I recently had a talk with my boss about my future in the company I am working in. The meeting went very well, I could show him how valuable I am for the company and what my plans are for the next year.

At the end of the meeting we talked about my salary increase. It went like this (the numbers are not actual, they are just here to show what is higher and what is lower):

Boss: Let's talk about your salary increase. How much do you want.

Me: I thought about 150.

Boss: So much? Sorry, but our HR department told me the maximum is 120.

Me: That surprises me. On the company homepage, there is a job listed which is equal to mine, and the salary is listed with 130. I guess I am more valuable to the company than a new one, aren't I?

Boss: Yes, yes, of course. I fully support you. But this is not the decision I can make. You will have to talk with the boss of the HR department about this. I will arrange you a meeting.

So, now I have a meeting with the boss of the HR department about my salary soon. I thought it would be easy to get more, since I can easily argue that I should get more than a new employee in the same position.

Now, suddenly the salary stated on the job listing I talked about dropped to 110. That seems a little suspicious to me, since it was there for months and the company really needs new employees. However, I have a printed copy of this job listing with the 130 salary.

What I don't know now is how to negotiate with this new situation. My plan was always to say that I want more than a new employee would get for my position. I fear that the HR department boss now says that there is no position with such a high salary (which is true, now). I could show him the printed copy and tell him the story, but this seems to break trust.

Of course I have also arguments like what I achieved for the company and what I did well in the past. However, since the HR department boss does not really know me, I think they will not be that important to him. My other boss will not be at the meeting.

How should I tackle this situation? Should I still bring the printed copy with me and show if necessary, or is this a bad idea? What else should I do?

  • @JoeStrazzere I don't know how this breaks trust. Maybe he also says that it was a mistake (but it was there for months, so I don't believe it). I won't compare myself to other employees, I just wanted to show up this job listing in the negotiation. – Uooo Jun 12 '13 at 11:42
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    If you are willing to walk away from the job unless they meet at least the 130 I think it is a valid tactic. If you are not willing to walk away then I agree with joe make it about what you bring to the company. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 12 '13 at 13:10
  • Is 150 your starting position? What is your bottom? – Chris Schiffhauer Jun 13 '13 at 0:30

How should I tackle this situation? Should I still bring the printed copy with me and show if necessary, or is this a bad idea? What else should I do?

No, you should not bring this printed copy with you - that is indeed a bad idea. That fact that you have seen it and know what it said gives you a bit of knowledge, but using it confrontationally is a poor tactic, in my opinion.

In my 30+ years of experience as both a Manager and as an employee negotiating for raises, I strongly believe that you should focus on yourself, and on not other current or potential employees.

Negotiating based on what you have done and will be doing for the company is a far stronger argument than negotiating based on your salary relative to others in the company. What you do is almost certainly not identical to what others do. You don't want to view yourself as interchangeable with others.

Concentrate on the value you bring to the company. Concentrate on your successes and achievements and what you expect to be doing in the future. Concentrate on what you are worth, not what others are worth.

If new hires were receiving 20% less, you wouldn't want HR to ask you to take a pay cut - similarly, you shouldn't concentrate on what is being offered to entice new hires into your company.

When I go into a salary meeting with my boss, I focus on me. When someone working for me discusses salary, I focus on them. If they were to start talking about what others (existing or future) make, that would be a huge negative in my mind.

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    Spotting the listing at 130 is great research; you revealed your employer's hand. It ends there. Keep it to yourself. The rest, as this response states, is about you. – Chris Schiffhauer Jun 13 '13 at 0:20

@Joe Strazzere's answer is great, but I had enough of a slant to add a different perspective.

Yes - a salary negotion should center around you. The value you bring to the company and the tradeoffs for you if you should find comparable work elsewhere. In that sense, the industry itself is an important driver. I have successfully negotiated increases in existing companies with competitive offers in hand.

Realize, though, that that pay rates offered in the company - whether they are advertised on a job board, or noted as ranges in internal documentation are a point of reference which is entirely in the control of the company. It's their right to change the rates and if your conversation prompted it - so what? If they can get responses to the job at 110, and staff the position, then they made the right move.

A couple points for perspective:

Things about a Salary Range

Salary ranges are a general tool for sorting work and employees into some bucket. At the end of the day, management has to figure out how to allocate limited resources (money is never infinite!) to compensate and increase compenstation for employees. There's simply no perfect metric here, and most job structures tend to have an overlapping set of ranges.

For the most part, management and HR will shoot to keep employees somewhere in the middle of the range. Ideally, when an employee first enters a job, their salary will be at the bottom of the range (whether it's a new hire, or a promotion). Over time, as the employee learns more, grows in talents, and has better judgement, they will get raises and start to ascend through the range. Ideally, before the employee hits the upper threshold, they'll get enough skills, judgement, talent, experience, to demonstrate the capability to move to the next job title and be able to handle the responsibilities it entails. For the most part, if you are at the top of a range, and don't move up, you'll end up with limited raises, as the company becomes unwilling to pay you more for a general value that can be provided cheaper by someone else. It's not a perfect system - sometimes people who provide great value that can't be fit into titles get the short end of this, and sometimes people get promoted too quickly without being ready.

How ranges are decided, how they fit into offers to external people and how managers work raises and promotions are all a matter of individual company policy and org structure, but most companies fit this bill in one way or another.

The decisions about ranges and going really far beyond them is a corporate decision. Making exceptions to this does become tricky and does take a lot of effort- usually by both managers and HR. The farther beyond the bounds you push, the more you have to justify why you are so incredibly awesome that you justify these bounds.

It's hard to tell how tied to the numbers you quote but doing the math... here's a picture:

  • the range is 90-130
  • the job offer was put out at 130, because there's been trouble hiring people
  • your manager knows you are awesome, and asked about a raise - he was told 120
    • 10/130 - the top 7% of the range - that's a rough spot for a raise for you next year, already. It probably assumes that you rock, and you'll probably earn a promotion.
  • you asked for 150 - if the range really is 90-130, you are 115% higher than the top of the range. That's a big deal. In some companies it's impossible, in some companies it simply means your raises will be abysmal for several years after. In some companies, in the next higher job range, you still will have the bad end of the stick, because you may start in the middle of the range, and not have many years to mature long haul before you hit the top of the bracket in the next range. Mileage varies by company.
  • It's not unlikely that your manager did call HR and say "hey, what's with offering 130 when you told me I could only pay my awesome guy 120??? it makes me look like a jerk!!! Let's pay my guy more!!"
  • HR said "ARGH. We broke our own model. Sorry, new guy is doing the offers and he really wanted to fill this position fast... we'll fix it" and poof 110 it is.

In a long lived, long career style company, the goal is to keep the go getters happy and employeed in the company. You have to do that without breaking the rules and without agreeing to a change so radical that you don't screw them up in the future with a fantastic raise one year and a lousy one the next.

Your Work

In the end, it really is all about your work. If you can convince the company to give you a raise that is a fair value of your skills - stay. If you can't and you don't get enough other benefits out of working there - leave. There's no easy way to fix a bad model, but if you have decent management, they will be working on it.

Here's the order of operations I'd use:

  • Really do know the internal range - not just the external posting, and how it's structured in your company (what's the next range, for example?)
  • Know how close to a promotion you might be - do you fit all the requirements for the next level up? Know how promotions are assessed or granted. That's typically different from a raise.
  • Be ready with a sense of where you fit the range - what percentile are you in? How much higher are you asking for?
  • Know the industry comparison as well as you are able. Is what you're asking for reasonable within your geographic area?
  • Be prepared with knowledge of where you've saved the company money that greatly exceeds your net cost. Sounds like you know this, but if you are really going outside the norm, have some really hard evidence. For example, if you currently make 100, and you are asking for 150, you are basically saying you are able to accomplish 150% of what a normal person at your level is accomplishing.

I know you may not have been putting much thought behind the quoted numbers, but I wanted to give a frame of reference - percents and scope of increase matter a great deal. So does comparable value with other job options.

This is largely assuming that in the example, 120 is more than you currently make. If your boss has the number readily at hand, it means he at least did the courtesy of having checked ahead of time, and being aware of wanting to give you a raise. That, at least is a pretty good sign that your work is good. How good, vs. the corporate model and limitations is the big question.

Print outs

Since a question was asked, I figured I'd try to cover this.

In specific - what it sounds like is that you have a printout of an open job posting. You're using the salary quoted in the posting as a baseline for negotiating your own salary even higher than the salary quote in the posting. The problem here is a lack of connection between these two data points:

  • Your job and this job may not be a 1-to-1 tradeoff - even if the job is the exact same description - the job posting is about looking for new talent, and you are existing talent. A posting is also a fairly open ended description - there's a sublayer of information that management has about what the work really entails and why they are offering the salary they are offering.
  • The job posting range and and the internal salary ranges for each position are not necessarily a 1-to-1 analogue. Posting a job is about getting applications, salary ranges internally are about a baseline.

So - don't let the job posting distract from the point of negotiating a salary based on your value.

In general, carrying a peice of paper stuffed into a notebook you bring to the discussion is not a bad plan. Until you start waving it around, it's a peice of paper, just like any other. But I'm having trouble figuring out in what circumstance having it on hand would be really useful. When you need to prove that someone has lied in a meaningful way, then a past printout is useful. But in this case, proving that the changed the salary of a job posting has no impact on what your salary should or shouldn't be. It's well within the company's purview to re-evaluated the published price of job postings. It within their right to change the baseline ranges for internal salaries.

In this particular case, I think you stand a better chance of inducing defensiveness, which is generally not useful when you want to successfully conclude a tricky negotiation.

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