I started working at this company a year and a half ago at 15$/h as a programmer. I had just finished a 3 month internship at another company so I would put my total experience at ~2 years. Since then I honed my skills and learned very much.

Recently I was going through average programmer salaries and I am way below average so I would like to negotiate a better salary. I am wondering how ethical would it seem to ask for 5$ more. Since I am paid 15$, this is a 33.3% increase, this makes it sound like a crazy amount even though it's not that much and would much better match my skills in the field. Even then all my friends are doing more but I shall be modest.

How would I go about it ?

  • 3
    What is the ethical quandary here? – geekrunner Jun 3 '14 at 3:20
  • It depends where you are based, how easily you are replaced and what the cost of your replacement would be. Would you expect to find work if you marketed yourself at $20 /hr? – marabutt Jun 3 '14 at 3:37
  • The quandary is : is it too much ? People here seems to suggest a 10% increase but since I am already lower than average I don't know if it applies. And thank you about the suggestion of the replacement, I will factor that. – Tristan Dubé Jun 3 '14 at 3:57
  • @TristanDube - You can ask for such a large increase but unless your performance really is that good, and thats actually what everyone else makes at the company, your unlikely to get it. There is a reason you were offered below average rate. What that reason is we cannot say. There isn't an ethical quandary here to be honest. This is simply a business decision, if you ask for a raise, and its not during the period the company normally does raises be prepared to defend your stance. – Donald Jun 3 '14 at 11:26
  • Were you given any indication or reasoning behind the amount of your salary? Is the company just starting out or having financial difficulties? Maybe they aren't aware of what the average salary is? – user8365 Jun 3 '14 at 12:05

It's not a question of ethics. It's a business negotiation. Ask for whatever amount you think you are worth, or even more so you can actually get what you are worth. What you made last year has no bearing on what you are worth this year. If you made $15/hour last year, and this year programmers are in very tight supply, you could be worth $30/hour this year, or even more. The only way to know what you are really worth is to put yourself on the job market and see what you are offered.

  • Good one. Throw your resume around and see the responses you get. Also see the rates offered on job boards. – Borat Sagdiyev Jun 3 '14 at 15:01
  • 1
    Would you use an offer from another company to get a raise for your current? I wouldn't. – Kevin Jun 3 '14 at 15:08
  • @Ajaxkevi: Your instinct is correct. You don't want to give your current employer an ultimatum unless you are prepared to follow through. Instead you want to be cooperative: "I want to talk about a salary adjustment. I am getting inquiries for positions paying in the mid-60's. I am happy here, but I can't continue forever at 30% below market." – kevin cline Jun 3 '14 at 19:19
  • If you give your employer an ultimatum for an increase in pay or I am leaving, even if you get the raise, you will be set on the soon to be leaving list. – Kevin Jun 4 '14 at 7:25
  • @Ajaxkevi: That's a pretty poor strategy for the employer. You suggest that employers should give employees one and only one chance to negotiate their salary, and if anyone asks for a raise, the employer should get rid of them. – kevin cline Jun 4 '14 at 15:25

An average of salaries contain both the high end and the low end of your industry. Simply telling your boss I am below average I deserve a raise, doesn't make any sense.

Lets say he does listen to it and he gives you a salary raise for the average of your industry. Now the average is (slightly) different than before. Now what if everybody did this who is below average for your industry and every boss would give them a salary raise, your average salary is suddenly below average. Would you ask for another raise because you are below average?

What you should do is go to your boss with facts about you.

  • How much do you add too the company
  • How many new skills have you learnt during your employment and how is it profitable too the company.
  • Etc.

Present those facts to your boss and tell him you know you are being paid below average and you would like to get a salary raise. Do not name a number. If your boss thinks you deserve one, he will name a number and negotiate from there.

If you do this it is about you deserving a raise, not about others making more than you.


I'd say yes, it's ethical. When you make your request, you'll need to be armed with more than just average salaries though. You'll need to demonstrate that your value to the company matches what you're asking. You didn't mention what kind of company for which you are working. This may make a difference. A programmer working for a restaurant company may make less than one working for an IT company (I was in such a situation)

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