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Several years ago, I was a UI designer/developer for a company I currently still work for (I have been there now for 7 years).

I was asked to choose to either stay in my department as a UI developer or be moved to a new department as a designer. I chose to stick with developing. Went on maternity leave and came back with a new manager and not much change in my work flow other than no longer designing.

I brought up the argument with my then (new) manager that my job description is outdated and with that my pay grade is out dated. Went from a team of 6 working on our products to team of two. Took on more workload and so on. He agreed it needed change and then quit a week later.

A year later I brought this subject up again with my current boss and for the past six months of pinging him I haven’t had any traction. Last week I recapped our 2018 conversation in an email. No reply. Not even a "no sorry we are on a freeze at the moment". I don’t have one on ones or performance reviews so it’s hard to discuss when nothing gets done.

I am debating to go above my boss and speak to his manager or go to HR but I’m not sure what is the professional approach.

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Step 1 - Find out what people in your profession, with your skills or experience, and in the same city, normally get. That tells you if your salary should be higher or not. (And it also tells you what are your chances that, if you look for another job for a different employer, you can get better salary, benefits and whatever).

Step 2 - If it turns out you're underpaid, and your current employer hasn't improved the situation even although you asked for it over 3 years - start looking for another job.

If they didn't do anything in 3 years, they won't, ever. In fact, the normal period wouldn't be longer than 3 months... giving them 3 years was way too much.

That is, of course, under assumption that you are indeed underpaid. You said that people who just joined your company get 10% more. That's an indication already.

Attempting to talk to them again won't produce any results. Don't start a new round of talks, don't complain, don't make any issue or drama. Do your job as well as you can, and look for another job all the time.

The next and only communication your current employer should get from you is after you have a signed, on paper, job offer from the next employer, it's when you tell your current employer that you're leaving.

Step 3 - If, on the other side, it turns out that other people with same skill and experience, in any company in the same city, aren't getting more, then decide which skills to improve and start working on it.

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There are two comments to your question which are useful. Perhaps if either commenter had expanded on their comments they'd have had enough for a proper answer.

The first thing is, HR's job is not to get you a raise. If you believe there is genuine workplace discrimination going on (isn't clear from your question), then perhaps you might want to give that a go.

The way I read your situation, you were given an opportunity for upward mobility. Design work, as I hope everyone reading this will agree, is harder and "higher level" work than "development". As a designer, you would have influenced the work of many developers, as well as the final outcome of the product. You chose to stick with development. Nothing wrong with that -- design work can also be more demanding on ones time and quite often require that you spend additional out-of-office time keeping up with changes in frameworks or "design aesthetics". I spent a lot of time in my career as an architect, designer, developer, project manager, etc., and there is a definite hierarchy of "skill". I hate to say it, but you chose what is one of the lower skill level jobs.

On to the second point, which is a bit ambiguous because you don't say why you went from a team of 6 to a team of 2, but normally fewer people is also ... lower skill level. The only time it isn't is when you've increased productivity to the point that that team of 2 is doing the work of the old team of 6.

You need to get clear on why you deserve a raise given what seems like voluntary stagnation. If you made the wrong decision to stay a developer, I would try getting into the next open design role. If you helped increase the productivity of your team, with what would be a pretty huge reduction in labor costs, you need to address that. But nothing in your question points actually being underpaid, or to bad conduct on the part of your employer. You need to take charge of your career and actively work to move it forward. Or you need to accept that choosing a less challenging professional path is going to result in a less rapid rise in compensation.

(Edited to add)

Apparently some people think I’m referring to “design” in the more recent sense of “drawing things”. I’m not. I’m referring to software engineers who determine such things as interfaces, functional / procedural / data flows, performance characteristics, external resource requirements, etc. How software functions at a higher level than the code that is being written.

How code functions on something like a stand alone point of sale terminal is different than on a cloud-hosted collection of servers. Writing a filesystem for a wearable device is different than picking a filesystem from a pull-down menu when a server is going to be deployed. Resource requirements and limitations — which is traditionally part of the design process — is its own skill.

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    HR works for the company. They are NOT your friend. Please consider getting advice from someone else, maybe a colleague in a different department. Still, “on a freeze” sounds like bizschool jargon for “forget it” to me. – O. Jones Jun 16 at 1:29
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    This could be one of the situations where the employee's goals and HR's align. It's not HR's job to get OP a raise, but it might be their job to give OP a raise, to retain a good employee, and avoid the cost to recruit and train a replacement. – stannius Jun 19 at 15:29

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