Do you really deserve a pay raise?

May 5, 2016

Too many of us feel like we are underpaid. 

Maybe our salary is right for our position, but we are working so many hours it just does not make sense. Or, it could be we are simply overqualified for what we are doing — again, the salary is right for the position but we are not. Finally, it could simply be that our employer just does not pay competitively. 

In all cases, it makes sense to consider other employment options either within the same company or not. But new jobs do not happen overnight. And it is really tough to find the time or the enthusiasm to conduct a thorough job search when you are working hard and not feeling the financial rewards. 

So, what next steps make sense?

Taking stock

First, we have to be realistic about our expectations. Using Salary.com or Glassdoor are helpful, but are you truly comparing apples to apples when you look at online salary surveys?

If you are, then the next thing to consider is the uniqueness of your position, organization and location. Are you doing three different jobs because you work in a small company and wear many hats? Is your organization a startup in a growing field or a struggling organization in a dying industry? And where are you  small-town America or the middle of Manhattan? 

Once you have an honest assessment of what you think you should be paid considering all of these factors, take a minute to pretend you are your boss or the owner of the company. What would you pay the person in your position? If those two numbers are close, then you probably have a good idea of what is fair for you to be paid.

With that salary range in mind, consider this formula: amount of work = amount of pay. You have the answer to the right side of the equation, now figure out the amount of work you should be doing to balance it out. Should you be working less hours? Working less efficiently? Putting forth less effort? What would you have to do to balance that equation?

Adjust your workload

Many of us, if we took the time, could figure out accurately what we would need to do — or more aptly not do — to make our amount of work equal our pay. And in many cases, it means not working as hard or as smart as we currently are. Yet few people will actually take the next step to balance the equation. 

To be paid fairly, however, there are only two things that can change: either the salary goes up or the work goes down. And if the salary is not going up, then the workload needs to be adjusted, and that is the one thing you really can control.

But is that ethical? That is a good question and, for most of us, our gut tells us no. But for now, try this exercise: Find someone in the office who seems to be getting paid fairly, and watch what she does and doesn't do to earn her check.

Similarly, find someone who seems to be underpaid (besides you) and someone who seems to be overpaid. What are the differences in how they approach work? Are those differences you can embrace and still feel like you are doing the right thing?

If so, go for it. If not, then maybe watch the movie "Office Space" a few more times and try not to get a case of the Mondays.

By: Catherine Iste

Chicago river at night
  • Alan really cares about the people he works with and gets to know potential candidates so that he is able to best place them somewhere they really fit.

    Erin Mayer, Associate Attorney

    Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney


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