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How to React to Low Salary Increases

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When it comes to the factors that lead to job satisfaction, your salary likely tops the list. If you've been hoping for a big raise and now find that you're not getting it any time soon, you might feel less than satisfied with your current position. You're entitled to feel disappointed, but try to temper your reaction and use this as an opportunity for growth.

Initial Reaction

When you find out about that less-than-stellar pay raise, your first reaction might be disgust, disappointment or anger. While those are natural reactions, do your best to avoid showing them publicly. Getting angry and sounding off about your boss could result in the most dramatic pay cut yet -- losing your job. Take some time to cool off before deciding what to do next.

Do the Math

After your cooling-off period, assess the situation. Do the math to figure out the percentage of increase you were offered. According to an article on the ABC News website, those in supervisory roles could expect a 3 percent median yearly raise as of 2013. The article also cited data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that wages and salaries for all workers rose 1.7 percent for the 12 months ending in March 2012. The New York Times says the highest-performing employees are getting closer to 4 percent. The cost of living increase given to Social Security recipients is slightly less than 2 percent. If you expected a raise just to account for cost of living and inflation increases, you shouldn't expect much more than that. If you haven't already, check out job postings or the wage information posted on the BLS website to find out what people in comparable jobs are earning. This information-gathering can help you cope with your disappointment. On the flip side, you might find that you're already earning well above other people in similar roles.


If you wanted more money and you still feel you deserve it, look at your performance. You might not be getting the salary you want because you're not taking steps to show your boss what you've accomplished, or you're not going the extra mile and adding value to the company, according to an article in U.S. News & World Report. One option may be to ask your boss directly how you can improve your performance and set yourself up for a better raise next time. She will probably appreciate your initiative and your desire to improve. You might also improve your relationship with her and your chances of a bigger raise next time.

Move On

If this isn't the first time you've been disappointed with your wage increase, it might be time to move on to a new job. Again, be careful not to overreact or let your anger show. Instead, start looking for a new job on your own time. When you find one, negotiate a salary you can live with and don't settle for less. You won't have the pressure of needing to take a position just to get a job, so assert yourself and ask for what you think you deserve. In some cases, you might get it.


Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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