Everybody wants more money.
No matter who you work for or what job your in, I’d bet that you feel you’re underpaid and over-worked. Am I right? Well, that is the same position I found myself in around a year ago in mid-2019.
I’d been working at the same telecoms company for 8 years, the last 5 of those in the same position as a Network Planner. I’d worked my way up from the entry-level position, to one of the most senior members of the team, but if you compared my salary to that of my colleagues, you would never have known. For the last 5 years, I’d received small incremental pay rise’s, just as everyone else had who performed well throughout the year, and I was happy in my job so it was never of much of concern up to that point.
However, in 2019 we started to see members of the team leave to competitor companies, for substantially more money than what we were being paid for the same job role. This sent alarm bells ringing in my head. I started to wonder, were my former colleagues who had left been over-paid to entice them to join the competitor company? Or was the salary offered by competitors the true value of my role, and I was simply being underpaid for what I do? After conducting some research and inquiring at many other companies for the same or similar role, I realised it was only the company I worked for who were under-paying for the job I do, everywhere else paid the same or similar money to that of which my former colleagues had left for.
This left me with just two options, and a decision to make.
1. Leave and move to one of the competitor companies.
2. Stay, knowing that I’m being underpaid, but valuing the fact that I do enjoy my job and the people I work with, and it comes with great benefits too.
But then I had a brainwave, maybe there was a third option.
Could it be possible to stay where I am, but get the higher salary that my colleagues had been chasing at the other companies? Who knows, but I thought it was worth a shot. After all, what did I have to lose? If it didn’t work out, I’d still have the same two options I had before.
So, I put together a plan of action. I pulled together all the documentation that proved I was, without doubt, one of if not THE top performer within the team. I also put together the information I had showing that the salaries the competitor companies were offering were substantially higher than what I was currently being paid. Next, I scheduled a meeting with my manager to go over what I had put together, to explain how undervalued I felt, and to try and come to some agreement on a salary increase.
To say that was a waste of time is an understatement.
I was basically told in more or less the same words, ‘We don’t have the budget, so if you’re not happy, there’s the door’.
I walked out of that meeting disappointed. In hindsight I was naive, but at the time I really felt like I had a case. I hoped they would review the situation and come to an amicable solution, a solution where they agree to increase my salary, maybe not to the same as the competitors, but at least bridge the gap. I had tried my best but to no avail, and the decision to move on seemed highly likely at that point.
Yet, just as all hope seemed lost, I heard whisperings. These whisperings were of one of the newest members of our team, who had joined us from a competitor no more than 6 months previously. He came with little knowledge or experience in the job role, which is why I offered to personally coach him through his first few months while he got up to speed. However, the whisperings I heard were that he had agreed on a salary, when he came over from his previous company, of just over £4000 pounds MORE than what I was currently being paid.
I was stunned.
Not through any fault of the new guy, I don’t blame him for negotiating the highest salary he could get whilst applying for a new job. If I were in his shoes I’d have done the same. I was stunned because in the meeting I had only just had with my manager, I was told that there was no budget to allow for salaries higher than what I was already on, and it was also made quite clear that I was paid ‘fairly’ for my knowledge and experience within the team…
I knew I had to address the situation, I needed to speak to the new guy about what I had heard, and get clarification on whether this was true or not. It turns out he was more than willing to share his side of things, and he was actually surprised to learn that I was paid less than him. He had been told upon accepting the role that his salary reflected his position within the team and that there was plenty of scope to move up the ladder if he performed well within the role. Incredible! Not only had they given him MORE money upfront, but they had also offered him incentives upon him gaining experience… EXPERIENCE I ALREADY HAVE!
With this new information, I felt I had one last shot at getting the increase I deserved. If it didn’t work out this time, that would be it, I would hand in my notice and move on to pastures new, after all, I’d already had offers from other competitor companies, so it was quite clear that if my skills and experience were not valued here, I could take them elsewhere.
That evening, I formed a plan of action. I drafted a formal dispute to send off to the HR department and scheduled in a meeting with my manager for the following day, to inform them of the process I was about to initiate.
The following day, we had the meeting. At the back of mind I had hoped that as soon as I mentioned the dispute would be raised with HR, some sort of counter-offer or solution would be brought to the table, to prevent it from going that far. However, it went just as I thought it would. There was very little discussion, my dispute was accepted and I was told someone would be in touch regarding the next step of the process.
Yet again, the feeling of disappointment swelled inside me. I had given my manager multiple chances to prove to me that I was a valued member of the team and not just a number on a spreadsheet. It seemed I had no other avenues to pursue, maybe it really was time to leave.
But what happened next did NOT go as I thought it would. To this day I am still trying to get my head around the events that took place next.
No more than an hour later, I received a call. I had only ever seen this person’s name on a higher management position tree, and now they were on the other end of the phone. The person stated he had heard what was happening and wanted to contact me directly. He assured me that I had nothing more to worry about and that my salary would be taken care of. He stressed I was a highly valued individual within the department and integral to the team, and that he was sorry things had got this far. He finished the conversation by stating I would receive a letter in the post in the coming days, which he hoped I would find satisfactory.
Did that just happen?
Sure enough, within a couple of days my letter came, and in it came my 20% pay increase with immediate effect. Not only that, but I would also receive back pay for the previous 6 months. Needless to say, I stayed with the company and am still there to this day.
When I look back on this period of time, I am glad I did what I did, not simply because I managed to gain a pay increase, but because I fought for what was right. For a long time, I had blindly gone to work day after day, being underpaid and under-appreciated for a job I was over-achieving in. If I’m totally honest, I probably got myself into the situation by not speaking up at certain times and raising the issue earlier. I knew I was being underpaid and had been for a long time, but it just never seemed like the right moment to bring it up.
However, somewhere along the line I gained the courage I needed to face the issue head-on, and ultimately got what I deserved. In hindsight, I wish I had done something about it sooner, but maybe things happen for a reason. Either way, I think it is important to know your worth, and not just settle for what someone else tells you your worth. We all deserve to go to work and be paid fairly for the work that we do, not taken advantage of because we are young, naive or inexperienced.
So there you have it, that is the story of how I gained a 20% pay increase WITHOUT a promotion.
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