Salary Strategy Requires Patience, Planning


During my first few jobs, pay raise timing was a mystery–sometimes surprising me by coming earlier than expected and other times coming long after annual anniversary dates to which most raises are tied.  Today, agencies and companies do a better job of on-boarding employees and clarifying the performance review timing and ensuing salary increases.  Still, the salary increase process too often creates consternation on both sides of the discussion, and inequities exist. 

Recently, I talked with two young people — one corporate, one agency — who were unclear about the salary adjustment process at their firms.  One was told upon being hired that her increase would be tied to the annual performance review process (she’s been in her job for 10 months), while the other person has gone a year-and-a-half with no mention of a review or pay increase.  The 10-month employee was concerned because a co-worker with the same time on the job had received an increase prior to reaching the one-year mark.  Both employees have reason to be upset, but only the second one should take action at this point.  Since the 10-month employee loves her job, she should assume there are extra-ordinary circumstances for the co-worker’s raise timing–perhaps another job offer that had to be countered or new responsibilities.  If unhappy with the adjustment due in 60 days, she should directly address her concerns at that point.  Meanwhile, the 18-month employee needs to pursue a performance review and raise. 

The New York Times’ Your Money column today provides a “toolkit” for women seeking a raise.  Although written from a women’s point of view, the column’s recommendations apply to anyone believing they’re due for a pay raise or additional salary consideration.  Hanna Riley Bowles, an associate professor at Harvard, provides the following toolkit suggestions:

  • Be Proactive.  If you believe you deserve a raise, don’t sit around and wait for someone to notice.
  • Be Prepared.  Doing your search pays, literally. 
  • Tailor Negotiations.  Frame the discussion in terms of why it makes sense for the organization.
  • Anticipate.  Try to envision what kinds of objections your boss may have.
  • Negotiate At Home.  Before you even start negotiating for a raise or promotion, consider how it might affect your life at home–but don’t assume that one has to come at the expense of the other.
  • Be Creative.  If you have family responsibilities, it helps to consider alternatives like flexible work schedules.

How much to expect?  With economic improvement under way, raise percentages are increasing slightly from the near-flat levels of the past three years.  Some organizations that had instituted pay freezes are lifting them as competition for talent begins to heat up.  Ranges depend on a number of variables, but most firms attempt to set increases slightly above cost-of-living levels.  Most employees should expect raises between 3 and 7 percent.  Promotions range from 7 to 12 percent. 

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