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After completing my doctorate in computer science, I have started working as a software developer in a middle-sized (several 100 people) company in Germany about 2 years ago. After repeatedly commenting on how excellent my work is during that time, my superior has told me several times already during the past few weeks that he cannot give me more money unless I come and ask for it, and that I should really request a performance review appointment for that purpose.

Now, I absolutely abhor any kind of negotiations, especially when it's about getting benefits for myself. It's one of the primary reasons why I chose to stay in academia instead of entering the industry some 7 years ago when I started my doctorate (getting a fixed salary at the university based on a pre-defined matrix), and it's also the reason why, during my employment at this company of two years, I have somewhat procrastinated the (in theory annual) performance review so far1.

I have no idea how I can approach the topic of getting "more money" during such a performance review appointment. I do not know whether my superior was referring to a raise of my agreed upon salary, or to a bonus of some sort (e.g. as a higher (> 100%?) percentage of the variable portion of my salary). I also have no clue what I should answer if they want to know a concrete number. Or could my superior's words have just been a polite way of him expressing he appreciates my work (he would give me more money, even though it's not possible from the side of the company)?

How can I find out what is appropriate to ask and where I am overstepping some line or seem undeservedly greedy by asking for something that was never in consideration for me?

While I am on good terms with everyone in my team, I do not have a close enough contact to anyone that I could possibly dare to ask them about their salary (even if this weren't a breach of contract for them, anyway).

Please note that "Don't set up a performance review and stick with your current salary." is not a useful answer here. I am fully aware that this is one of my options; I am trying to find out about the specifics of the option to request the performance review.


1: While the reasons of my colleagues may differ, skipping or delaying that annual review seems to be a very common thing done in this company. Hence, I don't think I am sticking out with my behavior.

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    Possible duplicate of How can I determine a reasonable salary to ask for? – Dukeling Jan 2 '18 at 5:38
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    I think your question as asked is too broad / opinion-based / unclear, but what you want to know might be answered in How can I determine a reasonable salary to ask for? and/or How should I properly approach my boss if I'm feeling underpaid? – Dukeling Jan 2 '18 at 5:39
  • Thanks everyone for the answers. I am going to accept one a bit later, after considering the options more thoroughly. Concerning determining typical salaries for my position, as suggested in some answers and here, by @Dukeling, it seems to me that such information is really hard to come by in Germany. Some websites like Glassdoor indicate very wide salary ranges (with no hint as to where within that range I should place myself), more detailed information seems to be paywalled or subject to downright untrustworthy-seeming offers (various sites asking for my personal details to send me ... – MoThKu Jan 16 '18 at 23:50
  • (cont'd) ... a "personal salary report", allegedly for free. Or, of course, what seems like a website with the data is actually just an ad for a full-blown career counseling service that wants me to become a paying customer. I already know this problem from the time when I was applying for jobs. Back then I more or less guessed a possible salary to ask for based on a single forum posting somewhere in the end, and apparently it was not too much. But it seems even more difficult now for more detailed data like "appropriate raise after X years with X new duties/skills". – MoThKu Jan 16 '18 at 23:56
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There are a few things you can do to make it easier.

First you need to come to terms with the fact that asking is the only way to increase your salary. Either asking your current employer or finding a new job and asking them.

It is quite normal to be worried about

overstepping some line or seem undeservedly greedy

However, if you go higher than they will pay, they will just say "no" - no hard feelings. But you need to be ready to accept any outcome.

Then you will need some hard data. What can you expect to get payed? Get some statistics. In Denmark our union has great data on all salaries, so it is very easy to see if you are getting payed fairly.

Or perhaps this page could help: https://www.payscale.com/research/DE/Job=Software_Engineer/Salary

Also make a list of all your accomplishments and things you have learned since starting at this company. Pay particular attention to any work you have been complimented on. If you have made any blunders, you acknowledge these and explain how they have helped you learn and become a better employee.

Armed with this information get to your performance review as soon as possible - nothing like real experience.

If you ask for a raise and don't get it, make sure to ask for directions as to what you need to improve on, and ask for another review soon (3mth). Then go to work on improving the things that was asked for.

What ever you chose to do - don't wait, it just makes things seem more difficult than they really are.

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Your boss has asked you to ask for more money so you don't have to worry about seeming greedy. They seem to think you deserve more and you just have to help them make the case to give you more.

In preparation for the review, write down what you did well in the last two years and how you worked and improved on your weaknesses.

In your meeting, you'll want to remind your boss about your achievements so that they can use their notes from the meeting to convince their boss to pay you more.

As for your new salary, in my limited experience in Germany, it is common to get cost of living adjustment plus X€/month, with X in [0, 500]. If you don't have a unionized contract, remember that you've missed last year's cost of living adjustment so you now need to ask for a cost of living adjustment from 2016 to 2018 (salary*1,005*1,017 if your city is exactly average - look it up and present those cost of living numbers to your boss, too). The X reflects how much more you can do for your company this year than last year, which is why it's important to highlight any new responsibilities you've picked up.

To get a feel for the X, you can compare it to the TVL you had in your academia job were the union - probably VerDi - would negotiate the cost of living adjustment every few years and you move up the steps within your payscale and get that extra X€/month based on your years of service (for TVL E13, X is 400€ after year 1, 0€ after year 2, 200€ after year 3, ...).

In the unionized industry in Germany, it works similarly. The union takes care of the cost of living adjustment and you negotiate how fast you move up the steps within the payscale based on experience and achievements. At some point - for example when you move up to a management position with responsibility for a two digit number of employees and/or a significant budget - you may outgrow the unionized payscale and get a special contract outside the unionized payscale. If you have a unionized contract at the moment, you can ask a union representative to explain how it works. Ask your boss to move up to the next step in your payscale at every review - they will not move you up every time, but they've clearly indicated that they'll move you up this time and it's always reasonable to ask to move up and if they don't move you up to ask what you have to do in order to move up next time.

If your company doesn't have a unionized contract, they'll still follow the trend of TVL and/or unionized salaries in order to stay competitive. So it's always reasonable to ask for cost of living adjustment plus X, with X depending on how much more you can do for them this year than last year. If you're still unsure, you can ask someone from the workers council (Betriebsrat) for advice.

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If you're more comfortable, just come up with a typical annual increase and apply it over two years to your current salary. You don't seem to be worried with asking to little/leaving money on the table. The idea is for you to "think" about this process just like at the university.

However, I don't know about Germany, but in the US, professors do have to justify their performance. Of course, they have more objective criteria like number of publications, committees, thesis chaired and student ratings (not that the student's themselves are objective, but the ratings are fairly cut and dry.). Being able to defend and value the level and quality of work you do will also help you if you ever want a promotion or to get another job.

  • "The idea is for you to "think" about this process just like at the university." I'm not sure what you mean. The benefit at the university was that I did not have to think about anything, as raises would be applied automatically after fixed periods of time (based on the same tables that determined my overall salary). (Of course, I only finished my doctorate in academia, I did not embark on the long road to a professorship, where these things would eventually be different.) – MoThKu Jan 16 '18 at 23:54
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The way I understand the situation you should have no issue getting paid more and you're doing your work more than well enough to "deserve" it in terms of your value to the company.

So I would like to motivate you to feel less bad about asking for more money by making some points about the wage increase:

Firstly, consider inflation: You should expect a raise of about that rate every year just to keep getting paid the same. If you calculate what that should have left you with, you have an absolute minimum you should ask for just to still have what you had before. Many would, in fact, be insulted not getting a raise that covers inflation, as one could argue they're getting a pay cut!

Secondly, wages are about market value as well as business value. That's not easy to determine, but there are websites online that make it a lot easier by presenting wages per field and region. If the company pays you closer to market value, it will make you less susceptible to an offer.

In fact, if you never do ask for a pay rise, that only leaves two options: you never get one, or you end up getting such a high offer from another company that you want to leave. Spare your company and yourself that trouble ( assuming you're happy to work there ) and just ask for a reasonable raise!

I would suggest using the minimum I mentioned above, assuming some inflation for the next year ( maybe two, if you want to skip a review ) and adding that in, and then adding a good bit on top if you are lagging behind the median/mean market value you determined.

Keep in mind that double digit raises are somewhat uncommon, and significant jumps often go hand in hand with a change in position / job title, so if you approach the 20% raise / get a good bit above market value, consider toning it down a bit ( though I would suggest just putting it out there as a "joke", i.e. an anchor, but we don't want to get started on negotiation, do we ).

So long as you don't threaten to leave or make a similar scene, I assure you no number you name should hurt your standing with the company or manager.

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