11 Signs You're Not Getting a Raise

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: November 5, 2012

The Best Doesn't Always Win

If only competition in the workplace mirrored the simplicity of Olympic swimming. Whoever does the best job and touches the wall first, wins. It's the winner who goes on to earn bonus money via endorsements, and your smiling face lands on a box of breakfast cereal! If only it were as easy as slamming that completed report in the boss’ hand and stepping right up on a big corner office desk for a playing of the National Anthem and an instant raise and promotion.

But there’s no winning buzzer in your department (just the occasional annoying ringtone), and sometimes it seems there’s no reward at all for your winning performance. Why is that? While there’s no accounting for bad ringtone choices, there might be a reason you're not being recognized with a raise while others are, and there's also something you can do about it. So here are some things that'll keep you from stepping onto the winning podium and collecting your just rewards.

11. Being an AWOL Employee

Are you the guy who catches every flu bug that's hyped on the evening news? Do your family "emergencies" regularly occur on Fridays, Mondays and around holidays? Do co-workers seem surprised to see you at your desk (or regularly "borrow" items from your office because they "didn’t think you were using" them)?

Uh oh. While being a phantom employee may relieve you of forcing smiles at some bad repetitive jokes, it will make you forgettable -- and potentially expendable -- as well. Maxing out your sick days can make you appear less than dedicated to that job they are paying you to do. And if you want to be paid more, you have to put in added effort. Not less.

10. Being the Invisible Worker

Invisibility is overrated outside of scientific and superhero circles. Your exemplary work should be noticed. You should be noticed. If the person you've worked with for two years keeps calling you by the wrong name because you're like a ghost in the office, you're on a path to nowhere.

This is not an invitation to initiate standup comedy in the elevator, but try being personable. You have a personality. Share it with others. Better yet, get to know your co-workers and, more importantly, your managers. Ask them about their son’s Little League stats, and they will find you utterly fascinating. Or at the very least, remember who you are.

9. Being the "Almost" Employee

Are you reliable under pressure? Or are you a "next Wednesday-ish" kind of deadline achiever? Yes, there may be a time that numbers are off and you have to redo a spreadsheet. Or maybe your manager's "this should just take a few hours" was an undersell on the scale of "this should only hurt a little." However...

Take responsibility when you encounter a deadline-bumping issue. Manage your schedule and project load. Remind your boss what you’ve already committed to when he adds another dollop to a full plate and negotiate more time if necessary. If you’re almost meeting deadlines on a regular basis, you will almost get a raise.

8. Ignoring Personal Hygiene

OK, I hate to get personal here, but -- oh who am I kidding? I don’t mind a bit.

Is your deodorant effective? Are you sure? Or do people scramble for coffee refills during your afternoon stretch? When you meet a new client, are they wincing at your firm handshake or trying to not to gag because of your coffee breath? Could you easily locate dental floss in a post-salad emergency? Is it clear that you did not sleep in your clothes, but instead selected them from drawers and hangers?

Basic? Should be. But we’ve all encountered the occasional cringe-worthy exception. Recognize averted eyes or noses as the social cues they are intended to be. Although your hygiene might not have any impact on your actual job performance, your manager might be less apt to reward someone he/she can't stand to be around at the office.

7. Being the "Bare Bones" Worker

Do you add garnish? Or are you a bare bones, slap it on the plate and "Order up!" short-order cook sort of employee? Going the proverbial extra mile adds value. People often pay a little more for that.

Showing initiative demonstrates that you aren't likely to miss anything important. It may illustrate abilities of which your boss was previously unaware. Getting a raise is all about convincing your boss that you are worth more than originally believed, so it stands to reason the employee who does "extra credit" is going to stand out from the crowd in all the right paycheck-enhancing ways.

6. Lacking "Response-ability"

While this is similar to "Initiative," being responsive refers to your ability to adjust in fluid situations. Can you morph into a career chameleon who identifies new opportunities and detects pitfalls in time to optimize the first and avoid the latter? And are you always quick to respond to client emails and your manager's concerns?

Your boss’ best peripheral vision still leaves 180 metaphorical degrees beyond his line of sight. Make him look good by tracking what may be out of view, and he may be inclined to reward you for more of the same.

5. Being a Lone Ranger

Going it alone isn't always a sign of strength. In fact, it can be a red flag indicator of social ignorance. Not utilizing your networking opportunities is like pecking on a typewriter instead of using the word processing resources of a computer. It is terrifically limiting and will ultimately yield a lower quality product. 

If you want the raise, demonstrate your resources extend beyond your own obvious skills and abilities to the helpful minds of others connected to your field. Your access to technical and creative support is an ancillary asset that might be worth additional compensation.

4. Lacking Social Skills

Here are a few more basics worth reviewing:  Eye contact, grammar and small talk. 

Like a firm handshake, making eye contact demonstrates confidence. Uncomfortable? Practice in front of your bathroom mirror until you can win a staring contest. Blinking is permitted (and encouraged) during actual conversations.

Poor grammar will make you appear more in need of further education than a raise. Not sure about how to use a word properly? Save it, Google it and try again later. This applies to both conversation and email. Regardless of how you're communicating, show off your best side at all times.

And finally, there’s nothing small about small talk. It’s the h’ors doeuvre offered prior to the main course. Get comfortable with it. Never lead with "About that raise..."

3. Having a Bad Attitude

When someone passes you in a hallway, will the next person he encounters notice his smile and look of purposeful energy? Or will he possibly appear shell-shocked and/or relieved at his rapidly expanding distance from you? Obviously, there’s no un-creepy way to way to monitor post-conversation reactions, but be aware of your own attitude, because everyone else is.

There are positive and negative ways to communicate that it’s raining.

Remember, rain can dampen a golf game, but it also waters crops, moisturizes skin, cools off a hot day and lessens UV rays. No boss wants to reward a complainer. Aim for positive.

2. Failing to Plan Ahead

Along with showing initiative and cultivating a broad network of business resource contacts, let your boss know that you’re constantly in learning mode and expanding your depth of knowledge.

If you can converse intelligently on a variety of topics related to your industry and the world at large, you are a more valuable employee. If you’re stuck with only the information you were pre-programmed with, you’re like the un-updated GPS that tries to take you down a road on which the bridge is out.

1. Not Asking for a Raise

A recent Salary.com survey revealed that 44 percent of employees simply don’t ask for or negotiate a pay raise during their performance reviews! Respondents revealed reasons ranging from discomfort to a lack of social skills or confidence. Not asking for a raise tells your boss that either you don’t care, don’t need or don’t feel you merit one. And if you don't advocate for yourself, no one else is going to either.

Do you think you deserve a raise? Why? Go back to the bathroom mirror and explain it face-to-face.

When you repeat this exercise with your boss (and remember to blink this time), you may hear "no money in the budget," "you first need to improve by..." or  an eventual "OK." Each response holds valuable information. And that last one? It comes with a raise. But you have to ask for it.

Recommended Reading

Thank you for reading. As an added bonus, the Salary.com editorial team has compiled a recommended reading list regarding this topic. Enjoy:

  • The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise
  • Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work & Life
  • Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn't & Why: 10 Things You'd Better Do If You Want to Get Ahead
  • How to Get the Raise You Want in 90 Days or Less: A Step-by-Step Plan for Making It Happen