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My company is currently suffering the effect of the crisis, which hit Europe a couples of years ago. Sales dropped, the company went through two big reorganizations, and for two consecutive years it made not enough revenues to actually gain money. It is safe to say that we are in a loss condition.

Generale raises in accordance with what the workers' associations said were shifted by 6 months, and the yearly evaluations of performances (which in my case were always positive -> resulted in a little raise) were delayed too.

During the latest general company meetings, they made projections that would put the company in a very good position by 2018 (lots of revenues).

I wonder if it is acceptable to ask for a raise during these times, and if there is a "sensitive" way to do that. I understand that I am a part of the company too, but I still think that my job is at the moment underpaid.

  • wait till your Company can "afford" it. Even if you are being underpaid compared to the market your Company has a responsibility to Keep the Company running for everyone. Job Security should not be endangered by your raise, even though in your opinion it might not effect anything, but the little Things are what make the ball roling. – Raoul Mensink Sep 27 '16 at 6:56
  • Do you think it would be better not saying anything at all, or do you think an approach like "I know now it is not possible, but still I would like you to consider in a year or so..." would be ok? – Noldor130884 Sep 27 '16 at 7:50
  • @RaoulMensink The OP may have no way of knowing whether the company can "afford" it or not. They may be making a killing and sell a sob story to their employees at the same time. They might also not afford to lose the OP because they found a better job, in which case the raise doesn't seem too bad. The company may be responsible for paying everyone, but it's the OP's job to maximize themselves as they see fit. It's business. – rath Sep 27 '16 at 13:09
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    I know now it is not possible, but still I would like you to consider in a year or so... They'll promise you the moon and the stars in a year. Then a year passes and you go So... about those stars... they'll say Can't you see how difficult things are? Stop being so selfish! Wait till next year and you'll get double stars! Point is, if they can't afford your market rate, maybe you should find someone who does. Yes, it is acceptable to ask for a raise if you feel you deserve it. – rath Sep 27 '16 at 13:12
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You can always ask for a raise, but it might not go over well when a company is losing money.

As MSalters notes, your value to the company is set by the market, and this isn't dependent on whether your employer is losing money. In theory, they should assess your value in largely the same way, regardless of their profit margin. If you are valuable, then they stand to lose if you leave--even if they are already losing money.

However, in practice, it's not so simple. Companies in crisis don't always act logically, and there also might be other things that going on that you don't know about.

  • General company policies like a pay freeze might be in effect, making it hard to enact a raise.
  • If things are really bad, decisions may be driven by short-term thinking (such as trying to stay solvent) that make your long-term value less relevant.
  • There may be plans such as a merger in the works, which might completely change these calculations.
  • The company might want to shed staff, and thus would not mind if you decide to leave.

Given that your company is doing illogical things like suspending evaluation of employee performance, I think it's quite likely that you will face some barriers to getting a raise.

In addition, you face some reputational risk if you ask for a raise in this scenario:

  • Other workers (such as your boss) might feel they are making sacrifices and resent the fact that you are not willing to.
  • The possibility of being perceived as selfish/greedy by too aggressively asking for a raise is increased in this environment.

My advice is to be cautious. I wouldn't completely rule out requesting a pay raise, but making this request now is a bit riskier than usual, and probably less likely to be successful.

The recent good projections give you a reasonable cause to at least ask. But still, the fact that normal raises have yet to resume mean some of the above conditions are likely to apply.

  • I wouldn't worry too much abotu "reputational risk". Comapnies like HP and IBM have almost-annual mass layoffs without thinking about their reputation - it's "just business". It also works the other way. When I can make 20% more elsewhere, that too is just business. And yes, the company might decide that they cannot match that 20%. They probably can't match the 25% next year. – MSalters Sep 27 '16 at 13:21
  • Is perception about greediness really an issue? How often do your peers know you got a raise, let alone aksed for it? That only leaves your boss and well, if they think you're greedy just for asking a raise there's probably something more profoundly wrong in the relationship. Of course I count on the OP not being already overpaid and still whining for more. – KillianDS Sep 27 '16 at 14:34
  • @Msalters not every company works that way. But even that aside, the request for a raise is made to one or a few members of management you work closely with, not the faceless organization. Rightly or wrongly, those individuals might perceive your request/negotiation negatively, and that could have an impact on your career. – user45590 Sep 27 '16 at 14:39
  • @dan1111: Obviously, a negative reaction will have a significant impact on your career. It means you will be looking for another job, which does pay at market value. But if the company grudgingly accepts, recovers its financial standing, and then starts giving raises across the board, it's unlikely that you will be specifically remembered. – MSalters Sep 27 '16 at 14:44
  • Just a slight disagreement, but I believe that while the market may set your market value in general, your value to this or any specific company is a function of your skills and their needs, desires and constraints. – cdkMoose Sep 27 '16 at 16:16
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The labor market is a market. There are multiple suppliers and customers. Prices vary as supply and demand change. Can you expect a higher price if there's an oversupply? Not realistically.

But we can't answer this question specifically for you without knowing what your circumstances are. You'll have to figure out your relevant market. In particular, what could you make elsewhere? It's reasonable to ask a similar number internally, even if your company would be losing money.

  • Please pardon me, but I don't think this answer my question... Or I may have misunderstood. I am a, let's say rare resource, here, and the job-market requires always professional figures like myself. The problem is not whether to go away or not (I'd prefer to stay), but if it is acceptable from a company-culture point of view. – Noldor130884 Sep 27 '16 at 7:48
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    @Noldor130884: Let me put it more bluntly, then: it does not matter whether your company is losing money. If they underpay, you can ask for a raise. – MSalters Sep 27 '16 at 7:57
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I'd at least consider doing something along the lines of this:

Call a meeting with your boss and make him/her aware it is about your pay and your performance. Don't forget that last bit, "performance" - it is a key.

In this meeting you will, to the best of your abilities, explain how you enjoy your work and teammates (even if you don't) but feel unappreciated because as you see it your salary is what a person less able would get. Don't get testy, angry, sad, or more importantly appear arrogant. Talk about facts first, then feelings. Many would say that how you feel is irrelevant, but au contraire - they are probably the only thing your boss can not argue against.

Now, had your company been in a good position, this would be the end of my advice. It is clearly not. Time to take initiative. Before your boss gets all on the defensive (you have to stop before you are finished if he/she is getting visibly annoyed...) do the pivot. Now say that you fully understand the situation the company and the boss is in at the moment. Empathize with tough decisions and be impressed with how your boss is still managing to motivate people. Ask, as humbly as possible what your manager can do for your salary. If he is at all empathizing with your situation you should be getting somewhere by now, bona fide excuses at the least. Take the initiative in offering to sacrifice current salary for future salary. Lay up a future plan (prepared in advance) with generous raises for 2018-2019-2020 to accomodate for a much diminished 2017. Tell your boss that the promise of pay will at least help you feel valuable and secure. Hope for a successful combination of facts, feelings, humility and self sacrifice, and do not forget GET IT IN WRITING.

That is what I would have attempted.

  • I am reasonably sure they won't count as liabilities on a balance sheet, if that is what you are meaning? Unless the salary is high enough to require a separate note on the balance sheet, which would be in conflict with the original question. I was trying to imply that if getting a raise now is realistic, by all means try. If it is unrealistic, try to navigate your way to a raise in the future. That is how I did it in a similar situation, and it worked out well. – Stian Yttervik Sep 27 '16 at 11:23
  • If you have personal experience of this working then I retract my comment. Your experience outweighs my skepticism – user45590 Sep 27 '16 at 11:58
  • I think I might be redirected to the annual personnel evaluation, when I mention the "performance" word... We do get a raise based on an evaluation, but I really would like my base salary to go a step forward – Noldor130884 Sep 28 '16 at 5:41
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You can feel the water out by phrasing the question diffently.

Something like

Now that the forecasts are improving when will we be getting pay rises.

By using the word "when" you are stating, obviously that a hiatus on pay rises can't be justified forever. Inflation happens, your skills improve, other companies would pay more for the same skills.

By saying "we" you are not making it personal or greedy, you are merely asking after the welfare of the whole staff.

You could get a flat denial that it will be happening, in which case you can not hold out much help for yourself.

You could get some fluff, in which case also don't hold out much hope.

It is possible also you get a specific date, or at least some concrete information which would help you on deciding if you will get your needs met any time soon.

  • "pay rises are on their way" - as they were delayed. Don't get me wrong, but those rises are something that have to do with the costs of life skyrocketing... While what I'm asking for is to have an adjustment based on my tasks – Noldor130884 Sep 28 '16 at 5:43

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