Companies pay for talent based on what they need. Just because you have a PhD, doesn’t mean a company will pay you $200,000/year to be a salesperson at their fast-food counter. Why? There are plenty of people out there without PhDs who will do the job for less. The Law of Supply & Demand applies here. The more people capable and available to do the job (high supply), the less of a need there is for all of them (low demand), resulting in the employer being able to pay lower wages and still get the employees they need. That can be frustrating to a professional who feels the employer dictates the pay. But, there’s a flip-side to this: if you can create your own niche (low supply), and be of extreme value to an employer (high demand), you can ask for more money — and get it!
Step 1: Identify the “Money-Making” Tasks
When you work in a job where there are multiple people doing the same thing, there’s a standard level of productivity expected. Start with your job description and performance reviews. Map out the baseline level of performance everyone is expected to deliver. Then, ask yourself, “What else could I be doing above and beyond to save, or make the company money?” The only way you’ll convince the employer to pay you more is to justify how your contributions will increase profitability as a way to cover the cost.
TIP: Be sure to take a closer look at the contributions of the person making more money than you. Try to determine what she’s doing outside the scope of the normal job expectations to earn more. Perhaps your boss has even complimented her for actions she’s taken? A clue would be why she joined the team. Your boss may have specifically explained why she was hired and what expertise she brings to the organization. This can give you insight into what the company values more in talent. Sometimes, it can be as simple as a positive attitude. There are many factors that go into being a top-ranked, higher-paid employee. Consider all the things that could be giving your co-worker the financial advantage.
Step 2: Set a Meeting With Your Boss
You need to sit down with your boss and share the fact you want to be of more value to the company as a way to earn more money. Don’t mention you know your co-worker is making more than you. Bringing it up now will look petty. This is about your working relationship with your employer. Keep in mind: you’re a business-of-one that wants your customer (aka employer) to pay you more.
How do you feel when a service provider (i.e. cable, phone, etc.), suddenly announces a rate increase? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? That’s why they also do their best to explain the reason for the increase and all the additional value it will bring you. The same applies to your employer. You want to focus on what you can do to help your boss make or save money so a raise can be justified. Then, tell your boss you’d like to leave the meeting with a clear sense of what additional tasks you could take on to earn a raise within the next two months.
TIP: In this meeting, start by asking your boss what problems are most pressing on the business right now. What pain needs to be alleviated and how can you help him with them? Let your boss share the challenges that keep him up at night. Then, offer up your own suggestions of things you could do using the research you did earlier. Hopefully, you and your boss can agree upon some additional tasks you can do that will have a real impact on the bottom-line. Also, don’t underestimate the value of tasks that will make your manager’s life easier. Anytime you can relieve stress or workload for a boss, you add significant value!
Step 3: Regularly Update Your Boss on Your Progress
While you don’t need to touch base everyday, it is smart to update your boss weekly on the progress you are making with respect to the new tasks you are handling. Especially when you can point to some tangible results. For example, if you can showcase how you saved or made money, be sure to include it in the update. You could do this in a casual one-on-one meeting at the end of the week. Or, you could simply send an email summarizing your results. Either way, be sure to consistently show your boss you are focused and committed to executing these additional tasks and adding the value you promised in exchange for more money.
Step 4: The 30-Day Review
After one month, set another formal meeting with your boss to get his feedback on your performance. You want to make sure he feels you are on-track for that raise. Simply say, “How am I doing? Do you feel I’m making a measurable difference?” The point of this meeting is to ensure your boss is still on-board with the raise. You don’t want to get to the end of the 60-day period and be told that your performance wasn’t meeting his expectations for a raise. This is your chance to make any changes necessary to ensure the raise comes through.
Step 5: Continue Adding Value and Keeping Your Boss Informed
Repeat the same strategy you had in month one. Your boss will be watching to see if you really are committed to adding more value, or if this was just a temporary ploy to get a pay increase. You need to show consistency and determination so your boss knows your efforts are legit. Also, you should start to gather some real momentum in your results, providing cost-saving or money-making activities that are adding up to real value. Remember, financial results are necessary for you to get that raise.
Step 6: Have the 60-Day Review and Ask the Status of the Raise
In this meeting, you’ll review all of your activities and summarize your financial impact. The more you can quantify the results of your efforts, the better! Once you present the facts you can ask your boss what the steps are for you to receive a raise. Be prepared to hear it may not be something he can put into effect the next day, but he should be able to tell you when you can receive it.
Step 7: What If You Don’t Get the Raise?
If your boss still doesn’t give you a raise after this process, you now could consider letting him know you are aware your co-worker makes more than you. It will no longer seem petty since you made such a committed effort to offer value in exchange for more money. This can be sticky because you’ll have to explain how you learned about the wage difference, but it should open up the conversation and force your boss to justify the salary differences.
Keep in mind, you may not like what you hear, but at least you’ll know the reason you aren’t getting that raise. At which point, you can either continue to work with your boss to determine how you can make more money or get some added benefits (i.e. flextime). Or, you can start privately looking for a new job where you will be better compensated. Remember: you are an at-will employee. If you think you are worth more, then go find the employer who is willing to pay you more!
Bonus: You Gained New Skills You Can Market!
Even if you don’t get the raise, the new skills and the measurable impact you’ve had on your employer’s business is something you can put on your resume and leverage in your job search. The two months you spent trying to get a raise won’t be for nothing. While you didn’t get one from your current employer, the chances are much better now you can go get it with a a new employer.