Does anyone have experience getting a substantial pay increase to make up for years of promotions without commensurate increases in compensation?

I have been working for the past six years at the same company. We were hit VERY hard by the bust, 9/11, and a general downturn in our industry. As a result, while I was promoted quickly (downsizing breeds opportunity), my supervisor was quite stingy with pay increases. As a result, I'm below the first quartile average pay for my industry, and I even have a direct report who earns MORE than I do!

I now have a new supervisor, who is sympathetic to my situation, but she's been (so far) unable to give me a raise sufficient to bring me even close to industry standards for my position -- although she was generous at my last review, within her abilities.

I have no doubt that if I keep doing a good job, in 3-4 years of raises like I received at my last review, I'd be up to industry norms (or close to it), but in the meantime, I can't help but think that there are greener jobs elsewhere. I really like the company I work for, and I'm excited about some of the opportunities available to me, but the low pay is becoming a real hardship (especially as I regularly get pressure from my wife to go to a different job that pays appropriately).

What would be a politic way to work toward a bigger paycheck quickly? Or am I just stuck and need to decide whether local opportunities are worth the lost earnings for the next few years?

bflynn's picture

My experience says that you will not get a substantial pay raise in your current position. IF your job is very important and IF you're a star player and IF you're willing to stand firm, you might be able to get a larger than normal increase, at the cost of substantial political capital. If the raise comes, be prepared for a corresponding increase in workload.

Is your relationship with your boss good enough to talk about this? If so, then just sit down and talk with him. Lay out your case. Take the discrete steps to prepare for departure just in case things go wrong (copies of what you need, etc). If you have misjudged your relationship, you may be shown the door immediately. Or, if you decide to leave, do it and get out. Avoid counter-offers, see other threads here about it.

Don't be afraid to admit that money is the issue, at least to yourself. We hear so much about working for fufillment, doing what you love, money isn't the issue, etc. However, at the basic core, we work because we have to make a living and some of us are lucky or purposeful enough to make sure we get into something we love doing. Money is only a non-factor when there is enough of it.


thaGUma's picture


1. Check - can you get a new job at industry levels (or above) - is the employment there?
2. If so, get your resume in order - assume you are going to leave. This will put you in the right mindset.
3. Show your resume to your new boss. Show him the industry pay levels - give him the ammo to help you.
4. Write a carfully crafted letter to your boss expecting and asking for it to go to the CEO.
- Point out the history.
- Point out the discrepancy.
- Point out that it would cost the company £x p.a. to get someone at your level. The salary of your direct may be a useful illustration.
- Ask formally to have your salary set to the industry average.
5. If you get a rejection. Get a new position and offer your resignation.
6. Either you leave or the company changes tack. Do not suggest that you will stay if they reconsider. You are not playing games.

This is an issue where your comfort 'food, clothes and shelter' should be outweighed by future earning potential.

I believe it will be hard to get back on track without changing company. I believe that you can decide whether you are able to get a new job elsewhere.

Forgive me if this one causes offence but it caused a paradigm shift when my friend quoted it to me at a time when I felt I was being left behind:
In Russia there is a saying, when you met someone, one of the first questions is "what do you do?", the next is "what do you earn?". If the answer to the latter falls short of the former, you are either unfortunate, or a fool, either way you are not much of a man.

It offended me for about 10 seconds, then I found that I was effectively saying the same thing subconciously and this was dragging me down.

Good Luck


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

It IS unlikely to overcome years of internal salary compression. It can be done, but I wouldn't push internally.

I would look elsewhere, WHILE DELIVERING GREAT RESULTS. I would NOT tell my boss I am looking.

When the other offer comes in, it's time to decide. Don't forget to consider goodwill on behalf of your present employer when you do the emotional, financial, and family calculus.


Nik's picture

Thanks for the excellent feedback. Time to update the resume for the latest quarter. :)