Monday, September 17, 2007

Asking for a Raise Redux

One of the more popular posts on this site seems to have been How to Ask for a Raise, written back in Feb. 2006. About a year before that, I had asked for and received a better raise than my company had initially offered me when I had my annual review. The following year, I got a reasonable cost of living raise which I accepted without any objections, and then the year after that I got a promotion, with a larger, but not huge, salary increase.
That brings me to this year. I just had a performance review, which was as glowing as could be. While I was absorbing all of this and inwardly thinking, wow, just think how much better I could do if I wasn't blogging all the time, my boss got to the punchline, which was telling me how much of a raise I was getting. Anyone care to guess what kind of percentage it was?


Okay, is this terrible? Maybe not. It's not like they are required to give me a raise, and I should feel glad I got anything, I guess. But really-- from the Publishers Weekly stats I quoted recently, industry average raises are more like 4-5%. And my company is doing fine. And I'm doing great, supposedly! So wouldn't you think I'd get a raise that was a bit more above a cost of living increase? 3.5% sounds like about the level inflation is usually estimated at! If my job performance is considered superior, I should deserve an above-average, top-of-market raise, not a below-average, treading-water kind of raise!

I didn't question the amount right away. When presenting it, my boss pointed out that some of our department's business is down this year. She has also mentioned in the past that salary increase percentages get smaller the higher one's salary gets. She also said that since I had gotten a promotion last year, the raise this year wasn't as high. That was where I thought to myself, WTF!?!?!

I thanked her for the good review, we talked about a couple other things, and she said I should read it over again before signing it and giving it back to her to finalize things with HR. So I went back to my office and started making my case!

First of all, getting a big increase with a promotion one year shouldn't be a reason to get a smaller increase the next year. Then it's like it averages out to just a normal increase over two years, as if I hadn't been promoted at all! And in looking at my salary history, I don't think I've ever gotten a raise as small as 3.5%. I gathered my figures about the company's performance and my department's performance. I also pulled together some figures on the amount of new business that is under my management this year, as it increases the total I'm responsible for by over 30%, even if parts of that business are down vs. last year. I also thought more clearly about some new areas of responsibility I'd like to get involved in-- I should have had more talking points on that ready when I had my review, really, but since I want to reopen the salary conversation anyway, maybe it's just as well I left myself some new things to talk about! Rather than just complaining about my raise being too low, I want to speak positively about what I contribute to the company and my interest in doing more for the company in exchange for the extra money I'd like them to pay me. It's not like it's even going to be that much more money-- just a couple thousand dollars more if they bump my raise up to the 5% or so that I think would be fair. I think they can find a way to cough it up!

My boss is out for a few days so I can't have this conversation just yet, but I'm all geared up and ready to go in with guns blazing and sabers drawn... in my very mild-mannered, diplomatic, and courteous way, of course! Wish me luck!


Amy K. said...

Best of Luck!

Josh said...

Definitely good luck! I'm up for a raise/review and I've got all the numbers worked out, but since I can't say what revenue I contribute (not that kind of job), it's a bit harder to prove my worth.

3.5% sounds really stingy if you've been doing well. if they refuse, it might be time to move to another company.

Anonymous said...

You are right -- if you get a big raise one year, and then it's policy to give you less the next, the result is a compliment, but not the reward that should follow. If the company is doing well and making money, you should profit from the work you did which contributed to the company's success. Making your case that you have been doing more, and would like to do even more, is a great strategy, too, and worked for me at my last review. And knowing the industry average raises is a strong card. Good luck!

Single Ma said...

Don't be afraid to ask for what you want, especially if you KNOW you deserve it. That's what I'm talking about! Work it!

What has been your avg annual increase (excluding the promotion year)? If it is higher than 5%, I'd ask for the same amount. Aim high and negotiate down. If you must, settle for 5% based on the industry avg, but don't sell yourself short from the start.

Also, quantify, quantify, quantify. If you have actual figures of the revenue you directly influenced, don't be afraid to include them. Not only do numbers put things in perspective, but they paint a picture that's hard to dispute.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Couple of things for you :)

One - there seems to be a Google ad to do with "women wetting knickers" on your blog :)

Two - someone over at Wikipedia seems to be curious as to your exact salary. Feel free to mosey on over to
if you're curious :)

Anonymous said...

As an HR professional in my "real" job (not in compensation though), there are a lot of factors that tend to come into a decision for a merit increase, most of which, for most companies, is driven by market forces. Since I have not idea of the market you are in, or your own situation at the company, I can't offer a guess as to what it happened here. However, there is no harm in asking so you did the right thing. A good manager should be able to provide you with specific rationalization for any comp decision.

My main point is not to ignore the broader markets - your company may have data from other companies in your industry and is acting according to what the market is in part telling them what to do.

Good luck in your quest...

frugal zeitgeist said...

Good luck! I did that exact same thing and I found out today that it played out very well. Happy day.

Jason Jaffe said...

Good luck! The best thing to happen was your circumstance that allowed you to head back and "review." This gave you premiere opportiunity to re-evalute but more importantly, research, calm down and prepare.

You took great advantage of this time; I hope you're successful!

Madame X said...

Thanks all! And @Exxolon, I'm not seeing any knickers ads! Maybe it's just you! :)

mapgirl said...

Good luck! Frank conversations take some courage. I wish you good thoughts, but I'm confident you'll have your research and some persuasive arguments in hand when you have the chat.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, that sounds a lot like my company (I also work in publishing)!!!! Good luck :)

MissGoldBug said...

Madame X,

I love your style... you deserve a raise just for that. It take moxie to ask for what you want sometimes... Thank you for being an inspiring woman!

Bitty said...

Good luck, Madame! (Me, I work for the state and get the percentage they give everyone. "Merit pay" is sometimes offered -- not this year -- but it only amounts to about $300.00. Feel sorry for me!

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'd start the conversation with one question: What was the company-wide average raise this year? Sets you up well to explain why with your performance (hey, look at my review!) you deserve more.

Chances are, your department head was given an overall percentage to meet. He/she rationalizes giving you an average raise because of your promotion last year, and thereby allows him to meet his department goal.

Anonymous said...

I can empathize.

Two years ago, I received a "Meets Expectations" review, and was rewarded with 3.0%. My company practices the theory of "no more than 1 Exceeds per team", so most managers just rotate it around their team every few years. Which is crap, btw, you shouldn't be penalized because one team has more than one exceptional person.

Anyhow, I wasn't as offended by that, as I was for last year's "Exceeds" that was rewarded with 3.3%. So, my marginal reward for "Exceeds" was about $125 gross, or $85 net.

I'm shopping around for a new employer.

Anonymous said...

I should think you would begin looking for other work in your field. You can always go back to your boss and tell them to match your new salary or you're outta-there!