Is my raise low because I've been here less than a year?

Q. I began working at my company one month after the beginning of our fiscal year. I recently received my first salary increase (over a year later) and found that it was much lower than I had expected. I realize the current market conditions may have driven this lower increase, but I was told that perhaps it is also because I had not yet worked a full year (only 11 months, instead of 12) when raises were decided. Would this lower my salary increase percentage significantly? If so, is it appropriate for me to ask for a mid-year review (for my second year of employment)? My company tends to have salary reviews only once a year.

A. I would ask your supervisor two questions. First, what was the annual merit budget for your department?

Second, does the company have a policy governing its merit program? If so, and your merit increase met the company's guidelines for administering its merit program, you may have little recourse for having your merit increase reviewed or changed, either now or in six months.

Most companies set thresholds for when employees become eligible to participate in merit programs. In addition to meeting the eligibility requirements, employees also must meet a performance requirement before they can receive all or a portion of the available merit dollars.

So if the merit budget for a company is approximately 4.2 percent, and an employee performed well and was with the company less than a year, it is quite possible that the merit increase would be somewhere between 3.5 percent and 4.0 percent.

I wouldn't ask for an out-of-cycle adjustment in this case. If you had just started with the company, then I might; or, if your base pay were significantly below market you might be able to ask for an equity adjustment.

Good luck.