Apparently here in France there is an obligation to have the salary reviewed annually. So, in the first annual meeting, my line manager asked me to suggest what raise I would like...

  • How is one even supposed to answer such a question when it is asked because it has to be asked?
  • Why does the company not suggest a salary increase instead rather than force an employee to deal with a miserable question?
  • How am I to know what a reasonable raise is anyway?

Add to that, the concept of value or worth of my work, coding/model development and simulations is a very abstract concept. There is no inherent immediate value but (ideally) long term benefits and long term value. Neither is my position one that can be easily researched and compared for suggestions...

Unfortunately the suggestion that the company should decide was not accepted as an answer and I am supposed to get back with a number... At present, the best and only answer I can think off is to look at the official inflation rate in the country for a suggestion...


I have decided to accept the best argued response - and all well thought out responses (that suggested how/why I should decide) were upvoted. (Midday 24th OCt 2019, CET time)

With the annual inflation currently suggested to be 0.9%, I suggested a 1% increase to cancel out inflation - with a feeling that this is not unreasonably greedy... Despite the accepted answer suggesting that one should be asking for more, I just cannot see how it can be justfied... - And suggesting a compensation for inflation at least should leave me with a clear conscience. (If my job title changes, maybe I would have a reason to argue why my salary should increase, but at present? For what? For doing my job?)

  • 2
    Possible duplicate of How can I determine a reasonable salary to ask for?
    – gnat
    Oct 23, 2019 at 9:39
  • @JoeStrazzere I have no idea what raises other people got. Obviously there are very well paid employees in the upper hierarchy. - In addition I work at the client's site nearly all the time and see my actual employer fairly seldom (and my colleagues from the same group nearly never...)
    – c5883421
    Oct 24, 2019 at 17:47
  • How established are unions in france? In sweden what I would do would be to ask my union for advice, or any union member with access to their statistics. This is what works in sweden thou where nearly everyone is a union member.
    – lijat
    Oct 26, 2019 at 6:13
  • @lijat Union membership in France is lower than in Germany (apparently thinking back to my French classes in France). However certain unions in certain strategic industries are very active making them quite visible. - In principle a good suggestion, though it means findind a union member first... (Even more problematic if you spent 90+% at the client side and have little day to day interaction with the colleagues at your actual employer.)
    – c5883421
    Oct 26, 2019 at 13:15

6 Answers 6


I'm unfamiliar with France norms, but the first company I worked for was easily one of the best ones and at the end of my first year, my boss asked me what I wanted for a raise. I had a similar reaction like you wherein I was sweating trying to come up with the 'right' answer on this and asking why would someone make me deal with such a miserable thing.

At the time, this was my first year as an engineer and I boldly assumed that asking for 3% would be pushing the limits of what I could get, so that was the answer I provided. Other companies and bosses might have simply taken that number and run, but my boss denied my 3% and instead made it 8% then took the time to explain to me that as an engineer my value increases at a very high rate early in my career. The knowledge I gain is significant and in turn I become broadly more valuable to the company. Ergo, high raises early in my career are appropriate and later in my career things should level out to cost of living adjustments.

So to answer your questions:

How is one even supposed to answer such a question when it is asked because it has to be asked?

I'm not sure what French law specifically says regarding 'salary reviewed annually'. Whether this is a discussion that needs to occur or if management needs to make it a point to review your salary and make a decision on whether it needs to be adjusted. In the US, you can hear countless stories of people stuck at the same rate of pay for whatever reason management concocts to avoid paying fairly.

So to answer the question, consider where you are in your career. If you're early in your career and fresh out of school, you should expect high percentage increases as you've learned a lot and in turn become a lot more valuable and useful to the company. If you've been at this for 15 years, then a simple cost of living adjustment is more reasonable.

Why does the company not suggest a salary increase instead rather than force an employee to deal with a miserable question?

French law might prohibit that or you might have a very good boss like I did and they want your honest opinion and offer you a chance to learn along the way.

How am I to know something what a reasonable raise is anyway?

See my answer to your first and second question.

If it's your first year out of school (or otherwise early in your career), think about all the things you've learned and done over the last year and write them down; it's perfectly reasonable to prepare for a discussion on salary by actually preparing. A year is a long time, you can work on a lot of different projects, and in turn learn a lot of different things.

Reflect on this and come back with a response, but more often than not a reasonable raise is high percentage early on and more of a cost of living adjustment late in your career.

At present, the best and only answer I can think off is to look at the official inflation rate in the country for a suggestion...

This isn't the right answer if you're early in your career, which this question suggests you might be. You're worth much more than a cost of living adjustment.

  • Well, it is the first permanent post (in industry) after two postdocs - neither of which provide a salary negotiation or performance reviews. As to learning... well, I learn more for myself about what the client does (consulting position). - There is no direct benefit to my employer in what I learn: Yay, I did some (hopefully in the future useful) modelling work using an internal software developed over 20 years... Good for client, interesting for me. My employer? He is interested in ensuring the client is happy....
    – c5883421
    Oct 23, 2019 at 18:57
  • As "things done": I had more freedoms in the postdoc... - Or the PhD... - And delved possibly into more topics as the aims were more opaque. Still, even at present the "targets" can be difficult to measure... - If the client is happy all is well... - Doesn't say anything about my "worth though" ... - Still, a well thought out response and I do like it. Thank you.
    – c5883421
    Oct 23, 2019 at 18:58
  • I read that to mean that you are improving your soft skills as they relate to handling clients, which is no small thing; you can't really learn it in school. That's good for your employer. You learned how to do some modeling work using an internal software and improved your technical skills in a way that lets you model for more projects; you couldn't learn that software in school (after all, it's internal). Also good for your employer. Oct 23, 2019 at 19:03
  • You may be underestimating the value of learning things whose value is difficult to measure, especially when the value is based on what you might do in the future. There are a lot of different clients out there and just as many personalities. Nobody liked my first project manager because he was a jerk. After 2 or so years though, I still didn't like him very much, but I was also the only person in our small company that he liked working with. I had his trust. That PM was a very knowledgeable principal, so my ability to work with him made me very valuable. Soft skills are still skills. Oct 23, 2019 at 19:08
  • 2
    @c5883421 Expert to expert communication is a soft skill. Effectively interacting with your co-workers is a soft skill. Pretty much anything that you can't learn from a book is a soft skill. What's the right way to write an e-mail? Soft skill. What's the right way to write an e-mail to this specific person? Soft skill. Oct 23, 2019 at 21:34

Not used to the French environment, but I would say it is reasonable that in a negotiation for your salary you have a saying in stating your expectation.

Your manager didn't say that your wish will be granted, though.

Few points you should consider, as they will probably be considered by your employer, too:

  • how have you performed vs the targets you were given?
  • how have you performed in comparison to your team?
  • how have you performed with respect to your personal development?

In other words, have you managed to become an added value for your employer?

With the above points in mind, if I hear you say "just compensate for inflation", I have the impression you just floated in this year. If that's correct, good for you. If that's not correct, you better stand up for yourself. Don't take as a given that your manager will do it for you.

  • 1) No measurable targets exist, research, simulations, modelling can be a very transient target... 2) on my work there is no team, I am on my own except for the clients staff 3) What personal development? ...Though ended up doing some software archaeology to get things to work... - So yes, good points, but unfortunately of no use to me. As to starting: The first permanent post after two postdocs - both of which naturally had imposed salaries.
    – c5883421
    Oct 23, 2019 at 18:47
  • @c5883421 Respectfully, if you can't think of three ways that your employer can use to measure your performance, then you probably shouldn't ask for a raise, yet. In other words, I'm sure you can find a way to measure your performance, and decide what kind of raise you feel is justified.
    – employee-X
    Oct 23, 2019 at 20:46
  • @employee-X There are many things that are impossible to measure - even if that sounds incredible to some people. If my job continues the way it does, then it will be impossible to ever measure my "performance". There is only the possibility to say "client liked the work" or "client did not like the work"... Or "finished the job", "did not finish the job". - Neither of which are helpful. Besides, the client being happy with the work is called "doing your job". And just doing your job doesn't warrant any raises.
    – c5883421
    Oct 24, 2019 at 6:33
  • @c5883421, if your work is impossible to measure you are going to be in big trouble the day your manager says "you have done nothing", because apparently you have no way to measure what you have done.
    – L.Dutch
    Oct 26, 2019 at 5:54
  • @L.Dutch Oh, stating what I have done is easy. Then again, that is called working/having a job. However there is no way to quantify whether this is better/worse than what a fresh university graduate or someone with 30 years experience could have done. - And just doing your job doesn't warrant salary increases, that is your obligation under the contract you signed. (Though one could maybe ask for a compensation for inflation, I guess that seems fair.)
    – c5883421
    Oct 26, 2019 at 13:21

The annual inflation is a good number to know but that should be your absolute minimum. If you get less than that you get a real pay cut. Your manager should have to explain why the situation is so bad that this is justified.

You seem to have a hard time judging how much increase your personal contribution is worth. Getting an idea here would be best but some other general numbers can be gotten as follows. Find out what the general GDP growth last year was and what tarif deals where negotiated by the major unions.

Additionally you become more valuable to your employer because you are now more experienced. Big union tarifs often have a model with levels based on years of experience, something like an additional 5% increase after 1 year, 3, years, 6 years and 10 years on top of the annual adjustment is common.

This should give an idea by how much the salary of some average employee increases. Of course if you are not in a tarif none of this applies directly to you but even if you feel you are just doing average your salary should increase by a lot more than just inflation.

  • Well, this years inflation is estimated at 0.9% in France and GDP growth at 0.8% from a quick look. So if I were to ask for 1% I'd be greedy. - While I gain experience, I also get older (so I learn slower). - Plus I learn the clients tools and processes (and new fields) more than what my employer does... - Does knowing an internal tool of the client benefit my employer? No, not really... It benefits the client... - As to tariff deals of unions: I have no idea at all... - I wouldn't even know where to look for that. Still, thanks for the well thought out post.
    – c5883421
    Oct 23, 2019 at 19:06

It's a negotiation tactic.

Whoever is the first one to name a number in a negotiation is in a weaker position. That side now needs to justify their offer and the other side has no reason to make an offer which is any better than this initial offer.

The best counter to this strategy is to make a high-ball offer which you know is more than the other side would be willing to accept. This forces them to make and justify an offer of their own. You can then come to a compromise which is somewhere in between.

When you go into a negotiation for a raise, then the rate of inflation is the bare minimum you can expect. Every year you work means you earn more experience in your profession and become more knowledgeable about the company you work at. So you should go into the negotiation with the premise that your value for the company increased and that your salary should reflect that increase.

Remember the Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #212:

If they accept your first offer, you either asked too little or offered too much

  • I was about to write a similar answer .. minus the Star Trek references. Extra points for that.
    – AndreiROM
    Oct 23, 2019 at 17:56

Why does the company not suggest a salary increase instead rather than force an employee to deal with a miserable question?

There could be a few reasons:

  1. Check how you estimate your value to the company and if you feel over/underpaid;
  2. Check how you evaluate your performance;
  3. Their suggestion would set the lower bound of the negotiation range, while yours is likely to determine the upper bound; they'd clearly prefer to have your number before giving theirs.

How is one even supposed to answer such a question when it is asked because it has to be asked? How am I to know something what a reasonable raise is anyway?

I don't know much about the French job market, but in the UK I'd request at least something just above the inflation rate. If I were recently promoted or started taking over new duties or if I were underpaid, I would request more. Ça va sans dire, your performance should be factored into the calculation. You can determine a figure checking the job market for your role, this would also give you some material to negotiate more effectively. I would suggest you do 2-3 interviews per year, as it will help you estimating your market value and so it will you help answering these kind of questions.

Regardless of the reason why this question is being asked, it is always important as a professional to know what is your current market value.

  • My role doesn't really exist... To specific, too specialised - yet I also do a bit of everything, modelling, coding, working in an engineering field (with a PhD from an engineering department) but not exactly an engineer (studied maths). Give me 3 months and I have gotten my head around a new topic (assuming I find it interesting...) I would also consider "your market value" an empty phrase... - I have "requirements" to allow me to rent a small flat in a nice part and pay for living costs, that provides a lower boundary. This is met since starting in my current role (and before).
    – c5883421
    Oct 23, 2019 at 19:03
  • (1) While a job role that precisely describe your current tasks may not exist, there are definitely people who would hire you to perform some tasks. (2) Your market value is not what you need to survive, that's your marginal cost for providing your services, but rather your market value is what other employers would be willing to pay you to perform whatever duty you are willing to perform.
    – didymus
    Oct 24, 2019 at 14:08
  • But even in the "good jobs" (I am taking university education or even PhD level and up) you will always find someone who is willing to do the same job for less or who is better - or younger or knows a specific part of the topic better... There is no reason for an employer to pay more than they need to. The person wants to much? Good, take the next one... - However it is clear that reasonable living costs for an area need to be met if you want people to work for you.
    – c5883421
    Oct 24, 2019 at 17:05
  • Well, then how is it that there are people who earn a 6 figure salary? :) It's unlikely that an experienced professional can be replaced by "the next one".
    – didymus
    Oct 24, 2019 at 19:30
  • In many cases, excessive salaries are the resul of greed on the employee side and a lack of oversight/accountability or the believe that price rquals quality on the other. Neither exactly admirable situations. Some in rare professions, suitable arguments can be made for very harge salaries due to responsabilty: One such case would be pilots who are regularly responsible for the lives of tens to hundreds of people. - But the bast majority of excessive salaries cannot be suitably justified.
    – c5883421
    Oct 25, 2019 at 5:57

Just make a number up. I've gone from 18k to 30k in much the same manner. I don't really worry about what others are getting or what I'm doing.

I work in order to have a steadily increasing standard of living, so I want an amount that will give me that.

Don't look at what you need, look at what you want.

  • Correct answer. If you provide value, companies will shell out. If not, they'll simply deny it, in which case it's time to look for a place where you can provide that extra value.
    – AndreiROM
    Oct 23, 2019 at 17:55

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