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Ask HN: Why corporate culture never increment your salary?
27 points by rrzt 60 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 70 comments
I work for biggest and soughtafter corporate company in Canada. I have been at the company for 2 years. Since I joined, my manager and team feels productivity, code quality and delivery time of team has improved by 50%. I work extra hard and spend overtime to run this team. Over this time, demands of my manager has increased ten folds. I have received no complaints in my performance review meets. My performance review meets are only about what my manager wants next. No single mention of pay and salary improvement. My clients have put in recommendations to my manager highlighting my quality of work. Those recommendations never helped.


For last 2 years, my compensation has remained the same. Not a 0.1% increase. Over last 2 years, this corporate has exceeded the expectation in quarterly results and gained billions in surplus.

I am deeply hurt and disappointed with way corporate works. I feel cheated.

Because they know you'll do the work you're doing -- and the tenfold increase -- for what they're paying you.

They exist to make money, not to enrich their workers. The optimisation strategy is to pay as little as possible for as much productivity and labour as possible, then charge as much as possible for it to customers as a package item. Everything trickles up to the top of the pyramid.

Sadly the only way to reliably increase your pay is to dust off your CV and change jobs.

You might get a counter-offer from your current employer if they feel you're particularly valuable -- but I'd never accept one. At best, you'll end up being higher paid than some or all of your colleagues, and if they find out or suspect that (they certainly will if you flip from "I'm leaving" to "I'm staying") then you should expect resentment from them.

It's really better to walk away and start with a clean slate in another place. I've never regretted moving jobs -- but I've definitely regretted staying at a bad one, or one which didn't value my input.

Before looking for a new job, put together all these things you have done in a paper to make a point for the salary bump. Request exactly the amount you want, the company might negotiate, so prepare for that (ask for more holidays or other types of compensation).

If what you said it's true, this is essentially just a matter of renegotiating your contract.

Yes it's disappointing, it should come from the company itself.

However at least you won't need to interview, just the negotiation phase.

The company is also kinda forced to give you at least a salary bump, or they know you will start searching.

This is the sensible advice. Don't just ask for a raise, gather evidence to support your request. It's a negotiation, and you need to prepare well for it.

Some companies give small yearly rises to keep up with inflation, but others will expect employees to speak themselves. It all depends on how much pressure the shareholders/board exert to keep fixed expenses from growing.

I don't agree that the only way to increase pay is to move jobs. I've had a lot of success simply asking for more money while explaining why I feel I provide value enough to justify it. I got a 20% increase this year just by asking for it.

It's even better if you do look for a job, get and offer and say to your manager that you already have an offer but you would stay for X amount. This worked for me twice before and the company went out of its way to meet my request and now pays me the maximum allowed for my position.

Whether that works depends on the company culture. It makes you look like "you're only working for the money" and people won't trust you because "you will switch as soon as you get a better offer".

Which is what a rational person looks like under the circumstances. One would assume reasonable people are easier to hold and work with. But not necessarily cheaper, no.

What else are you working for if not the money? XD

You've been doing it wrong: I practice shrinkflation principles, and work one less minute every month. That way, I effectively get a 2% raise at the end of every year.

If the company isn't satisfied with my performance, they can give me a raise to work more again.

Shortly after being acquired by IBM, I bumped into an acquaintance who'd been through the same process a few years previously. I asked, "What's it like?", he replied, "Acquirees never get a pay raise, but it's very easy to ensure your hourly rate goes up every year". Most people I subsequently met were acquirees, and his observation seemed to apply almost universally.

People will say that you must confront your manager and demand fair compensation. That's true, but if anybody was paying attention to your work and your worth, if they actually cared about you as a person, they would have given you a raise already before you started feeling this way. They're ripping you off, and that's business as usual. Yes, being exploited is disappointing - you have to demand what you're worth, or seek better company elsewhere.

> but if anybody was paying attention to your work and your worth, if they actually cared about you as a person, they would have given you a raise already before you started feeling this way

This would be wonderful in an ideal world, but it's not reality. You wouldn't need marketing if your customers just already knew how amazing your product was. You wouldn't need a CV if employers just understood your worth. It's unreasonable to expect people to care about you as deeply as you do. If they happen to care that's an amazing plus to be valued. It's not what you should expect.

Out of school, I worked in consulting for 2-3 years and was in a similar situation, here is what I learned:

- The best just leave, they don't negotiate. When negotiating, management will dangle a carrot 6-9 months away at the next "annual review" or whatever. And by then you'll be just disappointed.

  > My performance review meets are only about what my manager wants next.
- Those who ask for more, get more. Some cultures don't like talking about money. But make sure it is a point on YOUR agenda, so before the meeting ends,say something "Hey I had some points I wanted to talk about with you".

- Only make an ultimatum if you're willing to follow-up on it. When asking for a raise, make a case as you did here: "demands increased ten folds", "clients are happy" etc.. but be prepared for a bullshit response or an insulting 1% raise. Have a fallback plan and start interviewing.

Look at the 'problem' from the company's perspective. They're making bank. They're not losing staff. They might not even know you're unhappy. Why would they change anything?

If you want things to change you have to act.

I feel like this is such an annoying attitude from companies. Just show your appreciation towards your employees and give them a raise once in a while. Without the employee having to ask the employer. I get that money needs to be made, but that will stop fairly quickly if you don't keep your employees happy. Of course you will hear the standard management talk "but then, how are we supposed to know that you want a raise", come on man, no one will ever complain about a pay raise.

I get that money needs to be made, that will stop fairly quickly if you don't keep your employees happy

The author of this post says they're working super hard, productivity is up, the company is making money, and they're not complaining. All of the signals that the company is getting are very positive that this person is having fun, enjoying their work, and they're happy with their salary.

Yes and I'm saying that it doesn't hurt to just give them a pay raise after x amount of time, even if it's just a few percentages.

If they're expecting more then a small raise will push them to leave.

No raise will push harder.

You'd think so, but it doesn't. People will wait for the 'big raise' that's 'coming soon' for a really long time. Getting a small raise tells them that there won't be a big raise, so they look for a new role as soon as they get it.

People who were played for suckers in this obvious way are less likely to return to you in a crunch. Word also gets around about practice of your company. A big corporation might weather the bad PR and missed hiring opportunities, small company not necessarily.

Who you are left with are either very naive new kids, high rotation desperate people or people adept at minimizing work done.

This is common but shortsighted approach. They are not losing staff now. But they should be aware that it doesn't mean they will not lose it in future and should work toward preventing it. Raise is one way to do it.

How accepted is it to tell your boss that you can make $X more at another company?

It's very common. It's a risky move though. Some managers will suggest you leave and find a role paying that because they can't match it. Some will suggest you wait until they can persuade their boss that you deserve a raise (might never happen). Some will tell you that they think the other company is overpaying, and just refuse to match it. And very occasionally the company will match that salary (but you won't get another raise for years after that, because you're 'already on more than we want to pay').

Whats the point of overtiming or doing more than you're signed up for? You're basically donating valuable time off your life to your boss for free.

If your salary isn't changing for two years you simply need to show them offer from diff company with good bump in pay and see if they want to give a counter offer.

> I am deeply hurt and disappointed with way corporate works. I feel cheated.

I feel this every day and I’ve been working for over a decade. Work has so little to do with getting things done and being rewarded.

Ask your manager who to talk to about getting a pay rise. Hopefully it won’t be your direct manager because they might get paid less than what you’re asking for. Come prepared with a list of responsibilities that are above your current pay grade. Don’t bring up fairness. Ask for a rise a few k above what you think you can actually get. Ask your coworkers their salary if you’re brave. Be aware that management will probably fob you off and tell you the pay rise is impossible and you don’t deserve it, you’ll come away feeling devalued and stupid, but they’ll probably grant it anyway. Don’t expect regular pay reviews to come to you (my managers have looked flabbergasted when I said it should be the main point of the appraisal/review process), make sure you’re bringing up pay regularly yourself.

e: also, once you get the raise, slack off a bit. It’s not like they can reduce your pay.

Taking a leap here, but reading OPs post it reads as if English is not their first language. If they are a remote employee, say from India - that company is probably doing global remoting precisely to pay as little as possible for engineering staff. It is little wonder they are not proposing raises if this is the case, and it also complicates some of the advice here about just putting in notice and heading across the street for a better paying job. Purely speculation but would be curious to have OP clarify.

> I work extra hard and spend overtime to run this team.

This is a big no! Please don't do that. You are not a charity and this is not your company.

If you want to continue to do that, at very least write down the extra hours you work so that you can calculate your real wage and maybe if you see how much less you actually earn when you do that, then it may compel you to stop.

When my friend accounted for all the "all-nighters" and evenings, she realised that she was actually paid slightly over the minimum wage. It's wrong.

One of the best lessons that I've been taught in my life is to never overestimate people's rationality and cognitive coherence. The same works for organizations.

Companies not matching significative individual value with significative salary is not necessarily part of a meaningful strategy on their side. They might just do it because that's how slow the job market has moved for X years before the boom of IT, but there's no guarantee that it makes the slightest sense.

I've worked in so many orgs that ended up on the verge of crashing just because they couldn't hire/retain talent. This problem coexisted with their attempt of fixing it by working with consulting companies, which charged 10x what an employee/contractor would've charged. Why not hire someone able to match their expectations you ask? "It costs too much money/time/attention" has always been the answer. In the meantime, consulting shops needed constant monitoring because of their usual tendency to overpromise and underdeliver.

IMHO the most successful companies happen to be the ones which defy common salary negotiation/adjustment practices, and that's not a coincidence. They just think about it and see that paying skilled people a decent amount of money makes sense. And then they can focus on their product/services without getting lost in turnover hell.

Side note: high salary means that an employee costs too much to get him to work on minor stuff. Sometimes you outgrow a team, and if the company doesn't have enough high level problems to throw at you, and they don't care too much about it, then you might peacefully negotiate a goodbye agreement.

> No single mention of pay and salary improvement.

But you have not mentioned them either, I take.

I get that talking about money is uncomfortable in some cultures - makes people uncomfortable. Companies absolutely use this against their employees. They put people who are good at talking about money in charge of hiring people, and they train their managers in negotiation tactics.

Your options: wise up and start talking about money, and/or leave.

For the first one, you should aim to do it at least once per year - ideally one or 2 months before evaluations and raises are done in your company. Watch videos about negotiating, or get a coach if needed. If it costs you 500 bucks and you get a 10% salary increase it will probably be worth it.

For the second one, yeah, update your LinkedIn, ask for some days off and do some interviews. But you will face the same problem: you will have to talk about money on the initial interview, and you will be the one responsible for asking for raises in the new job as well. So you might as well start working on point number 1.

You are doing it wrong. If you want to have pay raise, the threat of leaving must be clear and present. You have to look for another job and bring over whatever secrets and IP the other site coveted as much as what you legally allow to do so. It is this very clear threat to your immediate boss that you will get you that pay raise immediately (when you resign they will have "generous" counter offer even though they deny your increment earlier). If he or she will look bad or lose their job when you're gone, you will get the pay as you deem so to save their ass not because you pity enough to really deserve it. However, it makes more sense to just jump to another company rather than going for pay increment. Statistically I reckon staying for pay increment is around 2% annually with internal cap of no more than 10% allowed for any raise under whatever exceptional reasons. It is arbitraily number that has no reality base just HR follow because it is so. Meanwhile for headhunting budget we tend to allow 30% to even 100% for the same job in the corporate (there is a range given in Mercer HR saas as guideline). So a jump to another company means easily 30% pay increase than under best increment scenario of 10%. Look at all high paying CEOs. You will find very few and rare they raise to the top in the same company. Vast majority has perfected the art of ditching company for the next. I am in HR field for over 3+ decades in multiple fields from finance to engineering to logistics. As retired HR, my advise to you is be ruthlessly disloyal. It pays. Only fools (we do use this words to describe that kind of loyal employee) stay loyal to the same company. In any company HR is not a big department. We do have internal worldwide vine to discuss this kind of employment and ben&comp things. How we work strategically setting global policies usually not that much differ from country to country or company to company (we tend to mimic each others informally). How the policies are actually implemented will differ because of localities factors. Don't feel hurt. It is just business. You are just another production cost that bosses at the top like to keep it cheap.

Have you asked for more? There is no incentive to pay you more if they think that you are content with your position. Not much can go wrong when asking for a raise. Worst case, you continue to get paid the same, which seems to be the trend here.

What do you mean? It's well-known fact that if you want to increase your salary, you need to change employer.

This really depends on the company you work for, I've had several increases of salary at the same employer, just because I asked for it and had some good arguments. It costs way more money to get a new employee than it will cost to give an existing employee a pay raise.

For a single employee, yes. But across the organization, it saves money to not give any significant raises, and just suffer the attrition. For every malcontent that leaves because they want more money, there's 9 others who just stay and put up with it year after year. Besides, hiring doesn't cost much: they already have HR staff on the payroll to handle that, so it gives them something to keep them busy.

Finally, many companies like to have a certain amount of churn. Bringing in fresh people helps keep the skillsets up-to-date since new employees bring the stuff they learned from their previous employers. If you just have the same staff for decades, they get stagnant.

Wait, have you even talked to them about that? You're the one who has to start talk about raise or promotion; especially when having good performance reviews.

Corporation will almost never give you a raise if you don't ask. In their interest is to pay as little as possible and they also need to be careful - if they pay too much, you may amass capital and leave to start your own business. So these things need to be balanced.

You have to be prepared to quit. Here in the UK the most effective way to get a raise is to actually find a new employer and ask 15-25% more than at one's current place.

Did you ask for a raise? Because if not, then this is completely normal. You have two options (leaving out the "just continue and feel miserable"):

- ask for a raise

- change the company

Whatever you do, make sure to have a realistic idea of what your work is worth. Ask fellow employees how much they make and check local statistics about salary in your specific field.

Isn't Canada in a shortage of skilled software engineers? Take advantage of that.

Or you can shortcircuit it and just switch jobs if you're comfortable with risk.

Be careful you don't go into the same but worse situation. Have backup plans and do your research.

Where I live, there is a mandatory yearly wage negotiation, I've heard that Canada is a first tier country and assume it has one as well.

I'd most certainly take it up at that conversation, and argue as you do here, that you've felt a significant increase in workload (and the responsibility that entails?) and suggest that you be compensated for this.

You are taking the wrong strategy. Work to learn, side-project and build something. Do not expect a company to give you more and more unless they want to retain you and you are not replaceable.

It is hard, but it is like this. Unless you become irreplaceable you are not going to have an easy path to salary increases.

Corporations exist to make money for their shareholders and the executive suite. Staff salaries are an expense, i.e. reduces the net profit available for the above.

I empathize with you in feeling cheated. As so many other commenters suggest, changing jobs for more pay is the only practical and reliable option.

They'll pay you as low as they can get away with, just like they charge customers as much as they can get away with.

Companies only offer salary increase to people they absolutely want to keep, if you're just a cog in the machine they can afford you to quit and get another cog

Depends on the nature of the business. Speaking for us specifically, with COVID, supply chain issues, and rapidly rising rates hitting one after the other, it's a simple matter of not being able to afford it. We're granting options and offering "platinum" health plans to compensate, but that's about all we can do right now. We fully understand if people choose to go.

> has exceeded the expectation in quarterly results and gained billions in surplus.

Doesn't sound like your employer is in our boat, however. Perhaps they're just dicks.

The reason is that YOU have to ASK for a raise. I assume you didn't.

I can't believe what people write here. You don't need to change jobs, just sit down with your manager, tell them your pay has been stagnant and doesn't reflect your performance.

"I am deeply hurt and disappointed with way corporate works. I feel cheated." I'm sorry but this reads like it's written by a whiny teen.

Also as a side note. Extra work does not directly translate to improvement of your state. You first have to make sure that it is a) noticed, and b) called for.

Well... you can sleep/spend 15-20 minutes in the toilet if it's clean enough. If anybody dares to question what are you doing inside... well, be creative about ailments. :DD

Keep working at your current position, ask for a raise immediately and apply into another company as well for a backup option. Just as they charge customers as much as they can get away with, they will pay you as little as they can.Companies will only raise salaries for employees who they genuinely want to keep; if you're just a cog in the machine, they can afford for you to leave and replace yourself.

I got used (in the UK) to get at least a cost of living bump each year for inflation so I wasn't actually getting poorer each year in real terms.

My current employer doesn't do this as a matter of course, and I don't like the feeling of becoming poorer each year. If they don't sort it out, I will leave at some point. There's many other good things though, so I'll see what happens...


Because they can get away with it.

And that is because we no longer have strong, nationwide union presences (either in the US or Canada) holding them accountable.

Unionize your workplace, and get a bare minimum of annual cost-of-living increases included in the contract, plus some sort of performance-based increase. Those sorts of clauses are, from what I've heard, still standard in many union contracts.

Have you spoken with them regarding salary? You should not expect a big corporation to treat you fairly. They will pay you less if they can. If you feel you deserve a raise you may need to initiate that conversation. You should show evidence that you have benefited the company and ideally have a back up plan to search for another job if they say no

Unfortunately you have to ask for a raise in order to get one in most companies. Otherwise they can always go defensive and say "they didn't even know you wanted one!", just shoot your shot. In the worst case you don't get it and you know you can look for another job if you really want a pay raise.

> For last 2 years, my compensation has remained the same. Not a 0.1% increase

You can't generalize this to all companies. In some companies, raises are automatic if expectations are met.

It's a free market. If you're unhappy with how your corporation works and if you can find better, it's your responsibility to change.

The whole idea is that it shouldn't be a responsibility of a single employee to try to find a less garbage employer with the limited resources and information they have. Even if you are resourceful, hiring literally has it in their job to get you to sign on even for bad conditions - whether it is by shaky contract, things outside the contract, obtuse negotiation structure, hiring freezes with carious excuses, literal ghosting and so on.

It takes actual weeks of time to properly research one employer. Perhaps more. Do you feel like moonlighting as a personal investigator for yourself? Or, rich enough to hire a good one?

There is an easy fix for this, but many people are uncomfortable with it: give them your [whatever weeks] notice, and tell them you are not paid enough.

Finding a job is easy for us those times, you don't risk much. Finding good workers is hard for them, the balance of power is on our side.

Quite simply, you’re not valued. Good managers know about the risk of churn, bad ones don’t care. I’ve found familiarity breeds contempt (of remuneration) which can be impossible to overcome. Start applying for jobs with the % increase you’re looking for.

I had an awesome manager/lead in my last semi-corporate job but there are no miracles, they can't go above certain threshold. Within big orgs there are brackets they have to adhere to, even if they know you're a flight risk. Corporate mechanisms don't care, everyone understands that it will cost MUCH more to hire and onboard someone new. Particular people do care, just not the org itself.

I think this is actually pretty unusual. My experience with current and past jobs is that I'm given raises without asking. There should also be some sort of career track on offer at most places; getting to the next level usually comes with a compensation increase.

The ruthless capitalist suggests that you should interview at other places on a regular basis, to kind of get another "bid" on your skills. Over a decade ago I worked at an investment bank and this was pretty much the only way to get raises. Entire teams would leave one bank, do the same project at another, then come back a few years later. You'd probably get a pretty big raise with each hop, as well.

This is not for everyone, though. It's time consuming and probably annoying for the people interviewing you if you don't actually choose to jump. My suggestion is to speak with your manager; the value of the dollar has fallen by almost 20% over the last few years. Has the value of your work fallen by the same amount? If not, your compensation should be adjusted.

That's why you need to unionize, that's the only way to have a leverage on a big corporate company if it doesn't have proper compensation scheme adjustments.

Even if you force them to give you a raise now, that doesn't mean you "won". They might just skip you when they finally "give a raise to everyone".

I don’t think is a corporate issue per se… just your company (and probably others) I do get a salary increase every single year!

The way you describe it, it looks like your company is systemically underpaying employees. This typically cannot be changed overnight (unless your company is really small).

Do not discuss it with anyone. Just line up your next job and leave with minimum notice. Be open with your colleagues during your notice period about the reasons you are leaving. This would be an excellent time for them to renegotiate their salaries, if leaving is not something they want to do.

so you were thinking management has any time or motivation to think about individual team members wants and needs? why do you expect them to actually manage when they are so busy spending the money you made for them dummy

you may or may not get a raise if you ask for it, you will most assuredly get no raise if you never ask

squeaky door gets the grease..

It is a shame there aren't more tech co-operatives, presumably those would treat their employees better.

Perhaps a good first step is transparency of salaries among workers.

This will kill part of the information asymmetry.

Your manager gets all bonus, increments, etc. It is time for you to pack up and find another job.

Start decreasing your output by 10% per year to align with your lack of salary increase.

Did they refuse your ask? Or are you complaining that you never even thought to ask for a raise and your job didn't read your mind or offer first?

If the latter, you have comically absurd and unreasonable expectations -- you can't complain about not getting a raise if _you never asked for one_. Geez.

Change jobs every 2 years and never look back. Also dox the company..

Your mindset should be like this:

Think of buying a house. You want to buy; a seller wants to sell. You haggle over a price, and if the price is acceptable to both of you, you agree. The price might be higher than you'd like if there aren't many (or any) alternatives; it might be lower if there are lots of alternatives. There is no "correct" price. Only an agreement.

Your salary when you join is just like that. Salaries go up if skills are scarce. They go down if skills are plentiful. There is no "fair" salary.

The hard bit is realising that that's still true once you're inside an organisation.

Your salary might be lower than average, but you won't leave because you like your team or the location or the mission of the company. Just as you'd pay more for a house because it's near your kids' school, or near a lake or a beach or whatever you like.

Your salary might be higher than average, but you won't stay because you're treated badly, or the commute is far or somewhere else is willing to pay more. Just as you'd potentially move to a neighbourhood you don't like to get your kid into the school you think would be best for them.

Tl;dr: you have agency. It just doesn't feel like it when you think of employers as powerful and you as weak. Your best safety net is other employers. And you need to exercise your agency in these ways:

- talk to your boss about salary. Do you have pent-up frustration about your boss not initiating this conversation? You're just as capable of initiating it. Just as a house seller shouldn't get silently angry at an offer they don't like - they should respond with a no, and a counter-offer. Just talk. And go in with everything you want. Can't get a higher salary? What about a couple more days of annual leave? Or some training you really want to do? Or an internal transfer to another country? Think of all the things you would like, and see what you can get. If they end up offering you some things from that list, you can see if you like the look of the new package in total and stay, or decide it's still not worth it for you.

- if talking doesn't get you what you'd like, accept it and start quietly looking for new jobs. Ideally you'd be doing this all the time, but it is a lot of effort. Start here. Understand if where you are is your best option, or not. Remember there's no fair salary or anything like that. It's just like buying a house. You might already be in the best house for you.

- if you decide there are better options out there, then you have to get them to accept you! If you get an offer you like, accept it. Tell your boss, and don't accept a counter. And don't hold it over your boss. It would be weird to go back to a house-buyer as a seller who got a higher offer elsewhere and boast to them about the better offer you got. Just be polite and professional.

- enjoy your new job! Or if you decided to stay, your current job!

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