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Friday, November 23, 2007

Time to Ask for a Raise?

Hello Ms. Evil!
I learned that we are interviewing someone for an engineering position who is asking for a salary of $110K. I don't know that my manager or our boss are willing to pay this. I just know that the email from HR to my manager, that he forwarded to me, stated that the interviewee wants that much. That is $30K more than I make. Now, I'm peeved because I'm supposed to be the "lead" of the group that this man will be in. Everyone in the group makes more than me. (In my position, I have access to this info.) They have more engineering experience, although not all directly related, but I have what experience is required for the position. Additionally, some of these gentlemen have to have their hands held (by me) when working in Excel or some of our other specialized programs. I am also performing managerial duties that they don't do.

I want to ask for a raise, but I am usually one to sit back and wait for my annual raise and accept what I get. Is this a situation where I should ask for a raise? I understand that people with 20 yrs more experience (and who are my father's age) expect to have higher salaries than me. They have more experience. They know more. (Maybe). On the other hand, their job requires 10 years exp, not 30. Many of them don't have 30 years directly applicable experience anyway. Besdes, I'm the one in the lead role -- if any of them were suitable for the role, then the boss would put them there instead of me. I will constantly be bothered by the fact that these people working for me make more money than me, but I'm not sure if I can ask for the raise.

Your company may well be taking advantage of you. Or, your skills may well not be worth more than they are paying you. I don't know. You should, however. You say you are the "lead" but make less than the other people on the team. They have more engineering experience than you do.

My guess (and it's just a guess, please correct me if I'm wrong), that you act as a project manager and coordinator. The other people are doing the actual engineering. Therefore, their higher salaries may be justified. Or, they may not.

Are you tired of my wishy-washer answer? Well, without more data and your position, their positions, the industry, the availability of engineers and the alignment of the starts at the time of your birth, I can't really tell.

You, however, should be able to figure this out on your own, with a little bit of research.

First, how long has this position that you've asked specifically about been open? If it's been open for 6 months and they've lost the past 3 qualified candidates to competing offers at higher wages, then the salary the candidate is asking for may be justified. If it's been open for two weeks, they've had 15 people apply--all of whom are qualified--and this is just the first guy they are interviewing, it's doubtful that he will get what he wants. The salary is most likely not justified.

(Unless you are willing to consider the minimum salary proposed by a candidate, don't bother interviewing, by the way. It's a waste of everyone's time.)

Then, you need to look at your job. How does it differ from your team member's jobs? Your skills may be different. Are they more or less valuable in the open market? Do a little job hunting yourself--you don't have to interview, but check around and see what is out there.

See if you can gather information on what other's in similar roles are being paid. If your salary is lower than theirs you definitely have a case.

You can always ask for a raise. The key is in asking properly. You don't go in, guns a blazin' and say, "Bob, Steve and Karen all make more than me. I'm supposed to be the team lead, dang it, and now you are considering this yahoo candidate for $30,000 more than me! This stinks. I need more money!"

This, is what we like to say, is a less effective method of getting a raise.

A better way is to gather information on the market rate of your job. If your company has paybands find out what your relationship is to the midpoint of that band. (For instance, a company will say "Jobs in category J are between $60,000 and $100,000, with $80,000 being the midpoint." If your salary is $80,000 a year, you are said to have a compa-ratio of 100%. If your salary is $70,000 a year you have an 87.5% compa-ratio.) If your compa-ratio is below 95%, you definitely can make a case based on that and your (presumably) stellar performance.

Yes, you should ask for a raise. You should have asked for a raise earlier. No one, but no one, cares about your career like you do. Managers have limited amounts of money to divide among their employees. If they know you will silently accept whatever you are given, you run a higher risk of getting the short end of the stick.

Keep in mind that different jobs command different salaries. For instance, in a pharmacy, you may have a store manager that makes less than the pharmacists she supervises, hires and fires. Why? If the store manager doesn't have a pharmacy degree she's easier to replace than the pharmacist who does. Or in something everyone understands, Katie Couric makes more money than her bosses.

Be positive and not argumentative. If, after you've done your research and shown that your job is worth more money and they are not willing to give it to you, you have to decide if you value that job more than money. If so, stay. If not, start job hunting. No one is forcing you to stay where you are underpaid.


Luciana said...

"Managers have limited amounts of money to divide among their employees. If they know you will silently accept whatever you are given, you run a higher risk of getting the short end of the stick."

As always, excellent advice. It's amazing the number of people who get frustrated when they don't get the raises they think they deserve, when it is at least partially their fault for not doing their homework and creating a case based on market rates and performance.

Anonymous said...

"No one is forcing you to stay where you are underpaid."

Your answer is insightful to those of us who still are somewhat shy about stepping forward to request more for performing above and beyond the standard.

I'm very fortunate that my current supervisor recently valued my work with not only the usual standard standard of living increase, but also took the time to see if my current salary was on par with others in similar positions w/in the organization.

As it turned out, I was a bit behind and was therefore bumped up a few thousand to make up for the market value shortfall.

Not everyone will have a boss who proactively does this so it's incumbent upon individual employees to keep a "brag" file throughout the year that clearly documents their achievements and how these successes ultimately tied back to the organization's business goals.

But at the end of the day, if a company cannot see the value of your work, you may have to come to the realization that you have to move on.

jen_chan, writer said...

Actually, with the conviction in his letter (minus all the this person earns more than me parts), I would be pretty convinced to give this person a raise. Though I don't know much about engineering, I think part of what put him in his situation is his own personality. It's as he said. He's just the kind of guy who accepts everything without a fuss (until now). I hope he gets what he deserves. Whether it's a raise or a new job.