Is it taboo to review your general salary goals with your current manager?  As an example, I've always had a financial goal of making $X by the time I was 35.  I have 3 years to get there.  Can I tell my manager my goal so that I can determine what criteria I'd have to meet in order to attain that goal?

mattpalmer's picture

With the right manager, and the right way of approaching the topic, I think it could be done.  But it's an area fraught with peril.  If what your manager takes from the conversation is "gimme more money or I'm outta here", you've just shot yourself in the foot.  Whether that happens depends on both how you raise the issue, and your manager's preconceptions.  Some managers, with a morbid fear of talking about money, would never be able to discuss the issue with equanimity -- in that case, don't do it.  Other managers... if you phrased it in the way you have here, "my goal is X, what can I do to reach that?", you could do it.

In judging your manager, consider how previous money-related conversations have gone.  Has your manager given you a raise, or discussed salary (say, at an annual review) in the past?  If so, how did that conversation go?  Did it feel like your manager was uncomfortable, trying to get it over with quickly and move on to something more palatable?  That's a bad sign for a proactive salary discussion, because your manager will likely be uncomfortable, and likely immediately on the defensive.

If you do decide to go ahead with it, one word of caution -- don't blind side your manager with this conversation.  An MT cast I listened to recently (sorry, don't remember which one) mentioned that you should always tell people what a requested meeting is about.  I might mention it in passing in my O3, and then ask to schedule a separate meeting to discuss just that issue.  Something like, "Hey Jane, I don't want to take up our entire O3 with this, I'd like to have a separate meeting some time to discuss my long-term salary goals.  I've long held a financial stability goal that I'd be making $X by the time I was 35.  Given that's coming up in the next few years, it's time to focus on achieving that goal.  Can we spend 30 minutes some time discussing how I can achieve that goal here?".

This might also be a useful way of judging whether your manager is fearful of salary conversations, if you've never had to have one before.  If your manager reacts positively and comfortably to the above sort of request, you'll probably do OK.  If they look like a deer in headlights, it might be best to drop it.

Another couple of things to consider: how big a jump is $X?  If it's twice your current salary, you're likely screwed, and will look like you're out of touch with reality.  If it's 5% more, then you're in a reasonable position.  Also, consider whether your current firm likely has the sort of upward salary mobility you're looking for.  If you're in, say, the top half of your company already, moving up sufficiently to get an extra 25% on top of your current salary would be a lot harder than if you're still at a "relatively junior" level.

Finally, be very, very careful about making your request sound like "I want a raise!".  It might even be worth prefacing your request with, "I want to say up-front that I'm not looking for a raise in my current position", to try and mitigate some of that inevitable feeling on the part of your manager.

Best of luck!


djpadilla's picture

Thank you very much for taking the time to highlight the different areas I should consider before engaging in this conversation.  You make a great point that this all depends on the manager, the tone, the approach, and the percentage of increase.

I'll take all of this into consideration before I approach my manager with this.  I'll follow up with the outcome, regardless of whether I move forward with this conversation or not.

Once again, the detail and content of your reply is greatly appreciated!