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I took an internal position a year-and-a-half ago that has changed immensely in scope and far more demanding in technical skill over time. The salary I accepted was OK for the role I took, but is now easily at least $15-$20k below market. Moreover, I’ve been repeatedly recognized for being a particularly high potential high performer, inside and outside of my team.

I raised the issue of a salary increase to my usually even-keeled manager, who immediately became visibly uncomfortable. He readily agreed I was underpaid, relative to the market and also relative to my performance, but wasn’t sure if he could get a raise.

He came back two weeks later with a no. He told me the department was committed to raising salaries for everyone this year because we're under market in general for tech, and I would be one of the first salaries addressed. However, he couldn’t give me a timeline or even a guarantee it would happen by December. He asked me to let him know if waiting became untenable, stressing they really wanted to keep me at the company and could work to find me a position outside of the department (where, I guess, the salary would be better).

Out of the blue a few weeks later, he let me know a raise of 10-15% had been approved by the head of the department. It was definitely happening--just needed to be approved by finance, who would let us know the exact number in that range. Great! And then… radio silence in the 5 weeks since. I’ve asked for a status update several times, and as of two weeks ago, it was “finance is taking longer than expected.”

Is such a long wait typical? I'm skeptical it takes finance so long to approve unless there's a budgetary reason (maybe they told me about it before there was budget to try to preempt me leaving...?). Either way, I am beginning to feel a little jerked around. Is it appropriate to stop asking for status and simply ask point blank if it’s actually happening and that I'd like a hard date? Or do I just have to quietly wait (or leave)?

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It sounds like this is a big thing to you (and rightly so if you're being paid that much below market rate), so I'd be polishing the CV and looking around elsewhere.

If finance approve a raise in the meantime then you don't need to continue searching, but there's a few factors that mean you may want to search around anyway:

  • Your manager became visibly uncomfortable as soon as you mentioned a salary increase, meaning that salary increases clearly weren't an easy topic for him to raise with his higher-ups;
  • "No, but we're committed to raising salaries in general this year but I can't give you dates or figures" is higher level BS that he's been fed (or told to feed you) to try to keep you happy for a bit longer. If they were actually committed to it, they'd do it.
  • Finance are taking a long time just to give you a figure, which could just be finance being slow or could be because of internal budget issues;
  • If you find a position outside the department where the salary is better, chances are you're going to have just as much issue finding a raise in a year or so;
  • Telling him that your waiting has become untenable is essentially just giving a heads up that you're leaving, which is considered a bad idea in general.
  • Everything about the managers response and how it's been handled to date suggests the company is currently in a financial bind. If it's temporary then I'd expect raises to happen as soon as the finance dept feels that they can open the purse strings a bit. – NotMe Apr 15 at 3:55
  • @berry120: you should make the last statement ("Telling him that your waiting has become untenable...") should be marked in bold. – virolino Apr 15 at 10:20

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