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What do you say when they say, "Oh we've had a rough year last year, so we're giving you 3%"?

Assuming you've done well for your company you might say

"That's very disappointing to hear that we're struggling so much as a company. I was (hoping|expecting) for X.


Is there any advice or direction you could provide to me where I might help ensure we do better as a company going forward? I'd like to set up a plan of what I can to help and revisit compensation in the next 1-3 months."

And at the same time, start polishing your resume and interview skills.

I would think of this approach as a probation period for any company that I work for. If an employee isn't doing well, they're put on probation. Why not do the same for any company that is vying for our technical abilities?

You politely thank them for their time and immediately start looking for a new job. You have no reason to put up with that sort of a response in this job market.

If you think they have a future, ask for stock – they're asking you to accept low pay to help their business, so it's only reasonable to expect part of that return in exchange. The usual cautions about option games apply but again, if you're expecting to get screwed cut to:

If they're doomed and / or you don't trust them (i.e. does it seem like the managers also subject to low pay?), start looking.

You evaluate whether they're telling the truth. Some companies genuinely cannot afford to pay you market rate. That's why OP said "as soon as you can." In those cases, you say, "I understand. Please consider it again when the timing is better. Thanks."

But if you feel like the company can afford it and they're just shutting you down, the proper response is, "Seeya."

Depends on whether or not they'll laugh when you say, "Well, if it wasn't for me, it would have been even rougher."

Are you the reason the company is having a rough year?

Are you the reason the company had less of a rough year than they could have had?

Either way, find yourself a company that isn't having a rough year.

You update your CV and LinkedIn profile.

Give them extra options = 2x what the raise would have been. Maybe 5x.

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