Job Doc

I receive great year-end reviews from my manager, but I didn’t negotiate my salary when I was hired. I want to make sure I’m earning the right amount for my position. Is it ok for me to ask what my salary range should be? Elaine Varelas examines

Knowing your salary range and negotiating for it can be a challenge. Elaine Varelas examines the best ways to approach the subject while remaining professional and courteous to your employer.

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A: I consistently earn outstanding ratings in my year-end reviews, and I want to make sure I am getting paid near the top of my expected range. I didn’t negotiate my salary when I started, I just accepted the offer. Can I ask HR where in the range my salary is? 

B: All salary conversations are very sensitive, and your ability to be professional in these conversations is vital. In the past, many companies had clear messages letting employees know that discussing salaries was not something the organization looked highly upon. This is no longer the case and legislation exists making it illegal to prevent these conversations. Asking HR what the range is for a position is absolutely something you can do, but is that really the information you want?  Is the internal range the information you need, or are you looking for the marketplace range for similar roles?  Larger organizations often have very distinct salary ranges while small to mid-sized companies may not. And salary ranges can vary as the value of a job is based on what the responsibilities are and what the impact to the organization is as a whole.

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If you accepted a salary when the job was offered, you can ask HR how that compensation level was determined and if they considered it on the low, mid, or high point of the range. It sounds like you seem more comfortable going to HR than your manager. If you have great reviews, this is the perfect time to have a conversation with your manager on your position and your pay. You’ll have to do some work on your own and bring research you’ve done on what your expected salary should be for your position in combination with your geographic area, your expertise, and your years of experience. You can use sites like Salary.com and Glassdoor to compare your salary to companies and positions like yours. Having a conversation with your manager is often more productive in your efforts to increase your compensation.  They see firsthand what you contribute to the organization and how you support your team.

If you’re going to compare your compensation to other organizations, you have to make sure the business is like yours. Comparing it to something larger is not a fair evaluation. For example, this year many industries were terribly and negatively impacted by COVID while others benefited from it. Companies that did well are ready to offer increases that meet the rate of inflation, but those that suffered from the impact of COVID can’t offer the same incentives to their employees. If your company had to downsize, don’t expect a similar financial increase that a growing organization would have.

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Additionally, learning to negotiate when you accept a job offer and how to ask the right questions with a recruiter and manager becomes more and more important the longer you work. Also, recognize that salary is just one part of what can be a very complex compensation package. For example, the percentage your company pays for your healthcare benefits impacts your take-home pay significantly. For other businesses, bonuses are substantial, as well as contributions to 401k in terms of match. Health savings accounts, tuition reimbursement, commuter pass discounts, stocks, vacation time, and paid time off are all a part of how you are compensated.  Take an in-depth look at the whole package and understand what keeps more dollars in your pocket.

Expressing your desire for your contributions to be recognized by an increase in pay is reasonable. The way you have those conversations must be very professional with good data from similar companies. You may be successful, or you may not, but for any decisions you make from there, be sure to look at the big picture. Some organizations reward for tenure (long-term employees make more) and some retain for specific skill sets. Understand what the driving forces are at your organization and deliver your best case when you speak to your manager and/or HR.

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