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I've been at my job for almost 1 year. I'm pretty happy with it. It's not perfect, but I see it as an excellent opportunity, both for growth and for improving and expanding my skills.

The area I live/work in has a shortage of people with my skills and experience, and I've been contacted by recruiters pretty steadily for the past year and a half. That's actually how I got my current position; I was meeting with multiple recruiters, and opted for my current job over another (higher paying) position offered the same day.

Since then, though, several of the jobs I've been contacted about were for salary ranges significantly higher than my current one. In some cases, the range was 30-50% higher than my current salary.

I haven't been pursuing these other jobs, because salary isn't everything, and as I mentioned, I'm happy with my current position, and would rather stay with a good thing than wind up in another job that paid more, but made me unhappy (my last job turned out really bad, and has made me particularly sensitive to that last point.

But the prospect of 30-50% higher pay... is getting pretty hard to ignore.

My first review is coming up soon. I don't know other people's salaries at my company, but I suspect I'm one of the most highly paid. My salary is the maximum of the range they were offering for my position, and I'm in a senior role on a small team.

I was wondering if there was a way to make sure my boss knows that my salary, while on the high end for my company, is on the lower end for someone with my experience and skill set, without making it seem like I'm threatening to leave the company. Is this possible, or should I just leave well enough alone, and hope that my performance over the past year prompts my employer to give me a nice bump to my salary?

marked as duplicate by Lilienthal, Dawny33, David K, gnat, IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 18 '15 at 21:52

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    Don't think I need more than a comment for this: do NOT inform your employer about this. He knows how much he pays and how much the average is. He won't raise your salary out of feeling it's unfair to pay you less than everyone else would. Instead he'd feel you're trying to hint him that you'd leave soon for a higher paid job. Also, it's to your advantage to have the recruiter find better options for you. But take them for what they are - opportunities, not a guarantee. If I'd be you, I'd go to job-interviews in your spare time and have awareness of the field you work in. It's fun too ;) – test Nov 18 '15 at 7:05
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    @Lilienthal I'm not sure its a duplicate, since I don't have an offer, and I'm not making above average salary. I thought my goal was stated fairly clearly: I would like my boss to know my salary is below industry average for our region. Nowhere did I say anything about dropping hints, Crystal balls, or getting annoyed. Similarly, I pretty clearly stated that I want to avoid antagonizing my boss.. I'm not sure your tone is warranted. If my post is unclear, I'm happy to edit to clarify. – Beofett Nov 18 '15 at 11:46
  • @Beofett That's a means to an end, not a goal. If you want a raise, then negotiate one based on your performance and the typical salary for your position, region and performance. The ranges you heard of may or may not constitute a valid average and if you didn't pursue any of those positions the fact that you were contacted is largely pointless. The title of your question is rather misleading and you may want to edit it to reflect your actual question. – Lilienthal Nov 18 '15 at 12:05
  • Aside from that though, hoping for a raise is rather passive behaviour and I'd go so far as to say that dropping hints that you're paid below market rate without actually asking for a raise or discussing your salary is passive aggressive. That's why you should consider what your real goal is. – Lilienthal Nov 18 '15 at 12:06
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    @Beofett I've edited the title to something that's closer to your question, do edit it again if it's incorrect or can be refined further. As for the rest, reasonably negotiating raises (i.e. without ultimatums, based on performance and data) is a valuable skill to have and one you should look to develop. Consider reading through some of the other questions on this site for tips on that. As long as you don't make outrageous demands, asking for a raise shouldn't compromise your relationship, unless you start making veiled threats like "Company X, Y and Z can pay me N$ more". – Lilienthal Nov 18 '15 at 12:31
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  1. Recruiters work for themselves on a commission. Recruiters pretty much contact everyone. They tantalize most people with higher pay. Why would a recruiter waste their time contacting you or anyone about a job for the same pay? They are trying to get the most amount of applicants jobs for the most amount of money so they get the most amount of commission. They are sales people. You are the product.

  2. If you are underpaid then you need to come in armed to your yearly review and deal with it without the pretense of recruiters. You should show salaries in your area, data on people with similar skills, and whatever you can find.

  3. I would not talk about trying to find other jobs to your boss. No need to start a negative conversation especially if you have only been there a year. So if you tell your boss this and he gives you a raise what then? Your company feels held hostage to what recruiters are offering you? That's not good. At least give them a chance to give you a raise. You seem to like where you work so I would start by trying to make that work for you.

  4. If it doesn't work then talk to recruiters, go on interviews, and if you are underpaid you will soon find a job that pays more.

Final note: The chances are there is no way you will get 30% at your employer. Even if your boss wanted to give you that it would in essence throw off their entire business model. I mean what happens when 10 other people with similar jobs get wind of your bump?

Even bringing a figure like 30% to the table can be taken pretty hostile. You are saying that you are way way underpaid to your management provoking thoughts that you probably aren't happy and are looking.

I think the only rational way to go about this is to bring them a figure like 20%. You can show examples in your industry that show 30-50% or whatever you can find but I would ask for 20% given you like to work for them. They will appreciate that and 20% is not as off-putting. You could get 20% but chances are you get 10-15%. They could give you a new title to adjust for that. How you get the other 15% is probably you asking for a promotion in 6 months to a year.

I do not think going in and asking for a promotion is a good idea though. As a tech boss I don't have the option to just promote people out of thin air. So if you ask for a promotion and I agree you deserve one - the raise is really off the table until we get you promoted. I would never give someone a raise with a promise of soon promotion unless that person was severely severely overqualified.

  • Good points. Regarding number 1, yes, recruiters contact everyone, but none of them have known my salary before discussing the ranges of the positions, and the latest referred me to a public posting that had a much higher range listed (for a position where I matched 100% on required skills, and exceeded the experience level by several years). – Beofett Nov 18 '15 at 2:04
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    @Beofett - any decent recruiter pretty much knows within a couple thousand what you make. They might even recruit for your current workplace and know your exact salary. That doesn't mean you aren't being underpaid. Also just because you meet qualifications doesn't mean you can get that job - especially a lot of places value experience. I don't know you at all so I am not exactly sure what your qualifications are - but neither does the recruiter. The recruiter is just guessing you are good. Hell he might know your company underpays and targets all employees there - if he's smart. – blankip Nov 18 '15 at 3:04
  • I know recruitment is far from being a job offer, but I've been around long enough that I can fairly realistically assess my potential fit for a position's skill requirements. I get your point, and its valid. I'm pretty confident that I'm not overestimating the options out there, but higher paying positions can have pretty serious pitfalls, such as high attrition rates, limited growth, or culture clashes, which is why I'm not pursuing those options. – Beofett Nov 18 '15 at 8:15
  • @Beofett "Higher paying positions can have pretty serious pitfalls" - Are you sure? It seems like anywhere could potentially have some of those pitfalls. Maybe the prior place you worked at (which had the higher salary but that you said was not a good place) was just plain not a good place to work at. – Brandin Nov 18 '15 at 11:26
  • @Brandin yes, of course any new job could have those pitfalls. Lower paying jobs, too. My point was just because they might offer more money doesn't necessarily mean I'd be happy at the job. – Beofett Nov 18 '15 at 11:40
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My salary is the maximum of the range they were offering for my position, and I'm in a senior role on a small team.

I was wondering if there was a way to make sure my boss knows that my salary, while on the high end for my company, is on the lower end for someone with my experience and skill set, without making it seem like I'm threatening to leave the company. Is this possible, or should I just leave well enough alone, and hope that my performance over the past year prompts my employer to give me a nice bump to my salary?

If you really want to stay with your current company, then instead of asking for a raise, you should probably be asking for a promotion.

You indicate that you are at the maximum range for your position. Thus, it will be difficult (not impossible, but rather hard) to get much more while still in this position. Most likely, your current employer knows the market rates, and has chosen to set the salary ranges for their positions as they are anyway. Handing them salary range data is unlikely to change that.

Learn what the next position up on the career ladder would be for you, and lobby for a promotion to that position. That may be difficult, having been there only 1 year, but at least you will be setting the expectations for the future. In many companies, that's the only way to get a raise that is any more than the standard annual bump which is budgeted into the department.

Since you've only been at the company for a year, it would be hard for you to argue "the market values me at a rate 30-50% higher, so I should get a lot more". Unless market conditions have changed dramatically in the past year, for some reason you ended up accepting a job at a rate below what you could have gotten a year ago. Typically, you cannot expect your current employer to make up that difference after a year.

For most of us, we could almost always leave and get more money. If you accepted a job at a below market rate, yet it is at the top of the range in your current company, it will be difficult for you to get a lot more without leaving or being promoted.

  • What's a "standard annual bump"? – Andrew Leach Nov 18 '15 at 15:52
  • This would backfire if one of my employee used this on me 80-90% of the time. 80-90% of the time I wouldn't be able to snap my fingers and give them a promotion. A good employee I would try to work out a plan and maybe even inform my upper management and HR. If there is agreement on the plan they will not want to give said employee a raise until the promotion. (and 99% of the time no one is getting more than 20% raise for a singular promotion) So now employee might get no promotion (until there is an opening) and no raise. – blankip Nov 18 '15 at 16:16
  • @JoeStrazzere - You are right. In reality he should use both of our answers to get the 30%. The only way at companies I have worked for to get 30% in a relatively short period of time is... First ask for the raise. If he is really good and underpaid he could get 12-15%. Then in a few months take a promotion to another group for another 15%. I do think asking for the promotion first though is allowing the company a lot of time to defer any potential raise and you don't even know what that raise will be. – blankip Nov 18 '15 at 17:03
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If you have a proof that the salary offered in the market is higher than your current salary, then you can approach your boss by showing them and ask for a hike.

As you say, you are in one of the senior roles at the company, and if they feel you are good enough, then they would negotiate the pay rise with you if they want to retain you. If they do not have the financial capability, they would try to offer you in the form of benefits.

So, go ahead and inform your boss/manager during the review process about that.

Negotiating for a pay rise is very different from a If no pay rise, then resignation kind of negotiation. So, it would not sound like threatening.

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    Asking for a pay rise often carries at least some level of implicit threat, though, in that you clearly want more money than is being offered. If you mention other jobs in the area that pay more there is an implicit suggestion that you could go elsewhere for more. You can be more explicit yourself in countering this, by saying that you've got no intention to leave, but would appreciate if they reviewed the salary in relation to the information you present. That leaves it up to your employer if they choose to actively recognise your value and loyalty – Jon Story Nov 18 '15 at 13:09
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I was in a very similar situation at my last job and (not knowing any better) started having conversations with my boss about that. As he resisted and I began to feel more strongly that I was right, I started bringing hard data into the discussions. Then casually mentioned much higher-paying job offers. Then brought an offer letter for 50% higher than what I was making.

I can speak from experience when I say that's not the way to go if you want to maintain a good relationship with your current company. I ended up getting a decent raise out of it (still not what I was hoping for, but just enough to keep me around and not accept the offer) but it somewhat "soured the milk" with them. Ultimately I left them anyways because I was at a similar glass ceiling to what you're describing, and I wanted to keep advancing and increasing my skills and compensation.

Now I'm at a company who doesn't pay the highest (still very competitive though), but the work is exactly what I wanted, the company culture is amazing, and there's lots of room to advance, so the constant recruiter offers for higher-paying jobs don't even phase me anymore.

The takeaway:

  • No employer I've ever heard of will respond the way you hope to the strategy you've mentioned. If you're lucky they'll do something to keep you around instead of just secretly planning to fire you, but it will still harm their relationship with you at least a little.
  • If those other salary offers are making your eyes wander, you obviously aren't happy enough where you are, and by far the best way to change that is to take control of the situation and just go do some interviews. When you find a place where you're actually satisfied, a higher-paying offer won't even make you blink.
  • Negotiating a raise based on merit is certainly okay, but will rarely result in a substantial raise without some extreme circumstances/good luck. Negotiating based on other job offers can be interpreted as a threat no matter how you phrase it, and while it may be successful in some situations, it usually does more harm than good.
  • In reality, your employer didn't want to pay you what you were worth. And when you convinced him to raise the pay to something that wasn't quite as far below the salary that you could get elsewhere, that soured their relationship with you... Seems they really, really didn't want to pay what you were worth. – gnasher729 Nov 18 '15 at 14:14
  • Very much so. And it was obvious there was no room to advance that in a reasonable way, hence me eventually leaving. The moral of the story is, if they're not paying you anywhere close to market value now, chances are they never will, regardless of your negotiation tactics. – thanby Nov 18 '15 at 14:44
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several of the jobs I've been contacted about were for salary ranges significantly higher than my current one. In some cases, the range was 30-50% higher than my current salary

As another answer noted, this may or may not be indicative of the reality of the job market, because recruiters are under no compulsion to give you accurate picture. So you may want to get a second opinion on that.

If you are in USA, GlassDoor is a website that collects (voluntarily supplied) salary averages for individual companies, positions and roles. You may want to check there to see if the recruiters' proposals were even remotely in line with averages.

If possible, also get more professional data sources. Many HR consulting companies do research like this, although it may not be free to access the results.

I was wondering if there was a way to make sure my boss knows that my salary, while on the high end for my company, is on the lower end for someone with my experience and skill set, without making it seem like I'm threatening to leave the company

This one is very tricky. I would actually separate this into 3 separate subtasks, dependent on each other:

  1. Go through the review. Make sure to highlight your worth to the company, assuming your review is like most places and lets you provide your input and not just your boss. Be very specific - ideally, on a level of I initiated this project and it saved the company $50K in vendor costs. I spearheaded this project, and saved 1000 man-hours in this way, at projected cost of $Y. I generated the idea of this product, which brought in $Y in revenue and has potential for $Z revenue in N years.

    The main goal here is so that your company can clearly see that employing you is worth far more to them than the extra 30% in salary you are wishing for.

  2. Once that is completed, indicate clearly that you're very happy with the company and your trajectory there. Discuss your options for career progression in the company, to let them know you intend to stick around and grow.

  3. AFTER #1 and #2, indicate that while you are happy working there, in light of the revenue/savings you bring, you were interested in a higher total compensation.

    • Makes sure to stress #2 (your happiness with the company)

    • This is where having objective data (Glassdoor, as well as other more professional industry compensation survey) would be valuable, as they show you're more interested in compensation there and not in offers from elsewhere that talking about recruiters imply.

    • Consider framing the discussion in the context of your growth in the company in terms of responsibilities.

    • Be flexible. They may have trouble meeting higher base salary, but be interested in performance bonuses, or equity sharing (aka stock bonus).

  • For what it's worth, I've done some very basic salary search for my role, and saw a median for my location at about 30% above my current salary. – Beofett Nov 18 '15 at 18:01
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You have to be prepared to let them know what you want. When you go into your review meeting or however you're going to be offered any salary/bonus, have a number in mind and be prepared to defend it. They're not going to show you numbers as to why they can't pay you more; they'll just say they don't have the money. They'll try and tell you that you make more than other people, etc. It's up to you if you want to indicate you're better than those people. They may argue that you're getting what the market has to offer.

Since you don't want to say, "I have a better offer." You'll just have to make your case on other merits and accept their objections. You don't have much choice if you want to remain with the company on good terms.

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