Playing Hard Ball...But Being Fair & Professional

I would appreciate some input as to how I should approach my VP for a raise after one year of employment. Long and short of it: I was previously in a horrible work environment and was actively looking. Came across a decent position and accepted the offerwhich I’ve now come to realize that I low balled myself. Place is great, people are great and good exposure to a wide variety of work. However, I have come to realize that I’m under paid. I’ve received a glowing six month review and will be receiving my one year review shortly. My typical approach is to play tactful hardball: “I would like to address my salary so that I don’t wind up searching for a new position”. Any input you could provide would be appreciated. Thanks

I’m no expert at this, but leaving “so that I don’t wind up searching for a new position” is a bit too aggressive. In fact, that’s asking for a glass ceiling…

Isn’t this right before bonus time? Are you sure you want to do this? Why don’t you see how they fix you up in your bonus befoe you go griping about bad pay. I’ve been perfectly comfortable in life getting 80% of my pay as bonus.

Yeah, I think that is a bit on the aggressive side. For me, I’ve been at my current job for about a year and feel that I’m underpaid as well. I went out to lunch with my boss a few weeks ago and just let him know my feelings, but in as gentle a way as possible. I started with “I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m only focused on money, but I think this would be about as good a time as any to talk about what next year is going to look like. I know the firmwide average has been x% in years past, but I feel I have accomplished a lot in this past year. Should I be looking at x, or something a little higher?” Our company is in the middle of an HR overhaul right now, so he said he wasn’t exactly sure how much he was going to be able to give out (and I actually believe him), but to give him a few weeks to sort it out. Just waiting on hearing back now.

first question you better ask yourself is: are you a major asset to the company and are you easily replaceable? If you are major asset and not replaceable, then the balls in your court… otherwise, you need to get yourself into that situation before you “play hardball”

subtle threats such as “I would like to address my salary so that I don’t wind up searching for a new position” never work, unless you’re a bsd bringing in tons of $$ for the company.

Yeah, usually when you say stuff like that they’ll just tell you to go take a hike (unless they really like you). It’s better just to have a down to earth discussion about what you’re getting versus what your expectations are, and cite reasons for why you should get a raise (with one of them being that based on your knowledge, you’re being paid below market for your position)

Hello All, Thank you for the input. Please don’t misunderstand me, in no way would I ever talk to an employer like I inidcated above. I was looking for a subtle way of intimating the message. I’m in somewhat of a unique situation. Soon after I was hired at the beginning of this year (3 weeks) I was offered a position I was to assume about a year into my employment. This move was due to the unexpected departure of a long-time employee. Now I’ve done extremely well (according to my mid-term review) in this position. However, when I did assume this slightly more senior position my VP explicitly stated that there would be no increase to my salary. Now almost after a year of being in this position I feel I was subjected to the old “bait and switch”. I’m thinking that I should gently bring this up in my annual review in the hopes of looking for additional compensation. I think I may have a compelling case to bring my compensation more in line with “market”. Any thoughts?


You never get the salary you severve unless you mark yourself to market sometime. How about shopping a bit?

You really need to be prepared to leave if it doesn’t go well or you will be forever underpaid if you bring it up, they call your bluff and then you stay around. I was in a similar position not too long ago, had another offer in hand and tried to mark myself up. Unfortunatley, I ended up leaving the firm (which I really liked) for a new position that offered me 30% more pay. If you are getting good experience it may pay off in the long run to take your time shopping yourself around and not be in a big hurry to go anywhere. Strangely, that is when job offers seem easiest to come by (not when your pressing).

agreed with JoeyDVivre – the only way to figure out what you’re truly worth is by trying to get another offer. without that, the best way to ask for a raise is just to be as diplomatic as possible and cite valid reasons, but do not be hostile or aggressive at any point – doing so would give them a reason to give you the boot. however, with another offer in hand (and one that you’re prepared to take if things don’t work out at your present firm), you have much more to leverage.

Thanks for the feedback guys. I’ve started to keep my eyes open for other opportunities. Seeing as its October and year end is fast approaching, I’ll give these guys the benefit of the doubt that they’ll come to the table with something in December / January. I intend on being diploamtic and will probably sit down with my VP in December and feel him out for what the future holds. Hopefully, the very virtue of that conversation will indicate that he had better come to the table with something. All in all the message I would try to impart on him would be along the lines of…“I’m looking forward to assuming more challenges in the new year…along with that I’m hoping that wa can re-assess my salary given my performance in a more senior role over the past year…”. Without prejudice…but wanting to be paid.

I had an initial meeting a few weeks ago and we discussed the accomplishments this year and what we want to do for the balance of the year and in '08. We ended the meeting with lots of loose ends scribbled on paper, so what I suggested was I put everything down in writing to organize our thoughts. I left it as a worksheet of sorts with projects listed and a space to write in the deadlines. At the bottom I left a “'08 salary range” bullet point. When we get together again, we’ll have to go through all of the points and “fill in the blanks” so I thought this was a nice assertive way of saying “we need to discuss this and you need to give me something concrete”.

do you guys think many people are looking around or actively recruiting for different opportunities at this time, or do you get the sense that most people stand pat until bonuses get paid in january, then start kicking their search into full gear?

I think some people are passively looking right now, but once bonuses are paid and performance reviews are done they kick into high gear.

Numi - I haven’t been looking at all in 2.5 years, so for me I feel it’s time to at the very least brush up the resume and float it out there. Until bonus time, I’m going to work on posting the resume on all the sites I should be (monster, doostang, linkedin, local cfa chapter site, etc.) and seeing if I get any bites. Depending on how good or bad ’07 bonus/’08 comp is, I’ll either go great guns in January or simply leave my resume up the internet.

krause and others – do you think other people would expect you to be looking right now (not necessarily a good thing), or do you think that the expectation is that most people are usually standing pat until bonuses get paid out (in which case, your looking around between now and january would probably go largely unnoticed)?

I think it makes sense always to be looking… sometimes more agressively than others. As Joey said, the best way to mark to market is to have a market offer, and the market is your friend (unless you are overpaid). It does seem that entry level pay rises faster than the standard within-company raise. I know one person who has been at their company many years and is fairly senior, and they are a little upset that new hires are brought in at only a slight discount on the base salary (bonus is more substantial, though). As for how to approach a raise if you don’t have a counter offer and want to do it professionally, I would talk to your supervisor and say that you are wanting one, and then ask what kind of performance would it be necessary to demonstrate in order to achieve it. It shows that you want more but reduces the sense that you’re demanding a raise just for having been around. You might also point out how your responsabilities have changed since you arrived. If that suggests that your position carries more responsability than the pay grade would suggest, then that points out that you are essentially making a correction in pay schedules, not simply demanding more money.

To Numi’s point about sitting pat for bonuses, I think companies who hire at this point in the year understand the bonus issue. The solution for them is to let you wait until bonuses are paid or to buy you out of your bonus (usually with a signing bonus). So it’s probably fine to look, and then you talk about the bonus issue after an offer has been made and you are negotiating.