I just received my performance evaluation for this year. I was promoted and my performance was highly rated so my pay increase is nearly 10 percent.

I happen to work in HR and know that even after this increase I will be among the lowest paid who do the same thing as me with the same level of experience (based on the job, title, and amount of time in the job). This disparity is significant; the average pay for what I do is nearly 50% more than my salary after this raise. Earlier this year I was moved into this role since it more closely matched the skill set and duties of what I'm doing (more technical and challenging work). However I was not given an adjustment at that time even though my current role is more valuable in the marketplace (based on what my company pays for this type of work) than my last one was.

I'm really struggling with how to approach this conversation without coming off as ungrateful or arrogant since my raise percentage is so high. But at the same time it seems like there needs to be some sort of adjustment based on the technical requirements of the job and the market worth of my skill set.

So my question (and a follow up): how do I navigate this conversation professionally? Maybe I shouldn't have the conversation at all.

The kicker, and what makes my situation unique, is that I work with my company's HR data. The company I work for is quite large, so there's a good sized pool (read ~50) of employees with the same level of experience, the same title, the same work location, and the same type of work as me. I don't have to speculate at what my company's pay ranges are or what people in my position make annually; I have data that tells me these things. So if I do have the conversation, is it wise to use my knowledge of internal numbers (e.g. averages, pay ranges/%s, etc.) to my advantage, or would that be considered unprofessional?

  • They may just plain have a max increase. – paparazzo Aug 31 '16 at 1:37
  • @Paparazzi I've seen company data that says otherwise. It's not common, but I've seen increases of 20-30 percent. Normal raises are 1-5 percent, with ~10+ percent raises being commonplace for high performers. – ARich Aug 31 '16 at 1:47
  • ARich And I have seen lots of ranges myself. I said may. – paparazzo Aug 31 '16 at 1:49
  • @Paparazzi Sorry, I didn't mean to sound defensive. I mean that I've seen data at my company that appears to confirm that they don't have max increases. That's what gives me hope that the conversation even has a chance at being effective. – ARich Aug 31 '16 at 2:11
  • And I did not realize you were the asker. Yes give it a try. – paparazzo Aug 31 '16 at 2:14

A lot of organisations have a rigid remuneration structure - eg. a maximum percentage increase, and once yearly pay reviews.

It might be possible to get around this with the right management sign off - and they could offer and interim pay review, or an above max pay increase.

The other, much more practical way of getting larger increase, is to get a new job position. Either a promotion, or a lateral move in the organisation, or a position at another organisation. Taking a new position allows you to negotiate your salary from scratch.

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  • 1
    Yes, I know that sometimes finding a new job is the best way to increase compensation, but I'm hoping this doesn't come to that. – ARich Aug 31 '16 at 2:13
  • If you feel that the organisation values you and are reasonable - by all means have the conversation with them - 'I know I've been given a large percentage pay rise, but I still feel like I'm underpaid'. See what they can do. – dwjohnston Aug 31 '16 at 2:16
  • Perhaps instead of just adjustment, you could go for the new customised job description and title? Then you simply make a new contract with your current company, where the salary is brought to competitive range. I understand that is a common way to bypass maximum annual raise limits in strict/rigid process organisations. – Juha Untinen Aug 31 '16 at 5:43
  • This is not really answering the question - it may come up during the conversation that the OP is asking guidance for. – user8036 Aug 31 '16 at 15:01

Comparing your salary to your colleagues' will make you look bitter. Doing some research on what you could earn for a similar job elsewhere will give you a much nicer-sounding argument.

Hey Manager. I feel like I'm being underpaid. I feel like I've moved into this technical and challenging role but feel like I'm still being paid for the last one. I've been doing some research, and it looks like other companies are paying in the range of x-y for similar roles.

How much does being underpaid bother you? Enough to go hunting for a new employer who'll pay you that much for doing the same job? If so, then feel free to tell them that you're considering it. However, I wouldn't advise actually applying for other jobs until you've failed to get the raise you want - once you've actually applied elsewhere it's hard to stay at a job; every little annoyance causes you to think "It wouldn't be this bad if I'd taken that other job."

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This is purely anecdotal, but I have had nearly exactly the same issue. Approaching it from a detached, factual standpoint can help the discussions around this.

  • Produce a document listing all the responsibilities you do
  • Take particular note of responsibilities above and beyond your job spec
  • Supply links to relevant sites that show market rates for your role, show how these relate to your salary
  • Don't use your employees salaries as a bargaining chip. The discussion should center around your worth, within the company, and within the wider market.

Bring this to a meeting with your manager, indicate you are disappointed with the payrise, and discuss with them the documentation you have provided.

In particular, you need to provide provable documentation that clearly demonstrates to your management that your value meets (or exceeds) current market rates.

Be prepared to have to fight your corner. But do it in a calm manner: getting angry over the situation is likely to just make your manager stop listening to your points.

Additionally, be prepared for an agreement to raise your salary that does not result in an immediate raise. Management often have budgets for raises, and they may need time to get to a point where their budget allows the increase.

And finally, if you are unhappy with the result, you can always start looking elsewhere for an equivalent job at a more suitable level.

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