I have worked as a business manager for a young entrepreneur for two years. It is a demanding yet fulfilling role. Last year, based on the increasing responsibilities of my role, I asked for a handsome salary increase and sent a formal letter outlining all the projects we had accomplished in the first year. She gave me the raise and I’m hoping for something similar this year as I now have even more responsibilities. I also discovered that some much more junior staff receive a high salary with none of the responsibilities I have and this really irks me. How do I get the raise I want and feel is justified without raising this possibly contentious issue?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Kathryn Meisner, career and salary negotiation coach, Toronto
I usually recommend tailoring your negotiation strategy to your employer. What is most likely to get them to “yes”?
You’ve figured out what works for your specific employer so use the same strategy again.
It’s completely reasonable to ask for a raise each year, especially when your employer may not realize how much you’ve contributed over the past 12 months. You can view this as your “yearly negotiation”.
Since your responsibilities keep growing, it might be time to pitch a new role to your employer. Sometimes it can be easier for employers to justify increased compensation if it’s for a new role entirely.
Present your boss with a thoroughly prepared pitch including a solid business case, and a new title, job description and compensation. Give a salary range of $10,000 to $20,000, with your ideal salary at the low end of that range. Consider building profit-sharing or a bonus based on company performance into your compensation package.
Even if she doesn’t say yes to everything, it’s a starting point for negotiation.
If she’s not responsive to your pitch, you can default to negotiating a raise.
As a last resort, you may need to bring up your colleagues but you don’t need to name names. Let her know that you’re aware some junior colleagues receive similar compensation with less responsibility and ask what can be done to remedy the situation.
If that does not work, it might just be best to find a new job – and salary – that’s actually reflective of the role that you pitched since you’re clearly already qualified for it.
THE SECOND ANSWER
Greg Conner, vice president, people and culture, BC Transit, Victoria
Let me start by congratulating you on overcoming the first hurdle in salary negotiations. So many of us struggle to ask for what we deserve when it comes to compensation (especially women) and how you handled it last year was textbook. I would suggest that you bring more of the same. Come prepared with the increase you are prepared to accept and the details of why you deserve it. The two main areas of focus should be the accomplishments associated with your increased responsibilities over the last year, and compensation; including the comparables for similar roles outside the organization, and of course what others in the organization receive, without the level of responsibility you have.
At the same time, I would like you to think about suggesting a new title that better fits the increasingly senior role you have taken on. That creates and helps sustain a strong differentiator between you and the more junior members of the team, which will help make the decision to give you the raise you deserve that much easier. Also, I would not shy away from discussing the compensation inequity you see. I am a strong believer in the principle and practice of transparency when it comes to pay, as that is a fundamental component in creating an equitable compensation framework for all regardless of gender, race or other protected grounds.
In the unlikely event that you get something like: “I can’t afford this”, say: “what can you afford?”. And if it’s not acceptable, be gracious. Then start polishing up your resume, as your skills are in demand.
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