Originally created 07/05/99

Raise takes more than just work

Who deserves a raise?

(Note: This is part one of a three-part series on raises)

Many employees feel that they are overworked, or underpaid or both. Doing less work may ease the feeling but result in being fired, while seeking a raise may produce a pleasant surprise.

The most common error in pursuing a pay increase is not accurately distinguishing between wanting a pay increase and deserving one.

Some employees feel that if they do their job and work hard that a raise is deserved. However, the employer may feel that doing one's job and working hard is a condition of employment, and that the employee deserves nothing extra beyond what they are already being paid. In other words, doing what is expected is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for a raise.

The second error in the raise issue is that some employees do not have a realistic view of the quality or quantity of the work they perform.

This mistake takes the form of overestimating their accomplishments, contributions and their value to the employer. These employees also may underestimate the work and value of their co-workers, especially those who earn more. This is important because employees gauge the adequacy and fairness of their pay as it compares to others. So when a person both overestimates their job and accomplishments, and underestimates those of others, the pay gap seems to be very wide and unfair. The unfairness may be real, or an incorrect perception, but it is the main reason why employees are unhappy with their pay and seek a raise.

Therefore, the prerequisites for successfully pursuing a raise are first to be performing at a level which is significantly above what is expected for someone with your experience. More experience, or seniority, is thought by some to command more money. Being around another year does not necessarily mean one does more or better work sufficient enough to justify more money. In fact, it is expected that improvement comes with time.

Remember, doing what is expected gives one a job, not a raise. The other prerequisite to seeking a raise is to be able to assess your work and that of others realistically, and to document your worth to your manager.

Assuming that deserving a raise can be documented and the boss would agree, can the organization afford it at this time? If your organization is facing competitive pressures, financial weakness, or a period of uncertainty even the most deserving are unlikely to get a raise.

If your work is exceptional, your manager's perception of you and your work is highly positive, and the company is financially able, then is it the right time? The timing is important if company policy allows for raises only at given times. The budget cycle may govern when raises can be approved and granted.

Timing also includes considering the mood and workload of your boss. Ask only when their mood is good and the pressure is off. Also determine if there are any major problems or significant requests for funding coming to your supervisor's boss since that person may have to approve your request also. A request might be viewed in a more favorable light right after you have successfully completed a major project or after a positive performance evaluation.

While performance and timing, respectively, are most important in pursuing a raise, there is always the matter of how one is perceived.

Granting a raise can be subjective and what others think of you, at both high and low levels can tip the balance. Befriend everyone and make no enemies, for a casual comment from even the most unlikely person could make the difference.

There are strategies that can help you get favorable treatment such as: come early, stay late, help everyone and show arrogance to none. A raise given to a well-liked, respected and productive employee is not a decision that your boss needs to justify to the undeserving or unknowing. It is self evident to all.

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