Raises & Promotions: Myths and Facts


“I deserve a raise!”…

“I was promised a promotion!” ….

So why are you not getting one?

MYTH:  Employees are automatically entitled to receive a raise on an annual basis.

“Time served” is for prison, not for employment. At least in the states of Colorado, New York, and Georgia (and probably others) there is no law requiring companies to give you a raise just because you have worked there one year, five years, or fifty years.

FACT: When the state or federal minimum wage goes up, employees’ hourly rates must meet or exceed those new rates.

In many states, the minimum wage rate increases every year, or close to it. For example, in Colorado and New York, the rate has been going up each year for more than five years straight. Not all employers keep up with these rates. If you think you might be getting paid at a rate less than the minimum wage rate in effect at the time, it may very well be worth your while to look into doing something about it. You’re welcome to contact us to learn more.

MYTH: What your employer said during your interview about you getting a promotion after 6 months must by law actually happen.

Some people think that things that are written in a job posting or discussed during an interview that are along the lines of “The starting rate is x, but you’ll be eligible for a promotion in 6 months” means guaranteed extra money is just half a year a way, period. In some companies (especially larger ones), statements like that are an expression of company wide policies that are in fact the way things are actually done. In others, it can be more of an expression of aspiration or possibility than of what absolutely will happen.

Things not panning out as discussed during the hiring process doesn’t necessarily mean your employer was lying to you.  Think if it more like a negotiation – a lot of things are said back and forth in order for companies to attract the best candidates and, conversely, for job seekers to land the best job. Just like you might put flowery or somewhat embellished statements on your resume to attract attention, sometimes companies do this back.

Don’t rely on these during-hire statements as promises. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore them either. (Keep reading.)

FACT:   What your employer puts in writing in a contract with you about a promotion must by law actually happen.

If your boss forms an actual employment contract with you that specifies details about promotions, then there is a very good chance that it will be binding.  While this is not something that is commonly done, with the right approach it can be extremely beneficial for both sides. If the company will take the time to set forth specific criteria for you to meet and is willing to reward you for meeting or exceeding those goals, then (assuming they have structured it right), it should be a win-win situation for them to pay you more and/or advance your role. If you want help creating this kind of contract, negotiating it, or advising you behind the scenes, let us know.

MYTH: Employers will notice that you haven’t been given a raise in a while; it will actually occur to them that you might want a promotion, without you saying so.

Even if you do not have a legal entitlement to automatically receive a raise or promotion, that doesn’t mean you can’t ask and/or negotiate for one.

If you do decide to ask for a raise/promotion though, it is a really good idea to approach it the right way. Coming to the table by saying “I want a raise… because I want more money!” is unlikely to win anyone over. However, demonstrating to your boss that if given a new role with more responsibility you could make the company more money or make it run more efficiently or make your boss’s life less stressful etc., you’re much more likely to meet with a receptive ear.  Prepare beforehand, and try to think through what would convince you of what’s being asked for if you were in your boss’s shoes.

FACT: Many companies are willing to give you more money and responsibility if earned.

There are a handful of companies whose management consists of greedy, stingy, and otherwise awful people. By no means does that mean they are all like that. In most well-run companies, there is a desire to have good people filling roles and doing good work, whatever form of work that may be.

Think of it as a continuum. On one extreme, if you are doing good work and not being compensated what somebody else in your position might be, or in what you could get somewhere else, then maybe you are being underpaid, undervalued, and/or possibly even taken advantage of to some degree. On the other end, you don’t want to act like some kind of hostage negotiator seeking a ransom when you ask for more money. Be on the right part of that spectrum. It’s ok to ask for a raise or a promotion – and in fact you should, if you are in the right position to do so. You don’t need to ask in a hostile or threatening kind of way (that could very well backfire). You are better off approaching the conversation by conveying how the company wins, and how you’d like to be rewarded for helping the company to win. It is very helpful to prepare!  You just might get that raise if you do!

Written by Penn Dodson