Personal Finance
Raises despite downturn
August 31, 2001: 7:58 a.m. ET

Your company's tightening its belt? There may still be money for you
By Staff Writer Jeanne Sahadi
graphic graphic
NEW YORK ( - Half your colleagues were laid off and you've been scrambling to do their work and yours. Or maybe there's just never enough money in the budget to staff your department adequately.

Either way, your workload keeps growing, but not your salary.

Part of you is reluctant to ask for a raise the last thing you want is to be told you're lucky to have a job and mark yourself as a candidate for the next round of cuts. Still, you can't put your own needs on hold just because your company is always trying to maximize its profit.

    Consider this:
  • You may be doing two jobs for the price of one.
  • It's costly to replace you.
  • Good employees are even more valuable in tough times.
    The good news is, you may have more bargaining power than you think.

    Jack Chapman, author of Negotiating Your Salary: How Make $1,000 a Minute, said employees in today's uncertain job market should not be afraid to make their case. Don't assume the company is too strapped for cash to cough up the dough, since it's possible your boss is paying one salary yours to get two jobs done, he adds.

    That said, you'll be in a much stronger position to negotiate if your responsibilities have expanded, and you're not just doing more of the same.

    "Workload doesn't always translate into increasing responsibility," said Frank Belmonte, a human resources consultant with Hewitt Associates. If you can demonstrate that you're getting the excess work done more efficiently and creatively, then that's process improvement, which is raise-worthy, he said.

    Make like a lawyer and build your case

    Of course, timing is everything, and you're the best person to decide when there's a good opening to broach the subject. Build and document a track record before approaching your boss. When you do, be sure to maximize your chance for success.

    "Talk the language of the employer which is the bottom line," said Ron Krannich, author and publisher of career books, including Dynamite Salary Negotiation. In other words, show your boss how much more business you're bringing in, or how much you're saving the company.

      graphic SALARY INCREASES  
        Average salary increases for 2001 are expected to be modest, but with potential for significant gain through performance-related bonuses, according to a Hewitt Associates survey.
  • 4.4% for salaried exempt employees
  • 4.3 percent for salaried nonexempt employees
  • 4.5% for executives
    And put it in writing. Krannich suggests making two columns: The left-hand column should detail your duties and accomplishments associated with the job you were hired for, while the right-hand column should detail the same plus the additional tasks you're performing and the successes you've achieved doing so. That way, he said, "they see it in black and white."

        An extra two weeks' vacation amounts to a 4 percent raise, according to Jack Chapman.
    That doesn't necessarily mean a raise will be in your next paycheck. Employers are more reluctant to increase pay for an existing position than they are to offer a salary bump for a promotion or new position, Krannich said. If that's the case, you still have a few options to improve your compensation:

  • Propose that you receive a salary review in three months, at which time you'll be eligible for a promotion that reflects the new duties you've already assumed.

  • Offer to achieve certain goals in exchange for project-based pay if you succeed (e.g., getting a commission on new business you bring in).

  • Negotiate for better benefits for example, more time off or a more flexible schedule.

  • Ask what incentive programs the company offers and how you can qualify.

    Good advice anytime

    Whatever strategy you choose, the idea is to "set it up so it's a win-win situation," Krannich said.

    No matter how justified you feel in requesting more money, it's never a good idea to be threatening unless you enjoy burning bridges and you've got have another job lined up.

      If money doesn't talk, talent walks.  
      Ron Krannich
    Author and publisher
    Also, it's good to know what your company's competitors pay employees in positions comparable to yours. (But don't stake your whole argument on what others get. A lot of pay is performance-based and the same job title doesn't necessarily mean the same tasks, Belmonte cautions. You're often better off demonstrating how valuable you are in meeting your company's goals.)

    Three things to keep in mind

    The upside is you have a few things going for you before you even utter the word "raise."


    First, while no one is indispensable, we're all costly to replace. Your employer may need to spend up to twice your salary to replace you if you're paid at market or below-market rates, Krannich said, noting your firm will have to pay recruiting and training costs, and possibly more compensation to your successor.

    Second, more companies are basing their raises on performance. If you've survived a layoff, chances are good you're among the company's strongest performers, Belmonte said.

    Lastly, your company wants to be competitive. If it doesn't pay people what they're worth, it risks lowering employee morale and productivity. Any business worth working for knows one thing, Krannich said: "If money doesn't talk, talent walks." graphic


    Generational gyrations - July 4, 2001

    Q&A: Bad bosses and money - Nov. 8, 2000

    When its time to quit - Jan. 28, 2000

    Pricing a job offer - Dec. 10, 1999


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