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How can I ask my employer for a BIG raise considering the fact the company will run out of business if I left?

I'm working remotely for this super small business firm (IT), but due to high turnover recently, I ended up with myself being the ONLY employee left. There used to be four of us before. We've been having a very hard time finding replacements for the past year. The workplace is getting very stressful as our products are severely outdated and can't be efficiently supported due to lack of in house expertise. I keep getting pulled into all client issues (clearly outside my job role) as there are no other experienced personal to handle tasks. I am forced to take up extra tasks such as a recruiting/hiring role, other admin tasks, migrate our product to cloud environment, cut office space expenses, and many more.

A meeting is coming up with the boss. He implied there will be a raise considering the seriousness of the situation and chaos going on lately. After thinking about it, this is not a preferable workplace for anyone anymore - reason being no path for career growth, outdated technologies (being IT firm), lack of SME's for product support/ new employee training and so on.

Considering all these non-desirable factors, I am thinking about asking a 25% raise (I know it's insane) to stay here, as they can't afford losing me (the last employee left) given the present situation with no backup. This is a career killing place for anyone to stay, but I am willing to put in my effort to upgrade our product to make it more attractive to clients as well as keep it alive thereby benefiting the company itself. In addition, better learning (tech wise) and improvement opportunity for myself and future new hires that will make this a little more attractive place to work for.

I understand that there have been so many layoffs going on lately at bigger tech companies and they will try to use that against my demand. I am clearly asking $10/hour more than market rate just because of all the stress and shortcomings of working here. In addition, I am planning to relocate to a city with higher cost of living and hence have that reason for a pay raise.

Am I reasonable here with my request? I will accept anything they will offer even if below my desired salary. But I will be actively looking as well. Should I let them know about it in that case? Firing me is not an option. So I believe the ball is in my court.

PS - I was given a raise last year when another employee left, and my rate eventually caught up to the market rate. But they took away my EXCELLENT HEALTH INSURANCE package to cover the cost. Pretty much transferred the money from one bucket to another and not really considered a raise in my opinion. Now a second employee left and so I am asking a second raise to compensate the extra workload. Just some background info in case it helps.

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    I would just leave at any cost, any raise. But find a new job first, please! Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 17:39
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    @JosephDoggie - I agree but I need to brush up my skills to stay competitive in the market especially with all the lay offs going on.
    – y2k
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 18:09
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    My advise is don't rock the sinking paddle boat, until you get you feet on a motor boat, else it may sink with you still in it. Prognosis of that place is not looking good
    – Chris
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 18:41
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    “How can I ask my employer for a BIG raise considering the fact the company will run out of business if I left?” - Your are forgetting the most important rule, everyone can be replaced, (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Twitter, Google) all have had their top leadership replaced. They will find someone even if it’s a contractor, or they won’t, and they’ll go out of business
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 4:16
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    @y2k So you're saying you won't leave because you need them? I thought they needed you?
    – Turbo
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 14:56

4 Answers 4

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Am I reasonable here with my request?

There's no way outside of you and the company to determine if it's reasonable or not. Once you express what you want, you'll hear back from them if they agree with you or not.

I will accept anything they will offer even if below my desired salary. But I will be actively looking as well.

Makes sense I guess.

Should I let them know about it in that case?

Should you let them know you will be "actively looking"? No. There's no value for you in doing that.

If it comes to this, just find your next job, get and accept a formal offer, give your notice to your current company, work out your notice in a professional manner, then move on to your next job and leave this one behind.

Firing me is not an option. So I believe the ball is in my court.

Although it's unlikely, firing is always an option. People can always be hired to perform a job, even if it's difficult and expensive to do so. You haven't indicated that you do anything unique, just that you are the only one remaining at this point in time. That can be changed in a day by hiring contractors.

You seem to feel that you have the company over a barrel, and that you have enough leverage to demand a large raise. Maybe you do. Maybe you don't. It appears that you'll soon find out. You could tell them that it will take a 25% raise to keep you around, and then you'll see their response.

What I don't understand is why you would want to stay. Based on the way you describe a "career killing place", you should have already been working hard to find a new employer. Even with a 25% raise, that won't impact a place that has "no path for career growth, outdated technologies (being IT firm), lack of SME's for product support/ new employee training".

Good luck in whatever you choose to do.

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    Should you let them know you will be "actively looking"? No. There's no value for you in doing that- It worked last time I asked for a raise, they offered 3% and I demanded 15%. They brought up excuse they dont have budget as usual (especially after losing an employee). I said I totally understand, no worries but DO know I have OTHER OPTIONS. Got the raise a week later. They need to realize the situation before making a decision, that's all.
    – y2k
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 18:18
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    You haven't indicated that you do anything unique, just that you are the only one remaining at this point in time. That can be changed in a day by hiring contractors. -- I am the only WEB guy with no back up and a legacy app with no documentations. I struggled a lot when I started here, now its way too outdated and it wont support the operations for long. Its a super complicated app, not easy to learn as it has too much dependencies with another legacy outdated almost broken app. SME"S are long gone due to poor management and not willing to help anymore.
    – y2k
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 18:27
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    BTW, somebody truly 'irreplaceable' can become 'replaceable' if management is angry. If the company has severe problems, that doesn't help the fired employee. Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 21:04
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    @JoeStrazzere - yes they can be easily replaced in a bigger company with good tech stack and learning opportunities. But not on a 2 man company, with outdated tech and dead end career path. Whatever huddles I am facing, its applicable to them as well. So many were turned off during interviews hearing it was a very small company. Staying here long enough, you become unhireable and lose all your skills. Thats the challenge I am currently facing as well.
    – y2k
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 2:34
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    @JoeStrazzere - thats correct, but they need to learn the app before they can upgrade it, without the docs or understanding the business domain, who is going to train them upto speed?
    – y2k
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 14:38
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It is not your problem if they go out of business if you leave. If they had 4 people and now only have 1, for sure they can give you a 25% raise.

The only point I would raise is be prepared to hear a no and start looking for other options outside this company. Also keep in mind that this raise will not change any other bad aspects of the company you mentioned.

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    True. They are paying a lot on part time consultants now who are milking them. In addition they dont stay on top of their bill payments, hence no one wants to work for them, not even recruiting firms.
    – y2k
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 18:21
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    Standard citation for "The bus problem". It's up to them to manage the business so it will survive any one person leaving, and to manage such that multiple people don't bail out at once.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 20:18
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Don't do this. You know the company can't afford it, or else they will afford it but then not give you another raise for like 20 years to make up for frontloading this cost. On top of which, you described this company as career destroying, with no room for advancement or learning opportunity, which is never a good place to be.

Here's what you should do: If you know the reasons your other former coworkers left, you should explain those reasons to management. You should tell them in no uncertain terms, "your business will fail if you don't change these things, because nobody will want to work for you". If it's an existential threat to the business, a good business owner will do whatever they can to fix the problem. A bad business owner will "kill the messenger", so to speak, at which point you know where you stand.

Following this, you should focus on recruitment. It's not feasible for a single person to do recruitment, HR, app dev, devops, admin, PM, and so on. You need to hire a team, and you need to do it yesterday. You need to get clearance from whoever manages finance to get this done. "No" is not an answer. Focus on hiring and put all non-sev-1 (e.g. if the servers are literally on fire) technical matters to the side until you've hired a bunch more people. Once you have more hands, then you can go back to focusing on product improvements.

If you can't get buy-in from management to do this, then you should simply quit and find a new job yourself, and what will be will be for this company. You simply can't do all of those jobs in 8 hours per day, and you should also not do any form of unpaid overtime simply because management is too incompetent to prioritize and fix their own issues. That's the choice that management has: they can either give you buy-in to fix the company, or they can lose you along with the final hope that the company has of staying alive. Remember, if the company dies, that's management's problem, not yours.

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    Totally agreed. Prior employees left due to high workload and poor benefits. That was years ago and employer still keep saying 'we will work on it' after 4+ years. They are just penny pinchers.
    – y2k
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 18:12
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I'm conflicted on this.

My general response is that the worth of your labor is a negotiation and if you are being undervalued, then it is entirely reasonable (even necessary) to ask for a Raise.

However, if you are privy to the financial situation of a company and know that they realistically can't afford it - that's like kicking someone when they are down.

You could argue that leaving is also doing the same thing - but that's different.

As it stands - what you are proposing would make you not wrong per se, but would make you an Asshole in the sense of the infamous Reddit page.

That said - I think there is an option.

How I would approach this:

Your demand for a significant and above-market rate is predicated on upgrading your product to make it more appealing to future clients.

So, I would split my pay-rise demand into 2 components:

1: a 10% upfront increase - not the 25% you want, but a nice bump.
2: negotiate the additional 15% raise on some clearly defined deliverables in relation to your upgrades and client sales.

Why this is a better option:

1: You lessen the up-front financial burden for an already struggling company.
2: If your upgrades work and client sales come pouring in, you get a little bit more than you initially ask for, whilst 'sounding' like you are asking for the same thing.
3: More importantly though - if the upgrades work - the company is (hopefully) no longer in such dire financial straits as they now have the client base to build their cashflow.
4: It provides and incentive for you to deliver the upgrades and the clients.
5: If it doesn't work and the company is still in the shitter, they don't have to pay a premium rate for something promised but not delivered.

Plus it makes you sound less of an AH.

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    They promised myself and other employees there will be 'xyz' employee benefits when we joined the firm. That was several years ago and none implemented so far. So clearly they played us all until now. Hence being an AH is the last of my concerns. The last employee left and told them 'all are own their own'. He did whats for the best interest for him.
    – y2k
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 22:29

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