Asking for a Raise is Futile
I nail the interview.
I get the call.
The job is mine.
I get plugged in, endear myself to the company and its culture. I adjust my life around this economic engine that feeds me, around the company’s biweekly or bimonthly pay cycle.
Training comes early, and then training in spates. The honeymoon is shorter and less exciting than I had envisioned. Those annual evaluations, if taken seriously (and not altogether forgotten), may bestow a one or two percent increase to my overall salary. During my annual evaluations, I tell the company that I’m happy with my job, and the company tells me that my work is fine.
And then, the germ of a thought creeps in to my waking hours.
About my value to compensation.
I begin looking at industry standards, at the sort of salary I should have researched and pursued before the initial interview for the job. Then, as if to drive home my growing dread, someone at work lets it slip that employees who started after I did are making more than others in my same position, or employees with less credentials.
Then it hits me. I deserve more, or at least that’s what that roiling and sinking feeling inside is telling me. After all, I’ve put in my time. I hired on with far more experience and certificates and degrees to my name.
I deserve a raise!
I tell myself that it’s never too late to ask for a raise. This time I do my research, read all the right blogs, engross myself in the sea of online and well-meaning advice and anecdotes. I do all of this, and then I verify my plan.
- Research my market value.
- Schedule a meeting with my manager.
- Be focused on what sort of raise I deserve.
- State my case without begging or being aggressive.
- Remind my manager of my accomplishments and accolades.
- Be prepared to counteroffer if my manager agrees to a raise but the number is too low.
Now I’m prepared. This is happening.
But it’s too late.
It was too late the day I interviewed and accepted the job offer based on terms less equitable than what I really required. That’s when I remember my second life lesson for salary negotiations.
‘It’s not what I deserve. It’s what I can get.’
Remember, I tell myself, remember the time when I wasn’t beholden to the company, the time when I had all the leverage I was going to have in that corporate relationship. I should have negotiated the money that I required before my first day of employment. Asking for a raise, based on its very nature, I went in to the meeting with my manager with little to no advantage.
‘If I don’t get what I want, I’ll just quit.‘
Right. Go on with your bad self. Let me know how that goes. I will tell you now, it doesn’t go well. I didn’t quit, nor did I get that raise.
Salary negotiations are mechanical, an agreed upon transaction of capital for labor.
Raise negotiations are emotional, and lack the elements that necessitated the transaction of capital for labor in the first place.
As an employee and not an employer, I never lose sight of the fact that there are at least a hundred other able-bodied people that are waiting to take my spot, and in kind my financial engine. Everyone is replaceable, and seeking a raise put me in a weakened position that reminded me and my employer of my tenuous position as labor. Tenuous merely due to being replaceable.
‘You have no leverage here.’
I’ll say it a different way. Negotiating a salary prior to employment comes from a position of leverage. Pre-employment salary negotiations truly are war, albeit on a controlled and stealth level. Salary negotiations are uncomfortable and they should. They have taught me much about life in the corporate wild, about getting what I want, and about human nature.
About calibrating my self-worth, on my own terms.
Negotiating a raise for an existing salary, however, is stealth ‘groveling’. After being hired on, I effectively negotiated and agreed to the terms of my surrender.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, has destroyed whatever leverage I have had with an employer more than asking for a retroactive correction to my salary – sorry I mean a ‘raise’ to my salary.
“But you agreed to the salary that we offered. We had no idea that you were unhappy.”
Telling my employer that I wasn’t satisfied when all along they thought that I was, is in itself a form of deception, or could be perceived that way, either consciously or subconsciously the employer. The company was not evil. My manager was not evil (well, some were). Yet, in the past when I felt that my value to compensation was skewed against me, my perception became skewed, and that once equitable relationship was not so, and the company was suddenly getting over on me.
But they weren’t.
I had to remember that I agreed to their terms of surrender, and became labor to the company entity for a set price. Now, asking for a raise when I had said ‘yes’ to terms set prior, I was essentially launching an assault on the very entity, the very engine of capital that was at the point of it all. The company’s aim was their bottom line. They existed to generate money, and that means keeping costs down, all costs and at all costs. And yes, the company did this negotiating down with potential employee salaries. Once I realized this, my animus for the company evaporated. My salary was my own fault. Yet, knowing this, I didn’t want to make the same mistakes in the future.
So began the honing of my skills.
I’m not saying that seeking a raise is never the way to go. Especially when individual achievements benefit the company, one should be compensated. This, however, should be relegated to the annual evaluation period and not a random date on the calendar. Seeking a raise, if done correctly (with the stars aligned and the correct metrics on your side), can be achieved and rightly so.
What I am saying is that when accepting a position of employment, I make sure that the salary and benefits and overall equity truly suit me.
I now aim to get my required salary going in, and my goal is about one thing.
About calibrating my self-worth, on my own terms.
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