Within six months of starting with her current employer, Andrea’s day-to-day responsibilities crept above and beyond her initial job description. So with the encouragement of her immediate superior, Andrea decided to ask for a raise. Here’s our conversation edited for length and clarity. To share her experience candidly, Andrea is using a pseudonym to protect her identity.
I was lucky enough to have my boss on my side for that experience. She was very much like, “You’re doing the work of a position that’s elevated from your position – both from a pay perspective and from a title perspective.”
And she brought it to her immediate boss and they were like, “Yeah, I’m on board with that, but I don’t really make the choices”.
So she did a bit of mentoring on, This is a good way to phrase it and Maybe send an email.
When I made the decision to ask we were only a couple of weeks away from my review anyways. So I went into my review, had the usual review discussion and then I sent an email that was like, “Based on our discussion and the points I put forth I do feel I deserve a pay raise and this is what I would like. Can we have another meeting to discuss this?”
They just cut to the chase and were like, “I’m not sure what I can do for you, but I will find out”, in their response. Then that person presumably talked to the president of the company, cause it’s not a terribly large company, and they worked through it.
I had been there for a year and it was one of those job creep situations where, “Oh, can you also do this? Do you mind?” And then slowly you’re like, “Oh, but now I’m doing completely different things.”
So I asked in the end of October and then about mid – to late – December I was told that I would get the raise, but not the title change.
That’s the reverse of what I expected, but like, I’ll roll with it. And eventually the title change would probably take place because it was sort of implied that they were going to be figuring those things out sometime in March. April-ish.
At that time, I felt really thrilled because I was recognized, and I was like, Okay, if I was only going to get one, pay is the one.
And then there was a discussion with my immediate boss where they mentioned something about my cost of living raise was rolled in, I forget the exact wording.
So I went back into the math, it was like 3% or something, and I was like, Okay, so it wasn’t pennies, but maybe it’s not what I thought it was. I’m not mad at them but I’m also not on cloud nine like I was before that interaction when I realized like, “Oh, I’m not also getting a cost of living raise.”
I was pretty new to the sort of “corporate job” side of having a job. You’re constantly playing by a set of rules but you’re not allowed to be like, “What are the rules?”
And the rules are different in every office. And if you ask, it’s like “rude.” Maybe not rude, but frowned upon and sort of “too forward”. But then if you don’t ask, it’s like, “Okay, which boundary did I cross?” Because I can feel the tension. So I was very afraid of that.
So I was like, I guess we’re just gonna roll with this and that’s fine. But almost immediately job creep started again.
And in and of itself I don’t mind that, because I was lucky enough to love the responsibilities they were throwing onto my plate. Like this is where I shine. But then all of a sudden, I was like, Wait a minute. This really happened again. Here I am. I’m leadership. People are calling me a leader. They’re coming to me and not the manager.
I was enjoying my job, but I was also like, this is definitely not how it would be if I was a guy. And I know that that’s an overly simple analysis, but it just kept eating at me. So then I was approaching my next year’s review in October. And I was like my role changed, my things that I’m doing changed, my confidence changed, I have more experience.
I did a lot of Googling. I was like, “Is it weird to ask for more than one raise a year?” Some people were like, “Yeah, I asked like three times a year.”
And then I saw a lot of conversations talking about gender and they were saying men will just ask for a raise when they feel like one, of course there’s always exceptions, whereas women will analyze if it’s appropriate.
And I was like,”Oh, that’s literally what I’m doing.” So I was like, I’m going to do it. I’m going to ask for it.
I did a lot of research this time rather than just sort of vaguely being like, I would like more money and appropriate title please. I was like, What would be the appropriate title for what I’m doing? What would be the appropriate rate? And I found the numbers were huge.
I was seeing like $53,000 – $61,000 on websites like Glassdoor and Indeed.
At the time, I was at $44,000-ish. So I was like, Wow, talk about a big difference.
And then it started to feel like, Okay, I am justified in asking for this and I felt more prepared.
So I did the whole thing. I had the review. I did what I did the year before and I asked it in email because that had gotten me success. And I got the, We’ll evaluate and get back to you.
I only just heard back today. It was like four months. I think you get into a little bit of denial cause you’re like it’ll be any minute now.
So in January they were like, my numbers were low when it came to accepting calls and being on the phone and emails. And I was like, “Well, yeah, cause I’m a trainer now and I’m doing the toughest tickets, which of course take more time and I’m doing six things at a time.” And I don’t hate any of that, but also it’s like, it’s not going to show up on the chart.
I was sorta like, Okay, maybe I’m being defensive. They do have to check up on everybody.
But then they asked me to detail every time I switched tasks, what I was doing.
At the end of an eight hour day, I had like 60 different lines of like, I did this and then I did this.
And then I met with my boss, went over it. They barely even looked at it and they were already like, “Oh, wow. Clearly you’re doing everything. You’re doing some things I didn’t even realize you had taken on as your responsibility.”
And I was like, “Okay, cool.”
She says, “I have no concerns about whether you’re doing your work. I have no concerns about your numbers – they go up, they go down, but there’s usually a reason. You’re good.”
So then another couple of weeks go by and there are some questions about me overstepping my role. Those words weren’t used explicitly, but more or less. And I’m like, Okay, but these are things I’ve been doing for two and a half years now.
You’re like, “Should I have just known this?” Again with the office rule stuff, you know? And I kinda was like, all right, I’m probably being over sensitive. But then my weekly meeting with my boss got canceled and I was kinda like, probably coincidence, that’s fine.
And then they were like, “We want documentation of what you’re doing with your days.” Like remember the thing you did before? If you could just do that again.
Even though I didn’t mind doing the here’s exactly what I’m doing, it was still really upsetting to be like, I take on everything that’s asked. I would like to think that I am a good employee. Definitely like an “old school” work ethic. So I was kind of like, Why are we going back to this? Like what is happening?
I remember being like, I haven’t even heard about my raise yet. Like I’ve been waiting on that for four months.
So then this time I was resentful in a way that I wasn’t the first time. It felt really humiliating, you know? And I was writing, “Oh, I’m going to go to the bathroom.” And I have to write that down because otherwise it’s going to look like I was writing one email for 15 minutes. And that’s humiliating.
She didn’t explicitly say like, “You have to record when you go to the bathroom”. But I was also like, I don’t want to feel like I misrepresented anything.
I asked a lot of people about it. I was like, This doesn’t feel right. And every single person I asked about it was like, You’re doing what? Yeah, that’s weird.
I didn’t quite realize how much of a shift there was.
I really don’t remember any moments like this, even fleeting, prior to asking for the raise.
So I had made a little chart where I put like, Here’s my job description as I understand it. This is what I do that to me, counts as what my job title is. And then all the other things I also do that count as like the next level up.
And I was hoping they would be like, Well, this one’s actually in this category and these two are in this category and this one’s in this category.
And the conversation kind of went more or less, “We’ll take things off your plate” or something to that effect. And I was like, I don’t have a problem with my workload, I have a problem with feeling unrecognized, slash without full authority.
I just want to be recognized with the title and pay for that, because clearly you need the work done. I’m not doing things that don’t need getting done.
And then we kind of went in the loop. We had a couple of conversations that were talking in circles at each other, trying to get onto the same page, which was really difficult. But we did eventually get there.
She said like, “We’re going to shop this out and find out what the competitive rate would be for the job.”
And I was like, “Okay, that’s reasonable.”
So then it comes back today, months later, like. “You’re right in the middle.”
And I was just like, That’s not how I’m reading that.
It was just like, “Well, this is what you agreed to on the job description.” And I was like, “Is it though? Because I did the same research.” I don’t think it’s as simple as one of us is wrong, but clearly neither of us are both right, and it just didn’t feel good.
I felt like a child. I felt like I had played the game and picked out the wrong rules. And I felt embarrassed.
But then I also felt angry because I’m like, “Okay, fine. So X price is not what this role averages in this town. But why am I still not worth more anyway – like more than average? Because besides the last couple of months I’ve gotten nothing but good feedback.”
“So what about me is not worth it?”
I think especially in a for-profit corporate environment, like everything is about the money. It’s about how much money they’re making. And we have to sit through these meetings regularly, where they say “Oh, we broke this record and we up the marketing budget by this much.” And I’m not saying marketing doesn’t deserve that budget, but like, why don’t I?
Like if you’re netting, I don’t even remember what the numbers are because they’re so big, if you’re netting that profit, why can’t both departments be that valuable because we’re clearly doing the right things? Like we’re clearly succeeding if the company is succeeding.
I would never expect to all of a sudden be like CEO level pay with a hundred thousand dollars bonus or something, but a pay bump that feels like it’s appropriate for my responsibilities was all I was asking for.
I kind of just froze and I was like, “Okay.” Like not looking at the camera screen. Looking at my keyboard, trying to be not enraged face.
And she was sort of like, “Did you freeze? Is your camera working?”
I was like, “No, I’m just listening.” Because what I wanted to say was all of those feelings. But I had absolutely no idea how to translate them into corporate speak. And I definitely didn’t know how to take it calmly. And I definitely knew it wasn’t going to change the answer.
So I was just sorta like, “Okay.” And they were like, “We can reevaluate it in April at the next review.”
And I was like, You mean a month from now? You want me to ask again in a month for something that you said ‘no’ to a month ago and make me feel like the answer might be different?
I did say something to the effect of like, “Okay, so if my rate right now is appropriate for this position and I received this rate after doing the position for several months last January, then based on when I asked for this raise, this would be a merit increase. So is there room for a merit increase?”
And they were kind of like, “Well, you did already get a pay bump”. And it was like, In January of last year for the position that allegedly included a cost of living increase. And so I tried to explain like, “Yes, but it wasn’t this January that I got the pay bump, it was last January. And since then I took on more responsibility.”
I don’t know if she was being like, I want this conversation to be over because it’s unpleasant to tell people ‘no’, or if she genuinely didn’t understand. It just was like we’re not on the same page for whatever the reason is.
I decided this Tuesday that I am job searching – like not in a passive checking LinkedIn once every two weeks kind of way. Which was really sad for me because I actually love where I work in a lot of ways. I find what I’m doing extremely fulfilling. I love the relationship my immediate boss, and they’re not completely devoid of attempting to be a better company. They definitely have ideals, even if they’re not always practiced, of making the world a better place and donating to things and things like that. So before the last six months, I was totally ready to be a long hauler. And I looked up to a lot of my colleagues who had been at this place for 10 and 12 years. And I was like, yeah, that’s kind of cool because you don’t see that as much anymore. And I honestly think stuff like this, people not putting up with this crap anymore is part of it.
Do you have a story to tell about how ambition has played out in your own life — for better or for worse? Let us know in the comments. And if you know someone who can relate, please share.
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