Career Advice

Overheard on a Train: Ludicrous Pay Rise Advice

Lisa Johnson Posted by Lisa
min read
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Today I overheard a very interesting conversation on the train (a miracle really, as I was listening to my Spotify playlist at the time, and I don't normally let anyone distract me from Sam Smith or The Eagles).  Anyway, there were two women behind me talking about a third person (nothing unusual there, you say), and the conversation went like this:

'You know, she went and asked for a pay rise and they didn't give her one, and she stayed.  Can you believe that?' 'Wow, really?' 'She is such an idiot. Nobody should stay when they ask for a pay rise and don't get it.  You need to walk in there with the attitude that if they don't give you what you want, then you are going to walk because you are better than that.' 'That's a bit risky though.' 'Well, yeah, the thing is to have another job to go to first so you can walk.  But you just don't STAY.'

I had to stop myself, literally stop myself, from turning around and saying, 'Are you for real?' But it occurred to me that they weren't aware that they were sharing their conversation with everyone else in the train carriage, and, even if they were aware, they were entitled to say completely ridiculous things without my interfering.  Lord knows I don't want #cityfail fame for causing a scene on the 7:08 am train from Mount Druitt on a Friday morning. But here is the thing – you might think you deserve a pay rise and you might even think that you're entitled to it, but that doesn't mean you should get one.  There are lots of reasons as to why it's hard for employers to give people pay rises.  For example:

  • Pay parity. I wish that we could say that people's pays are confidential, but, for some reason, people talk.  And if they find out that you are being paid more than them for doing the same job, then all hell breaks loose.  To overcome this, employers will attempt to pay everyone who is doing that job the same money.  So it's not just about YOU getting a pay rise – if they do it for you, they have to do it for everyone.  (The easy solution for this is for employees to STOP talking to each other about their pay.  Just saying.)

  • Budget constraints. For many employers, one of their biggest expenses are salaries and wages. And pay movements affect not only direct pay, but superannuation and payroll tax expenses for the business.  Sometimes, they simply don't have the budget for these increases in expenses.

  • You might not be worth it. YOU might think you're worth more money and deserve a pay increase, but the truth might be different.  A pay rise shouldn't happen just because you have been there for so long or because you are pretty good at your job. A pay rise should reflect the ways in which you have exceeded the employer's expectations, where you have performed above the required level to do your job. Your job has a salary value based on the tasks that need to be performed and the level of experience that is required to adequately perform those tasks.  To justify a pay increase, surely you would need to always complete the tasks with a high level of accuracy, to deadline, and then to have looked for further tasks/more work.  It's only when you are doing MORE than required that you can honestly request more money.

And nobody should ever be ridiculed for asking for a pay increase and then deciding to stay with their current employer if they are turned down.  If, for example, the employer has explained that additional training is required, or that salaries are reviewed annually at the end of the year, or some other perfectly rational reason as to why the pay cannot be increased, then why leave?

 It's funny: on all the surveys, people say that money is not their primary motivator for looking for a new job. Maybe they are being a little capricious if, in fact, they think that people who are not given pay increases on request should bail and find another job straight away. Let's just say I have a great deal more respect for the 'idiot' who stayed with her current employer after being refused a pay increase than the two chatterboxes on my train who think you should bail every time you don’t get what you ask for.