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Few employers in the creative field—or any industry, for that matter—are transparent about what workers earn. In a survey from 2017 by The Creative Group, only 11 percent of the advertising and marketing executives interviewed said their company has an open salary policy. The rest do not publicly discuss compensation, and of this group, the majority (61 percent) feel doing so would decrease staff morale.
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Whether or not your company discloses what employees make, it can be a shock to find out you earn less than someone with the same job title and experience level. If you’re in this situation, it’s up to you to make a case for a raise. But you have to be wise in your approach. Here are five things to avoid when you are underpaid and go to your boss requesting higher pay.
1. Don’t rant and rave.
Everyone wants fair compensation, but the company doesn’t owe you anything outside of the terms of your contract. So don’t storm into your boss’s office and demand more money or air your frustrations on social media. Your next step requires thought and patience. Take time to outline why you warrant a raise—i.e., how your actions have benefitted the company’s bottom line.
2. Don’t assume.
Hopefully your boss knows the depth of your design skills and business acumen, but don’t count on it. To merit more money, you likely need to remind your manager of the value you bring to the table. For example, perhaps you played a large role in landing a recent account. Keep a running log of specific wins and additional tasks you take on, as well as compliments you receive from clients and coworkers.
3. Don’t compare yourself to colleagues.
You may feel you deserve the same pay as similarly skilled coworkers, but do you know the full extent of what they do and their contributions? It’s much wiser to base your request for a raise on objective assessments, such as the going market rate for your skills, versus assumptions. The Creative Group Salary Guide is one helpful resource for determining compensation ranges for design positions. Your boss could likely articulate why you don’t earn as much as your officemate, but it’s harder to argue against data.
[Related: The Creative Group 2017 Designer Salary Guide | Negotiating Your Graphic Design Salary: Questions to Ask]
4. Don’t be inflexible.
Let’s say you’ve made an airtight case for why you deserve a higher salary. Your boss still has to find room in the company’s budget to pay you more, and sometimes that money simply isn’t there. If you counter with an ultimatum (“Give me $5,000 more or I’ll quit!”), you’re taking a huge risk that might leave you unemployed. It’s much better to be open to negotiation and alternatives, such as a one-time bonus, step increases or non-monetary perks, like flextime or telecommuting.
5. Don’t back down.
Smart managers will do what it takes to keep top workers happy in their jobs, and that includes updating compensation packages. But what if you make a solid argument for a raise and your boss comes back with a big fat “no” without a valid explanation? Before discussing salary with your boss, know what your options are. If your employer refuses to pay you what you’re worth, it could be time to make your next professional move.
Feeling underpaid—and underappreciated—is a drag on morale. As the driver of your own career, it’s up to you to lobby for the salary you deserve. And to get what you want, being savvy literally pays off.
Online Course: Negotiating Without Fear or Anxiety
Article first published in August 2017.
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