the same level” which sounds nice in theory, but he totally has more responsibility as a PM and the market rates for these roles are different. So he went in and made the case based on market rate, and his increased responsibilities as well as glowing customer feedback. It took a while to get approved, but eventually he got it (11%, when their performance based raises can only be 3-6%) and his supervisor thanked him for asking, and for asking in the way that he did. It can be done! Trying to think of any key tidbits – I think he emailed her prior to the 1:1 where he brought it up, saying “I’d like to use this meeting to discuss compensation” – both so she wasn’t surprised and so he wouldn’t lose his nerve. He did it a couple months before the yearly performance review process kicked off so there could be no excuse that it was at the wrong time in the cycle. He had printed out the feedback he wanted to reference.

    1. CdnAcct*

      Those are great, solid steps, this is a really useful outline for anyone who is wondering how to kick the discussion off and how to prepare.

  17. Bands - not the musical kind*

    I just had a conversation with HR on this, to help get guidance on how to talk to my direct reports about this. We use a “framework” that puts you in a cohort within your class – all the Associates that joined in 2018 are in the same cohort and are in the same place in the overall salary band of Associates. HR is willing to hear you out, but unless the entire class moves, they are not willing to give a salary raise.
    Any comment/reactions to this? Does it mean that we should be asking?

    1. Fikly*

      That seems like a very weird way to set raises. What if the cohort is all people who should get merit raises except for one?

        1. It's Me, Margaret*

          Does the firm have a history of suspiciously unequal pay along some kind of sensitive line (gender, race, educational pedigree) that makes them hypersensitive?

  18. Amber Rose*

    This confuses me a little though. Raises come up at the annual review. That is the determined time to discuss that matter. Why would I ask prior to that (assuming nothing major has changed about my job)? I thought that was the point of regular reviews?

    I also really need to find some way of getting my husband to leave his job. Forget raises, after a decade of wage freezes they’re now being asked to take anywhere from a 2% to 11% pay cut. God, I hate our government. It’s hard not to resent the people that voted them in either.

    1. BRR*

      Some places calculate ahead of your review and go, you did good here’s your 2%. I think it’s mostly about knowing your company’s cycle. My last employer used the current review to calculate raises for the following year, so there’s no way I would want to primarily use my review to promote my work to get a raise 10 months later.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Not everyone gets an annual review, or even a regular one. And sometimes circumstances change at a time when it doesn’t make sense to wait for the review. When I asked for a raise, it was because we had just hired a few new people and my work was getting more difficult with more responsibility, plus I knew that my pay at the time had been suppressed by the financial situation in 2008 (I think I asked in 2009, but it might have been 2010). I had started looking for other jobs but didn’t want to leave. It made sense to ask in February, and I got the raise in April. I’m very glad I didn’t wait for my review.

    3. Mockingjay*

      By requesting out of cycle, your supervisor can pay more attention to the request, instead of being lumped in with a bunch of annual reviews and foisted off – “everyone is getting 3% this year; that’s the budget.”

      It gives you an opportunity to state your case, whether your duties have changed significantly, or if you’ve checked around and you are paid under market, and so on. It gives your supervisor time to assess your request, and run it up the chain if need be.

      1. Rugby*

        If I were to request a raise out of cycle, I would just be told to wait until performance review time because that’s the only time my company determines raises. Judging from the comments here, it sounds like that’s the case for a lot of other people as well. I seriously wonder how many jobs are left where you can walk into your boss’s office, ask for a raise, and be taken seriously. My impression is that that would only really work at small companies that don’t have a lot of standardized HR processes or for very senior positions that have a lot of leverage.

        1. Avasarala*

          I wonder if you could present it a little before performance time as “please keep this in mind when thinking about this next month”.

    4. Llellayena*

      Raises are often presented to the employee at the annual review as a done deal. If you start a salary discussion BEFORE the annual review, you have a chance of getting it improved in time to be issued with the review, which is bang on standard schedule.

    5. lost academic*

      At our firm, we usually have to commit the pool of money for bonuses and raises in advance of most people’s annual reviews. If you as an employee or a line manager are not already advocating for a specific raise prior to the actual review, you will be left out of the discussion. Obviously this is a systematic weakness but it is a reality. And the company also does go out of their way to steer people towards only pursuing raises and promotions at that annual cycle but it is by no means required or standard. They typically occur off cycle because a valuable person has asked, often with a competing offer in hand. It’s become a standard way to get a raise or promotion and unfortunate because sometimes there is no other reliable mechanism.

    6. Lily Rowan*

      At my last job, we did reviews over the summer, but I had to submit my budget, with people’s raises baked in, before our 7/1 fiscal year start.

  19. BRR*

    For those who haven’t asked, it gets easier after you do it the first time. It’s still not easy for me, but after the first time I am at least able to advocate for myself in that way.

    1. Just Another Manic Millie*

      Yes, it gets easier. I say that because I worked for over eleven years at a company where, if you didn’t ask for a raise, you didn’t get one, because they figured that if you were happy with what you were making, then why should they throw their money away by giving it to you?

      It was easy for me, because all I had to do was tell my supervisor “I want a raise.” I didn’t have to discuss all the wonderful things I had done throughout the year. He was familiar with my work. So he would say okay and start the wheels rolling. It took a while for the wheels to finish turning, though, because he had to tell the office manager that I wanted a raise, and if she approved, she had to tell the controller, and if he approved, he had to tell the treasurer, and if he approved, it had to go through all of the vice presidents and then the president and then the chairman of the board, and if all of them said okay, then I got my raise. They always said okay.

      Until the company changed its way of giving out raises. They decided that a committee would evaluate everyone at the company at the same time. Unfortunately, we were always told that the committee was never able to meet, because one of them was always either out sick or on a business trip or on vacation. We were never told who was on the committee, so we were unable to prove that all of them were here at the company every single day last week.

      Then there was a parade of people quitting, saying that they got tired of waiting for the committee to meet. After waiting six weeks after I asked my supervisor for a raise, I started job-hunting. Three weeks later, at the end of July, I gave two weeks notice and told the office manager that I got tired of waiting for the committee to meet. She guaranteed that the committee would meet by the end of the year. I said that I didn’t want to wait that long. I eventually found out that as of March in the following year, the committee still hadn’t met.

  20. texpat*

    Anyone have advice for asking for a raise in academia? Administrative position, not faculty. My immediate supervisor has encouraged me to ask for a formal title change and salary bump due to the increased responsibilities I’ve taken on this semester, but I’m not sure how to approach this with the faculty member who is my “real boss” and who would need to advocate for this with the department manager. This feels particularly sensitive for a number of reasons–I’m anticipating leaving for graduate school in fall 2020; all of the staff working for this faculty member are paid out of grants, which are by definition limited to a certain amount of money; and we have annual reviews that come with raises, so I’m not sure if the university permits discussions about compensation outside of this review period. Notably, last year I didn’t end up getting a sit-down annual review–the faculty member signed off on a 5% raise based on their written performance appraisal, which I reviewed and supplemented with a couple of additional achievements I wanted to highlight.

    I’m thinking that I will raise the question (so to speak) in the new year after this semester winds down. Anyone else in academia have tips/advice/anecdotes about their own experiences?

    1. Foxing*

      Wish I had advice but I’ll tune in out of general interest. I’m early career non-teaching faculty and I’ve only ever been told upfront “This is the pay, you get no negotiation” and the door is summarily shut on any potential conversation. We are a subsection of education particularly prone to budget cuts unfortunately.

    2. Asenath*

      I think it really depends on which university you are at and the conditions of your employment (eg are you paid out of grant money, or, if you are regular staff, are you union or non-bargaining). I used to be able to meet with people doing my kind of work from all across my country, and the range in work and pay arrangements was startling, even allowing for the fact that the work is sometimes divided up differently in different places – especially big universities vs small ones. I did know someone who was able to and did negotiate with the people in her department who controlled the fund from which her salary was paid. I could never do that – I’m union, and my salary increases are set by contract. I also work in a much smaller department and don’t have as many of the higher-level duties she had in her larger group, which she used to get her salary increased.

    3. Staff in academia*

      Do they know that you’re planning to leave in Fall 2020? I’m in academia and it takes so much work (and sometimes personal capital) for a manager to go to bat to get a job reclassified here that it would definitely leave a bad impression if you asked for it and then left shortly after it went through (even though that might not be fair!). In my system they can only request classifications during two specific time windows each year and getting all the paperwork and justifications in order can take ages and they usually have to argue with HR. This might vary by your institution, so I’d probably try to ask around to see if you can get a better sense of how much effort it is going to be for your boss to go to bat for you.

  21. LV426*

    I’ve been asking for a raise for years, it never seems to come to fruition because as soon as I get a raise (3-4%) the company then goes through a reorganization where they then tell us they are decreasing our salary. We were told this year that we couldn’t get raises without a demonstrable contribution towards revenue.So I’ve spent the past year of own time learning the ins and outs of a specific number of products that we sell and outsource the training for so that we could keep the training in house and save thousands of dollars per customer. The training costs us around $2000 per customer to outsource the training so that was saving our company that money, we could still charge the customer but not pay for the outsourced training because I could do it and I set up a training class schedule so that our customers could call in weekly to get answers to their questions as well as new and follow up training. So this saved our customer care team from spending time opening tickets for training and saved our techs’ time for following up on training issues. Our account and sales manager actually started using my ongoing training support as a selling point to our products. This is also on top of me doing my normal project management job so I’m effectively doing two roles in our company. My additional work was used as my example of how I deserve a raise because I’d be paying for my own raise and increasing our revenue. My manager agrees, his manager agrees, but the powers that be said no raises because our company is still losing cash flow.

    1. Bree*

      It sounds like your company overall is on a downhill spiral and you should be looking for a new job, to be honest.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      Agreed with the other comment. You’re facing one of two things… They can’t or won’t pay you more.

      1. Your company isn’t doing well financially… and you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip
      2. Your company is doing well financially and they are telling you otherwise to get out of paying you more.

      Either scenario, unfortunately, is a no win situation for you.

  22. Tech Guy*

    Does anyone have any recommendation on how to ask for something besides a $ raise? I’m a fairly new grad working in tech and basically make a higher salary than I know what to do with. I’ve found myself managing a team and doing a ton of travel and promotional work that wasn’t what I was hired for so I feel a raise is in order but honestly I’d prefer more vacation time in lieu. Any ideas on how to go about this sort of negotiation?

    1. Llellayena*

      Same way as a salary increase. Just use slightly different language, like “I’d like to discuss my compensation” instead of “I’d like to discuss a raise.” And you can use countering burn-out as one of your arguments: “I’m doing a lot more travel and management tasks and I’d like to have an additional week of paid vacation to use to decompress and avoid burn-out.” Don’t rule out the extra cash though, if you’ve got an extra week of vacation, you’ll probably spend more money using it. A small salary increase could offset the additional vacation travel costs! (This is part of why I never know what to do with the extra week of vacation I now have, I can’t really afford to take 2 full vacations in a year!)

      1. The Original K.*

        Take stay-cations! Use the time to play tourist where you live, or just use it to veg out or clean the house or do personal administrative stuff. I used to work somewhere that had plenty of faults but offered ample vacation time. I would typically take a week at Christmas, a week to ten days in summer, and then sprinkle the rest throughout the year. It was great to take off a random Wednesday or whatever just because I could. (I had a colleague who saved up most of his time for summer because his wife was a teacher so she was off then.)

  23. AvonLady Barksdale*

    A co-worker of mine wanted a raise. She made the appointment. I gave her pep talks. When she left the meeting, I asked how things went, and she said, “I… don’t think I actually ASKED for a raise.” She hadn’t. That might be the hardest part, actually saying the words, “I want a raise” or similar instead of just talking about your career path.

  24. Curmudgeon in California*


    My university employer, in my department, gives only “merit” raises, that coincidentally barely keep up with national inflation. We live in a high cost, high local inflation area. No one gets “exceeds” or “greatly exceeds”, either. They also only seem to promote men…

  25. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Anyone in higher ed with experience in asking for and receiving a raise ? Particularly a public state university.

    I often hear how unfeasible these types of raises are in higher ed, but I’m not sure if they’re really that rare. Who do you even negotiate with?

    1. Law school admin*

      I work at a public university (staff, not faculty). When I was hired, my salary was just $500 above the minimum for my position’s salary grade.

      After a few years, my job duties increased and I assumed a supervisory role; of course, my salary stayed the same (no COLA). I searched what others at my salary grade within my university were making and asked them for copies of their job descriptions. That was awkward, but some people did share. Having salary data and job descriptions of others in similar roles at my university and at other public universities in my state gave me the info I needed to ask my boss to increase my salary to the median of my salary grade. He approved it!

      One benefit of working for a public university is that salary data is also public. I felt very informed when I asked for a salary adjustment. But I will say that I did all this legwork myself — HR would never have helped me advocate for myself in this way.

  26. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

    Is there any chance of a raise/worth asking if you’re just…continuing to do a solid job? There’s not a lot of room for increasing responsibility in my job, and there aren’t really concrete measures of my job (I’m not responsible for increasing sales or bringing more people through the door or anything). I just do a good job and got a small, institution-wide, COL increase this year.
    I mean, I imagine that I’ll overall be better two years into my job than I was when I started–more experience, more knowledge of the institution, I’ve done some continuing-ed classes paid out of pocket that directly connect to my work (but not like, certification classes. Just, entirely voluntary classes on library pedagogy). There are a couple very small tasks I’ve taken on recently, but they take only a few hours a week and I’m by no means overworked.

  27. Notthateasy*

    The “same effort” is subject to inflation as well. That same means less now that we are more scaled and competitive.

    You give me the same effort and I pay you the same, I’m essentially giving you a raise.

    1. Fikly*

      That’s not how it works at all. It’s not about how hard they’re working, it’s about what they’re producing.

      Or are you saying you’d give a raise to an employee who works super hard but produces terrible work, and deny one to an employee who puts in little effort but produces superb work?

      Honestly, I am not surprised you have employees working less hard after you start taking their salary away. You reap what you sow.

    2. Avasarala*

      What? Do you think employees need to work 3x as hard their 3rd year as in their first? You know “employee effort” is not an eternally increasing source?
      Don’t your employees learn more and get better at your work and processes the longer they stay? Isn’t that worth rewarding?

  28. University Libraries*

    I don’t work in an area where one can just ask for a raise (staff in an academic library). You’ve gotta get your job description changed then maybe you can get a raise, but it’ll likely be just that one time. And oh, they gotta look at equity in the system too. Don’t forget that. Though it has been determined that people should be halfway through their bands after 10 years and this is untrue, especially for staff (because of course it is).

    I get a whopping (less than) 1.8% raise every year because they make it hard as hell to earn an excellent in your yearly review (they have been known to send them back). We Are?

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I wish AAM would give advice for jobs like this. I think a lot of people have city, state, uni, etc jobs that don’t give raises beyond occasional COL increases.

  29. Alienor*

    I would never ask for a raise beyond my annual merit increase, and the reason is because this company is known for getting rid of more highly paid people. They won’t flat out say “you make too much money, goodbye,” but mysteriously, whenever there’s a reorganization, the people who end up leaving are the ones who have been here a while and are pretty well compensated. I’d rather get a 3 percent raise instead of a 10 percent raise than take a 100 percent pay cut because they decided I was too expensive. (For the record, I’m looking at other jobs, not specifically because of this, but it’s not a point in their favor.)

  30. Hats Hats Hats*

    I hear this advice so often (from AAM, family and others) but it just seems so risky to ask for a raise I don’t think I’d ever do it. I’m conflicted because I know I am underpaid but I wouldn’t want to risk my job (or at least my reputation) and the very important benefit I will be eligible for soon (that no realistic increase in salary would make up for). I work for a private university and we get a 0-2% increase each year if budget is available and we’ve gotten the max the last couple of years so thats been nice. There are no merit increases because they want everyone to perform at the highest level consistently, not just until you make the amount of money you want. Our work culture places a lot of emphasis on reducing costs in everything we do so I think asking for a raise would be seen as disloyal and/or out of touch with priorities. I know that before I was hired they re-classified my position from an “officer” to an “assistant” which I’m sure reduced the pay quite a bit. I also know that I am doing more complex work and anyone previous to me (with additional things being added all the time) so they are probably getting a good bargain.

    1. CM*

      One thing you might ask for — if you felt comfortable doing it — is for your position to be re-re-classified. You could say that assistants in your organization do X, Y, and Z, while your responsibilities are at a much higher level, so you would like to have a different title and the salary increase that would come with that. That might be seen differently than asking for a raise.

  31. Lets not name names*

    I was promoted in October, however it was at a time that the company made layoffs. In fact, I was told I was being promoted during the same meeting I was told my assistant would be laid off, which was incredibly awkward and the owner acted *shocked* when I asked at what point we would be able to discuss a raise, and eventually learned “in the new year.” We have our annual reviews in February, should I wait until then, or follow up on this Jan. 1 (or 2, when we’re actually back.) Also, this is all not good right? It’s a bit of a toxic environment and hard to gauge what’s ok and what’s not. For example, after these layoffs, and my salary freeze despite promotion and additional responsibilities (plus, not having an assistant anymore) they sent the bosses pet (a young woman he is close with through friend connections, they travel and do holidays together occasionally) on a two week trip across Asia, staying in upscale hotels, for murky “business development” purposes, though she doesn’t really have that experience and her current role is more of a marketing one (also murky on what this entails in any tangible sense.)

    1. BRR*

      Id mentally prepare to not get one at all (or it be tiny). I’d ask sooner rather than later and say you can assume the new responsibilities when the new salary starts.

  32. Lygeia*

    I was promoted into the role I currently have. When I accepted the new position, I was given a raise, but it was definitely still compensation on the low end (or below) market value for the position. This was because I was actually missing a few key skills, but my company was willing to train me on those in order to avoid going outside the organization to fill the role.

    Now it’s coming up on end of year reviews (and that coincides fairly closely with my anniversary for the role). How do I go about asking for a raise to put me more in line with market value? It would be a very significant raise (something like a 15% increase).

    To add to this, I do know exactly what my predecessor in this role earned so I’m basing my numbers on that. Do I bring that up as part of my argument?

  33. Goldfinch*

    I struggle with this. My company is privately owned so nobody’s pay is researchable; my job has few measurable metrics and is more “prevented amorphous bad things from happening”; and my company’s budget is very precisely calculated many months away from reviews, so it’s always either too late or too early to ask for more money.

  34. Allypopx*

    Tangental question – what range do yall usually provide? I’m trying to work out my terms for a job offer and I don’t know if I should present a 5k range, or like a 3k range, or more? Or just a target number?

  35. CastIrony*

    I’m just grateful for the ten cents a year I get at one of my jobs. However, my raise is somehow based on the wage I had when I started.

  36. Elle*

    What should one do if COL increases aren’t a thing at your job? I don’t feel as though I’m ready to ask for a promotion, yet–I get overall solid performance reviews but nothing over-the-top glowing (my manager isn’t that kind of person; she grades on a really tough curve, but we get along well and she considers me high-performing). I think I’m solid enough to merit some kind of salary increase over the two years I’ve been here, but have no idea how to ask for it since it’s something that just doesn’t happen here.

  37. Peaches*

    When I had been at my new job for only about a year (back in 2016), I did some research and found out I was being underpaid. To be fair, when I accepted the job, the salary seemed fair. I just ended up taking on some additional resposibilities (ones that I actually enjoyed!) as time went on.

    I had received glowing reviews from my superiors at that time, so I put together a little “presentation binder” if you will, noting my accomplishments, and explaning why I felt like an 18% raise was fair. They came back the next day and happily gave me the raise. At the time, as a 23 year old woman, I waivered back and forth on whether I should even *ask* for a raise. It ended up being way easier than I thought.

    My company gives merit raises evey year (3-5%), but I’m glad I asked for the much larger raise way back when. Otherwise, I still wouldn’t even be at the salary now that I’d received back in 2016!

    1. Peaches*

      I should add, though, that I’m very lucky to work in a business where layoffs or “we don’t have the budget for it” will most likely never be A Thing. The product/services that we sell are necessities, regardless of the economy. I know that not everyone has that luxury.

  38. Hey Nonnie*

    In the spirit of this post: if you start a new job mid-year, and evals / raises are parceled out end-of-year, do you ask for a raise after six months (seems a little soon), or 18 months (seems late)?

  39. miss_chevious*

    All of these comments make me grateful to work for a company where the review process is transparent, and where pay equity and balancing is taken seriously. People who want an increase in compensation are encouraged to make their case at specific times throughout the year, given feedback about what may and may not be possible, and know already that they are paid in accordance with their peers (we have an independent auditor assess salaries annually). We also have a bonus structure that allows for the rewarding of exceptional performance separate and apart from increases in base salary.

  40. nonbinarian*

    I work in a library that does a step system. I don’t know/think you can ask for raises in this case? Although I did negotiate a starting pay that was higher (they started me at a higher step).

  41. Sansa*

    I wrote in earlier this year about my dream job never giving out raises, not even COL. Since that time, several people in my division have been laid off through no fault of their own and many of us got unfairly low ratings on our performance reviews due to some business decisions & politics happening at many levels above me. My managers hands are tied even if I were to bring up the issue so I feel like mine are too. I wouldn’t be surprised if the usual small year end bonus gets waived.

    I’ve still been making an effort to improve my performance and develop myself, but working for a place that doesn’t pay what people are worth is demoralizing and I am currently updating my resume. I am just torn between having a known quantity in this job, however bad its quality, and the irrational fear of leaving my lovely co-workers for finding a position that looks fair on paper but is actually a hellmouth…….

  42. ExOUPress*

    At my last job, in academic publishing, there were annual company-wide raises—3% in a good year, less if it’s not as good a year. At least at the lower levels (editorial assistant, assistant editor, associate editor, etc.) there’s absolutely no room for negotiation. Your salary is set beforehand and you can’t ask for more when being hired. I know someone who asked if she could have a higher starting salary because she has a Master’s degree and the HR person literally laughed at the idea. It does reduce the issue of finding out your white and/or male peers are making more, but the entry-level (assistant) salary is $35,000 (only after some people banded together and forced them to increase it from $30k a few years ago!) you can be promoted twice and still barely make $40k…and this is in New York City. A three-percent raise might equal a good chunk of extra money to the higher-ups making livable salaries but it’s literally like throwing pennies at the rest of us. On top of that, we’re a non-profit so our tax returns are public and we can see the six-figure salaries (in the president’s case, over a million dollars) the highest paid employees are earning. But we literally cannot do anything about it because they know if we leave they can easily hire another eager recent grad in this job market. No incentive to do better. As great as Alison’s advice is, unfortunately it won’t get you anywhere with this company, even though they’re well-known worldwide. Whatever the jobs numbers are, the reality is that things are entirely in the company’s favor because there’s so many of us out there, well-educated, qualified, but desperate for work.

  43. Thankful for AAM*

    I work for a municipality. Is the advice the same, has anyone successfully gotten a raise from a government? I believe that there is no possibility of a raise at all from my city except COL which they try to give most years. HR will not even negotiate at hire. We don’t have any merit raises or even do annual reviews.

    Any thoughts?

  44. Midge*

    What do you do when your company doesn’t give COL raises because they already pay at least a minimum “living wage” to everybody? We’re already not getting regular merit based raises or bonuses this year because of finances. I like my company a lot, and there are basically zero opportunities in this rural area, so there is no going out and finding another job. It’s basically do you want to go one step down or ten? I feel so stuck financially.

    1. Midge*

      I mean, we aren’t starving. But we can only afford decent housing and to keep money in savings and all that other responsible adult stuff because of my husband’s career. It’s really demoralizing. If something ever happened to my husband I would have a hard time being financially independent, even working for a socially responsible company. It’s unlikely, but so scary to think about.

  45. Mae*

    I haven’t asked for a raise because the one person I know who did got reprimanded for doing so and left the company shortly thereafter.

    I actually feel like I’m paid a fair rate, but recently they have been asking us to take on more HR and accounting duties, which is outside my scope of experience, and I think it should come with a pay bump, but I don’t want to get on the outs with management.

  46. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

    I know this is a few days old now, but I wanted to come by and comment that I took Alison’s advice earlier this year and made a case for a raise and received it. My company falls into the camp where you only get a raise in two scenarios: at your yearly review or when you’re promoted. Typically the raise at your annual review is presented as a done deal, with no room for negotiation, and is capped between 3 and 4% for the highest performers. Three months before my review I sat down with my boss during our weekly 1:1 and I laid out a case for why I felt I had earned an additional raise. I laid out what my job duties had been before (she’s my new manager, where I have had been here for a number of years) and how they had changed. I noted the shift in responsibility and the change in scale. I have moved from an IC role to one more of project management. After I laid out my case, I also laid out what I was hoping to accomplish. I didn’t want a title change, just to update my job description and to receive a raise commensurate with my additional responsibilities. She of course couldn’t commit to anything right then, so I reminded her a couple of times between that first conversation and the month of my review of my hopes. She agreed with me and made the case up the chain.
    I had my review earlier this week and I received exactly what I had hoped for. The typical annual increase for a high performer, plus an additional % on top for the extra duties I have taken on. I had to be patient and wait a few months, but ultimately my company came through and showed that they value my skills as much as I believed they should.
    I’ll be honest, it was scary the first time I brought it up, and I was almost shaking, but I am so glad I made my case. It worked out, and both sides are happy.

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