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How to Get a Raise Without Getting a Promotion

Updated on October 17, 2012
It was your boss who turned you down for a raise, not your computer
It was your boss who turned you down for a raise, not your computer

SURVIVING THE BOSS FROM HEAVEN OR HELL-Getting a Raise without Having to Get a Promotion

Everybody wants more money either because they need it or because they think they deserve it or both. Most employees think that the only way they can get an increase in salary is either to get promoted into a higher-paying job or leave the organization for a job that pays more. But there is another way to get a raise without having to do either. Exactly how? It depends on a number of factors:

·         Is your compensation set by a union or employment contract?

·         Are you an employee of a federal or state or local government agency?

·         Do you work for a large corporation and have a non-union job?

·         Do you work for a small private company?

We will deal with each of the above situations momentarily. But first:

Some Things You Should Know about How Compensation Works in Most Organizations

Employee compensation in the form of salaries and hourly wages are usually set for non-union employees, within the budgetary capabilities of the organization, according to two guiding principles:

1.       External Equity: this principle says that employee compensation should be set to be competitive with other similar organizations within the same geographic region for the same or similar job functions. The reason for this principle should be fairly obvious. If the wages and salaries paid by an organization are not competitive, then that organization will not be able to attract to good people to their jobs and will frequently loose good people to the other organizations that pay higher salaries. Therefore, external equity is always a high consideration for most organizations in setting its compensation levels for each job function.

2.       Internal Equity:  this principle requires that all positions in the organization be compensated according to their worth, complexity and level of responsibility. This prevents employees with jobs that are of less worth, complexity or level of responsibility being paid more in salary or wages than one with more worth. This means that supervisors should not be paid less than the employees who report to them or high-level managers should not be paid less than lower-level managers or there would be no incentive for employees to take these higher-level and more responsible jobs.

In addition to these two principles, you should know a few more things:

·         A raise is an upward adjustment of base pay, based on a set amount or on a percentage of the base pay. A bonus is not a raise. Instead, it is a lump sum one-time pay out that has no impact on the base pay.

·         In most organizations you cannot get a raise by performing better, unless you are not on a salary and are paid by the piece. Most organizations give merit pay, or pay for good performance in the form of a bonus and not an adjustment of base salary. There are still some organizations that have a real pay-for-performance system in which they give a certain raise for each performance rating level above the minimum satisfactory level. But most organizations find that type of program too expensive.

·         Most organizations of any size give automatic raises every year. These raises may be based on longevity-a step increase every year or every two years, up to a certain number of steps-as government agencies usually have or they may be based on the cost-of-living index, as both government and non-government organizations have. However, because these raises are automatic and go to everyone, they will not satisfy an employee who feels he or she is being under paid for their present job responsibilities.

·         You cannot make the case that you deserve a raise because you have not had one in a long time and your financial obligations have gone up. In this capitalistic system, people are paid, based on their qualifications and the nature of the job they hold, not on the fact that they have to pay alimony to two ex-wives and have three kids in college at the same time.

Now, to address each situation listed above:

IF yoursalary or wages are set by a negotiated union or employment contract, there is no way you can get a raise until the contract is renegotiated. Your only option for a raise, meanwhile, is to get a promotion into a higher-paying job.

IF you are an employee of a government agency or organization that has a uniform position classification system in which each job or position has been assigned a grade and steps within each grade, then the boss has no authority to grant or recommend raises. Other than becoming qualified for and getting selected for a higher-graded job, your only option is to claim and show evidence that your position has become misclassified and should be re-titled and up-graded or just up-graded. Jobs in the government can change very quickly these days because of reorganization and cut-backs. Some jobs can expand in their complexity and level of responsibility without the organization reclassifying the job to a higher grade and perhaps to a different title. If this is your situation, you should go directly to human resources and request a reevaluation of your position. It should initially be done through your boss, but if he or she is reluctant or slow to respond, then go around him or her. If you are in a one-of-a-kind position, reclassification can be done quickly and easily. However if your job is in a classification of jobs populated by several employees, the process will take longer, but it can be done.

IF you work for a corporation that has a structured compensation system, but not as rigid as a government system and where management has some authority and flexibility to give raises without changing the employee’s job, then you will have an easier time in getting a raise without having to win  a promotion. You can use either or both claims that (1) other organizations in the same area are paying more for the same kind of function or job as yours (External Equity) and/or your duties and responsibilities have increased but your pay has not. The latter is quite possible and credible in today’s business environment, with all of the mergers, downsizing, take-over’s and cut-backs going on. These arguments will be received much more favorably by management if you are in a one-of-a-kind job in the organization, as opposed to being in a job group which has other employees and a raise to you would incite a demand for the same treatment from all of the other employees.

IF you work in a small, privately-owned company and report directly to the owner, you may have the best advantages and the worse disadvantages of anyone seeking a raise. On the advantage side of the ledger is the fact that one person has the authority to make an immediate decision with no bureaucratic hoops to go through. Further, if the organization gives no routine raises, like longevity or cost of living raises, you can not only make the case that you are under-paid, but what little you are paid has been eroded away by inflation or the rising cost of living. There is one big possible disadvantage in seeking a raise in a small organization: the boss or owner may have very shallow pockets to the extent that he or she may be struggling to meet payroll, as it is.

Whatever your excuse or argument for asking for a raise in almost any organization, the overriding factor, above all, will be health of the economy. In bad economic times, even in larger organizations, you may be lucky to be able to hold on to your present salary, as under-paid as it may be. But do not be fooled. In normal economic times, most organizations should be able to afford to pay you for what you are worth. So, if you are not getting it-go for it!


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    • hugheshhrs profile image

      hugheshhrs 5 years ago from originally the USA, now Malaysia

      Zero: I don't completely understand your situation, but you mentioned a contract. If that contract is with the union, then raise your concern with them. You pay dues to them for protecting you. If the contract is with the company, then talk to HR, if there is one or ask your supervisor why they have not promoted you.

    • profile image

      Zero 5 years ago


      I have been promoted to the storeman with the first owner

      of the restaurant 3years back I was the cleaner for 3months then I got promoted.but they were just waiting for 3 months to check how am i was going to copy,then I did finished 3 months but they haven't change any thing to my salary till now and i have been a storeman for 3 years now and this is the second owner but there is nothing change.If i was not doing the nice job they were suppose to demote me but they haven't done that why?My contract still said I am the cleaner but i only worked 3 moths as the cleaner and 3 years as the soreman without increasing my salary.but my payslip said I am the storeman but my contract doesn't say that and my salary.why is it like that because they know.