Reality Breakdown: Raises on Lowered Budgets?

Got a job? Great! The layoff sword spared and screwed you at the same time. Just because your co-workers went away doesn’t mean their workloads did. On top of your own responsibilities, you’re now wearing many hats, possibly a few wigs, and hopefully hip, sensible shoes that say, “I’m sassy, yet you’ll respect me in the morning.”

In any other circumstance, this would give you just cause to march into your boss’s office and ask for a compensation adjustment. The reality breakdown: for most organizations, the money isn’t there. Cash may be king, but it’s currently a king in exile. Ok, hold on. It’s not all bad news. Don’t leave and start Googling the next random thought that pops into your head. There are other things you can request in lieu of a raise.

Have you considered asking for…

  • A more flexible schedule? I’m not a scientist and I don’t even play one on TV, but I bet your outlook on the workday would be rosier if you didn’t arrive with road rage. I appreciate the employers who give leeway around rush hour and so does the Department of Transportation.
  • Telecommuting? Would they be willing to let you work from home a day or two a week? If you got to be around the house more often, your dog would stop mistaking you for an intruder. You could also save thousands on your kids’ therapy abandonment issues if you were able to appear on the sidelines of some of their sporting events before Junior starts growing a beard. I’m puzzled by places that don’t allow at least some telecommuting. I tend to get more work done from home because I want to show my accountability when I’m not physically in the office. I’m also more relaxed and creative. Companies don’t have to lease as much commercial space and it keeps cars off the road. Come on! Wake up! Don’t make me get all An Inconvenient Truth on you.
  • An additional or earlier performance evaluation? It will get better. I promise. And when it does, have the proof on paper about what a team player you were during the “economic crisis.”
  • A job title change? Remember that you want it to sound sexier than the one you have now. For instance, don’t go from “Product Marketing Manager” to “Queen of Potted Plants.” Seriously, this is one way to create the role, and possibly the salary, you want for when things right themselves. Also, if you find yourself channeling Anne Boleyn with your head on the chopping block, at least you enter the workforce with an upgraded title for your resume.
  • Additional vacation days? If you’re helping keep the company fires burning on a shoestring budget and no extra hands, you’re going to need time off before they start sizing you for a rubber suit. You don’t want that. They make your butt look big and don’t breathe like other fabrics. This is about quality of life. Even an extra day to spend with friends, loved ones, or even recharging alone can make a huge difference. A survey from the Aon Loyalty Institute revealed that the top thing a company can do to inspire employee commitment is “recognize employees’ need for time off with family.” Salary increases didn’t even make the top ten.

If you find yourself in this type of situation, take a stab at some of these suggestions. I hope you have an employer that’s open to a few. Unfortunately all of my other ideas for you would result in a restraining order and a decline in global ball-gag inventory.

If you have other ideas about how to pad the non-monetary compensation in this economy, post them below.

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  1. Rondal on the 3rd February

    These are some great suggestions, Michelle, and much appreciated times being what they are. I, for one, have always appreciated the felxibility of telecommuting, though as opposed to working from home I prefer the sites and smells of Panera Bread. Free wifi and delicatessen bagels? No contest, haha.

    • Thiet Ke Noi That on the 17th March

      Telecommuting is a good idea but I can easily see why so many employers are still nervous about the idea!

  2. Avery on the 4th February

    With all the layoffs there should be some newly available attractive offices nearby. Perhaps requesting an upgrade would be within reason. It might be wise to not immediately pounce on the opportunity out of respect for the recently laid off employee though.

    Telecommuting is a good idea but I can easily see why so many employers are still nervous about the idea. Not everyone is honest enough to put in the same level of work they would if they knew a manager could be lurking about.

  3. Utahcon on the 4th February

    These are some great suggestions, and frankly they come at a great time for me, we are about to the season of reviews in my company. With things the way they have been the last few months it would be nice to see a good raise, but I agree that telecommuting or extra vacation days would be a blessing as well.

  4. Joe on the 4th February

    This post is right on time. I have a Performance Appraisal coming up next week, and it’s already been let out that if anybody gets a raise at all, it can’t be higher than 2.5%.

    Time to start thinking about what kinds of perks I can negotiate.

    • Jose da Silva on the 12th February

      Hi Joe,

      I guess that is called the “You think you can negotiate”, when companies do this, generally they want to make people think that they can negotiate, but inside the company conditions.

      So you can negotiate a no negotiation 🙂

  5. Brian on the 4th February

    @Avery – I agree with upgrading offices. My company looks like a cubicle graveyard from all the layoffs. Of course, the pressure still exists to not give any of the peons large cubes so they sit empty. Personally, I’d like to see them move the existing employees closer together and close off some parts of the building. It’s depressing to walk past all of those empty cubicles.

    Luckily, even though my company is clueless, our manager gives us some perks under the radar. For example, our on-call weeks can be brutal now that we’re so short-handed. It’s slowly shifted from being available for emergencies to working a second shift. She gives us off the following Friday and just tells everyone we’re working from home. Occasionally, on rare slow days, she tells us all to go home mid-afternoon and she covers any issues the rest of the day. She’s also extremely flexible if we need to work from home or leave early for an appointment. To be honest, our company blows and our manager is the only reason we still work there. There are a decent amount of good IT jobs in my area but it’s hard to match the current perks.

    • Michelle Burleson on the 6th February

      @Brian, I can relate to your situation– crappy company, awesome boss. Glad you at least have that. Amazing the assets that get overlooked.

  6. Bret on the 4th February

    Work at home so you can attend kids’ sports activities? Doesn’t make sense to me. How can that be “working at home”? That would be a vacation day. And are “puzzled” why companies wouldn’t allow this?

    • Michelle Burleson on the 6th February

      @ Bret, ah the perils of sentence structure! I wasn’t suggesting you use work time as a substitute for personal time; however, more companies are shifting to allowing people to work to the project as opposed to working to the clock. That being said, depending on where you live, if you’re able to work from home and not spend one to two hours a day in traffic, that frees up time for you and your family.

      For a lot of my current and former colleagues, being home when the kids get home is a huge perk. For me, it’s about not having to fight traffic and long commutes.

      Thanks for your feedback!

    • Cru on the 6th February

      Some people have quite a long commute. If you work until 5pm and then have a 1.5 hour commute you don’t get home until 6:30pm. However, if you are working from home you’ll be done at 5pm, have no commute, and it will be a breeze to make it to little Billy’s 6pm Soccer game.

      The huge advantage to telecommuting is that you eliminate the sometimes long drive to and from the office. Employees can get back sometimes 2-3 hours of their day that they spend in traffic and still work the same number of hours for the employer.

    • Bret on the 6th February

      Makes more sense now, thanks. So more of a flexible schedule with telecommuting as a side effect I suppose.

  7. aaron k on the 4th February

    Great ideas! If you extensively use a computer, upgrades are always great; software updates, ram, larger hard drive, new mouse/keyboard. If your productivity would go up, it could be a good investment for them.

  8. Bill on the 4th February

    A tie-in to these good strategies: Ask for something from a less-threatened budget line. Travel? Equipment? Tuition for training?

  9. Shane on the 4th February

    I knew a raise was out of the question, so I asked for a date with the girl in web production but they talked me down to a space heater & a faster network connection instead. I think of it as a success though: Everyone gathers around my desk now to warm up & watch Hulu — even the girl from web production. ((sweet))


  10. EvilEngel on the 5th February

    Great suggestions…..
    i’d say the ability to dress casual more days would be a great since less clients come into the office.

  11. Source on the 5th February

    just asked for 2 days vacation, bam got it! booya!

    • Michelle Burleson on the 6th February

      @Source, that is awesome! Congrats. Where you going? We should all ask for more vacation and go with you.

  12. Michael on the 5th February

    I’ll be graduating from college soon, and let’s just say this article has been printed to pdf and e-filed. Awesome tips.

  13. Paul on the 6th February

    Flexibility and telecommuting are the way to go. I’ve been working for a media company in IT for the last 8 years, and because I live a couple of hundred miles away from the office they were paying me an allowance to help cover the cost of maintaining a (very) small studio apartment local to the office, plus the (huge) travel costs. I was stunned last October when my boss’ boss actually suggested that instead of working at the office 4 days a week and working from home one day a week, it would be interesting to see whether fulltime working from home would be achievable, coming in to the office only a couple of times a month. We started a pilot project a couple of months ago and it’s just been made permanent. It works really well although it’s probably not for everyone. Technology like Skype for video chat is a huge help from the social interaction side – a video conversation feels much more interactive than a voice only conversation. The company is saving a big chunk of cash and I get a massive increase in flexibility and quality of life. Also, given what I do, the quality of service to the business has effectively increased because I can now easily work extra hours at very busy times (like year end) and shorter hours to make up afterward. Everybody wins, and I’m helping to save the environment too by travelling less.

    • Michelle Burleson on the 11th February

      @Paul, that is awesome. Skype has definitely opened up the way I work with clients around the world.

  14. littlepitcher on the 7th February

    Favorite upgrades–ask permission to skip lunch and leave an hour early. Beat rush-hour traffic and/or be able to use mass transit this way, and save even more money.
    On-call employees can ask for company cell phones. They are company-deductible, but find out the limits on minutes, and don’t run over.
    Rural employees workin’ urban–see if the boss will let you use the dumpster for your garbage, and save the fees for home pickup or dump fees.
    Maintenance on call–will they let you take that truck home on the weekends?
    See if you can get permission to sit in on management seminars, or negotiate additional training, with company reimbursement. That way, you can take the tax credit for education.
    Certain benefits are non-taxable if they are “employer convenience”. If you can get fed, do it. If you work for a property management firm, try for some housing compensation.

  15. Jose Gonzalez on the 27th February

    Finding your thoughts on work very useful.
    They all ring true when put in the perspective of my dayjob situation.
    (finally getting the hang of google reader, and I bump into your blog, which I had added some time ago… now that I’m a bit more organized in that aspect, I’m finding gems and food for thought… your’s is brilliant)
    Thanks so much for sharing.

  16. viettel on the 17th April

    In a point of mine, the earlier performance evaluation is really important, which that, you can always review all of the activities you’ve taken and so may think harder for the future.
    Thanks for your article.

  17. Holiday leave on the 22nd December

    Telecommuting is a great proposal, if implemented is great

  18. thiet ke noi that on the 8th February

    This article helped me understand more about it. thanks for sharing

  19. Noi That Van Phong on the 8th March

    I’ll be graduating from college soon, and let’s just say this article has been printed to pdf and e-filed. Awesome tips.

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