Question

I haven’t yet joined the “great resignation” but I’m tempted because it’s a good way to get a raise nowadays. I like my job, my boss and my team, but I don’t know how to get the money I think I’m worth by staying put. My performance review is coming up but I suspect a job interview will pay off better! Before I make a mistake, can I get a raise rather than give my resignation?

Nick’s Reply

give resignationThere’s way to help your employer give you a raise before you give your resignation. Who wants to go on job interviews when a well-managed performance review might get you what you want? You can make a performance review pay off better than a job interview, if you seize it. That means you must trigger the review even before it’s scheduled. With many employers worried about losing workers, I’m going to suggest a way to pull this off.

Get a raise: Call your own performance review

Someone once described the annual review as “an exercise in corporate kabuki theater,” and I agree. Formal, rote review meetings should be pitched out the window, and replaced with a roll-up-your-sleeves work session with your boss.

The main problem with performance reviews is that by the time you walk in to do one, your fate has already been sealed. The human resources department and your boss have likely already done all the talking. They’ve filled out the forms and they found you a nice place for next year — on the fat middle of the company’s salary curve. All that’s left is the formality of running through a list of canned questions with you.

I see these reviews a different way. Your challenge is to subvert the process. If your performance review is coming up, great — use it. If it’s not, do your employer a favor and call your own performance review. Subvert the review process by taking the initiative to show why you are on the leading edge of that salary curve — and perhaps off the curve altogether. You’re the exceptional producer who deserves the kind of raise you’d get if you changed companies.

Don’t give your resignation yet: Get a raise

Resigning and getting a new job is indeed a way to get a good raise nowadays. But as you note, some people like their jobs and the people they work with. They’d rather be part of “the great stay-cation” than the great resignation — if they can get the raise they want.

You may not need to give your resignation and change employers to get the raise you want. Here are three suggestions for how to avoid a resignation and trigger a raise. Maybe if more people would take the lead in their performance reviews with their bosses, something could actually change for the better.

3 steps to a raise

  • Don’t wait for your formal review. If you’re not in a hurry, lay the groundwork. Start meeting with your boss casually all year long – do it once a week, or once a month. Just explain you want to talk briefly “to make sure we’re both on the same page.” Then recount three ways your work is paying off for the company and how it’s making your boss look good. These meetings are crucial because it’s how you establish that your boss’s expectations and your work are in synch all the time. It’s how you train your boss to recognize your performance. (If your goal is to hide your performance, then stop reading. I can’t help you.)
  • Think and talk profit. If you’re itchy for a raise and can’t wait, create a reason for a review. Tell your boss, “Look, I know the CFO doesn’t measure how profitable my work is. But I’d like to try to figure it out, using any terms we can. When you assign me a project, I’d like to figure out how to do it so it either helps to increase the company’s revenues or decreases its costs. Are you game?” Then outline three ways you can make incremental improvements in the way you do your job.
  • Look back and look forward – all the time. Every worker should do this all year long. Show your boss the money! Create opportunities for casual meetings to discuss how the work you’ve been doing pays off – or how it didn’t. Be candid and be honest. “I realize that if I had done this rather than that… it would have benefitted the company more. What do you think?” Listen for input. Then take this tack: “Learning from that, do you think I should tweak the way I’m doing this new project to be more efficient?”

I won’t resign if you hire me all over again!

What’s subversive about this? You’re showing your employer why they should hire you all over again, rather than replace you at a much higher salary in today’s market. You are showing your boss why you’re worth more, and that it’s easier to “retain” you!

But you’re also demonstrating that you’re always thinking about your performance in terms of the company’s objectives — and its profits. No other employee will talk like this. You will stand out. You may reveal that you are one employee worth the bigger salaries the company is paying to snag new talent.

Make the case to get a raise

You might need to quit and move. But, rather than resign, first consider whether you can motivate a good raise. Offer your boss a short written report. You must help your boss make the case that you’re worth more than you’re being paid. It can be as simple as this:

  • Outline three key things you’ve done in the past year that positively affected the department’s success and the company’s profitability.
  • Then show three things you’re going to do in the coming year – and discuss your projected outcomes. How will these three things boost profitability and success?

If you’ve played your cards right, these are all items you and your boss have already been discussing. End the report with, “What do you think? How would you suggest I modify my plan to make it a reality?”

A good raise could cost your boss less than your resignation

By the time your boss meets with HR to talk about you, everyone will have a clear grasp of your value to the company. They should also realize what a catch you would be to another company willing to pay you what you’re really worth. And that replacing you will likely cost them a lot more anyway.

Does this seem like a lot of work? Well, it is. But so is going job hunting.

If you cannot show your value like this, or your manager can’t see it, then the next best thing could be to join the Great Resignation. (But don’t do that without reading Parting Company: How to leave your job.) However, in either case, you must be ready to demonstrate your value to this employer or to a new one.

If your company eliminated performance reviews altogether, and if it were up to you to demonstrate your worth each year, how would you do it? If you think you can command a good raise elsewhere, how could you pull it off where you work now — rather than give your resignation?

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13 Comments
  1. It doesn’t work at large corporations. New employees are given stick units as sign on bonus vesting over 3 years. These can easily be 50% of annual compensation. When you’re fully vested in 3 years, no one is going to refresh your stock grant as you are not “leaving anything in the table”.

    So yeah, walk away.

  2. While serving as a naval officer a couple of decades ago, at a minimum we were expected to provide a detailed list of our accomplishments to be used as input for our annual fitness reports. In some cases, we were directed to write a *draft* copy of our own fitness reports – including narrative and grades in specific areas (e.g. goal setting, subordinate management, response in stressful situations, etc.) – for our seniors to edit. While some ‘toned down’ their inputs out of a sense of humility, seniors frequently reminded us not to pull our punches. As they would put it, if *we* didn’t consider ourselves worthy of top marks, then why should our seniors?
    And no; to my knowledge, nobody ever received an annual fitness report *exactly* as they had drafted it.

    • @Mark: This is something that has always burned me up – managers instructing employees to write their own reviews “so I’ll have something to work with.” I know it’s an opportunity for the employee to provide input, but I don’t buy it. The manager needs to take the initiative and it should be a dialogue in person, not an e-mail exchange.

      • I’ve run the range of P Appraisals. Including the scenario you detest. In one instance I didn’t draft it, I wrote it. Boss really didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. (I was an expat, 10000 miles from HQ, and had the most autonomous job I ever had).

  3. It doesn’t work that way in government agencies either. It is all in who you know. Even my boss has said that to get a raise one has to be hired into another department and position. Even though one may do an excellent job and work until the job is completed… on time… it is not appreciated and criticized when ask for time off not even in hour to hour leave, but at least in acknowledgement of a good job that met Executive deadlines. One is given more work and expected to complete excellent work with little to no training, and not receive any form of recognition, even good job or Thank you. Just criticism.

    Regarding evaluations, they have become a joke. When I was a supervisor I worked with each person to determine goals they wanted, future positions, how to obtain them, training, even to train them myself if it was something I knew. I want them to achieve. I wrote positive evaluations but also honest that meant something to the employee and pointed out accomplishments that each individual employee achieved. These days… employees write their own, basically copy year to year with supervisor and HR not caring what you really do or achieve, it is just a necessary evil. To get a merit raise one has to have an “approved” rating. Excellent rating … does not exist in the offices I work. Have been told a person basically has to walk on water for management to support and push in HR. The whole key is keep people at lowest pay possible to do the job.

    It has come to the point that people are bidding time till they can retire and once they do, management reclasses position to a lower level and hires a person with a great deal of responsibility for the lowest pay possible. It has really gotten sad when the place one works gives lip service to caring for their employees. Executives say we want to know… in a blind survey. But everyone knows, if you have to log into a website and give an email, they know exactly who you are and are blackballed for future positions and choices. I’ve seen it done.

    IN conclusion… only you know the company you work for and the supervisor you have. If you believe your supervisor will fight the fight for you and able to designate the funds you want, then stay and work hard for that increase. If you are not sure, put feelers out for other jobs. Word gets around for many in different companies know their competitors. Either your company will step up to the plate and maybe counter-offer, or wish you well. Best of luck. As for me… I’ve always been an excellent worker in every job and been appreciated until this one. I still do excellent work, but I leave when it is time and don’t kill or stress myself out anymore. I’m bidding my time to retirement and then I’ll find another job where I really feel appreciated.

    • Among the questions to ask at the interviews:
      Give me five examples where you have gone to bat for your direct report and what, in cash dollars and in %, raises, bonuses have you gotten for them, and how often? Their responses have been the stuff of many tales over the years. ALL are astonished at the question, and have no answer, i.i., no raises, etc AT ALL!

      Where will I be salary wise in each of the next ten years? Promotions, next ten years? ETC for each of the next ten years?

      Yes, most of the time, at first, I asked these questions only when I wanted to blow the manager off. I think mosst understood that. A friend did something like this for a high school teaching job. Thre were four teachers and the Principal there. The Principal appearfed to be asleep. He awoke near the end of the interview to ask if there were any other questions. The friend asked him what he did for each of the four teachers, who were oresent, specificall, in the past two years. He was startled, the teachers looked expreement embarrased. And the Principal, in the oresence of the four teachers, was forced to admit he had done nothing! My friend had to really push to get the admission, but he told me he would never work for that idiot.

  4. Wall Street Journal column today, Jason Riley, “For Relief From Labor Shortages, Look To The Border”.
    Discussion, of course, about immigration reform.
    Some details interested me.
    Companies offering over $100,000 to truck drivers. Wal-Mart paying $200,000 for store managers. Fast-food restaurants offering six-figures to attract managers.
    Since this site is about job hunting, I wondered. Do these jobs really exist? I mean, really offering to really pay that money? Are these employers looking for “unicorns”? Like expecting a Harvard B-school graduate who founded three Wal-Mart size companies to sign up to run an individual Wal-Mart, and nothing less will suffice?

    • @Arf: Good question. Are these jobs real? Since they’re soliciting indiscriminately, why not apply to a few of these and see what happens? If they’re real and you’re not interested, just do what they do. Ignore any e-mail they send you. I’d love to hear back about this!

  5. the gist of the topic is really a person vying for & considering a counter offer. Even in the medium term, ill advised. If you get one, it usually means you have a monopoly on some key skill set. But managers are an insecure lot, so what you’ll have begun is a search for your replacement and when I find one your time in place is in jeopardy.

    If you really would like to stay, with a raise, plan ahead. In large corporations pay is budgeted, including raises & promos. So to plan you need to know
    a) what’s the company’s fiscal year. Calendar Jan to Dec. or some other 12 month period.
    b) make it your business to know when that budget has to be locked down (done)

    c) THEN talk with your boss and discuss a raise, most preferably in the form of a promo. Because even in the worst of financial times, say for example a salary freeze, in the most hard assed companies I worked in, promos could happen anytime, and fell outside of freezes. And you want that hit in the 1st month of the fiscal calendar where the budget is new & less likely to be monkeyed with.
    Non promo raises are administered in 2 ways, on the anniversary of your last one or in some cases upper management/HR effects a manager’s nightmare. all raises for everyone in a particular month. Since these are usually linked to your appraisals, your manager will be swamped by paperwork.

    Promos usually reset your anniversary date. Thus, if you can land it in the beginning of a fiscal year, you’ll always be positioned there (unless you get a promo that moves it)

    Now here’s why this is important. If the fiscal year starts in January, as a manager I’m expected to plan/project my salary plan 12 months ahead, not just money, but performance level. and your potential raise is based on that. The budget will be due in the last quarter the year. To do that a manager is planning somewhere around the end of the 3rd quarter.
    The sooner in a fiscal year you’re due for a raise the better. As noted the company may freeze raises. That usually happens later in the year when disaster becomes clear. Or as I administer the plan I can make adjustments. Within the plan. The bottom line doesn’t move. for example if some people ahead of your raise day, surprise me with unplanned high performance..I can adjust it up for them. But the bottom doesn’t move. So if I bump someone up, someone else is going to make up for the change (get less) That’s the way it works.

    d) if a promo is not in the cards you want to have your raise discussion so that your raise is built into the budget. And take the word PLAN to heart. Literally push for a plan. Work the system. The much maligned appraisal can serve that purpose well. You don’t ask for a raise, you ask to work out a plan that takes you there. You harness up that old managerial saying..don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions. you state your goals for more $, and how the boss can justify it. The gist of which is “if I do this” you’ll give me this kicker. And the this is the key because as I noted in large corporations raises are usually bolted to performance. You are saying I’ll blow the doors off, & you & your bosses will weep with their good fortune & your wisdom in having me around and hence the pay is justified. And having such a plan makes HR and the bosses look good. you of course are counting on the boss to deliver because they have to protect your planned raise even if it’s way out in the year. And not just deliver money, but deliver the kind of project work that positions you to demonstrate your value.

    And yes it’s competitive, because someone else will get less to keep you scheduled raise untouched. The exception is, if I’m your manager & think I have a case for not messing with others in my team, I can try to convince my boss to make adjustments in their budget. This is where that plan comes in very handy

    Conversely, in the cartoon world people walk in and ask for a raise, now. In small companies this can be very real. In the large corporate world it doesn’t work that way. You’d be asking a boss to change the company’s embedded operational process. No can do. Large corporations can’t fart in a week.

    So if you’re in a position to resign, and you want more money now, you might as well walk. because if ill time & smelling like a demand the boss is going to see this as a problem, & you as an HMU (high maintenance unit) Even if somehow I can give you bump to keep you on board, I’m going to work at it to ensure I’m not going to have to deal with it again. and the likelihood you’ll leave anyway. this is why in my experience counteroffers don’t usually work on either side of the table.

    • This is really good advice.
      That said, if you have gone to the trouble if interviewing with competitors, there is probably something other than money that’s making you unhappy, and taking a counter offer or raise is not going to fix that underlying issue.

    • The counter to the short-termer employment life at the firm making the counteroffer is that all along your plan was to exit that firm as soon as the firm you are currently interviewing with is seriously concluding their offer. The difference is that now you have received the higher salary and other benefits, including title, possibly a bonus for previous achievements. Now you can leave. You have advanced your income level by one or two years because of the negotiated salary increase at your soon to be former employer plus another possibly two year salary increasew at your new employerbased onyour now former salary. Four years’ worth of salary increases in three months! Plus bonuses at each company! Not bad. And you must keep in mind that both the conpanies, both of them, would never have paid you those higher salaries and etc. if you were not worth the money. It took this salary tactic to actually receive what you are actually worth.

      A similar momney phenomonon is occuring now, where many employees are receiving salary increases that before were “impossible” for no end of employer lies of excuses. But, miraculously, the money just appeared out of nowhere when the employers were in a bind. Pleas, everybody, think on these facts. You can advance your career by ten years if you apply this frequently! Frequently is the key.

  6. Taking a counteroffer, if there is a major increase in salary, is an exclent tactic. Stay a month or two, to get the paycheck stubs or bank record of direct deposit at the higher salary, then exit. You can always reveal your now higher salary to the new company; doing so, at your now much higher salary level, gets you an even higher new salary at the new company. THIS IS THE POINT. Model this out on your spreadsheet: salary growth over the career number of years at pidling raises; then at cointerocer raises; then at changing immediatelhy after getting that huge counteroffer salary raise increased by the even higher raise at the new companhy. Where are you 20 years down the road with each approach? Create a chart. The results are astounding!

    Two things to note. You may have to develop a different concept of “career.” Its not just “growth” is skills, it is that which you will acquire either way, but much more growth with my suggested get the big raise and leave approach – companies will almost always assign more responsibility in the job to the higher paid employees. Yoiu will learn more, acquire higher skills, etc when you have the higher salary. 2. The major component of “career” now is income and perks, and responsibilities, including training, etc. It may have occured to you that the higher salaries are generally observed among the higher-ups in the conpanies. Why not be one of those? Please do run the numbers on your spreasheet – the results will astound you. And BTW, very few employers even look to find so-called job hopping.

  7. The no reviews at all or, IF (and that’s a big IF) you’re lucky, you’re required to write your own performance review to give to your boss.

    At a job I had 3 jobs ago, I begged my new boss (I’d had 4 bosses prior to him) for a job performance review. The previous boss hadn’t done any–not just for me but for everyone who reported to her. I remember feeling hopeful when she left and the new boss came in. I’d always thought he was fair, and not nasty. I hadn’t had a review since the first boss, so I compiled my data, contacted HR for information about any forms I’d have to fill out, etc. Then I asked my boss (and no, it wasn’t right away–I wanted him to have time to get used to his new job too) and tried to schedule a time to meet. Then the feet dragging began, and the avoidance without his ever saying anything to me directly nor with him providing any other explanation (such as “this isn’t a good time because I have x, y, z, and a-h to do–how about you remind me in a month?”). So I backed off, tried to figure it out. Then I asked around–did he give reviews to other employees? Months and months and months went by, and I finally pinned him down, only to have him sucking air and looking to escape. He told me “no one else gets one, so why do you think you deserve one?” before fleeing. Things went downhill from there, and I eventually left. Had he agree to meet with me, I would have demonstrated to him what I had accomplished in addition to what I did. He didn’t have a clue re any of it.

    Faculty always do their own reviews, but faculty were bosses to the staff, yet there was no procedure in place for staff reviews. Well, there was, but it depended upon who you had for a boss. Some did give reviews, and many more did not. Raises were tied to job performance reviews, and that went for times when we worked without contracts because the governor refused to sign them and when a new governor was elected, then employees were entitled to back pay/raises, and when they received them was tied to job reviews. Asking HR to get after a boss went nowhere. Some employees voted with their feet (quitting), while those with fewer options (e.g., they were the ones who had a job that offered benefits such as health insurance, paid sicktime and vacation time, which meant they couldn’t quit) had to tolerate it, and hope for a better boss in the future.

    I’ve had too many bosses who didn’t know what I did (nor did they know what other employees did), and didn’t care. Asking for plans for the future (as in where do you see us in a year, in 5 years, etc.) or asking about promotions, raises, or looking for mentorship–that was a good way to paint a big target on yourself. It is too bad–lots of good employees with heaps of talent, the ability to learn and contribute–all that wasted. Then they were suprised when employee morale was low.

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