I was hired as a mid-level developer into a large company to work on a product with great feedback from its users. The original authors were bootstrapped and built a great tool. Unfortunately, their lack of experience manifested itself in classic ways: performance pitfalls, maintenance difficulties, etc. (Not deriding their effort, they got further than most programmers ever do. :) )

With a bit of experience under my belt, I was able to make meaningful contributions. Things took off and worked out in a great way. Times were good and so was the team.

Since then, everyone has been promoted or moved on and I'm the last teammate supporting the product. Preorders for the next release have already made it hugely profitable (10x over). Though I now wear multiple hats, my compensation hasn't changed to reflect the increased responsibility or the growing success of the product. My company doesn't do "bonuses", and our raise-policy prohibits more than x% per year.

My Question

With a big launch coming up, would it be unprofessional to approach management with the pre-sales figures and attempt to negotiate a (substantial) increase in pay with promotion?

  • I edited your question to make it more answerable; people will mention their own experiences/ect to support their answers so you don't need to request stories. If you want to ask how/if to quit if they decline you should ask a separate question.
    – Zelda
    Commented May 12, 2012 at 0:54
  • humm.. if the project goes wrong? just like google wave.. I think is better you worry about "What is my part in this project?" Have you signed any contract? If me I just pay attention on this matters..
    – user781
    Commented May 12, 2012 at 1:24
  • Take a look at this question -> programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/65060/…
    – user781
    Commented May 12, 2012 at 1:30
  • so what happened?
    – user42272
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 22:19
  • @user42272 - workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/2720/…, apparently.
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 17:44

3 Answers 3


The key with salary negotiation (or any negotiation for that matter) is leverage.

From what you said:

I'm the only guy left working on the product

and assuming this product is important to the company, you seem to be in a good position.

Before you enter any sort of negotiation, you need to know your BATNA (Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement - see Roger Fisher book "Getting to YES" if you haven't read it), in short: you need to know what your alternatives are if you can't come to an agreement.

If (in the worst case), they decided to fire you on the spot (very unlikely) - what's your backup plan? No matter how unlikely this situation would be, you simply need to be prepared. Or what if they simply said "no"? Would you be happy to stay? or you probably, again, need to be prepared to move on. At the same time, once you start this kind of talk, your employer might start thinking that you are not happy and you might jump ship at any time and therefore they might slowly move to make sure you can be replaced quite easily.

So many if, might, and but ... but that's just how it is

Another issue would be how to present the question to your employer. Rather than straight out asking for a raise, it's usually better to lay your facts and arguments on the table, with the goal of telling your employer "I am worth a lot more than I am being paid right now". You need to show how important you are to the company and that it's in their best interest to give you a raise and keep you in the company.

In summary:

  • Make sure you are prepared with facts supporting why you should be paid more
  • Be prepared for ANY outcome, make sure you have a back-up plan
  • You stated "make sure you have a back-up plan", but what if he doesn't have a back-up plan?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 8:55
  • 1
    @Pacerier Then delay the plan until you have your backups in place. It's an estimation game. If you are 20% likely to lose your job, you don't need a replacement job, but if you are 80% likely to lose your job, you do. The BATNA advice here is gold. If they start to waver on getting more money, you can ask for a lot of things: more vacation, premium "status" equipment, a one-time bonus, a "title only" promotion (useful for when you do leave the company). There's a lot of alternatives. The only ones you should avoid are the ones not guaranteed, occurring in the future.
    – Edwin Buck
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 23:32

It sounds like you deserve it, but it also sounds like policy will be to say no. Instead of a raise, consider asking for a promotion.

  • 2
    +1 on promotion - which doesn't have to involve, and in this case will likely not involve, managing someone. Don't agree about policy though, however, some organisations will have a lot of difficulty in agreeing a raise outside the normal financial planning cycle for that business. Commented May 13, 2012 at 5:43
  • 1
    Definitely--he's doing the job of a higher level person, he should be promoted to that position. Commented May 14, 2012 at 21:12
  • 1
    Good advice: if they have an official policy regarding percentages for raises, then don't ask for a raise. Ask for a new title, new job description, new salary. Note that this will surely involve a formal increase in your role's responsibilities. Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 6:14
  • +1 "as per <reasons>, I feel that I have outgrown my current position and job description. I feel like a promotion to <better suited job title> with <responsibilties> would be a better fit for my current role within <company>.
    – Tyzoid
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 16:56

I think you've earned it. It certainly sounds like you've contributed enough to deserve it.

With that said, it doesn't sound like your employer is going to give it to you, even if you ask. It kind of sounds like a situation where your skills at your salary level are being slightly taken advantage of, as you should have probably gotten this promotion already.

One way to handle this if you ask and they say no - start shopping your resume. I'm not sure where you are located but in most places in the US, software developers (especially experienced ones) are a hot commodity. You'd likely find another offer quickly. Then you could probably take THAT back to yoru current employer and use it as leverage.

Do this carefully, though, as you will probably only be able to do it one time with this employer.

  • 2
    While you are correct that experienced software developers are a hot commodity there also isn't any shortage of them. The job market today is very tough, its a dog eat dog world, and companies are tired of being burned by these so called "experienced" developers.
    – Donald
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 11:52
  • 5
    Depends on where you are I am thinking. In my market, a developer with 5+ years experience who is GOOD is very hard to hire, because they are already working. There is, of course, a difference between a developer who has been doing it a long time and one who has been doing it a long time and is actually good at it. Commented May 14, 2012 at 13:14
  • @Ramhound It depends on the specialty. In some fields, there are fewer developers than openings, while in others there are so many that 500 resumes wouldn't be odd for a single opening. Having been the primary developer for a hot product, the OP has considerable leverage and can point to his specific achievement right there on the shelves for potential employers to purchase. Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 19:58
  • @AlanDelimon, Are you sure it's legal to find another offer and then use that as leverage?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 8:57
  • 1
    @Pacerier Yes, in the US it is definitely legal to do that. It happens all the time. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 17:42

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