USA Today asks a very troubling question: “Is the annual pay raise dead?” When clients ask me about the job market, I tell them that the problem isn’t jobs. It’s getting paid. Wage increases have ticked up at about 2%, which for most people is not enough to cover increased costs. Bob Sullivan of CNBC, the author of the USA Today article, cites an expert from AON Hewitt, who said, “Base salary increases are flat. We don't see the prospect of that changing much at all in the next several years.” Rather than annual salary increases, many companies are turning to bonuses as a way to reward productive employees while better controlling labor costs.
The article goes on to state that employee turnover is high and “critical-skill” employees are hardest to retain. Go figure. Why should employees be loyal to companies that only care about the bottom line? They are following market forces just as their employers are. I agree with an expert quoted at the end of the article who urges workers to know and refine their most marketable skills. But I’ll take it one step further: Rather than hope that your current employer rewards you with a bonus, always be ready to find a better employer if your compensation is not fair or if a better option is available. Treat your career like a business.
A client called me early this morning. She was nearly in tears. Her performance review was not what she expected, and she felt insulted and underappreciated. The more we talked, the more I realized that her review had nothing to do with performance. It was all about one thing: Pay.
My client is in line to receive a big raise and year-end bonus. Over the last year she has taken on greater responsibility and has a measurable record of success. In 10 categories ratings, she is equal to or has improved on the previous year’s rating. Even so, her overall rating is flat and her potential rating does not indicate someone who is seen as a future leader. In other words, this is not a person the company thinks they should be paying.
Along with the review, my client sent several emails she received from her supervisor that recognize specific achievements over the last year. I asked if she had received any negative email. There were none. All correspondence was positive. It’s no wonder my client was upset. Next week her company will announce bonuses and raises. My guess is that she will be more upset by that news.
What can she do if he compensation is not what she expects? One option is to try to negotiate with her manager. I don’t think that will be successful. Her performance review sets up the manager’s response. Her other option is to use the next couple of weeks to tune up her resume and start a new job search. She should give her manager and co-worker no hint that she’s looking for an employer who will appreciate her work – and reward it.
Don’t let an unfair performance review get you down, especially if it seems like its an excuse to keep from giving you a raise. Get mad – and focused. If you are skilled, you can find an employer who needs you and will treat you fairly. The first step is to give yourself credit and start looking for an employer who will do the same.