The best pay raise in a job is the starting salary. If you miss it, you would be out for long. That starting salary becomes the basis upon which the 5% or whatever will be built upon in later years.
In Nigeria, especially in banking, there is nothing like pay raise – everyone in the same level earns the same basic salary. The difference is function-related; for example, an IT staff can use overtime and night-shifts to add extra 25% of income above counterparts at the same level. But that does not remove the fact that everyone at the same level is earning the same basic wage. In a case like that, the focus moves from the money to the level since it is the level that will determine the pay.
But in U.S., there is nothing like “equitable wage” among peers in many companies. There, it is about what you can get through negotiations under many scenarios. You can be earning more than your boss! Yes, that “boss” there is just like a coordinating manager. In some design teams, there is a manager who has the big picture of a product. He now gives out part of the units to different sub-teams/people to design. In electronics firms, the instruction is simple: this is the input you are getting; this is the output we expect from you. Just by doing that, 600 people in 10 locations can be working on one product. That manager ensures the whole handshakes and interfaces are in order. Within that unit, there could be a genius power design engineer who could be earning more than his boss. So, it is really irrelevant who you report to as in America when it comes to money, everything becomes very opaque.
Yes, it is very common. People earn more than those two levels ahead of them. Personally, I noticed while in the industry that I was earning more than a lady who was a level ahead of me. It could be demoralizing but that is America. Capitalism is not fairlism – crazy things happen.
When I saw that, I knew this game was really about negotiation than waiting for one nice man to help you. You can be working, and no one will care to bump up the money!
My Case Study
I needed to add more benjamins (US dollars) and the only way was to earn more. I went to my boss who was obviously earning more than me and asked:
“[His name]. I do want to earn $abc [the amount]; what do I have to do to achieve that before the beginning of the next financial year?” We had a conversation and he asked me to put a small proposal on what I could offer the company for the money I was asking for. I went home, and that evening I built a matrix, expanding my role and assuming more responsibilities. The next day, I presented it to him. He approved the raise.
A week later, a colleague complained how he could not get a simple raise. He explained he dropped a number but it was ignored.
I knew despite all, my strategy was better – I was not blatantly pushing for more money; I made a case that the company could get more productivity from me, first. Then, afterwards, if I execute as promised, I would be rewarded.
When you want to ask for a raise, do not just put a hard number out. It is better to think along the line of John F. Kennedy, former American president: “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Yes, ask what you can do for the firm besides the expected monetary numbers you are asking. It takes away the perceived greed, coded selfishness and guilt we feel when asking for raises.
It is always good to ask for more money when joining – though that does not typically apply in Nigeria where most jobs are in buckets of levels, making raise not possible. In Nigeria, you negotiate for level, not monetary terms since the money is tied to the level. It is hopeless to ask for more money when a level has been settled since the level and the pay are correlated.
But in U.S., you can keep the same job title for 35 years but could have received pay raises more than 20 times. It is a crazy system I must confess. In Intel, a global semiconductor giant, the number of levels between an entry level engineer and the CEO could be 5 levels. They have designed a flat organization where the phrase “job title” is not close to whatever you see on LinkedIn.
Understand the economy you work – in Nigeria, we are not in the employee market. So, be guided as you ask for raise. It is possible your company has not made profit for a year. So, be very smart over it. Some men and women in our system can frown and that would not be a good outcome. But when you see huge growth and expansion, if the boss has forgotten, find a way to try the model: I want this, what can I do more to earn it.
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