On the Job

Pleading the Case for More Pay

By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, October 12, 2007; 12:00 AM

An issue that often comes up with workers is being underpaid. And if you feel that you are long overdue for a salary increase, how do you go about asking for more?

That's what this frustrated employee wants to know:

I've been doing some research and found that my current salary is $20,000 below the average for a person in my position at a nonprofit. I have a sales position and bring in a significant amount of money to the company. Unfortunately, our chief executive decided to freeze salary increases for a couple years in exchange for higher contributions to our retirement program. That's great and all, but it doesn't make up for the $20,000 that I'm missing out on.

I will admit that I may not be the most enthusiastic team player in my department, but my numbers have increased significantly this year. Can I ask for a raise based on my current performance record and the research I have found?

Considering this worker's track record, he appears to have a strong case for asking for a pay increase, says Steven Darien, chief executive of the Cabot Advisory Group, a Bedminster, N.J.-based human resources consulting firm.

Before approaching his manager, however, he should make sure that his pitch for more pay "is done on an objective basis, and not an emotional one." And before mentioning his salary concerns, the worker needs to be sure his research is legitimate, Darien notes. He may want to visit a reputable salary comparison Web site for national averages.

When pleading his case, the worker needs to present higher-ups with the facts, Darien continues. An easy way to do this is by reviewing his sales record from the last five years. He should pay special attention to how the numbers have grown during that time period.

In the end, the employee must be prepared for rejection, he warns. There's always a chance that the employer will not reason with his complaints of being underpaid. And in that case, the worker should also be prepared to "to pick up and go somewhere else."

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com. To submit a question, e-mail onthejob@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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