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What to Do if You Are Not Happy With Your Salary Increase?

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Some employees are thankful just to have a job, and are therefore reluctant to ask for more money even if they think they're underpaid. But business is business, and good companies understand that. It helps to remind yourself that you're one of the resources your employer uses to generate revenue and profits. If your salary raise is lower than you expected, speak up but do so firmly and with a solution in mind instead of simply griping about your take-home pay.

Speak Candidly

Talk to your boss about the salary increase you received. If it was based on your latest performance evaluation, ask where you ranked according to the organization's expectations. You may have fallen short of your employer's expectations, but not finding out until you notice that your salary increase isn't as much as you wanted is a sign of poor communication. In any case, it might be something you can fix. Suggest to your boss that you are willing to make the performance improvements necessary to raise you to a level where you can receive a better salary increase. Present her with a performance improvement plan to show you have a workable solution.

Walk in Your Employer's Shoes

Put yourself in the employer's position. It might be experiencing a business slowdown that affects salary increases for the entire staff. When this happens, many companies alert their employees that they may receive lower raises than they have in the past. If you are in a position of authority, you probably already know how difficult it is to stay in the black while still keeping salaries competitive enough to sustain employee job satisfaction. That said, if your company is experiencing business changes that impact its financial situation, you might have to accept a disappointing salary increase and be thankful that it was not zero.

Given the competitive nature of the modern marketplace, the days of 10 percent and 12 percent raises might be long gone for the vast majority of employees.

Don't Make Idle Threats

Implying that you can earn more money if you join another company won't earn you much respect from your current employer. Sauntering into your boss's office to complain about the unexpectedly low salary increase is one thing, but suggesting that you may be worth more somewhere else might encourage your employer to show you the door. Keep in mind that your employer isn't obligated to give you a raise. This doesn't mean you should be grateful for any amount, but it does mean you should remain professional even though you are disappointed in your raise. Threatening to leave for another job serves no useful purpose.

Ask for More Work

It might sound counter-intuitive to ask your boss for more work when you feel you already deserve more money. But it doesn't hurt to ask your boss if your salary will increase more if you apply for a higher-level position, or take on more responsibility. Provided you're willing to do that, you could end of earning more than you would if you stayed in your current role and simply asked for a slight bump in your annual raise. Ask about upcoming vacancies, or extra duties you can take on, that would help you earn a bigger raise.


Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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