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I've been working as a software engineer in an IT consulting company for over 15 years now.

My performance review for the year 2019 was scheduled for November 2019. But due to a heavy workload, I had no availability at that time. So my boss and I agreed to reschedule the interview to a later date.

And then COVID came along! It was getting more and more complicated to agree on a face-to-face appointment, so we did the evaluation interview via skype in February 2020. During the interview, I asked for a substantial raise (think +20%).I obviously didn't expect to get exactly what I asked for, but I expected at least two-thirds of it. Now, every time I've asked for a raise, I've got one by the end of the next month. That was not the case this time. Worse, three months after my annual review, the client I had been working for for a few years had to downsize, and I was one of those who had to leave the project. The reason, of course, was COVID-19.

I went a few months without being assigned to a new project by my boss. Then I worked for about 6 months on a project for another client, which ended because I had finished the work I was assigned. Then I found myself without a project again.

This summer I started working for another client. The project, from what I can tell, is planned for a long time (a few years). Before I started working on this new project, I asked my boss about my request for a raise in early 2020. He answered that he had forgotten and that, moreover, I had spent several months without having a project to work on, but that he would come back to me, at a date he indicated, with an answer. That date passed several weeks ago.

I don't know what to do. Should I keep pushing my boss to get an answer? Should I keep waiting? In the first case, the risk is that he will refuse my request for a raise, or he will give me a raise that is very low, not to say insignificant. In the second case, I don't know how long I will have to wait...

I should also point out that during the periods when I was not working for a client, it was the government, not my employer, who paid my salary.

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  • Does this answer your question? How should I properly approach my boss if I'm feeling underpaid?
    – gnat
    Sep 4 '21 at 1:14
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    He will “forget” again. Do yourself a favor and start looking for a new post. Or you could leave a few job adverts about so your boss sees then. His reaction may tell you all you need to know.
    – Solar Mike
    Sep 4 '21 at 5:55
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    Do you know if you’re paid under, at or above market level now? A 20% raise is pretty massive unless you’re quite poorly paid now. Sep 5 '21 at 16:06
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    15 years in the same company as a software engineer? And the boss still is playing childish games with you? I think he knows how to exploit your weak points. Sep 6 '21 at 0:41
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    The reason people shift around so much in IT is that employers are unable to justify/convey pay raise to higher ups. If, like you state in another comment thread, you are paid by the government, there might be regulations further complicating this. You are bit out of the loop right now, which is typical. First step is getting more hands-on with the current job market and poking alternatives. Nothing says "I'm underpaid" as clearly as a job offer on your hands, regardless of whether you intend on following up on it or not.
    – Lodinn
    Sep 6 '21 at 21:30
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You need to face the truth here: either your employer is struggling to stay in business, or they don't value you, or both. You don't put a good employee on "6 months without project" status unless you absolutely have to. It's unlikely that they will dish out large raises. They might not have the money for it.

It's probably time to start looking for a different job. That will give you a sense of what the demand in your market looks like and what the "going rate" is.

If you find something good: go and take it.

If you have trouble finding better opportunities, then you probably have to make your peace with the situation for now, but you still should keep looking in the background and work on making yourself more employable.

If you are lucky, there may be a big post Covid turn-around, but I wouldn't bet on it.

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  • I really doubt that he is fighting for the survival of his business. Certainly, there was a downturn in business during COVID. But as I said, where I live, salaries were (and still are) paid entirely by the government when a company employee is not assigned to a client project. Plus during COVID and during lockdown, my boss even hired new people! And when I started my new assignment this summer, I got confirmation that there were no employees left without a project.
    – anon123h
    Sep 4 '21 at 11:42
  • @anon123h - Was this government payment due to the fact you were technically displaced?
    – Donald
    Sep 4 '21 at 18:10
  • @Donald Just think of it as a special measure taken by the government during the pandemic to prevent companies from laying off employees they don't have work for because of the downturn.
    – anon123h
    Sep 4 '21 at 18:38
  • @Donald I won't go into technical details, nor will I reveal where I live. Please , just trust me when I say that the payment of my salary was not a problem for my employer during those periods when I was not assigned to a project.
    – anon123h
    Sep 4 '21 at 18:53
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    "your employer is struggling to stay in business, or they don't value you, or both" Ah, the common Workplace.SE trope about undervaluation again. How about the possibility that they value OP, so that he got a raise every time he asked in the past, but now he is earning so much that they can't justify another raise?
    – Chris
    Sep 5 '21 at 17:55
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You were in a very comfortable situation, that you got a raise every time you asked for it. That is unusual! Most employees must follow-up many times until they finally get the raise.

To summarize your situation:

  • In November 2019 you maybe had a chance to get a raise, but you skipped it, because you were not able to free up an hour to talk to your boss. (Think about your time management...)
  • In February 2020 while everything was going downhill because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you asked for a 20% raise and didn't get an answer.
  • You didn't follow up on your question about a raise until you lost your project. Your employer struggled to find a new project for you. For months you were getting a salary without working on a project.
  • Now you are asking for a raise that you already asked for 1,5 years ago, although you never got an answer.

I don't know how good your story telling is while asking for a raise, but I don't see any reason to give you more money right now after what happened during the last 18 months. It's not your fault, but neither it's your employer's fault.

Let's face reality, you missed the opportunity to get a raise. Now it's too late.

You're starting from zero. There are not bonus points for previous success. You have to show that you are still able to perform on the same level or above as you did in the past.

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  • First, there is no need to be aggressive. Second, I was not in a comfortable situation. I am still, as I speak, underpaid. Yes, I was paid for months without working on a project. And not by my employer, so it didn't cost him anything. Secondly, it was not my responsibility to find a project, at least mostly. Third, regarding my time management: if I have a bug on the production environment that needs to be fixed urgently, what would you suggest: fix it first or go to my appointment to ask for a raise?
    – anon123h
    Sep 5 '21 at 21:47
  • Fourth, I had valid arguments to ask for the raise I asked for. I wasn't going to downplay my performance for the year because of a virus that no one could predict how things would turn out, even from February of last year.
    – anon123h
    Sep 5 '21 at 21:51
  • Finally, you say, "There are not bonus points for previous success. You have to show that you are still able to perform on the same level or above as you did in the past". I have been working in this company for at least 15 years. If I wasn't a good consultant, I'd have been fired long ago. And the only way I know I can prove I'm effective at every performance review is by basing my performance on my past results, not by promising I'll have good results in the future. At least, that what I think but I may be wrong...
    – anon123h
    Sep 5 '21 at 21:57
  • 1. If you point out what you perceive as aggressive, I could edit it. 2. You didn't mention that you're underpaid or that you were compensated by somebody else. 3. Did it take 3 months to fix the production error? 4. In February offices were already closing. You had to schedule the meeting via Skype. 5. You were a good consultant, that's why you got raises without any delays in the past. In the last 18 months, you could not show that this is still the case. You can't base your performance review on something you did 2 years ago. => Again, it's not your fault, but it's a fact.
    – Chris
    Sep 6 '21 at 5:35
  • I won't bother arguing with you further. Not because you insist on putting the blame on me (and saying at the end "it's not your fault" just shows your hypocrisy instead of assuming responsibility for your opinion), but because in total bad faith, you make up you own facts and jump to YOUR conlusions, without bothering asking questions before, and then you say that I didn't provide information. I didn't force you to reply to my post. Stop waisting my time.
    – anon123h
    Sep 6 '21 at 11:33
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As an employer I would consider these important parts. 1) Not having a project to work on, is that because you were unable to land a project or is that not your responsibility meaning, are you responsible to find and land the projects to work on or is that someone else? 2) Not to undervalue your contribution but, is what you do a special niche and or is it task oriented work that is just a matter of teaching someone or does it take a specific, certain, rare find of a person to produce the results you do?

If #1 Is in fact your responsibility, tread lightly as that is a factual performance fact your boss can refer to in your contribution compared to your income. If finding a project for you to work on is someone else's responsibility then respectfully and sympathetically point out that the lack of a project doesn't take away your skills or de-value what you are capable of and is it really fair to penalize you for something you don't control. If #2 answer is that you are a specialist in a targeted niche then I would assume there is a need for you in the industry. Just about all specialist in any capacity in the industry are desired right now so assuming that there are other options for you IF NOT and your job is basically a task oriented occupation that can be taught to most anyone with competent skills there is still good news, all industries in all fields are having problems getting help so I'm going to suggest your place there is probably valued more than you realize.

Do not be afraid to want, expect, and or ask for what you are worth. Let your boss know that you feel this can has been kicked down the road enough and you feel that there is nothing unfair about going ahead and bringing resolve to the issue. Remember if you bring productivity and value to your company, they don't want to lose you. It takes time and money to hire and train people and that money would be better spent by putting it in your pocket and your boss knows this. Also do not be hesitant to tell him that you are investing to much time being concerned about the financial impact of not getting a raise in other aspects of your life. You perform so.much better with the knowns than the unknowns and this unknown has been lingering to long. One last thing, if he does come at you with a minimal raise and you can confidently say that you know you deserve more and the position should undoubtedly pay more, express your ability to be a team player and consider accepting the minimal raise but have him agree to reevaluate the compensation issue when things get smoother or when a specific hard ti.e passes or whatever and attach a date to it and don't be afraid to throw humor in there by saying I'm holding you to sitting down again in 6 months or whatever you agree on because remember, it costs you money to leave and go find another job as well. Good luck.

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  • For question 1, the majority of the responsibility lies with my employer, and the minority with me. For question 2, I believe that all knowledge can be taught and that no one is irreplaceable. But for me, none of these questions is relevant. I asked for a raise in relation to work I have already done, not in relation to what I will do in the future. Otherwise, I'll come to every annual performance review and say, "Look, I didn't do well this year, but I promise you that next year I'll solve p=np that such and such a client really needs for their project.So you better give me what I ask for".
    – anon123h
    Sep 4 '21 at 12:13
  • Your last paragraph speaks to me a lot. Yesterday I came home late from work because I wanted to finish a task. I was crushed the whole time because I felt like I was doing it all for nothing. When I got home my little girl was already sleeping, only my husband was waiting for me. I just wanted to cry.
    – anon123h
    Sep 4 '21 at 12:13

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