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I work as a software engineer at a media company in New York. Last October I was promoted from senior engineer to a more managerial role. The new role has a good deal more responsibility, including managing three engineers in addition to working on my own projects. I was given a raise of about 7%, which was deferred until January 1st despite the title change taking immediate effect. I considered this to be a modest raise given the additional responsibilities of the role, and that I already considered my salary to be below market value. My boss acknowledged that the raise was on the lower end and assured me that an additional raise would be applied during the company-wide annual reviews in April, although he didn't go into any further details and I foolishly didn't ask for confirmation of this in writing.

In April, it was becoming clear that the company faced significant financial difficulties due to COVID-19, and we were told that layoffs were likely. During the company-wide annual reviews, I was informed that I would not be receiving a raise in addition to the original 7% and that my boss had misspoken at the time. (This was not performance-related as my review was very positive). I decided not to make a fuss about this and even considered it something of a blessing, given that a hefty pay rise may have put me at higher risk of being laid off.

A few weeks later, over 40% of the company was let go. On my team that number was closer to 60%. We were assured that this would be the only round of layoffs and would ensure the long-term sustainability of our business.

My team is now much leaner and I have more responsibility and more work on my plate than ever before in my career. I am grateful for this, but I now keenly feel that my salary does not reflect my value to the company. I like this job and don't particularly want to leave, but I suspect I could make 10-20% more elsewhere.

Is it appropriate to ask for a raise given the recency of the layoffs? If so, do I need the threat of another offer for this to carry any weight? I don't want to seem greedy when the company is going through lean times, but I also can't afford to leave this much money on the table.

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You wouldn't know unless you ask!

The one thing that I understood after working for so many years in this industry is that it's always better to ask what you need, especially when asking for more money. I have changed jobs thinking that the new job will give me more money than the current company is ready to pay me and every single time I have been given a counter offer. In fact, most of the times my managers have asked me if money was the only issue why didn't you ask for it, instead of going through the interviews etc. I have never accepted a counter offer though, as I already quit the job mentally.

I receive at least an inMail a week for new job offers for software engineering jobs and I confirmed that it's the same with Engineering manager roles too. Recruiters want to utilise this time to get their hands on potential candidates, as they know about uncertainty in many vulnerable industries.

So my suggestion would be to ask for a raise anyway and mention your efforts. Get at least a written promise of future raise in specified amounts. That's obviously depends on you whether that's satisfactory to you or not.

Another way could be to just go out in the market and get a better offer. You can get much better bargain that way. They definitely wouldn't want to lose you as you're taking care of multiple responsibilities, but in case they do, you'll have an offer at hand.

So it's up to you, how hard you want to bargain and whether that's worth or not. But I would definitely do something to get a satisfactory answer either way, so that I can make my decision. Honestly, as soon as I know that I am underpaid or not paid enough, or neglected in my job, I can't give my 100% output or focus to it. So I would want to fix this asap, so that I can keep doing my job with maximum productivity. These issues can keep eating you and may easily turn into mental health issues very soon, so it's always better to fix them so as to have one less thing to worry about.

Good Luck!

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You really are faced with a choice. You've been given a raise which we can agree amounts to a token raise. You've also been given that raise when a large number of people were let go.

The company has given you a gesture of good faith and confidence.

You feel you can get more money elsewhere.

The question is: is money the only thing that motivates you? I think when you get down to it, you'll discover that the company has decided to invest in you. Do you want to invest in the company?

As with every career decision, you can't make it based on a twisted sense of obligation to a company. You need to make it based on what moves your career forward. More money isn't an indicator of a career improvement. Make the decision that moves your career more than your wallet.

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  • "The company has given you a gesture of good faith and confidence." by increasing the workload twice with a 7% pay increase that does not appear to be fair remuneration... – Solar Mike Jul 26 '20 at 6:23
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    @SolarMike: All things are relative. They've just laid off a large number of people - 60% in OP's department by their accounting. Even a 1% raise in a time like that can be called a gesture of good faith and confidence. If everything was rosy at the company and departments were hiring left and right, a 7% raise would be insulting. – Joel Etherton Jul 26 '20 at 14:14
  • @JoelEtherton, I must disagree with your answer. OP was given a token raise 3 months before anyone was let go, and that raise itself was already deferred by 3 months from the promotion. OP has therefore taken on more responsibility for 6 months for a nominal increase, and now has yet even more work for no more money. The company are not acting in good faith. They are merely getting as much work out of as few people as possible for as little as possible. – fubar Jul 26 '20 at 21:55
  • @fubar: I would ask how much time you've spent at the executive level. Layoffs don't happen in a day after some sudden event. Layoffs as described here would have been planned well ahead of time to analyze the actual protection of the bottom line and identifying which skill sets were necessary and which would need to be sacrificed. That token raise happened very close to the decision to engage in layoffs. You are right in your last sentence though. That is the nature of business, and it's what is left to them. – Joel Etherton Jul 26 '20 at 22:14
  • @JoelEtherton, I'll admit I'm not working at an executive level. However, if the layoffs were pre-planned and not COVID-19 related, then surely that's yet more proof that the company weren't acting in good faith. OP was told in January that they'd receive an additional raise in April, when based on your assessment, the company knew they planned to lay-off 40% of their workforce and increase the workload of the remaining 60%. – fubar Jul 26 '20 at 22:31

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