Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of posts about how to ask for a raise in my RSS feed reader. I understand that it’s valuable advice for all of the white-collar office drones out there, but I find it a little arrogant that people have a hard time conceptualizing that not everyone has a job for which they can ask for a raise.
When I stop to think about it, the variety of jobs where asking for a raise isn’t feasible probably outnumbers the jobs were it is. For many, raises in income only come with promotions. In turn, those promotions often require a graduate school degree or other additional training.
I’ll start with me, because I know my example best. I am working on a highway construction project that is partially funded by the Federal Government. While I am paid by a private sub-contracting company, my wage is set by Congress based on the prevailing wages for my geographic area. To get a higher wage, I would have to convince thousands of employers to raise their wages so that the prevailing wage rose. That seems like a fair amount of work to me.
My wife and father work in two very different industries. She is a grocery clerk and he is a truck driver. So, what do they have in common (besides me, that is)? They have both worked in their respective fields long enough that they are at the top of their pay scale. Neither one is eligible for any further raises, aside from any cost of living adjustments that may come along.
I know many others who work in retail-type jobs where their wages are set by corporate decision and raises come at structured times and at amounts to which they have no input.
So far, I’ve only described blue-collar positions. But the problem extends into the white-collar as well. My best friend is a lawyer for the Department of Justice. Like me, his wages are determined by Congress. When he is eligible for a raise, and what range of possible numbers can be are likewise out of his control.
Switching gears a little, there are also a few reasons why sometimes you should not ask for a raise, even if asking for a raise is possible and desirous.
Previous to my current position, I worked for a company that was struggling. From humble beginnings, they were very successful over nearly 4 decades and expanded to become a largish small business with over 100 employees. But the economy started to falter around the same time that the industry as a whole started to struggle. I wouldn’t quite consider the company wobbly, but they aren’t quite on solid ground either.
Nobody got a raise last year. Asking for one probably would have accomplished a layoff rather than a raise. But even if a raise had been accomplished, what would be the result? Could extra money coming to me put them in a precarious position where they are forced to lay someone else off to afford me? Or worse, could the entire company go under because they could no longer meet their obligations?
The position before that, I was already the highest paid employee when I started. At one point, I made 25% more than the next highest paid person (aside from the owner, of course). Could I really ask for a raise knowing I was getting paid so much more than other employees? I doubt my concious would have ever allowed it.
Now here’s a real zinger. After 13 years of working various jobs, the only raises I’ve ever gotten were automatic raises at my campus job in college. At the end of the day, raises are something for which many people have not the physical ability or moral authority to ask.
Are you able to ask for a raise at your company? Have you ever asked for a raise?
- Spence Suggests Suspending Prevailing Wage for I-70 Rebuild (stlouis.cbslocal.com)
- Workers Rally for Increase in Minimum Wage (wnyc.org)