Getting a Raise in the Depression The Five Things to Do

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: I know this probably sounds nutty, with so many companies
cutting pay or freezing pay in order to avoid layoffs (or, further
layoffs), but I’m thinking of asking for a raise. First of all,
my employer has not cut or frozen anyone’s pay – at least not
to my knowledge. However, we have had layoffs here, so I’m now doing
the work three people used to do.

But the main
reason I want to bring up money with my boss is that I was hired
exactly one year ago at the low end of the salary scale for my position
(production-line supervisor), and was told at that time that my
pay would be reviewed – with an eye toward increasing it to at least
the middle of the range – in six months. Then the recession hit,
and no more was said about it. But I think I should ask, especially
since my performance has been pretty great. I’ve introduced new
efficiencies, cut costs, increased productivity, etc. Any advice
on how to approach this? -Marty

Dear Marty:
It takes chutzpah to ask for a raise in this economic climate, but
it’s not quite as crazy as it sounds. It seems that a little over
two-thirds (67%) of U.S. employers are planning pay hikes for at
least some of their employees before the end of this year, according
to a new survey of 850 companies by compensation consultants Mercer.

however, the extra moolah won’t be doled out evenly across all job
categories. Only 56% of executives will get pay hikes, versus 69%
of professionals (a group that includes, for example, in-house attorneys),
and 73% of those in "trades, production, and service"
jobs (that would include you). Positions in manufacturing, engineering,
and information technology are most likely to see pay increases,
Mercer’s research found, while marketing, sales, and finance jobs
earn stagnant or even declining wages. Overall, salary budgets in
2009 will rise by about 3.2%, roughly the average pay hike that
prevailed before the recession started.

Why the sudden
loosening of the pursestrings? "Companies realize that they
need to be poised for a turnaround," says Steve Gross, global
leader of Mercer’s compensation consulting practice. "Continuing
cost-cutting measures like salary freezes may put them at a disadvantage
once the economy recovers."

The fact that
your job performance has been, as you put it, "pretty great"
is crucial to your argument in favor of more money. Tim Schoonover,
CEO of leadership-development and coaching firm OI Partners, has
noticed lately that more companies are focusing attention on how
to keep their best performers happy.

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15, 2009

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