When Do You Stop Raise Negotiations?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about completion of an MBA and quick advancement, but being told no by the boss to a request for a raise: She again gave me a flat out no and was confused why I would try to negotiate for anything else aside from money.

First of all, the service that you provide has far exceeded any expectations. I hope you realize how valuable I have found your opinions to be.I started a job in August as an assistant while I finished up my MBA. I hoped and expected to grow with this company, but did not realize how quickly that would happen. Within a month of my start date, I was asked if I wanted to take on a management position as well as continuing my assistant responsibilities.

Wanting to learn and grow, naturally I accepted. Unfortunately, I never asked for a raise at that time (lesson learned). Three months have passed and I have since graduated from business school. I was then asked if I would be interested in taking on another management position in addition to my assistant duties and those responsibilities that I had already accepted.

My goal is to drop the assistant part as I feel that I should be moving on. I am currently in the process of accepting this position, but we are in salary negotiations. I have developed an excellent relationship with my boss; therefore I am uber confused about what is taking place. I was offered a 5% increase backdated to when I took over my first management responsibilities, then an additional 5% when I take over the other responsibilities. I countered with a market rate adjustment of 15% below the industry median for the assistant position (which amounted to $5,000) and then a 5% increase for my first “promotion” and another 5% when I take over my new responsibilities.

I presented this information gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Salary.com with a job description. My boss shared that she was really proud of me and she thought that I did exactly what I should have done. The next day the mood drastically changed, and I was told a flat out no, but they would stick with their original offer. She asked if I had any questions at which point I said no because I was so taken aback, and she said we could talk about it later if I did.

After speaking with another mentor who is within the company, I was advised not to back down, and if she thought my job was in any sort of jeopardy, she would not advise me to do so. I went back to my boss at the end of the day and explained that I thought my offer was more than fair, and if she could do anything else for me. To which she said no. I then tried negotiating an office or another form of non-monetary compensation. To which she again gave me a flat out no and was confused why I would try to negotiate for anything else aside from money.

I’m not sure what my next steps should be. I was advised to go to our HR manager and explain the situation, but I don’t feel comfortable working around my boss like that, out of respect for the relationship that I thought we had. I’m in an organization that I like, for the most part. My work ethic and productivity is constantly being complimented (unfortunately raises are not performance based), but I’m at a loss as to why they are so hesitant to compensate me. In some respect, I feel as though my boss is trying to teach me a lesson in how to ask for a raise, because of the awkward conversations that have followed. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Signed, Faced With No

DearĀ Faced With No:

You were on solid ground to talk pay when you completed your degree and when asked if you were interested in taking on management responsibilities. It also made sense for you to learn what was the national going range for comparable job descriptions. Unfortunately, from your description of your counter offer, I got the feeling the data you presented was outside what was normal for that firm. Also the way you approached it might have come across as unappreciative of what they offered.

Your boss’s change from approval to a flat no probably seemed justified once she thought it over and especially so if her boss said that is too much too fast. Your internal mentor might not have known the pay scale that accompanied early promotions, but you were wise to ask. It might take more than trial and error to learn what raises are the norm and if it is expected that one must ask for them.

As I have said in answers to other questions, pay is secret for a purpose and that purpose is to keep labor costs down and because such secrecy enables many employers to get what they can for the cheapest price. If I read the stage of your decision-making accurately, you have not accepted nor rejected the company’s offer. Will it make you look weak to do so? Possibly, but probably not if you can learn from your boss if she reasons you were out of line to try to negotiate for more.

If you approach her as a coach, she then might share with you what are your prospects for future promotions beyond those now offered. Rather than seeing her as an adversary, if you seek her advice, she might become an advocate. Asking for a raise is more acceptable when it is in keeping with company norms for promotion and/or increased responsibility, and more importantly if and when you have earned “numbers” of making the company money to support such a request.

Your time with this company is relatively short. When you were first hired, you didn’t learn what you could expect once you had your MBA and had enough experience to be offered more responsibilities. You are fortunate that you like your work and place of work. Also that up to this point, you are blessed you felt that you met the expectations of your superior.

I hope you can widen your thinking beyond this flat No. It is now up to you to learn if you can merge ego concerns with WEGO concerns. Incidentally, I found several mistakes in your email and corrected most of them. It was obvious you didn’t spell check and re-read what you wrote, something of which I too am sometimes guilty. In fact, before I sent this off to you, my daughter, who is in law school, found three mistakes I made, and have now corrected.

I didn’t correct the word “uber” within your note to us to illustrate the kind of errors to which I refer. It is good to make mistakes and learn they are mistakes. It is then that we determine not to make them again. I’m sure ambitious-you know details matter and you are ambitious enough to double and triple check written messages before you send them in your work.There are many sources with advice for asking for a raise. I don’t think mine is better than others that you might consult, but I would be pleased to learn how you work through this difference of opinion about pay. I predict that you will do well and better than well the more you seek to do “good” for those with whom you work and work for. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

Follow UP: I apologize for saying the word “uber” was incorrectly used. That is my mistake that our associate workplace doctor, Tina Lewis Rowe, brought to my attention. Therefore, I looked it up and learned about its origin and usage; however, my point was to remind you and myself of the importance of proofing what goes out in our name. Since you are uber ambitious, I trust you appreciate that.

William Gorden