Perhaps not the best wording of a question title, but it more or less sums up what I'm trying to ask. Basically, say you work for a company and do x, y and z to improve various aspects of the company; but after a period of time and an acquisition of standard pay rises, what if you feeling you are being underpaid for your work? My question is: how would you convince your employer that you are, indeed, being underpaid; and what would a project manager or employer be looking for in your approach to the topic?

8 Answers 8


This is a difficult and touchy subject. You may open up a Pandora's Box, so be absolutely certain that this is a big enough issue for you to push.

I would suggest:

  1. Have a very clear listing of how you are adding value to the company. If you can't clearly say why you deserve more money you won't convince anyone. I've had an employee ("X") demand more salary just because he had been with the company longer than employee "Y", even though "Y" had a different and more senior position and did more work at a higher quality than "X".

  2. Be flexible in your approach. You think you are adding a lot of value to the company. If they can't give you more money is there something that you value that they could give you? For example: an extra week of holiday per year; or an office rather than a cubicle; or a better parking space; or an extra year or two seniority towards your pension; or whatever.

  3. If you aren't willing to take "No" for an answer, have a fall-back plan in place. Preferably a job offer from another company in your hand. I wouldn't necessarily use another job offer as leverage as it could kill the relationship you have with your boss. But sadly, with a lot of employers the only way to make them realize your worth is to get a job somewhere else.

  • +1 for C. I would skip A and B to be honest. The people who hire you already have an idea of the value you bring to the table and if they can get away with keeping you at their predetermined valuation they will. The willingness to take NO for an answer is irrelevant. If a manager has gone a while without dishing out raises then they know once you give it to one employee you're going to give other employees ideas. In other words...they might fire you just for asking (even though most won't). So I wouldn't even consider asking w/o a fallback plan for leverage.
    – Dave
    Jan 10, 2012 at 21:53
  • 4
    Don't skip A and B. Many companies know you are worth more than they are paying you - but as long as your happy to work for your current salary, why would they spontaneously offer to pay you more? Also, it helps that when you ask for more money, you ask for more work too - new challenges, an extra role, extra responsibility... even if they can't pay you more now, you'll be fresh in their head when they have a new offer.
    – Konerak
    Jan 11, 2012 at 13:54

Your feelings on the matter are irrelevant. What does matter is the salary and wage data for your position in your area and your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, balanced against your employer's set of alternatives.

If you choose to make this approach, you need to come armed with data. What is the salary range and distribution for your role across your defined geography, where do you fall within that distribution, and what value and measurable benefits have you delivered to your employer that is ABOVE AND BEYOND what is expected?

All of this needs to be balanced against another opportunity that is already available to you. If you have no other opportunity ready to go, then you are getting paid exactly what you are worth.

And remember that the benefits you receive from this job is not just your pay. Bring that into your analysis.

  • 1
    +1 for If you have no other opportunity ready to go, then you are getting paid exactly what you are worth. Such a great statement, David!
    – Tiago Cardoso
    Jan 12, 2012 at 18:14

In addition to what Doug B have said. If you already know how much you would like do earn, go for couple interviews and make sure that the market is ready to pay so. Knowing that (I assume that market is ready for your salary) go to your employer and follow steps a,b,c by Doug.

Why so? Because doing this you make yourself confident. That will be visible in your body language and audible in tone of your voice. These may be very convincing :)


It may sound unusual, but it might work: leave for a week without telling anybody what they are supposed to do while you are away. The idea behind is that the managers don't want to pay more for the same job, unless the absence of person causes troubles and they want to avoid the further problems.

When I work with young team leaders I often ask them to do same; leave the team - in your case your organisation - alone for a while and see how they operate without them. In case of team leaders, if things start happening then they did their work properly, if everything stops then they still have to learn things, because the team depends too much on them.

Your case is the other way around: if your absence causes trouble your management will see the value in your work. There is an old saying that you don't value anything until it is gone and I think it may work in your case.

On the other hand let's say I'm an employer/manager...

If I see the situation from the management point of view you are in a bad position. As an employer/manager my goal is to keep the key persons inside the organisation while paying them not too much, because in that case, they'll work for the money not for the challenge, for the company etc.

If somebody comes by and asks for more money and I, as an employer, gives her the money what guarantees that the person won't come back in six months and asks for more? What guarantees that she'll do the same work for the company? What happens if the other employees come by and ask for the same?

That's why wise managers do not give pay raise to employees and would rather help them with their professional career (trainings, conferences) or personal life (more vacation days) which doesn't cost that much, and ties them more to the company. In your case I would ask for something like trainings, conferences, books or I would look for another job where you get the salary you have in your mind.


Presumably your company likes to think it pays its employees at market rate (or thereabouts), so you have to prove that you've paid less than the market values you at. So go and get yourself a job offer (or, preferably, more than one) at a higher salary from another company. This has the bonus that if you employer still doesn't think you're underpaid, you can leave and walk into a better paid job.


Clearly demonstrate how you have contributed to the company's bottom line.

Be open to constructive dialogue. This might be the first time they become aware of the work that you're doing or that you want to contribute more and be paid more.

Have another opportunity ready.


Talking about money in an employee-employer relationship is like talking sex in a romantic relationship. You can't just start with it, you've got to develop the relationship slowly with smaller things first.

The first thing you need to do is test your relationship with your boss -- first see how do they do with resolving smaller conflicts. Bring up that you're dissapointed you didn't get to work on project X or that you've been stuck doing Y for a while, or you'd really like to grow doing Z. Test the relationship. Gather data. Then move forward. If your boss is good and receptive they may not be able to solve your problem, but you can get a good feeling for how empathatic they are and how willing they are to fight for their subordinates.

OK So you've tested the waters a little. If things are going well, keep the communication line open. Continue to do amazing and excellent work but let them know in subtle ways that they shouldn't take you for granted. Tell them know you're passionate and really want to continue growing and learning. Let them know what you've enjoyed doing at your current job that has let you grow. An example of this might be at a performance review -- Boss asks how you've liked working at the company, you say something like "I really was enjoying myself when on project X, but project Y I'm not growing anymore and growth is a very high priority for me." See if they get the hint. Maybe be a little more blunt -- "I really like working here, but challenging myself is of utmost importance. I want this company to do well, but I really value learning and growing.".

You can escalate the language slowly all the way to the nuclear option -- another job offer if nothing is happening. And frankly if they can't help you with the smaller things, then maybe you want to be somewhere else anyway.

If they fear losing you and really value you they'll compensate for the stuff you're complaining about with good raises. Good relationships of any kind are a constant negotiation. Neither side should stop communicating about the issues in the relationship. Even if they can't be resolved, you can find other ways ot be compensated.


This is a very elaborative topic. Once can discuss on this for hours to gether. But to put it short

-> I would say out and out manager is a person who should recognise your efforts and give you a decent hike. For that see to it that every minute and pivotal task that you do goes noticed by the manager. Once he recognises the number of activities that are being handled by you then surely you would be recommended for a better perks.

-> See to it that your direction is apt. If you are working as a team lead, then make sure your presence adds all the values needed. Any issue in the team and any kind of problem with any dimension, you should be able to solve it or atleast be ready to solve it.

-> Have atleast one module totally depended on you. If you are not there in office for one day, nobody in the team should be in an easy position to solve it.

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