Why I Was 40-something Before I Asked for a Raise

I have been working (not including babysitting) since I was 16 years old. (Erie Zoo. I have stories.)

And up until February 3, 2014, I never asked for a raise.

Part of it is I never had to ask for a raise before. Like most American workers, I was subject to the annual review, which usually came with cost-of-living increases and/or merit-based increases. When I freelanced, I was confident when I named my price because I knew my scale and my experience. I usually received what I asked for. (Sometimes I didn’t get the job. Goes with the territory of freelancing.)

Because of a combination of the economy and the changes at my current company, it’s been years since I got a raise. When I was told in the past I wouldn’t be getting even a cost-of-living increase, I tried to bargain for other things (i.e. extra time off instead of a pay raise). Then two years went by where I wasn’t even reviewed. And my workload increased to the point where I was doing the work of three people.

You can have all the reasons in the world to ask for a raise — and believe me, I had a lot of them. But it’s still scary as all get out, in my opinion.

I was screwing up my courage to ask about a raise last summer. Some noise was made about getting us all in for annual reviews (we had just gotten a new director), so I decided to wait a little bit. But nothing came of it.

Like most middle-class Americans, I’ve been watching my wages stagnant while everything else got more expensive. I’ve read too many news reports about growing income inequality. My husband and I struggle under our (slowly decreasing) debt load.

I knew something needed to change.

So I wrote a letter about why I was asking for a raise, named a number, and justified it.

The actual asking part was a little anticlimactic. I scheduled a meeting with my boss, and when I sat down with him, basically said I was there to talk about getting a raise. His response? “Great! I already have that in the budget request for next fiscal year.” Then he continued, “I’m glad you were proactive about this.”

Now, I haven’t received the raise yet. I suppose it’s time to follow up with my boss to see if he has an idea of numbers. Our new fiscal year starts in about a month.

Did you ever have to “name your price”? What did you base it on? Did you feel like you had to psyche yourself up for it?

3 thoughts on “Why I Was 40-something Before I Asked for a Raise

  1. Very proud of you.

    I named my price once for private job interview coaching – was a bit uncomfortable about it, maybe because women typically undervalue what we do, maybe because artistic types typically undervalue what we do, maybe because it’s easy to undervalue something you really enjoy doing for the sake of doing it. Don’t know. But I researched what others were charging, pushed myself a bit to do it, and my student was happy to pay, and then he got the job – which was a hugely prestigious, high-paying, national profile type job, too, so that was pretty validating.

    Kinda depends on what kind of boss you have too. I offered to even waive COL increase in return for more days off and my boss no. Just really dumb on his part. If you make a good employee happier, you get a great employee. BUT THEN I get called in to a meeting this fall, and am given a significant raise, seemingly out of the blue, without even asking. Why – because my boss snoops on my computer and saw that I was applying for other jobs. He never addressed that, though — he just read to me my “list of accomplishments” verbatim from my own cover letter notes during the meeting. All these years being straight-forward, direct and confrontational got me nowhere – turns out I’m a savvy genius at passive-aggressive manipulation. So savvy I didn’t even know I was doing it!

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