I’m serious. Who do you have to blow to get a raise at work today??? Well…not really that serious I guess. I work at a major architectural firm in Manhattan. I have a degree in architecture and I work in the interiors department. I’ve been here six years, and business is booming, but I keep not getting #$%#^& raises. My bosses keep reminding me that there’s practically no inflation, yet it seems to me that the cost of living is going up. Based on the conversations happening in our office, I feel like my bosses are still working in a recession mentality even though the recession has ended. Here’s the thing. My boyfriend works for one of the majorpharmaceutical companies where he is the sales rep. (Sometimes I’m jealous because he gets to flirt with doctors and nurses all day!)He receives calls from headhunters and competitors directly every day. He too, had not gotten a raise on his base salary in a while. When he did get a raise, they only upped his salary by 3%. Same story. So he finally decided to accept a job from a competitive major manufacturer for a roughly 20% increase on his base. He liked his job, and his boss, but he couldn’t resist the temptation of more money. Once he told his current employer he was leaving though, the regional manager came to him with HR and raised him even further from 20% to a 25% increase to not leave, so he decided to stay. (The company called it a merit raise, whatever that means.) Does that really work? They say never to accept a counter offer, but he did. Should I try the same technique with my boss? Do you have to quit to get a raise in New York today?
~ Not Getting a R(a)ise Out of Them
Dear Getting a R(a)ise,
Yes, it works almost every time. It’s the dirty little secret that nobody wants to tell. I write about it in my book, Bulletproof Your Job (Harper Collins). The only time it doesn’t work is if you’re a terrible worker, and your boss wants to get rid of you anyway. However, if you’re an architect, or an individual in sales, like your boyfriend, who is a pharmaceutical rep, or even any kind of sales rep or professional I can think of that gets a salary and doesn’t just work on commission, the best way to bump up your salary is to quit your job (This does not apply to my friends who are waiters, flight attendants, florists, hairdressers, retail clerks…well you know who you are where it’s not going to work). It’s a win-win for the rest of you either way. First, if you legitimately have a better offer from a competitor, chances are it will be at least 20% anyway, and if you really like your current job, but you know you deserve a raise (and who doesn’t today), and you’re a little bit of a risk-taker, then yes, explain to your boss that you got a better offer, explain the percentage, and tell your boss you would consider staying if he or she would do better. I can’t guarantee it, but anecdotally, I see almost everybody that we get offered a job today gets a counter offer from their current employer. You know why? It’s going to cost your current boss almost double what they’re offering you to get somebody new. First, there’s the cost of recruiting the new person, the cost of training them, and getting them up to speed to your level; it’s usually just worth paying the difference to keep you. And, let’s face it, we all know it’s not just the McDonald’s workers that are being underpaid, everybody in America is being underpaid today. You’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. And here’s another dirty little secret. Every headhunter, and lots of articles, will explain to you that it doesn’t pay to accept a counteroffer, and that “they” are just paying to keep you temporarily to fire you six months later, when they find someone else. My experience is that if you’re a good employee, that’s generally not true; paying you more just to fire you in six months is a crazy business plan! I think that’s just something us headhunters have tricked you into believing–it’s an old wives’ tale at this point. I also can’t help but laugh when I hear other workplace experts or career coaches suggest to employees that the best way to get a raise is to go to your boss with a list of accomplishments and contributions and explain how valuable you are. Hmmmm…. I mean, I’m sure that can work, but my thinking is that the best way to show your biggest accomplishments is your new offer letter! I can almost guarantee the results will be better. And here’s another tip. If you legitimately have a better offer from another company, physically show the offer to your boss. That’s a better way to get the raise up higher. You should also know that most people that accept counter offers end up very, very happy too. They’ve got a raise, and they’re already in an environment that they’re familiar with, and chances are that they deserve the raise anyway, and the boss recognizes this. The downside of all of this is that if you’re one of those employees that doesn’t recognize that you’re not performing up to snuff, or if you have a bad attitude, or you’re one of those employees that no one else likes, or you’ve been told you’re “high maintenance”–and you know the person I’m describing–chances are, not only will your boss be happy you’re leaving, but he or she will show you the door as soon as you tell them you’re getting a better offer. So this is not a foolproof method, but it works most of the time, as long as you’re a good employee. Like I said, if you exclusively work on commission, or in one of the service areas I mentioned, that’s another ball of wax for another article. Think of it like playing Roulette, and you’re red or black; you’re either going to win or lose. The only exception, of course, is if you’re one of those bad apples. In that case, it’s more like playing Russian Roulette with a fully-loaded gun.