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I've been working at this start-up for 3 years now. In my first year, I asked for a raise and they granted me one, increasing my salary by 16%. (I was underpaid even based on the DoL minimum wage for the position). However, since then, my salary has remained the same despite increasing expenses due to inflation. My title has also stayed the same (Senior Engineer).

I know that you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, but I'm unsure about the best approach to discuss a salary adjustment with my manager. How common is it for start-up companies to provide regular raises to keep up with the cost of living? I want to be prepared when broaching this topic.

Any advice from those who have been in similar situations would be greatly appreciated. I don't want to come across as demanding, but I also feel that a salary review is reasonable given my tenure and the economic climate.

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    '"Hey, boss -- what do you need to see from me to justify a raise?"
    – keshlam
    Commented May 1 at 21:30
  • Straight to the point. Every couple week when we finish a subproject, I get the tap on the shoulder: "Thanks for the great work, you put in!" I guess that should've been the sign to ask for it? :D
    – Jacob
    Commented May 1 at 21:33
  • Your costs have increased due to inflation so has your companies. At your yearly reviews have you asked for your salary to be adjusted in relation to your increased experience and knowledge level increasing? If you don’t ask, can’t expect it to happen automatically, especially if budgets are tight.
    – Donald
    Commented May 2 at 1:06
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    Location tag would be helpful here. Startup culture and salary rules vary greatly around the globe. It also depends whether you get any other "startup benefits": equity. option, deferred compensation, etc. And finally it depends on how the startup is doing financially
    – Hilmar
    Commented May 2 at 12:53
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    @brhans That's nots really fair tbh. Given how bad the tech market has been - at least in the US - the last 3-5 years, a lot of startups have been in start up mode longer than normal. Any small startup that has survived this far is probably on a good path.
    – InBedded16
    Commented May 2 at 14:17

3 Answers 3

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It is beside the point "How common it is". If you feel you should have received a raise then by all means approach your Manager (or HR). Tell them you love working there, drop a few hints of what you have achieved and then request a raise. If they feel that you are valued, you may get one. If you do not ask, you will not get a raise.

When I used to work for a very large international company (in the 80s), I used to approach the CEO once a month. I would ask about the current issues the company was facing, I would ask if he was happy with me. Then I would say "I am not threatening, I am not looking for another job but I really need a raise". After 3 months, it worked.

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  • Just curious what culture was the company? I don't think this works with more subtle (underhanded?) cultures.
    – Nelson
    Commented May 24 at 5:07
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You said

I also feel that a salary review is reasonable given my tenure and the economic climate

Keep in mind that the economic climate is not just your economic climate, but the company's economic climate. Is the startup doing well? Is it struggling?

Yes, you always miss the shots you don't take, but you need to time the shots your do so you aren't immediately blocked by things that cannot happen. If you notice signs of growth, then the timing is as good as it will get. If you don't, then asking is a little more complicated, because it becomes a matter of how you perceive the request will be handled by your manager and the company.

It's not easy, but the only reason not to ask is because it's obvious the company can't honor the request. Remember that inflation has hit them too. If they are dealing with fixed-prices on their deliverables, they now have to deliver them with less profit as overhead. As long as they are still selling at the (now higher due to inflation) market price, I wouldn't hold back on the request.

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I think you’re already on the right track!

Most large companies adjust salaries for inflation every year. Startups struggle to have that in the structure since they’re obviously way tighter on finances.

A common pitfall in financial growth in jobs is the fear of coming off demanding, it takes a while to get over that hesitation but I see you already having a growth mindset. Ultimately, personal growth in finances and job satisfaction is why we do our jobs. It’s completely reasonable for you to want to discuss this. Workplaces often take advantage of this hesitation, during job offer negotiations as well as performance review.

To build your confidence, have answers for these questions ready in your mind:

  1. Do I like my job, regardless of what they pay me?
  2. Do I feel valued for the effort I put into it for a daily basis?
  3. If the answer is no to any of the questions above: What are my alternatives? Will I enjoy my work somewhere else? Will fixing my recognition monetarily or through a role/level change make the answers to the questions above a yes?

An employee who values themself is a really valuable asset since they hold management to a higher standard. Believe in yourself.

For the conversation:

  1. Hi, I’d like to talk about my financial growth and career growth at the company over the last 3 years.
  2. These are the skills/responsibilities I started with, here is where I am.
  3. Here is what I enjoy most about my work.
  4. My compensation/recognition hasn’t matched this growth and inflation which seems unfair.
  5. Can you help match the value I bring this company with the benefits I receive else I will need to seek something more fair elsewhere.
  6. I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss this hard topic with you, I recognize that financial compensation for a startup is a very complex topic and a very important decision. I’m here to support our mission and vision to the best of my abilities provided it’s fair.
  7. Maybe end with gratitude or compliment

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