Do You Deserve A Larger Salary? Let's Make It Happen!

Shelby Chiles

People often tell me that they are being lowballed in the midst of the pandemic. Others are stating that they have taken on additional duties.

How do you get what you deserve? Are their other ways to be paid besides money?

Negotiating is uncomfortable for a lot of people. It seems to be especially difficult for women (and introverts). We are naturally conditioned by society to be submissive and demure, but that doesn't do us any favors - especially in the workspace. Here is some advice that I have given many people over the last twenty plus years since I began my career, worked through management, and ended up in HR.

The big mistake most people make is undervaluing themselves. I tell everyone to find out what a single, forty year old, white man with comparable experience and education would make in your area. The pay gap is real! We need to celebrate differences, lift one another up, and amplify each others' voices whenever possible. It is often difficult building a team where diversity is not valued since our society’s model of power and professionalism is still older, white men. I have worked for a diverse company where I was a minority and it was a thing of beauty.

Studies have shown that (sorry guys) women are better managers, rockstar multi-taskers, more detail-oriented, miss less work, and are better at resolving conflict than their male peers. I have to admit I was a little surprised by some of the information I learned. Women are better leaders as well.

Part of the reason we don't get equal pay is because we do not ask for it. We have been conditioned not to. My dad taught me at a young age that I was "better than the boys", so I found myself asking for raises when my female counterparts were simply afraid to take risks at one company after another as I strategically moved from one position to another at one company, maximizing my career and earning potential while I left my peers behind. My salary started doubling theirs, then tripling, and I stopped keeping track....

Twenty years later, most of them are in their fifties and they still have not achieved the level of success that I had in my twenties. It is quite sad. They had similar potential, but it was untapped. I had a manager that believed in me and wanted to hear my perspectives and ideas. He did not limit my potential.

You traditionally do not receive what you do not ask for or command - money, respect, any kind of compensation, etc. I broke through the ceiling with record breaking raises due to performance, but I also backed it up when I asked for the additional compensation I deserved.

I never used the word need when negotiating a salary increase.

If we don't have confidence in ourselves, no one will. The biggest mistake I used to see was people asking for additional money "because they needed it". Please don't ever tell anyone at work you need additional money - even if it is true. It is not a reason for a raise. This is a business transaction. You have to treat it that way and remove the emotion. Tell them why you DESERVE it. You have obviously earned it or they wouldn't want to hire you or have hired you already! Go after it and reach for those stars! Tell them your worth.

If we do not have confidence in ourselves, no one else will.

Then, ask for things above and beyond that they can always say no to that they won't consider "an unreasonable ask". Here are some examples:

  • If you are losing seniority with your current employer (we will call them Company ABC), ask your new employer (we'll call them XYZ) to adjust your seniority to the number of years you have worked at ABC. Then, you will presumably have vacation at the same rate that would have had if you had stayed with ABC. This doesn't sound like much, but it usually amounts to two weeks of vacation your first year which is rather substantial. Thus, if your start date is October 1, 2022 at XYZ, it would be adjusted to October 1, 2020. If you are a rehire and you previously worked at XYZ for three years, ask for the full time you were there, so it would be October 1, 2019.
  • You can also ask for flex-time. This is a huge benefit if you are a commuter and/or have children.
  • You can ask to work 4/10's instead of 5/8's, so you will have one day a week off. If you can and they are up to it, go for 3/12's. They still have you the same number of hours with 4/10's, but you are free to run errands one day, sleep in, be lazy, clean your house, and not commute. It also saves them on utilities and they get to brag about saving the environment.
  • Ask if you can continue to work from home after COVID. If you are a current employee, you have a proven track record. Alternatively, you could go hybrid. If you work from home or travel, they should provide you with a laptop and monitor (I love the big ones that fold up, so you can take them with you) as well as a bag to safely carry your tech in and IT Support. Once again, these sound like small things, but they add up quickly. You will save a ton on commuting and clothing alone. If it is someplace where you need to dress in business attire, you can save on dry cleaning as well.
  • I always asked for two paid weeks off twice a year for continued education that pertained to my position at their expense. It made me better at my job, they were investing in me (thus the company), it was free travel, and a great networking opportunity (I found other jobs that way as well).
  • If they have tickets to local sports teams you like, ask to be one of the first to be considered (Go Cowboys, Stars, Rangers, FC Dallas, and Mavs!!!). We hate to cook on Thanksgiving, so I used to always get tickets to the Cowboys game until I married a man with a mom that can cook. I had tickets to baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and NASCAR. They even gave me parking passes. The Stars were at the front. They were the best. You could see people hit the glass.
  • Negotiate a base cost of living (COLA) increase and merit wage increase (twice a year, your first year if they low ball you - once at 90 days and the other with the rest of the company). The base COLA should be at least 3% and I have seen merit increases from 5-25%. You may have COLA freezes, but they will be company-wide and should start at the top.
  • You can also ask for productivity bonuses. If you reach any kind of measurable goal in your position, ask for a bonus for that as well. Be creative! Did you have a perfect inspection? Did you win a new contract? Did your division exceed projected sales? Is productivity up, but costs are the same (or down)? Ask your process improvement team and/or auditors what and whom should be rewarded. They are there to look for trends and anomalies, so if they see something impressive in your team, they will be able to tell you; however, they may also find areas that need improvement.
  • Retention bonuses are exceptionally popular now due to the pandemic since a lot of the workforce has taken the opportunity to reassess their life. That is fine, but that doesn't mean that those who are senior with the company should not receive a retention bonus for staying and training all of the new hires.
  • A large mistake we often make is failing to look at an organization's holiday calendar as part of its total compensation package. For example, I went from one company with twelve holidays to another with five. I worked three at the first company which they gave me double time for. If you are hourly, they pay you twice your rate, but if you are salaried, you get it in comp time. Thus, I could work those three days in a near empty office, get a lot of things done, and then get six days off in return! At the next company, it was so restrictive, I could hardly make plans for the holidays. We did not even have Christmas Eve off.
  • Think about the total OOP cost for health insurance. The cost of healthcare is rising in America and the cost of healthcare can be large. Do they offer a robust plan? Do they offer discounted rates for family members? My husband's last job paid a fraction of what it does; however, we made up for the compensation in healthcare at the time. Unfortunately, the base pay was not enough to pay the bills, but I still miss their insurance daily. What are the out of pocket costs going to be for your regular expenses?
  • I suggest that everyone keeps a file with all of the customer, employee, and manager praise that they receive. When it is time to justify your reason for an increase and you state that you excel in customer service, you can then pull out a folder with twenty unsolicited thank you's and praise from others.
  • If you are an exempt employee (salaried) that is ineligible for overtime, you can ask for hour-per-hour PTO under normal circumstances and bank your PTO.  If there is a state of emergency (outside your geographic area you are assisting with on off hours) or federal holiday, for every hour you work, they could give you two off in return.  If you are directly affected by a state of emergency, not required to work, and volunteer on off hours like the above scenario, but it affects you; you should get a minimum of three days for one.  If it is catastrophic, I would ask for five to one if you are mission critical or have a special set of skills.
  • Everyone always races to apply for vacation approval at the same time.  If you have to work all of the way through Thanksgiving to NYE, normally all of those hours would disappear when the ball drops in Times Square; however, if you are allowed to roll Paid Time Off (including additional hours, leftover vacation, and holidays worked), it rolls into the next year, you won’t ever lose it. I have had employees take two months of vacation and then retire!  Some companies allow you to cash it out; however, that is becoming a thing of the past because it directly reflects on the bottom line as an expense.  Theoretically, the longer you wait to take time off, the more valuable that time will be because you are going to be paid more as well.  That is just an extra nugget of wisdom.
  • People underestimate the value of training and mentorship.  They go hand-in-hand because they are both a chance to expand your network of professionals, meet people with like-minded interests, and learn something.  I asked for two weeks of training in my last two positions with one caveat from them - one was the annual in town conference for my profession and I was allowed to select the one out of town anywhere in the US.  If possible, I piggy-backed a trip to one of our company’s other locations, so I could meet and greet, speak with customers, train people, audit records, etc. It got me out of the office and I made a lot of new contacts that I was able to mentor and three that mentored me.  The DOD gives extra “points” during our annual audits for being in professional alliances and teaching those that are newer in the position.  I wish that all fields recognized personal growth through mentorship, teaching, and training as an asset and rewarded it like they do.  
  • Gifting time off is a personal favorite of mine because I have seen the awesome impact it has had on so many peoples’ lives.  If you aren’t allowed to rollover your “use it or lose it” time, you can ask to give it to a fellow employee in need.  I have seen departments come together and donate months for people with premature babies, weeks off to handle sudden deaths in the family, time for cancer treatment and dialysis and so much more.  The last thing anyone wants to worry about during a terribly stressful (and usually expensive) time in their life is having their most basic needs met.  It creates a team environment, supports a co-worker with more than just money, and uniquely bonds employees. This one costs money; however, you can tell them that they will get an instant return on their investment and have an upwardly mobile employee that will be more prepared when an opening arises.  I can’t leave it off in good conscious.
  • Tuition reimbursement should be obvious, but less companies are agreeing to it.  When I received pushback we compromised that they would pay a percentage of each class that I could justify would contribute to my career.  I received 100% for A’s, so they were all covered.  I believe B’s were paid at 75% and C’s were 50%. I argued that anything that was a core class should be covered because it applied to my degree.
  • Opportunity for growth is often overlooked. I always ask myself if it is possible for me to move vertically.  Am I stuck?  Have I learned everything this company has to offer? Can I be of better service to my country and community somewhere else?  Is it time for me to leave?  Am I leaving them better than I found them with the tools that they need to be successful without me?  If I do my job well (first career), I should work myself out of it, but not all positions are like that.
  • Do they match your 401k? Is there a pension? Is there a free gym membership? What about a cell phone discount? Is there onsite daycare?

You have a lot to offer. What do they have to offer? The additional value-added items may account for the additional money that you are not receiving directly in salary.

You can use most of these tips on existing positions; however, if you are feeling extremely confident, you can always pad your base salary ask by 5 to 10%. I would only do that if you know that you are their ONLY choice and they are desperate. You don't want to lose a great opportunity or start a new position on a bad foot. I was able to get one company to double my salary from the advertised/offered base because I knew what the person I was replacing made. If you know what is in their budget, you can use that to your advantage as well.

Always ask for an Offer Letter and get any special terms and conditions in writing from someone that has the authority to make them happen.

You've got this! Congratulations!

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Shelby has lived in DFW her entire life. She has various interests and professional experience. Shelby became a published Author for the first time over thirty years ago and she has not stopped writing since.

Little Elm, TX

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