should employees have to ask for a raise?

A reader writes:

I recently found myself in a disagreement about an issue with a fellow manager: Should an employee have to ask in order to get a raise?

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

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

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

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

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

{ 243 comments… read them below }

  1. hamsterpants*

    The fact is that men who ask for what they want are rewarded for being assertive, while women who ask for what they want are punished for being strident. Unless spontaneous contact renegotiation is in the job description, you shouldn’t base raises (compensation) on it.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      This is the issue right here. The fact of the matter is that some managers are going to have different subconscious reactions to their male employees asking for raises vs their women/minority/etc. employees. Until we can safely say that zero managers have that subconscious bias, we cannot force employees to have to decide between asking for raises or continuing to be in good favor with their bosses. Because unfortunately, that is an internal discussion that has to happen sometimes, and often the best choice is not asking for that raise.

      1. EngGirl*

        This is straight up facts.

        I have a meeting later today with my boss where we’re going to discuss a few issues/frustrations I’m dealing with, and I know that one of the issues I’m having is that my compensation and benefits do not hold with my current value to the company. And yet I will not be straight up stating that because of my conditioning as a woman but also because of the conditioning I think my boss has received in their own life. I know I’m just going to end up implying what I’m getting at there (it’s not the most major issue I’m dealing with by any means, but it’s still a thing that’s an issue)

      2. Avril Ludgateau*

        Because unfortunately, that is an internal discussion that has to happen sometimes, and often the best choice is not asking for that raise.

        Quoting you for emphasis. Based on the presumption of bias and/or experiences that validate that presumption, some women will be discouraged enough to self-select out of pressing for raises.

    2. irene adler*

      This is why there’s no way in hell I will ever ask for a raise. I know, as a woman, and over 50, I will just get told some version of “no” (politely , of course). Managers know no one will hire me. I’m stuck at my current job.

      I still recall a female co-worker asking for a raise. She was turned down. Because: higher salary means everything just gets more expensive. Can’t believe someone said that with a straight face.

      1. button*

        All I hear from ‘over 50’ is ‘decades of experience’. I know I’m a random internet stranger, but I implore you to go stick some feelers out and see if there are more opportunities. Even if you don’t get more money, you might find you’re not in an environment where you feel the reasoning is ‘over 50 and a woman’!

        You’re never as stuck as you think you are.
        I say this as someone who is in the middle of a contract with exit fees but is preparing to lawyer up and go find a job that makes me happy. ‘Take life by the balls” as my father in law told me yesterday. You still have a decade (?) in the workforce, enjoy it

        PS: I love your username

        1. irene adler*

          Sorry, this is not my experience at all. I am stuck.

          I’ve been job hunting for 7 years now. AND, over the last 7 years I’ve added 4 certifications and two AA degrees to the resume- all of which pertain to my industry.

          Resume indicates only 15 years of experience. Dates have been left off.

          I get a lot of screening interviews. And a lot of “We went with the other finalist. Good luck with the job search”. And a lot of “when did you graduate from college- the first time?” followed by crickets. I know the score.

          I am not trying to get more money or climb the corporate ladder. I just want a job at a company that is more stable than the one I’m at now (small company, uncertain future).

          1. ApollosTorso*

            Age discrimination is very real. So sorry to hear of your experience and many others like it. I also hear discriminatory minders from younger workers. I can definitely see validity I can what you’ve went through

            1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              Yes! Age discrimination is very real, and for that reason, there are sideways expression that we should just accept this as the reality.

          2. Random Biter*

            All the feels, sis. Two years ago I lost my job of 25 years at a non-profit when they lost three major funding streams and started closing offices. I was in my late 60’s and figured I “might” get a job as a WalMart greeter. So here I was, at the height of the pandemic, no job and, like you, plenty of interviews but zero response once we did the face-to-face thing. It was then I decided to go back to tinting my hair (even if it is purple) and not letting the tats show so as not to cause spasms in interviewers (even though it’s nice to see those dinosaurs are disappearing and body art isn’t the source of employment shame it used to be). The only nibble I had was a gawdawful temp position (which I was lied to about) that is a whole ‘nother story itself. Finally, I applied for a job that seemed mind-numbingly bad at a very small local business. The owner was only a couple of years younger than I am and actually saw the benefits of hiring a geezer. I’ve since expanded my position to cover multiple jobs in the business and will be here until I win the lottery or St. Peter calls me home, so as tedious as it sounds (and I heard it a lot) keep pushing….to infinity and beyond!

      2. Petty Betty*

        Sheesh. At over 50, I see a union administrative worker, or a federal administrative worker, both making decent wages. In both of those scenarios – I’m the younger one on scene here.

      3. Summer*

        This is something that straight up terrifies me because I’m a 43 year old woman and I’m so scared that I’m going to get stuck in a job with no way out because of my age. I honestly don’t know what to do. I’d love to go back to school but will the expense even be worth the new degree? I feel so stuck and I don’t even know who to talk to about this.

        1. Aww, coffee, no*

          I can’t advise who might be helpful to talk to, but I can tell you that at 50, after 30-odd years of teaching, my Mum went back to college to get an accounting qualification, and moved into accounting for the next ten years.
          It may be tough, but I’d say it’s never too late.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I was made redundant at 54, started up my own freelancing business, now working less and earning double. And doing mostly more interesting work.

      4. Despachito*

        What is the worst outcome if you ask, apart from being turned down?

        Is there a risk that they are going to fire you just for asking?

        Because if so, I’d understand being afraid to ask, but if not, and the worst thing what can happen is that they will say no, there is a non-zero chance you are going to get the raise if you do ask, but zero chance if you don’t.

        1. Claire*

          That’s not the worst that happens, for women. Look up the studies on this. Women who negotiate their salaries are viewed as “unlikable” by their managers which has cascading effects on their careers. Women who don’t negotiate their salaries get paid less than men for the same work with the same qualifications. It’s referred to as the double-bind. Basically, because of sexism, it’s a lose-lose situation for women.

          1. Despachito*

            I understand that it is often the case, and I also understand why in certain circumstances, people are afraid of pushing back.

            But all this has a very unpleasant vibe of self-fulfilling prophecy, where women lose either way, and if it is really true, we have no chance but sit in the corner, work ourselves to the bone, be afraid to open our mouths and be grateful that we are allowed to stay.

            One hundred years ago, the studies would probably say that a woman who wants to go to the university or become a manager is “unlikable”. Yet we have undergone quite a long path since then, and while things are far from perfect, they are WAY better for us.

            Yes, I understand, that we are not always in a situation to push back, but if we are, we should. For ourselves, and also to pave the way for our daughters and granndaughters, just as our mothers and grandmothers paved the way for us to be where we are now.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              I’m sorry, but… what is your point? Those are a lot of nice words, but I truly don’t understand what you are suggesting people should do. The facts are that many people will have a subconscious (or conscious) bias against women who ask to be paid what they are worth, and this is why people are arguing no one (like the OP) should base raises on whether someone asks or not.

              1. Despachito*

                In an ideal world, yes, they should not HAVE to ask. And as we are answering primarily to OP, I also agree that she should not give raises only if asked.

                But as we do not live in an ideal world, and I was responding to those who were saying that a woman who is asking for a raise is viewed badly. And my point was that if we do not have that ideal boss who gives us raises without asking, and we are not in a situation where we cannot absolutely afford anything else than lie low and fly below the radar, we should not be afraid of asking ourselves whenever we feel like it.

                (please note that I believe the commenters who say THEY are not in a position to do that, but I am also in the “over 50” category and if I read implications that should shut up and be glad with what I have because despite all my experience I am basically worthless and nobody would want to employ me, it just grates me the wrong way.)

                1. Ceiswyn*

                  OK, so you’re basically saing that women should take the risk of being viewed badly by their boss, rather than the risk of not getting a raise?

                2. Despachito*

                  This is a reply to Ceiswyn, the system does not let me nest it correctly.

                  Yes, I am basically saying this, if they can afford it.

                  Because if the boss views a woman badly just because she is a woman who dared to ask for a raise, he is first a very bad boss and second, he is probably violating some law, and definitely acting against decency. Are we not trying to fight discrimination? Are we not advised against accepting the “boys will be boys” attitude? Is it really necessary to appease everyone at our own expense?

            2. LittleMarshmallow*

              The “lose lose means never try” is not what is being said… just that women do take on risk when asking for what they deserve so they need to be calculating about it and managers shouldn’t yet make asking for raises a requirement for getting a raise.

              I am F(38) so I have about 15 years of experience. In that time I’ve advocated for my salary twice. Once in a counter offer situation (I had an offer for $15k more than what I was currently making… but I didn’t want to move to FArgo) – it worked out overall. The other time was just in a salary negotiation for a new position within same company. I got more than I would’ve had I not negotiated but not as much as I was hoping for (my first year or so there was break even but I was switching trades so it had to be done).

              I do make it a practice to discuss next steps and such in performance reviews. But that’s very different from asking for a raise. If I did that (especially since our company has a fairly regimented process on raise allocation-sometimes referred to as thunderdome), every year I can almost guarantee my managers would get tired of it and I’d be viewed as difficult, but our company has a process that doesn’t require employees to ask to get raises so it’s more fair than requiring that. So I don’t unless I have a very specific reason to think it will work in my favor.

    3. Ann Onymous*

      I will upvote this comment all day long.

      There have actually been studies showing that women who negotiate salary are perceived much more negatively than men who do the same thing, and this contributes to gendered pay disparities. It seems highly likely that the same phenomenon would apply to asking for raises.

      1. Despachito*

        But what if we overvalue the “negative perception” (perhaps because we, as women, have been groomed to)?

        If a bad male worker with sufficient chutzpah asks for a raise, is he not perceived negatively?

        1. Ceiswyn*

          No, he’s not. Why would he be? He’s not violating the unfair gendered behaviour expectations.

          1. Despachito*

            But he is violating OTHER expectations (that you should deserve a raise), and I find this much more serious and negative-worthy than if the asker is a hard-working person who just happens to be female.

            1. Jennie*

              Unfortunately the data shows that you’re not necessarily representative on that front, and furthermore we don’t usually have apples-to-apples scenarios where we have a qualified woman and an unqualified man asking the same manager for the same raise and we get to see how the mgr feels. Instead, we have a lot of data, from a lot of angles, that suggests women are at risk when they ask for more money.

    4. Melicious*

      Yes yes yes. There are lots of reasons why some people would be uncomfortable or cautious asking for a raise. People come from different backgrounds, and everyone even knows that asking is an ok thing to do!!! Unless they’ve been lucky enough to have an experienced person tell them that.
      Most people who don’t know or feel like they can’t ask are already being at a pay disadvantage. Women, POC, people who have been exploited or treated badly by previous employers, etc. Please don’t perpetuate the already crappy system. Base pay off performance and value to the company.

        1. LIZZIE*

          Nor does everyone feel comfortable asking even if they do! I remember asking for a raise in my very first job. I was shaking and nervous, and really didn’t want to do it, but I persevered, and got a small one. But it took me a long time to get up the courage and gather my thoughts and “arguments” as to why I should get one

      1. Certaintroublemaker*

        Yes, this comes up a lot when discussing things like sending Thank Yous after an interview. A lot of people don’t know that raises can/should be asked for. And even in LW’s own company, someone working for LW would tell you to ask, while someone working for LW’s colleague would tell you that you don’t have to ask!

    5. MK*

      Frankly, I don’t think it matters. There are supposed to be advantages to being an employee, among those that it is a steady professional relationship where you shouldn’t have to renegotiate all the time. Even if the OP’s method didn’t result in inequity, I would resent having to pitch my boss every time I want a raise, as though I was a salesperson.

      And from the company’s point of view, this is a great way to reward the wtong things.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Agreed! Part of the employer’s job is to regularly review performance, job duties, & wages/salaries to make sure that everyone is in the right position & being compensated fairly.

        1. LIZZIE*

          I agree. I’m lucky my company is good about this. I got a very large merit increase last year, double or more what I normally would have gotten, because they did a whole review and revamp of all salary ranges, job titles and responsibilities, and upped a number of ranges. Because I now fell below the bottom of mine, they had to bring it up to where it should be.

      2. Ping*

        It’s been my experience that some of the most incompetent people are the ones demanding more perks and higher salaries. They are incapable of judging their own performance because of their incompetence.

        Conversely, many high performers don’t realize how much better they are than others. At least not initially.

        Under OPs system the incompetent would get rewarded while the humble high performer would get the shaft. The incompetent have no incentive to do better and the high performer has no incentive to continue their high performance.

        Talk about bad management!

        1. MEH Squared*

          The Dunning-Kruger effect on both sides. Most people know the part about incompetent people having an inflated view of themselves. The lesser-known part of the study was the finding that people who are really good at something massively underestimate how much better they are at it than someone else. Add that to societal factors that make women and minorities less likely to negotiate (and be viewed negatively if they do), and it leaves a system rife with inequality.

          1. El Muneco*

            I think it’s more like Impostor Syndrome. Unlike Dunning-Krueger cases, my top performing people tend to know the requirements very well, but focus on the things they “should” be able to do but can’t, leading to underrating their total performance even though they do tend to understand how much better they are at the rest of their responsibilities.

          2. Irish Teacher*

            Most people tend to assume they are “normal,” so high performers assume everybody else is competent and works hard whereas low performers tend to assume everybody else is performing around their level.

            Also high performers also tend to CARE more about their jobs and want to do them perfectly. Yeah, there are people who care and just aren’t very good at a job but there are also people who do badly because they don’t make much effort and those people tend to think they are doing fine – they arrive on time, get most of their work done, that’s good enough for them.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yes. It came as a total surprise to me to see that I was literally twice as productive as my colleague, because I arrived late, left on the dot, spent plenty of time chatting, making tea, etc, while she arrived early, left late and never did anything except work hard the whole time she was in the office.

    6. starfox*

      100% this. Women are punished for being assertive from childhood. (She’s being too bossy. She’s full of herself. She’s getting too big for her britches [or is that just a southern one?])

      Then you expect us to go against decades of socialization (which, granted, we should–because of people like this manager) and penalize us if we don’t.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        And penalize us if we do. Because we are still bossy/make more than the plant managers already/use words that make people feel stupid.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Look at how Disney publicly dragged Scarlet Johansson when she asked them to pay her what she should get for her work on Black Widow (when they changed the agreed release strategy without renegotiating her contract or even responding to her team’s request to discuss the fact that Disney was changing from the agreed to distribution plan). They essentially said “she’s already gets paid more than most people and it’s a pandemic, can you believe this woman is acting so selfish and entitled? She should just be happy with what’s she’s got.”

          Amazingly (not) they never turned this logic on themselves (Disney is one of the largest, most profitable companies in the world with, yes , gobs of money … whatever they didn’t pay her they’d just keep for themselves… don’t THEY have enough already?) or, for that matter on her male co-Avengers. For example I never saw a statement from Disney that Robert Downey Jr had enough money and should just be satisfied with whatever Disney wanted to pay him.

          1. starfox*

            Thank you, this is a really good public example.

            Of course, I think celebrities are paid obscene amounts of money… but that doesn’t mean female celebrities should just get taken advantage of… it’s the principle of the thing. What Disney did was entirely unfair and she was basically not going to make royalties off the movie she made since Disney decided to stream it without paying her for the streaming rights. But the narrative was that ScarJo was “throwing a fit” that the movie was streamed during a pandemic, and isn’t she selfish for wanting people to go to the theatre to see the movie/risk Covid exposure. But that’s not at all what happened.

            And yes… no one asked why the bigwigs at Disney didn’t realize they already have “enough money” and pay her what she was owed!

            1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              Remember Suzanne Somers/”Three’s Company”? Boy did she have her nerve, wanting to be paid the same as the men! ‘Course, back then, all the power was in the hands of the men. As a secretary at a good-sized entertainment company at that time, I negotiated for a higher salary than originally offered. The $ amounts got out and the other secretaries were furious with me. But I was worth every dime and it’s not as if I was making millions.

              1. pancakes*

                I remember, they just replaced her with a different Chrissy. I think that’s what happened with the original Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, too.

        2. starfox*

          Yes, exactly! The same things we were told as children… we’re still told! And that’s only if we overcome the major obstacles of our socialization, only to be penalized again.

    7. Lea*


      Are they doing a good job??? Reward them appropriately.

      What do these managers think *their* job is anyways?

    8. Cookie*

      My experience has been “If you want more money, sit up and beg for it,” and then when you do, the whole meeting is about how you don’t smile enough to deserve more money, paperwork/records/testimonials notwithstanding.

        1. LittleMarshmallow*

          I’ve not gotten the “smile” argument for raises but I have gotten it for promotions. “I just don’t think you’re cut out for supervision, you don’t smile enough”. Yep. Those words said to my face by someone who only bothered to interact with me when something had gone wrong and made me jump thru ridiculous hoops that the male supervisors didn’t have to get support for my team. I was well liked by those I managed and met my objectives (well… the ones they didn’t make it impossible to meet – you’re going to have to take my word for it). If I put on a smile for crisis management I got accused of being “too flippant about a serious situation”, but if I maintained a straight face then “I don’t smile enough”. In general I’m known to be excellent at crisis management and know when I need to add some lightness and when it needs to be all business, but this manager did not want women in his supervisor roles so no matter what I did it was wrong.

          Luckily I got out of there. I still talk to the guys I managed some and we still have a good working relationship so I don’t think I was a failure, I think I was set up to fail, and it took me a long time to get there internally.

    9. Old Cynic*

      Spot on. Men are assertive, women are pushy. It might be waning, but it’s been that way for years.

      1. LittleMarshmallow*

        Probably industry specific but I haven’t seen much of a wane in that yet unfortunately. Especially on teams that are predominately male.

    10. Soupspoon McGee*

      THIS! I was set to email my boss a request for a raise because we rarely see each other in person, and a male colleague recommended I ask face-to-face because it will make the employer feel more pressure to say yes. It makes logical sense, but I don’t want to make my boss uncomfortable and pressured. I just want him to give me more money. Then I realized much gender socialization and perception affect the suggestion and my response. Still haven’t asked.

    11. Artemesia*

      This. Women and minorities are often punished as being ‘entitled’ or ‘pushy’ if they advocate for themselves and so they have been schooled not to — this is another way to assure that aggressive/assertive men get rewarded, perhaps above their value while others find salaries lagging. And many people who watch others rewarded who are less effective will go find another job without ever asking for a raise.

  2. Justme, The OG*

    Have to? No. Management should also see that someone is excelling and reward them for it. But people definitely can ask for a raise of they think they deserve it. Caveat being what hamsterpants said above.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      ESPECIALLY now when people are resigning for reasons like being underpaid. Pay your people better.

      1. Antilles*

        The letter is several years old, but I’d love to see an update from the OP as to how this philosophy has been working out for them in the current tight labor market.
        Maybe this worked decently enough back in 2018, I don’t know…but not when you can barely open a news website without seeing articles about how much companies are willing to pay to find talent right now.

        1. MEH Squared*

          I read this recently because I like to trawl the archives. I’m surprised to see its’s from 2018, which is quite recent because the mentality seems much older. Very gumption-y. I, too, would like to know if the OP seriously thought about what Alison wrote and changed their thinking.

          1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

            This is interesting, I found myself wondering how old this letter was while I was reading it.

          2. Le Sigh*

            The mentality feels older, but I have seen strains of this thinking among a number of my colleagues over the years, even at more progressive companies and younger bosses. I suspect that like me, they were raised by people with different outlooks on jobs and employment, and it can permeate your thinking without even realizing it. A really common one still seems to be, “well, I never took vacation days/came to work sick/worked til midnight for $7/hr in the trenches (or even better, for no pay just to get experience), these kids aren’t willing to pay their dues and whine about everything.” Instead of saying, “that was crap treatment, we shouldn’t perpetuate that” they will instead adopt a suck it up attitude. Often when I’ve pushed back on that people realize the problem, but sometimes you have to nudge the person to realize it.

  3. Alianora*

    “It also means that, statistically speaking, you’re likely to have inequities that are based on sex and race as well — because there’s lots of data showing that white men are more comfortable asking for raises and that women and people of color are less so.”

    Not only this, but women and POC are also justified in being less comfortable asking for raises. They’re more likely to be turned down and penalized for asking for a higher salary.

    1. Incoming Principal*

      In my culture of origin, “people like me” are not taught to advocate for themselves whereas we have a “caste” of people who learn to do it so naturally since childhood, and guess who rules the country politically, economically, and in some parts also religiously…
      The reason I braved multiple relocations and setbacks and unfair treatment was because I eventually wanted to end-up in something close to a meritocracy.
      As a senior manager (at last.. with many long overdue promotions), I cannot bear the karmic shit of knowing that I favoured the very type of people who would make it anyway just because I want people to “pitch” to me. It is just icky and I know this is a bit strong, but this is my visceral reaction to the kind of BS that held people like me back so many times unfairly

    2. Green great dragon*

      Yes. I would suggest there is lots of data showing that our society makes asking for a raise a more comfortable experience for white men than it does for those who are not white men.

    3. kiki*

      Exactly. I feel like I see a lot of people respond to statistics about women and POC not getting raises with, “Women and POC need to lean in and ask for a raise!” and complete ignore the evidence that women and POC are often punished in some way or another for advocating for themselves.

    4. Ms. Dribblington*

      Yes, this. When I was first hired, I was informed the salary was non-negotiable. Zoom to over a year later, and I am ready to hire my first report, and the job posting was a position about 4 title levels below mine. But my boss was in charge of the salary negotiation and title, even though I was the hiring manager. So what happened? We made an offer to a male candidate, but he held out for more money and higher title. And he got exactly what he asked for. He got a title immediately below mine and a salary just barely under my salary. It was not at all what I was expecting or would have done, and it was not what the company needed in this position.

  4. Irish girl*

    All i can say is Wow that is so not cool. Its one thing for someone to come to you saying “hey im underpaid, here is why” with all the info and its another not to do any annual salary and performance review that includes merit increases or promotions.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      If I squint, I could maaaayyyybe accept LW’s philosophy AS LONG AS he (I feel fairly confident assuming this is a man) tells his employees this up front and gives them the information they need to accomplish it.

      As in, during an employee’s onboarding, he needs to say to them, “Here’s how we do salary increases here. I expect you to ask for a meeting near your anniversary date, come to me with a document outlining your accomplishments [*provides sample*], and give me a specific new salary figure. Here’s a transparent list of how much everyone is making, so you know ballpark figures based on people’s tenure and experience.”

      But if he’s expecting people to guess this? And essentially punishing them if they don’t? Which we all know is actually what’s happening? Absolutely not.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I honestly can’t imagine how anybody could guess that. Again, maybe it’s partly because I work in a field where asking for raises isn’t an option, the Department of Education pays our salary and I honestly wouldn’t even know how to contact anybody with a say in it – I guess maybe the Minister for Education? But it would never occur to me to bring documents. At most, I might go to a boss and say, “I was wondering when I might be due for a raise?”

        Honestly, even if the boss WAS clear, it sounds like such a palaver, that unless I was actually struggling to pay my bills on what I was earning, I think I’d be doubtful whether all the hassle was worth the extra-money and might just not bother (I hope that ISN’T what the LW is hoping for), especially since I’m…not exactly the best when it comes to things like negotiation (I possibly have some autistic like traits, which…is yet another reason this is a poor idea; it benefits people with good interpersonal skills and is likely to be harder for people who are autistic or even just from “deprived” backgrounds – hate that term, but can’t think of a good way to phrase it, but people who say grew up in families where both parents were unemployed and where there weren’t many opportunities,).

        But without a clear explanation, I can’t imagine many people even considering that all this would be expected (unless it’s the norm in the LW’s industry, I guess). I think most people would assume you ask your boss for a raise and he or she is already familiar with your accomplishments.

        I will add that as well as my industry, my country has a culture of “not pushing yourself forward,” so I guess going in with supporting materials might be more acceptable elsewhere. But it still seems like the LW is expecting people to figure out a lot that is far from obvious.

      2. Elsajeni*

        I was thinking along the same lines — encouraging your staff to do this kind of self-advocacy seems reasonable to me, and indeed like something that might benefit them in future jobs! But even in the best-case scenario, that only works if you 1) make your expectations clear, and 2) are willing to respond to a raise request that’s missing some part of what you want with “hey this is a good start, let’s talk about some of your recent accomplishments that could help bolster your case here” rather than just rejecting it. (And also, ideally, keep an eye on performance and compensation yourself and occasionally approach someone to say “I think it’s about time you put together a raise request packet — here’s a reminder of the pieces you need, let’s talk about it next week.”)

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Ahead of our annual review, we used to get a document to fill in, to get started on the conversations we would have. In bold caps, right under the title, it said “the annual review is not an appropriate time to ask for a pay rise”. Since I only ever saw my manager at the annual review, or if something went seriously wrong, there never was a good moment.

      At the review, every year, he would ask if I’d like to move to full-time employment, and every year I would say “maybe, but there’s a taboo subject, and unless we can talk about that, I’m not going to consider going full-time”.

      Every year, the manager pretended not to know what I was talking about, and every year I then pointed at those bold caps. Then, every year, the manager reassured me that of course I would be paid for the extra hours I’d be working, and every year I would answer that last time my colleague had had a pay rise, I had been left out, and the boss of the time had told me that he didn’t have to pay me the same since I wasn’t full-time and they were, so at the very least I would expect to be given that amount extra, and since we now had the stats showing clearly that I processed double the number of projects, and translated double the number of words, and proofread double the number of words, compared to the colleague who’d had that pay rise, I probably should be paid double what that colleague made.

      Then, every year, without another word, the manager would turn the page and move on to the next question.

  5. Susanna*

    There’s something a little judge-y and “impress me” about the question. Making your employees come to you with some marketing plan, with what – charts and graphs? – to get a raise… it’s really an abuse of the power dynamic. Honestly I wouldn’t want to work at a place like that.

    Where I am now, I’ve gotten a raise every year except Bad Pandemic Year. It’s made me more loyal to the company and more likely to offer to do extra work, weekend work, etc.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        My supervisor is alloted X amount for raises each year. She works with us everyday, manages us everyday. If, at the end of the year, I have to present why I am a valuable team member, than neither of us has done our job.

        At annual review time, which if you don’t have you should, we are asked if we reached our goals from last year, if we have anything we want included, special projects, and goal suggestions for next year. This, with the caveat that we are helping to provide the most material, refresh her memory, be a part of the process. It collaborative not whatever OP is describing.

        1. soontoberetired*

          yes, our annual reviews are for this exact reason. Although managers aren’t always good at rewarding people based on performance, the review is where all of this is discussed. We have a lot of stuff that goes into getting raises, but it is still fairly equitable. We also have a culture where you can ask for a promotion more than you can ask for a raise, but promotions come with raises.

          but man, the managers here know it is there job to be advocates for their workers for raises.

      2. OhNo*

        Agreed as well. That mindset reads to me like a manager that is approaching the situation like they have all the power, and employees must bow and scrape even for the things they already deserve.

      3. Rose*


        I’m a manager. I’m a damn good manager. With the 80% of my team who preforms really well in an exceptionally difficult role, I ask myself constantly if I’m retaining them. My goal is to make them feel so supported and so compensated that even just browsing job postings would never occur to them. It’s much, much easier to keep great people than to find great people.

        Does OP know what listing all your qualifications/achievements and then asking for a specific salary is? That’s basically an interview. And if they need to interview with you to get the salary they deserve, they could just as easily interview with someone else. If you’re not working to retain your employees, don’t expect them to stay.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          “Does OP know what listing all your qualifications/achievements and then asking for a specific salary is? That’s basically an interview. And if they need to interview with you to get the salary they deserve, they could just as easily interview with someone else.”

          *applause* yes.

          1. Fran Fine*

            That was actually pretty damn brilliant, wasn’t it? Never thought of it that way, but it’s spot on.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I couldn’t put my reaction into words, until I saw this comment – this is it exactly.

        When OP writes up a job posting for one of their employees, does it say “must be able to beg for a raise in a sufficiently entertaining manner in order to get one”? No? There we go.

    1. Purple Cat*

      yes, it very much came across like wanting to see a dog and pony show and the LW flexing.

    2. JSRN*

      Yeah, this manager definitely wants their employees to put on a show in order to get a raise. In all my years of working (with good bosses and crappy bosses), I never had a manager think that employees should grovel for a raise for a job well done. This is just ridiculous! And truly an abuse of power. Even my most horrible bosses never pulled anything like this.

      LW, give your employees raises and stop making them put on a show for you! If your company can’t afford raises, then let your workers know that. I would quit a job so fast if the manager wanted me to beg and jump thru hoops for my annual raise. Like others have said, it’s usually women and non-whites that have difficulty asking and are penalized when they do. But surely you must know this since you’re a manager.

      You can continue to treat your employees like performers for your amusement and to show you have so much power over them. But then don’t get upset when no one wants to go above and beyond for you either. You get what you give.

    3. Spencer Hastings*

      Yep, same. And the proposals this LW expects from their employees would include information that might actually be pretty hard for employees to obtain. For instance, I was pretty surprised when I heard I was going to be promoted from Llama Groomer I to Llama Groomer II, because I thought I was nowhere near meeting the criteria. I thought “well, the last person to be promoted from I to II was Emily, and by the time she got that promotion, her accomplishments were X, Y, and Z. So I predict that I will be promoted when I have accomplishments that look something like that as well.” But in fact, at the time the promotion was approved, I’d accomplished X, never even been trained on Y, and sort of done the beginnings of Z (but hadn’t mastered it the way Emily had). I’d also been doing Q and J, which were accomplishments based on duties Emily didn’t have and I did, but I didn’t know that they were promotion-worthy (based on the difficulty level of those duties).

      Anyway, what I’m saying is that requiring these proposals would require the employees to guess or intuit the criteria for advancement, and that can be extremely non-obvious when you’re in the thick of your actual job and dealing primarily with the trees (when your manager is looking at the forest). Not to mention proposing a salary — unless the bands and criteria for each are made very explicit (which is rare), employees are going to be wildly guessing at that too.

      1. Rose*

        Honestly I don’t love that for you either though. Why didn’t your company make it clear to you what you needed to do to get a promotion? I’ve always thought of that as pretty central to management, although if they really have a sharp eye on what everyone is doing and are proactively promoting maybe not?

        Either way it is nice to hear that you were offered the promotion you deserved, no dancing, puppet shows, or convincing PowerPoint presentations necessary.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          “Why didn’t your company make it clear to you what you needed to do to get a promotion?”

          When I asked what I needed to do to be promoted (at more than one company), I got shrugs. Who knows? What are these mysterious requirements? Such qualities cannot possibly be described and constrained by mere words.

          (I think the answer was that I needed a p*nis.)

    4. starfox*

      Yes! The LW is essentially asking their employers to write an argumentative essay about why they “deserve” the raise. You should be paying attention–that’s *your* job!

      Not to mention, you’re also asking the employee to do the homework of figuring out the industry’s standard of pay. Sounds like a lot of offloading of responsibility onto the employees!

      Not to mention the previously stated stuff about how this disproportionately affects women and POC, but there’s a certain personality type associated with this type of confidence–which is great! But the best employees aren’t necessarily the most confident ones.

    5. Ginger Pet Lady*

      This is exactly my thought. This manager wants employees to grovel if they want a raise. He’s going to lose good employees if he insists on this power dynamic. He needs to realize he is abusing his power with this expectation and he needs to get over himself.

  6. NervousNellie*

    I feel like this also creates a culture where only people who look good on paper, and already have jobs where they can have high-visibility impacts can get raises. There are a lot of support positions that really can’t have a list of “wow” achievements or goals, but are nonetheless critical to success!

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      Very good point. If you are basing raises on who performed quantifiably well only, then what you are saying is that those in positions that can’t be easily quantified don’t deserve raises like the others.

    2. Lab Boss*

      I hear that. I work in a product testing department and we can almost never claim “successes,” when things go right a product continues to market as planned and when things go wrong we catch a problem that delays a product launch and everyone gets grumpy at us as the bearers of bad news.

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        That sucks. As a software developer, I love it when I get to work with a good product tester–they catch so much stuff I’d never have thought of. And then I don’t get called up at 3 AM to fix those bugs in production. Good testers are incredibly valuable and should be paid accordingly.

        Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way.

    3. Incoming Principal*

      True. I remember spending nearly a decade at a Fortune 500 consumer goods company.
      The show ponies were marketing and sales because they had nice presentations and would use the same ad agencies to do self branding content and videos… no one cared about regulatory affairs and supply chain… if you did your job brilliantly it just meant all products made it everywhere in time… no cookie points

    4. Irish Teacher*

      And who have speaking/presenting skills too. Some people are not good at putting their thoughts in words or can do a job but cannot fully explain what they did. I once did some work for an architect who wanted me to edit some proposals/forms etc he’d written because he wasn’t sure how to phrase stuff. The guy ran a very successful business and was an extremely talented architect but didn’t always explain his work very clearly when asked to write down what he planned to do in words.

    5. Sharon*

      It also really irks me when people who had a minor role on a fashionable and highly visible project get a raise/bonus/award, while Fergus who is singlehandedly keeping some important but back of the house function running smoothly while understaffed (and therefore doesn’t have time to work on any of the fashionable projects even if they were in his wheelhouse) gets “meets expectations” at best.

    6. KRM*

      Yes, before they standardized titles and promotions at my last job, my boss was apparently very frustrated trying to promote me. They didn’t consider “meets all her goals and exceeds some of her goals” to be promotion worthy after 3 years. Then I introduced a new testing funnel for the lab and she argued up and down that that finally merited me a promotion (and I did get it) on year 4. But she went into meetings with the new HR structure about how that standard was arbitrary and capricious (not everyone can introduce a new assay or testing funnel that helps the entire lab, and in fact it’s pretty uncommon) and they finally standardized how promotions work. But it shouldn’t have been something anybody had to argue for, and certainly a raise should not be something you have to argue for. I did my job, I hit my goals, I exceeded some goals, I deserve a raise!

  7. Essentially Cheesy*

    I think it’s potentially a good planning tool for small businesses. However, the “meeting with me and coming prepared with a document including: (1) all their achievements over the past months or years, (2) what they plan to achieve in the coming months or years” is a routine part of the annual review process for every employer that I’ve worked at. Everyone generally gets the same percentage increase unless you’ve had a spectacularly good/bad year, in an above-and-beyond and kind of impossible to achieve kind of way, unless the expectations were set particularly low.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Why would it be a good tool for a small business? Specifically the “only considering a raise if asked” part of the question?

    2. anonymous73*

      There’s nothing wrong with setting tangible goals and both the employee and the manager working to document those goals for review time, but it is not okay to have the attitude that your employees need to provide an in depth presentation to prove to you why they deserve a raise, regardless of how small or large the business. If you need your employees to do the work to justify their deserving a raise (in addition to doing their actual work), then you’re not doing your job as a manager.

    3. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      Yes, shouldn’t the manager know what the employees’ achievements are and their goals as part of the annual review? That alone should be a great chance to talk about raises

      1. Münchner Kindl*

        That’s what struck me: not only is OP completly unaware to existing bias in people activly asking (both for social reasons, like women and minorities, but also for personal reasons: men can be of the silent, don’t-like-to-boast type, too); OP is basically fobbing off part of their job as manager: tracking what tasks their reports/ employees were given, how they completed them, what additional tasks they sought out/ helped out coworkers who needed/ additional qualifications….

        It’s a good tip for employees to keep a list of achievements for themselves because so many managers are bad at managing, or lazy (or overwhelmed) so employees need to track this, but if manager doesn’t track achievements, goals etc. how can they best assign tasks to different employees? How to suggest promotion/training opportunities etc.?

    4. Lenora Rose*

      A meeting where your employees can list their own achievements is great; but only having such a meeting for employees who come to you requesting one is not. And that is what this manager is talking about. She could ask Rebecca and Luann and Wakeen and Joaquin to come to her – as you say, a standard annual review. And she is not.

      1. My Cabbages!*

        Off topic, but because of the “Wakeen” story I now keep wanting to pronounce the last name here as “Joe-ah-quinn”.

  8. Mike*

    Annual pay adjustments for cost of living *and* performance should be routine. Forcing people to ask for a raise only rewards certain (more assertive) personality types, but chances are your team has a diversity of personality types. Only rewarding those who ask is a great way to build resentment and hurt team morale. Automatic, annual pay increases show employees that they’re appreciated.

    1. Ray Gillette*

      Yep, this is routine where I work and has been for all the time I’ve worked there. This year, with inflation being what it is, we’re setting the minimum annual raise at 7%.

      1. Toots La'Rue*

        Wow, where do you work? I’ve never had an annual raise actually account for inflation, and I don’t think I’ve ever worked someplace that had the standard raise set above 3% (where lower performers could get an even lower COL raise than that).

    2. C*

      Honestly? Yes. The lack of these things is why people have to switch companies every few years in order to keep up with inflation. COL and performance raises need to be built in.

  9. Lab Boss*

    If a manager sees that their employee has shown major growth and is now performing at a higher level than their salary matches, or that they’ve had additional duties added to them that weren’t part of calculating their original salary, then that manager should be working to get that employee a raise to match their raised value. If you’re content to let your employees grow in value but not compensate them because “well, they didn’t ask,” ESPECIALLY if you know the money is there to pay them more, then you’re just taking advantage of their ignorance or their discomfort with salary negotations to underpay them. Some competitor is going to make them an offer that makes them feel valuable, they’ll take it, and you’ll sit there wondering why they left.

  10. The New Normal*

    I feel like someone should only be asking for a raise if 1) the company has failed to give a raise in a reasonable timeframe, or 2) the job description or duties have changed in such a manner that it is important to revisit the compensation for the position.

    The idea that no raises would be given unless someone asks for one is awful. That sends the message that the company doesn’t care about current markets and retention of good employees. It makes me wonder what else the company is trying to do – discourage employees from sharing salary history, no promote from within, etc.

    1. Lab Boss*

      I think you could add in job creep. I negotiated a raise once because, while my duties and job description had stayed the same, I’d sort of stealthily expanded on them- taken on a few “small” extras, a few formerly simple duties had grown in scope, etc. Like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot, nobody (including me) really realized how much I was overperforming what my job looked like on paper, until I sat down and did a full analysis of the situation. In a perfect world my boss would have realized, but it all happened kind of slow and without fanfare and I can’t really blame them for not noticing something I didn’t notie myself.

      1. Alianora*

        Yes! This happened at my last job. Over three years, my counterpart and I both took on much more responsibility than previous people in our roles.

        Unfortunately, when I pointed this out and asked for a raise, the eventual response was that I had already received a 2% “merit increase” that year (which didn’t even keep up with inflation). I ended up leaving for a 38% raise to do the same type of work at a different employer.

        1. Lab Boss*

          Ouch. In my case it was easier to forgive because they looked at my data and said “wow, you’re right, let’s make an adjustment.”

        2. Flash Packet*

          At a job I had in my 20’s — back before I knew any better — I took on All The Things and Revamped Other Things and basically redefined and expanded the position I’d been hired into.

          I thought I would be rewarded for my work but my boss just kept telling me that my title was X so therefore my pay was X.

          I eventually got fed up and quit.

          I found out afterward that they’d hired three people to replace me.

          I was making $20,000/year at the time. I would have squealed with delight if I’d been given a raise that took me to $30,000. But, instead, they chose to lose me and pay $60,000 across three people. And those people all had company-funded benefits, too. It would have been exponentially more cost effective just to have given me a raise.

          The way companies shoot themselves in the foot is so wild to me.

  11. Llama Face*

    Sounds like some flawed logic to me. A manager should be assessing several things about compensation and performance is only one part; keeping tabs on the market value of the role and how the employee aligns to that is important too. It always burns employers when employees figure out that they are underpaid based on their peers. If the company doesn’t already recognize that one employee makes $15K less than another for the same duties, it can be easier to just leave if the employee already doesn’t feel the company respects their skills. Not to mention the culturalism of some groups (e.g. women) being ingrained to not ask for their worth and just be grateful for anything.

    1. Llama Face*

      Ask makes me think of the Ask vs Guess Culture. “In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture. In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. “

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        I’ve kind of soured on the idea of the ask/guess dichotomy. There’s an interesting kernel of truth there, but I’m pretty sure that even in what we would call an “ask culture”, it’s eminently possible to overreach with an “ask”, such that the response is not just “no”, but “no [and that person is off-base and I now trust their judgment less]”.

        Also, I think its greatest usefulness is for purely social situations, and it particularly breaks down when money is involved.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          It also has issues in that clear communication is good, so people start tending to “Obviously Ask Culture is better…” which was not the intent. And neither is any culture actually purely one or the other. Most more-guess cultures have an equivalent of “Real talk” where the rules as to what can and can’t be asked, and why is communicated clearly to insiders, not just inferred (usually for the young or new but not always, and almost always behind closed doors), and most ask cultures do still have questions and taboos where you have to sound out whether it’s safe to ask at all, or where asking will, as you say, call their judgement into question.

        2. Kora*

          I think it’s much better described as Ask culture versus Offer culture, with Tell and Guess as the respective failure modes.

  12. SunnySunflower*

    I could not disagree with the OP more. A good manager will see the employees worth, and reward them even if they don’t ask. There are so many reason for this, but as @Hamsterpants says, this can result in an equality issue, because women are generally less likely to be assertive and ask for a raise.
    But generally, regardless of gender, no one should have to ask for a pay rise, if you’re not seeing that a team member is good at their job, and is worth a raise, then in my view you are not doing your job as a manager properly.

    1. mreasy*

      Yeah, to me it seems like this is taking the responsibility for ensuring employees are adequately compensated and happy with their salary off the managers’ backs, where it belongs.

      I hate the idea that only people who are unafraid of retaliation will get raises. I’m not like this, but I have multiple close friends who have never asked for a raise as they’re afraid they’ll be considered greedy, or their management will take a look and decide to fire them. This is something they need to get over, but if they are doing a good job – which all of them are! – they should not be punished for being anxious about this by never receiving a raise.

      ARGH! This makes me so mad!!!

  13. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Don’t make people beg for more money! Part of your job as a boss is to acknowledge and reward good performance, and raises are a huge part of that. If you don’t feel like you can do that without people asking because you don’t know until they present you with a list of their accomplishments, it’s on you as a manager to get yourself to a place where you can tell who is performing and who isn’t. You’re the manager and you have way more information than they do about whether or not you can even give them a raise; why require them to start from an information disadvantage?

    That said, I think employers should actually outline what the process is for getting a raise, e.g. are they only offered at certain times of year, if you hit certain benchmarks, if you get a promotion, etc. Take the guesswork out of it for employees and be the one to start those conversations with them when they’ve earned a raise.

  14. KHB*

    Yiiiiiiiiiiiiikes. (For all the reasons Alison said.)

    If you insist on playing this game, though, at the very least you should tell your employees that you’re playing it and what the rules are: “To get a raise here, you need to come to me with a proposal that includes X, Y, and Z. I’m always open to listening to such requests, but the initiative needs to come from you.”

    But really, you should be paying people fairly based on the quality of their work (which means you should be actively paying attention to the quality of their work), not based on who’s best at self-promotion.

    1. Jezebella*

      yes, this. I bet he has never actually told his employees they have to put on this dog and pony show to get a raise. His whole attitude reeks of “obviously people should just read my mind and figure this out.”

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Yes, this! And also: I wonder if this guy is in sales? Because he’s basing his assessment on how good of a presentation someone is making, which is very much not part of lots of different jobs.

  15. Chairman of the Bored*

    What is the point or value in making people ask for a raise? Is this just a way to give out fewer raises? It so, that seems like a bad (and very likely unfair) policy.

    I suggest that managers should default to “good work gets people raises whether they ask for them or not” and would regard all variations from this default with tremendous skepticism until the manager in question provides a very good reason for why it makes sense in their case.

    1. Mid*

      Yes, it’s exactly that. Businesses (in general, not all) got away with paying employees the bare minimum for a long time, and not giving raises (and often not even COL adjustments) for years on end, until someone asked. Now, people are willing to leave over compensation, so employers are scrambling. All companies *should* be adjusting their salaries to match market rates without their employees having to beg, but they won’t do that because they’d rather save some money instead of treating people well.

      1. Meow*

        I really wonder about the cost efficiency of this in the long run. Like in my organization, the only way to get a raise is to get a promotion or get a counter offer for another position. The highest paid people in our organization are good workers who one time got an enormous counteroffer? And they make disproportionately more than everyone else. Would they have even bothered doing so if our organization just gave us regular raises?

        1. anonymous73*

          That philosophy is just as bad as the letter writer. So they don’t give annual increases? What if there is no job to be promoted to? Or if the only option is management and that’s not where you want to go? Only increasing people’s salaries based on promotions and counteroffers is a good way to lose valuable employees.

          1. ProducerNYC*

            And then I’m sure they’re shocked and dismayed when people leave for more money…

        2. Mid*

          My guess is, in the long term, they’re worse off, but on a day to day, or quarterly basis, they’re better off. Hiring and training new people is expensive, and lost institutional knowledge plus lost skills from the rock stars that are underpaid and therefore leave the company is harder to quantify, but I’m guessing it would be a long term loss.

    2. cubone*

      I think it’s (consciously or subconsciously) based on some antiquated ideas of “grit” and “tenaciousness” lol. If you’re the boss, presumably you have at least some idea of how someone’s performing, how their contributions are impacting the business etc. To know all that and say “but I still want them to “make the ask”!!” is just some weird ideas you’ve absorbed and are perpetuating about power dynamics

    3. KHB*

      It might also be about absolving the manager of his responsibility to thoughtfully monitor his employees’ performance himself.

  16. Alianora*

    This also ties into a discussion on the short answers today, where new hires can make the same or more than existing employees. Putting employees in a position where they have to put together a presentation to argue the value of their experience, when a new hire is offered that out of the gate, makes no sense.

    I know the LW didn’t say this is happening, but it’s a natural consequence if raises are mainly given on the basis of gumption and not a measured evaluation of how to retain people.

  17. UnionGrl*

    This is one of the reasons why I love and actively seek union jobs—I want a clearly defined step based compensation system with annual increases and COLA adjustments.

    1. JK78*

      Interesting, here I was thinking the union aspect of my job is more of an issue than a solution. Keeping on topic, I don’t need to worry about asking for a raise, I’m at the top. The only place I could go would be elsewhere, a different location or a different position and I don’t want either.

      …I can’t really go and ask for a raise in “respect” either, unfortunately. I wonder if the LW’s staff feel as demoralized and unmotivated as I do, while thinking the “Top Performers” the LW “advocates” to get a raise are more like kiss-ups? Because if I tried to talk to my manager, he’s the one who recommended a lesser “performer” to get my current job who actually spoke about leaving the company not even a month later!

  18. Lab Boss*

    Everyone is focusing on fairness to the employee here, which is justified. I’m going to look at it from a different angle- loyalty. There’s a ton of managers out there in the current job market (in the US, at least) frustrated because more and more employees are willing to job hop and pursue greener pastures. If you come in to someone who’s been around for a little while and can tell them “Hey Bob, I reviewed your duties and your compensation and you deserve an X% raise, it’s effective Monday” then Bob is way more likely to be loyal and work hard for you- you made him feel valued.

    (I can speak from experience. I was on the verge of quitting after a few bad bosses cycled through. Within 2 months of starting, the new boss met with me to tell me I was getting an unscheduled raise- I immediately knew I was sticking with that guy.)

    1. KSharp*

      I feel that, my old company is still upset that everyone realized they’re being paid under market value and jumped ship after the man in charge of raises said no VERY loudly.
      Every single exit interview talked about the pay and poor management. Apparently when the last person I knew there left, management was still asking why.

    2. Purple Cat*

      ah yes, but the counterpoint is that companies can bungle this messaging.
      I got a very good promotion and merit increase this year, told it was due to all of my hard work, how much the company values me, blah, blah, blah. To find out that almost every single person in my department (including the clear underperformers) got the same total % increase. So manager bought my loyalty for 18 hours.

      1. Lab Boss*

        Super true. I had a (bad) boss tell me he’d pulled strings to get me a new computer to make my added data analysis work easier. I mentioned it to the IT guy who did the install and he just laughed and said my computer was over a year past its replacement date, my boss had just refused to approve the swap for that long.

      2. anonymous73*

        Yup. In HS I had to do a group project on a chapter of a book we were reading in English. My friends and I made a movie. We got an A. Other groups got up in front of the class and basically recited what the chapter was about. They also got As. It made our A less sweet and also taught us that we didn’t have to try very hard and she would still give us an A. Same applies to your work example. If both hard and mediocre work get you the same result, why strive to work hard?

    3. Constance Lloyd*

      I loved the nonprofit I worked for. Adored it. But I wasn’t making nearly enough and raises were only ever 1-2% COLA, so I left. And in my exit interview, I raved about how much I loved the org and the people I worked with, but I couldn’t afford to stay there. My whole team got a 10% raise after I left. Turns out we were under budget on the grant that funded my team specifically, so they had some wiggle room. I still love the org and don’t regret leaving, but I’m so glad they listened to me and paid my colleagues more.

  19. Irish Teacher*

    To me, the idea of having to ask for a raise seems bizarre. Of course, I work in a field where raises are just automatic based on length of service and there is no talk about them – you just see on your payslip that there is a little more in it and it is marked Scale number 10 when the previous one was marked Scale number 9.

    But even apart from that, I cannot understand why anybody would want people to ask for a raise. If they deserve it, presumably you would want to give it whether they ask or not and if they do not deserve it, being asked is a bit awkward.

    And then there are all kinds of cultural, class and gender related things that make the idea of people asking very inequitable. People from middle class backgrounds are more likely to have a familiarity with how much they should be earning and also see the manager more as an equal and therefore feel freer to ask than people from less privileged backgrounds. People from cultures that value speaking out, individuality and being confident are far more likely to ask for raises than people from cultures that value modesty and dislike “pushiness”. Men, as others have said may be more likely to ask for raises than women. People raised in loving families may be more confident about asking for something from an authority figure than people who were abused.

    “Oh, hey, a raise would be cool” strikes me as a much more appropriate way to ask than anything that sounds demanding, which again highlights cultural differences. I get the impression that America values directness far more than Ireland does.

    To be honest, I don’t understand why it would be important to ask. I’m sure I’m missing something but the only benefit I can see is that it allows the company to pay out less raises as they don’t have to give any to people lacking in confidence or those who are unfamiliar with workplace norms and who assume, understandably, that if they aren’t given a raise, it’s because they haven’t earned one and not because they are expected to go and ask.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      America values directness from white men. Women and people of color who are direct about asking for what they want are often met with scolding for their perceived “aggressiveness” and “demanding” nature.

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I don’t think you’re missing anything, honestly. I think the LW has no clue that other people don’t think the same way he does. (And I am assuming that LW is a man, and a White one at that, yes I am.)

  20. Me!*

    If companies want to attract and keep good employees:

    1. Don’t make employees beg for raises.
    2. Be equitable — don’t pay men more than women for the same work, etc.
    3. Pay a damn living wage.

    It’s not rocket surgery!

      1. Elenna*

        “But why do our (underpaid, overworked) employees keep leaving us?? We have all these fun events! We’re Like Family! People just don’t want to work these day!”
        – signed, a depressing number of bad bosses.

    1. Mid*

      Yup. I appreciate the states that require salary range to be listed, and I’m fortunate enough to be picky while I job search, so I’m only applying to positions that actually list the salary range.

      1. Zamboni*

        Yep, I’m fortunate to have a job where I’m very much in demand (a little too much in demand), so I don’t apply for jobs unless they at least have a range. If they don’t list it, I assume they themselves know they know their salary offer is shameful for what the job entails.

        Although, I quit the job previous to this one with nothing lined up (luckily I was only unemployed for 3 months) and I still was picky and only applied if there was a salary listed (and I only applied to one posting- my current job! (my skills are in high demand and I excel at cover letters and prep for interviews like no other, so I’ve never been the type to apply to just any and all jobs I see which I recognize is a privilege).

    2. Jessica*

      I’m not sure what it is but I definitely don’t want to have any rocket surgery.

  21. KSharp*

    My company does annual reviews and raises/bonuses in December. There’s the cost of living AND performance raises, and since there’s checkins throughout the year for everyone, you can help list everything you’ve done. It helps for “I did XYZ training/cool thing, maybe you didn’t know” scenarios.
    Your employees should not have to directly come to you for a raise.

  22. Not Your Servant Girl*

    I sure hope that manager learned how gross their attitude was. It’s absolutely just disgusting to expect the people you largely control and can fire to grovel to you on their knees, begging, “Please, sir, may I have some more [money]?”

  23. Suspicious*

    What an odd and outdated way to think about things. Of course they shouldn’t have to ask for a raise. It’s one thing to have a positive reaction to an employee asking for a raise, but another entirely to make raises dependent upon it. If one of my employees has to ask for a raise, it makes me nervous. Either we’re not compensating fairly, or they are being unrealistic. Neither reality feels good to me.

  24. Fluffy Fish*

    This attitude smacks of hiring people for as little money as you can get them regardless of their worth.

    Stop it. The money isn’t coming out of your personal pockets.

  25. NeedRain47*

    The only conclusion I can draw from this is that OP’s employees are not getting regular performance reviews with accompanying merit raises, and are not getting cost of living increases either. Does OP know what his employees are doing and prefer not to act upon it, or is OP uninformed about their work quality? It’s problematic either way.

  26. Purple Cat*

    I mean, if you’re cool with employees simmering with rage because they don’t feel like they’re being paid enough, until they finally get up the courage to ask for more…. Yes, they should have to ask.
    If you’re also cool with some employees getting paid more than others simply because one person asked and the other didn’t, therefore continuing to perpetrate wage inequalities….Yes, they should have to ask.

    1. Mid*

      Or they skip asking and just leave for a better position that pays them fairly without having to beg for it.

  27. Clobberin' TIme*

    I hope the OP got a wake-up call from that response. Maybe they were inexperienced, but their letter came across as a boss who is both lazy (not paying attention to what their direct reports are doing over months or even years) and unkind (wanting employees to beg for more money).

    1. Amber Rose*

      In the original thread there was a response from OP way at the bottom. It sounds like they were at least rethinking things a little.

      1. Clobberin' TIme*

        Wow. I hope the OP got over their defensive lashing out and took AG’s response to heart.

  28. Robin Ellacott*

    Quite apart for the equity issues (which are a huge problem with making people ask) as a manager I’m supposed to already be tracking people’s performance and goals. I don’t need them to present these to me unless there is something else they want me to know about.

    And I don’t want to reward assertiveness / self-confidence rather than the work they are actually doing.

  29. learnedthehardway*

    A good company and a good manager are going to want to reward good employees. That means PROACTIVELY planning for merit increases in compensation, NOT waiting for employees to ask for a raise.

    Waiting for employees simply rewards people for being assertive, not for being great at their jobs. It also means that people who perhaps lack the confidence to advocate for a raise are disadvantaged – through NO fault of their own!

    It’s a terrible practice to base raises on who asks for them. It pretty well tells employees that you don’t value them, don’t care whether they stay or leave, and will only pay attention to them if they demand attention.

  30. pcake*

    A raise is one of the most important ways for managers and companies can show employees that their work is valuable and that they’re appreciated. A company that makes one ask for a well-deserved raise is a company that will make people look for a job elsewhere.

    I’ve been with my present employer for 17 years, so it’s not like I’m a serial quitter – I just happen to work for someone who makes it clear in every way that my expertise and work is appreciated. My husband’s job gives raises annually or every other year without anyone asking, and they usually give the raises with appreciative reasons for them, so he was told last year he’s been more productive and the year before that they appreciated his taking on more responsibility.
    He’s never had to ask for a raise at any job.

  31. Amber Rose*

    I’ve asked for a raise once in my life. After like three years without anything.

    I got it, a very small one, but geez was I made to feel like trash for daring to ask. It really reinforced my feeling that it was a bad idea and I never asked again.

  32. Spicy Tuna*

    A raise should come with increased responsibility or a promotion. There is no reason to ask for a raise unless you’ve been given a promotion or additional duties at work. A raise is different from an annual cost of living adjustment.

    1. Purple Cat*

      In many places, the terms are used interchangeably. I’ve never worked for a company that had a straight COLA. It was part of your annual merit increase. A promotion would come with a more significant increase in salary.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Hard disagree. And this is also not only not how good companies operate, but it is how bad companies lose good staff.

    3. Purple Cat*

      AND there are plenty of people who have written in that have gotten no increase at all whatsoever during their tenure with a company. So even assuming that all companies dole out COLA is naive.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      What if you find out you’re being paid under market rate for the work you do? Are you supposed to just shrug that off?

    5. anonymous73*

      So if I’m doing my job well, but haven’t been promoted I don’t deserve an annual raise? Not everyone gets promoted/takes on additional duties on an annual basis, but most do get annual reviews and based on their work should be getting a raise each time.

    6. Fluffy Fish*

      Nope. COL and raises are different and raises aren’t just for increased responsibility/promotion.

      Raises are also rewards for things like additional experience (for example a 5 year employee knows more/performs better than a 1 year) or performing well at your job.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yes! Otherwise the person who is scraping by at the bare minimum required for the role, and someone who is the top performer in the role, get the same pay. Or you get the situation where someone is a top performer, and is told that their salary is going to be stagnant for a few years until, maybe, a promotion opens up.

  33. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    Yes, you should be proactively paying your staff fairly. That doesn’t mean that employees shouldn’t ask for a raise. Asking is useful information for a business. It’s a flag that their pay bands may not be as marketable as they thought, that job descriptions may need to be updated, or that an employee’s expectations aren’t matching their reality.

    I’ve coached a number of people through how to ask for a compensation review. Until that conversation, they couldn’t get past this idea that the employer should automatically know that they’re not happy with their pay…even though they were getting regular raises already.

    Employment is a two-way conversation and it’s weird to insist that the conversation be so one sided.

  34. Rainy*

    We had an assistant director like this in my office for many years. (Of course, people who did ask for raises were told that if they wanted more money they should get another job, but I feel like this LW is barely half a step off from that.)

    Having leadership that forced people to beg and wheedle and put together compelling powerpoints for why they deserved to make a living wage for doing extremely specialized work is why my office had absolutely shocking pay gaps between leadership and people who actually do the work of our unit, and why we reached a point where new hires were making $10k+ more than people with decades more experience, and the only people not penalized for asking for raises were men.

  35. The Dude Abides*

    I agree that managers need to see “getting their people raises” as a tool in the toolkit, but sometimes that’s not possible. Two years ago, when I was in the union (state gov’t), ex-boss tried to get me a raise since I had lost out on temp assignment pay (I was taking on tasks originally assigned to the manager, but no longer getting temp assignment pay now that a manager was in place). He and his boss took the case to the CFO, but I was told that I would have to bid for my own job since a pay jump would require my post to be re-classed at a higher title.

    I ended up taking a promotion out of the unit a few months later, and the CFO came to regret it, as the unit more or less collapsed like a house of cards after I left – Ex-big boss “retired” a month after, and ex-boss took a demotion two months after that to escape the trainwreck without my old job being filled.

  36. Chirpy*

    Women and people of color very often do not get a positive reaction to being assertive like this at work. Asking for a raise can get them labeled as a troublemaker or brushed off where a white man gets praise. By making people ask for raises you’re likely also underpaying introverts, people with anxiety or depression, or people whose hard work doesn’t show up in easily measured paperwork.

  37. RJ*

    I think this is a horribly antiquated management practice that elicits fear from employees, particularly women over 50 (like myself) as the backlash for when it goes wrong or when they are perceived as being too ‘aggressive’ could easily lead to retaliation. From my own personal experience, it does not end well.

    1. irene adler*

      Female, over 50 here. I don’t even bother to ask. I know the answer will be “no”. And it’s not like I can get hired elsewhere.

  38. KateM*

    I guess Ask A Manager can’t do anything about that, but in the article the link that goes with “retain your best people” is weird.

  39. Emily*

    If it’s perceived as easier to increase your compensation by leaving than by staying, you’re going to get people doing that, and making them ask for raises is a big part of that. There are successful organizations where the business model has high employee attrition built in and there’s very little attempt to stay current with the market for most employees. I worked for a company like that and it’s part of a reputation they have for being evil and a terrible place to work, but they make a lot of money.

    I guess as an employer you figure out whether systematically paying people less than they could make elsewhere is something you want to be doing, but that should be a function of thinking about trade-offs between spending more money and getting higher morale/lower attrition, not because you just really think people should have to justify raises.

  40. Excel-sior*

    If you have a good worker, don’t go giving them a reason to start looking elsewhere. Especially if your benefits aren’t all that great. They may well ask for more money; it might not necessarily be with you.

  41. You Can't Pronounce It*

    Are you going to give me a raise based on my pitch instead of the actual work I do?

  42. I should really pick a name*

    I’m very curious about how the LW feels “it’s incredibly important for employees to ask for the raises they want” yet at the same time pushes for top performers to get raises even if they don’t ask.

  43. Jessica*

    If this what I have to do to get a raise, okay, I guess I can do some market research and data gathering and analysis and then put together a glossy sales pitch and prep and rehearse it. None of that is like my regular job and some of it draws on skills I’m weak at, so it’ll take me all the more time and effort.

    Alternatively, you could just pay me fairly and I could spend my time and effort getting my actual job done. Your call!

    1. Workfromhome*

      Bravo-unless your actual job is compensation analyst why would they expect me to do a salary analysis to get a raise.?

  44. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

    I’m really glad the company I work for does NOT operate like this. Sometimes my high performers do not even know they are high performers! They just assume that everyone else is as competent and stellar as they are. I have seen it take YEARS for the positive feedback to really sink in with folks like this, who just set extraordinarily high standards for themselves and assume others do too. As a manager it feels great to be able to reward these folks with good raises. I can’t imagine sitting back and waiting for a person like this to come ask for a raise.

    1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

      Not to toot my own horn, but I think I fell into that trap.

      I had an old boss who wouldn’t hear anything from me, and fed me back suggestions I had made crediting others. He also seemed to expect miracles outside my skillset from me. It messed me up.

      At a new job, the same behaviours and suggestions are appreciated that got me push back before, and I am slowly learning to be more assertive pushing my ideas forward. But I would never have pushed for a raise, the way some more confident (but not necessarily competent) colleagues do. Often I can see they are pushing in the wrong forum and I wonder if somewhere else they were rewarded…

  45. Retro*

    This sounds very much like the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” POV where if you just try hard enough you can make good things happen for you. Seems very much like:
    “Well it’s your fault you’re not getting paid fairly because you didn’t ask!”
    “If you walked into every shop in town and asked for a job, then you’d for sure get one!”
    “You can work a second job to offset rising gas prices and inflation”
    “If you gumptioned and saved for a lifetime, then you can send your kid to any school they want to go to”
    This POV is missing the point that you shouldn’t have to constantly look out for yourself/be on alert in order to make sure you’re getting what you deserve. And this attitude often comes from people who are more privileged within society and generally get what they ask for. There are plenty of other who can do all of these things and still not get their worth.

  46. Workfromhome*

    Lets say someone comes to you with a request for a raise having done all their research and justification . do you say yes as long as they have that?
    Of course not you have to go get approval from some who understands the budget and what the other salaries look like. he employee doesn’t have all that information. so yo are basically telling them show e you deserve a raise based on your data but I’ll decide if you get one based on my own data. Hey if you already have the data that shows they should have a raise why are you making the spend their time and energy to bring it up?

    Its like having a water cooler with a sensor that can automatically call the water service to come fill it up but refusing to get it filled unless someone shows you a photo its empty first. You know it needs to be done just do it.

  47. Allonge*

    I suppose if you manage a team of sales people AND make it clear that raises come after asking with charts and whatever, then maaaybe…

    Yeah, no.

    Not sure how people come up with these ‘rules’. OP, I know this is a question from some time ago but I hope you examined what exacly made you think this is a good way to manage people. It’s not an easy thing to do! And we all bring our own baggage. But it’s really important to ask questions and discuss things with other managers, so at least for that, kudos to you.

  48. MisterForkbeard*

    Don’t make your employees beg for it. But do ask them what they’re expecting and tell them whether or not it’s realistic. This is how I try to handle it:

    1) We do once-yearly raises, with the amount based on the budget. That does mean that not everyone gets a raise every year, but we do consider everyone for it. This is based on the past year’s performance and shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone, especially as employees are involved in the review.

    2) We have a at least quarterly career discussions with employees about where they’re going, what do they expect and what we need to do in order to make that happen

    3) We keep a small budget for emergency raises and promotions and do regularly ask people about their compensation, and also encourage them to speak up if they believe they’re being undercompensated.

    Basically, don’t make people beg for raises, but do solicit input from them. If someone showed up to one of these meetings with a powerpoint slide I’d be simultaneously impressed and annoyed, I think. Depends on how they presented it.

    1. Purple Cat*

      So what justification do you give people when they don’t get any increase at all? It feels like a “managing out” strategy.

  49. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    Question: Is there an alter in your office you have the employees lay these documents in front of or…? Because that’s as weird a flex as only giving raises if they’re asked for.

    Talk about a dog and pony show and an abuse of power.

    1. cubone*

      lol this made me laugh. I was also thinking – are they being encouraged to use work time to develop these “documents”? This isn’t just a performance review, it’s like a whole portfolio of work. To justify that they’re good at doing their work. My head hurts.

  50. anonymous73*

    As a manager, if your employees have to come to you with a full on presentation about why they think they deserve a raise, you’re doing it wrong. You should be well aware of their abilities and their productivity and reward them accordingly. All you’re doing is rewarding assertiveness, not a job well done.


    I’m curious if it is ever communicated to the employees that LW has such specific requirements that as far as I can tell are not tied to any specific schedule and based entirely on the employee taking initiative without prompting or encouragement or guidelines in terms what exactly to ask for. As far as I can tell, the circumstances that would lead to an employee doing this purely on their own are very rare and something even a high performer would only take the chance to do once after a series of strong performance reviews, if they are applying for another position within the organization, or if they have a job offer elsewhere they are giving the employer an opportunity to counter.

    1. Manchmal*

      I wondered exactly the same thing. The only way the OP’s system is not rife with unfairness is if this is communicated to all hires very clearly, and that the boss makes it clear that there’s no penalty for asking. Even then the unconscious biases come into play.

  52. the Viking Diva*

    I agree, for all the reasons stated, that people should not have to ask, and that processes where they must do so reward people in certain social and personality categories.

    That said, another element in the OP’s original framing is that it is useful to have a document that lays out the case. In some workplaces, annual review processes would generate that material – but I work in a place where the regular annual review process for my job category is completely pro forma (and that is the nicest possible way I can think to say it; more accurate framing would start with the letters B and S). Non-COLA (“off cycle”) pay raises require extra documentation and must be strategically and narrowly timed within the institutional fiscal year. Our project timelines usually extend across multiple fiscal years (think research) so the annual cycle dates are arbitrary with respect to our own pace and progress. I talk with everyone and set goals individual to their role and career stage, we check in often, and I make my own observations about when it’s time for someone to get a raise, but I see no problem in asking an employee to contribute something written to the process.

    Why? I think it’s useful for people to reflect on how they’ve grown, what they bring to the work and how they’d like to grow. There may be pieces I don’t see, such as how they support or collaborate with another colleague. I think they should have agency; it’s not about pleasing me. And I use their written self-assessment, combined with my own notes, in multiple ways: to write the off-cycle raise request; to write letters of reference when they move on; to capture milestones against which to measure progress for the next cycle. So at least in our workplace, this document would have value. And I would ask for it, rather than expecting someone to guess they should provide it.

    1. anonymous73*

      Your last sentence is the key here. Managers should be aware of the big things their employees are doing and be up to date on their performance in their role. And I have no issue with employees documenting their big (and smaller) accomplishments to discuss during annual (or whatever the time frame) review period. We use an application that allows us to enter tangible goals and make “diary” entries so we can track everything throughout the year. It’s the expectation of reading the manager’s mind that’s the problem here, and that based on the letter OP seems to reward assertiveness over productivity.

    2. Don't Call Me Shirley*

      I joined a company where we do a formal goals/evaluation process a couple years ago, and it’s both difficult, and useful. I can get help from my manager to produce the documents, and it brings clarity to what is expected, and what is outstanding.

      But everything being so explicit feels so much more fair.

  53. Girasol*

    As long as companies aim to have everyone to keep their compensation a secret (which is illegal but so very common), on what will people base their raise request, besides chutzpah and greed? Back in the 1940s that behavior was rewarded because it marked a pushy foot-in-the-door salesman, but that practice hasn’t aged well. Most employees know that the surest way to get a raise is to skip the begging and become some other company’s valued new hire. Give them a raise before they give you a resignation.

  54. TeapoNinja*

    In a lot of industries you have an annual review and you get a raise every year. How big depends on your documented contributions and the company performance.

    It should probably work that way everywhere.

  55. voyager1*

    Only way I can see the LW having a point is if this some kind of sales job that is commission based. Maybe then this might maybe make sense… big maybe though.

  56. Don't Call Me Shirley*

    I’m in my mid 40s, and a woman, and for the first time am working for a large manufacturing based company. For the first time in my career I am being given essentially a guide to what my next job may be, and how I might get there. This goes with structured meetings where we talk about my job, what I am doing well and poorly, and my goals/achievements. Not coincidentally, for the first time I am being paid fairly, and have received pay increases.

    I’m good at my job, and I can present and critique ideas. But I’m shit at selling myself, or selling in general. This being treated obviously fairly aspect has kept me feeling fairly treated, and seeing a career path presented has kept me from looking elsewhere.

    It’s not all about the absolute numbers, it’s about feeling like I don’t have to fight for fair treatment. Sure, the raises are low-ish, but I know I will get one, and I know what roles to take for promotion.

  57. hbc*

    I would love if the OP could come back and explain the reasoning behind: “I’ve always felt it’s incredibly important for employees to ask for the raises they want.” There’s actually not one bit of support for the notion in the letter, only descriptions of how to meet that expectation.

    I can’t imagine there’s any logic that outweighs the colleague’s position, but I’m curious.

  58. 1-800BrownCow*


    My mom was the model employee for the type of work she did, which did not need someone assertive, ‘go-getter’, etc. She was reliable, always on time, rarely called out, did not create issues or get involved in drama/gossip, worked hard and completed everything on time and to the required standard. BUT, she was also one who was raised to never question authority or ask for things, including fair pay or raises. Sadly, because of her personality, she worked a job for several raise at a nonprofit without getting a single raise during her time there. All because she would never ask for what she deserved. She hoped that if she worked hard enough, someone would recognize it and give her the raise she deserved. She later took a job at a business that annual reviews and raises were standard and she was finally able to begin earning more money. But honestly, for years she was taken advantage of due to her belief that she could not ask for a raise. And I don’t think it would take anyone more than 1 guess the gender and race of the person she worked with that demanded and received a large wage increase each year, who would then tell my mom she didn’t get a raise because the organization couldn’t afford it.

    1. kiki*

      This is a great point. Honestly, I think there are a lot of roles that are best performed by someone who’s not a “go-getter.” Additionally, negotiation is a skill and putting together documentation to “prove” your worthiness for a raise takes time. Would LW rather their employees take time out of their schedules to do that stuff than just focus on getting their actual work done?

      1. Stompin out ignorance*

        I work in a very small branch library. I cannot check out more books if people don’t come in. I can’t t increase efficiency, because all branches are supposed to operate the same way. I have no say in policy development or in items purchased. Because our job is tied to taxes, salaries and raises are very limited, and are a matter of public information. We get very limited COLA. Because our state raised the minimum wage, employees who have been here longer got a bump to make us earn more than new hires. Basically, there is no way I can get a raise, regardless of how well I do my job.

  59. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

    Ugh. As a manager who has been banging my head against a brick wall trying to get my employees any kind of raise at all (at a state institution) for the past three years while everything has been largely frozen, this makes me faintly ill. I am really sweating retention while all around me, programs are hemorrhaging great employees – my team is amazing, and while I would totally support any one of them leaving for something better, I would like to retain everyone (especially if the only issue is salary)!

    I get that this was written years ago, but the idea of having the ability to give increases to your high-performing employees you would absolutely not want to replace and just…not doing it unless they come to you with a full-on presentation? Just makes me angry.

  60. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    I don’t know why exactly, but this letter has the same vibe as the retail manager who said the reason I didn’t get a supervisor position was because I didn’t tell them I wanted a supervisor position ahead of time, so they didn’t know to keep an eye on my work to see if I was qualified. I’d worked at that company 4+ years at that point and applied for every supervisor position I was qualified for, but I was supposed to go up to a manager and verbally tell them that I wanted to be a supervisor before a position even opened up for them to consider me for the position. Absolutely bonkers. (Like, my guy, ask any of my supervisors for a summary of my day-to-day work if you don’t know what I do???)

    All that to say, this is obnoxious. Your employee’s work is worth a certain amount of money to your company. Either pay that amount or don’t, but don’t make them play weird games to show they want it enough. If you’re wondering if your employee wants a raise, I have some news for you: they do. And if you are so uninvolved that you can’t figure out who on your team should be receiving merit raises, I would severely question whether your management style needs an overhaul.

  61. I'm in HR, that's why I'm so fun.*

    I work with some leaders who get raise requests outside of their regular raise/increase cycle – salary adjustment type requests – and their reaction is negative because the person made the request at all. More than one person has said to me “I don’t like it because some others wouldn’t think to ask or advocate for themselves.” I reply with something like that may be true, this is a good opportunity to look at all salaries, let’s make sure we’re doing regular compensation increases, etc. but I get stumped at how to respond to this negativity towards the person who asked. Any advice?

    1. Manchmal*

      You’re in such a great and unique position to push against this mindset!
      Do these managers ever consider that people sometimes realize they are underpaid outside of a yearly cycle? And are they supposed to sit on that for months while being paid unfairly? It’s also a retention issue – would the manager prefer that someone not speak up and then just leave for another job, or would they rather have the opportunity to make a good employee happy and keep them?

      I think your response to suggest reviewing salaries across the board is a good one. A better one might be to start an initiative of regularly reviewing salaries against the larger market on a regular, perhaps yearly, cycle for all departments. It seems that the negativity comes from a desire for fairness – once one person gets bumped up, what does that mean for others who do similar work or who they feel are better employees. Perhaps establishing salary bands that ensure fairness (among employees and with respect to the larger market) would help alleviate that?

  62. Umiel12*

    I coordinate the merit raises for my entire division. One of the things that makes me sad is that there isn’t enough money to give everyone a raise every time, but one thing that makes me happy is that every manager I work with wants to give raises to all of their staff. They recognize the value in rewarding staff, and they certainly don’t wait for someone to ask.

  63. Not Today*

    This makes me so angry! I am someone who HATES to ask anything of anyone – from asking my partner to take out the trash so actual big things. Like anyone else I want to be appreciated, but to have to make a case as for why someone *should* appreciate me – every bone in my body is screaming in discomfort. If my job didn’t offer me raises as a reward for good work my response would be to find a better job that actively shows their employees they appreciate them. I shouldn’t have to beg for pay parity with my peers, that is a terrible way to manage people.

  64. Erin*

    My paycheck is not a reward. It is compensation for doing the agreed upon work. Your employees don’t like having to ask for compensation increases.

    As their manager, you should be tracking who your top performers, mid pack performers & low performers are, and compensate/increase accordingly. You should also be giving cost of living increases to all employees.

  65. ElizabethJane*

    I realize we’ve had letters that are a lot worse but man this one makes me hate this person.

    No, employees shouldn’t have to ask.

  66. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    A signature Alison smackdown, not just giving good advice but explaining in detail why and imparting the wisdom as to why the given answer is right.

  67. irene adler*

    Playing devil’s advocate for a bit:
    This is the OP’s desired raise system: Ideally, that means setting a meeting with me and coming prepared with a document including: (1) all their achievements over the past months or years, (2) what they plan to achieve in the coming months or years, and (3) a specific number request for a new salary.

    So how does the OP evaluate the employee’s presentation?
    -Is the caliber of achievements over the past months/years ranked in some fashion? Or does anything go (such as “I sign the time cards for my reports” -I actually saw this as an accomplishment on someone’s resume.). Or do employees have to “save the company millions of dollars” before the accomplishment is considered remarkable?

    – How is the plan for achievements for the upcoming months/years evaluated? Do unrealistic things like “quadruple my annual output” or “solve all manufacturing issues within 8 hours” garner more ‘points’ than more mundane -yet useful-goals (streamline the purchasing of raw materials, for example)?

    -For the salary increase, is that going to be parsed out? If the employee asks for 30% more, does the OP plan to have thoughtful discourse as to why 8% is a more realistic figure? Or do they get what they ask for because they went through the exercise?

    Just curious as to the mindset of this kind of thinking. Maybe if I understood how these things are evaluated I might broach the topic with my boss. But that’s a mighty big “might”.

  68. Cold Call Catastrophe*

    When I was at my last job, minimum wage went up, granting me an automatic raise. The boss still made me go through the raise application process, and rejected the first draft. This made me lose a bonus, though I was still paid the legal minimum wage. Just give your employees raises, people.

  69. ProducerNYC*

    This is exactly how I got stuck in a job making tens of thousands less than peers with equal or less experience (and skill in some cases). I was hired at the HEIGHT of the recession and they refused to negotiate on the below-market salary (I did manage to get more vaca time at least ugh). My boss was SHOCKED when I asked for a raise, said no the first few years, THEN had the nerve to ‘forget’ to submit it one year and said his ‘hands were tied’ until the next cycle. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the financial position to rage quit (GOD I wanted to) as I also support some family members and couldn’t risk not finding another paycheck ASAP. So I stuck it out far too long. That boss retired eventually, but his successor is the same way- tinges of ‘ingratitude’ for people wanting to make market level salaries, etc. I thankfully became part of the Great Resignation, and 9 months later I am now making more than it took me THIRTEEN YEARS to make at this (very large) company. They were rare in that I could WFH long before the pandemic, and that honestly kept me around longer. WFH is no longer a unicorn, thankfully, and my new career allows me to WFH at least 3x a week, better pay, salary transparency in the company, and FAR less stress and mess.

  70. Evvie*

    Regular raises without having to feel like you’re begging is important to retention. It makes employees feel like people whose work is valued.

    It’s not deep.

  71. AnonyMouse*

    The company should be providing cost of living raises yearly, but I think employees should generally have to make their case if they want a substantial raise. The main exception being if they’re really hitting it out of the park.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      People do outgrow their initial positions though. I now make 6x what my original entry-level salary was at my first US job 25 years ago. That’s because I’m not entry-level anymore. I didn’t have to go through a whole process with charts and graphs to prove it to my managers that I deserved any of the raises I received in the past. Normally it happened (not counting the times when I changed jobs) at performance reviews, like “you are exceeding expectations, so your raise this year will be an extra X% on top of the COLA”.

      I would say that employees should *be able to* make their case if they want a substantial raise, in case their accomplishments have gone unnoticed. But it really cannot be a requirement in my opinion.

  72. Sleepless in Cincinnati*

    Asking your employer for a raise is like asking your significant other if they love you. If someone values you, then they show it. And if they’re not showing it, you walk. Someone out there is willing to meet your needs and life is too short to stick with a dead end.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      And I am now reminded of an ex who once tried to break up and gave me a list of reasons why. (In his defense, he initially said “I don’t know why I want to end things” and I should’ve left it at that, but I asked to be more specific. Be careful what you ask for.) He was feeling unloved, unappreciated, and taken for granted, for a long list of reasons, but the one that I’m reminded of here was that I hadn’t been gazing into his eyes enough.

      That is what OP’s policy on raises looks like. “If you don’t gaze into my eyes longingly enough, I’m going to assume that you don’t want a raise, and you won’t get one.” Barf.

  73. Yellow*

    I’ve never asked for a raise. I’ve discussed promotion and what’s required (you might not want to be promoted), but never raises (who would say no?*).

    Raises were the best indicator of my performance. If I wasn’t getting given raises then that was clear indication that they weren’t quite so happy with my work (I knew my industry, others work differently).

    .* I know there are reasons to oppose wages esp as they interact with welfare cliffs. But a company needs to have equal pay so they cannot avoid giving you raises because of welfare eligibility.

  74. nnn*

    Another problem here is that two managers in the same company have different approaches to how employees get raises!

    The company really should standardize that!

  75. Glen*

    Ablism is also a real concern here. Someone who struggles with, say, social anxiety is going to be massively, unfairly disadvantaged here.

  76. Beeblebrox*

    Agree with AAM. And I assume the OP’s employer has an annual cost of living raise already happening – if not, the OP’s position is even more untenable.

    I used to work for Big Law where the paralegal staff didn’t get promoted unless they applied for a promotion in writing and were then granted a promotion. Applying meant writing a lengthy essay that met certain criteria, about why you deserved a promotion, with examples, etc. Same sort of thing OP describes. It was ridiculous. The paralegal manager in charge of the promotion process had virtually no contact with the paralegals – the only time I ever spoke with the manager was during the annual evaluation process. After working there 6+ years, I said (during my annual evaluation) that I should be promoted based on my performance and expertise level. She told me to fill out the application. So I responded: “Why is this firm charging clients $270 per hour for my services as “paralegal”, yet the firm charges $200 – $240 per hour for the services of “senior paralegals” who are doing the exact same type of work as me but have a higher title? What is the basis for charging clients more for my time? It seems the firm has already decided that my expertise is worth more, so why should I have to apply for a promotion?”

    Well, the outcome of that conversation, in true Big Law style, was that that the hourly billing rate of all the senior paralegals was raised to $270 to match my billing rate. LOL! No kidding. And I didn’t a promotion. I left the firm not long after that, and never worked for a law firm again.

    1. Beeblebrox*

      Should have explained: promotion came with a raise at that law firm, and it was the only way to get a raise other than the standard annual cost of living increase.

  77. PB Bunny Watson*

    This feels really gross to me. Asking for something puts you in a vulnerable and stressful position; requiring people to ask feels like it’s enhancing the power differential. But then being graded on how well you asked, which is something that is nerve-wracking to begin with, would really make me uncomfortable as an employee.

  78. Anonymous Educator*

    “Should I reward employees who do their jobs well… or should I reward employees who ask for more rewards?”

  79. Despachito*

    I just cannot help and wonder – you have mentioned that women and POC are facing punishment for being assertive, what does that punishment look like? I have been self-employed for quite a long time so my position is different, but I’d imagine if the person is mistreated for such a natural thing as mere asking, or mistreated in general, it is likely that she would look somewhere else and they will eventually lose her, just as it happens with any other mistreatment?

    (It happened to me that when I discussed my rates with a client who was not my employer but giving me a substantial part of work, she went so cross at me for asking that she almost stopped giving me work. I think she was batshit crazy, and was later let go).

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