by Matt B

My anniversary date at work is in August. Every year around this date, I look forward to my annual review. I say “look forward to” because I know that I am a valuable and competent employee and that my performance will be praised. I also know that this usually means that I will be getting a raise.

In mid 2008, I awaited my review and was hoping to be able to put the small raise I anticipated into a new IRA account. I knew it would not be much, but every little bit can go far if used properly. After speaking to my manager, I learned that my review would be glowing, and that I should expect a decent increase in pay. It is around this time that my office spiraled into complete chaos. It was summer, so vacations were happening every week, and with a short-handed staff to start, everyone was stretched thin. My job is a hybrid type of position. Basically, wherever we are short, that is where I come in. I can do everything needed within the branch, so I plug holes. Teller, Loan officer, even Manager….I go literally wherever I am needed. Summer is the most chaotic time of year for a person in my position. Luckily, pressure like this brings out the best in me and coincides perfectly with my performance review and makes me look like a superstar.

During the revolving-door of vacations, we also had a major setback. My manager, whom I adored, had the worst string of events I have ever seen happen to anyone occur all at the same time. Without giving away too much detail (I’ve gotta respect her privacy) she had a serious illness, both parents in the hospital, a miscarriage, and a divorce all within a six week time span. Luckily, she is one of the strongest willed people I have ever known and worked through everything. She ended up missing a lot of work and later transferred to a different office to lighten her workload. I am happy to say that she is now doing very well and is happy and healthy.

When August finally came around, there was no manager in my office. My assistant manager wrote reviews for everyone in the office, only to give them to the regional executive to end up getting re-written. Because the overall performance in my branch was below expectations, the “big boss” decided to change reviews. Her stance was that since the branch did not perform well, nobody would get a positive review. This meant NO RAISES.

I was very angry to find out that a woman who sees me work all of 10 hours per quarter gave me a negative review solely because of the poor performance of my peers. I contemplated leaving the company. Unfortunately, jobs in the financial sector were growing more and more scarce. My options were dwindling every day.

After looking intently for another position in the area with another company for a few months, I decided that with my options so limited, and so much potential for me to advance my current position, that I would stay. By this time, jobs had already started to disappear and overall economic prosperity was all but gone.

Months later, after much displeasure at work and many job cuts, we are smack in the middle of both a hiring and wage increase freeze. This angers me even more, considering I should have been positively reviewed months ago and the raise I had expected is nothing more than an occasional forethought. We were now cutting payroll through “natural attrition”. This means that at the branch level, when employees quit, the company would not be replacing them. Our natural turnover made this very easy to get to a bare-bones budget in no time. It also meant that the few of us left got to make up for all of the hours of labor that we were missing by working 2 or 3 times harder than we already were. Now I’m fuming. I want to give my notice every day, but there is nowhere else to go, so I’m stuck.

Ok, now it is early February. Although I am completely unaware, the culmination of months of displeasure and frustration are about to get thrown a bone. My manager (we will call him Jonas, just because it is a silly, funny name) calls me in to his office. I’m that obnoxious guy at work who yells OOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! when someone gets called into the manager’s office as if they are in trouble. When Jonas appeared at the frame of his door and called me in from across the office, I was not exempt. OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH!!! I bellowed, to a chorus of crickets. I swear in my head everyone was laughing.

When I got to Jonas’ office, he asked me to shut the door. He had never done this before, so I exercised a bit of preventative maintenance by asking, “what did I do”? This question always lessens the severity of trouble if you actually are in some sort of trouble. In this case, it was just a joke. We both knew that he had nothing on me, and if he did, he probably would have addressed the issue early in the morning, not mid day, as it was then.

I sat down with him, and he informed me that it was time for a performance review. Finally, I thought. He explained to me that it was difficult for him to put together accurate reviews for people until he had been at our office for a sufficient amount of time to feel confident about our everyday work habits. Over the next half hour, we discussed my performance, the “state of the office”, what my expectations were of him and vice-versa, and the performance of some others. I left feeling very satisfied. I also felt very encouraged that I can entrust my manager with anything, and that he is capable of objective analysis. These are two extremely important qualities in a manager. (Among many others.)

I ended up with a mere 3% raise. After all of the trepidation and frustration that went through my mind regarding this matter, I have to accept it, but I don’t have to like it. I’ll tell you one thing, 3% of not much=not much. I should probably be glad I got an increase at all, but I can not help but think that a raise that does not even match the rate of inflation actually ends up being a pay cut, doesn’t it? I may be wrong about this, and please correct me if I am, but I need to get myself a real increase in pay. One that will actually put me ahead year over year, instead of setting me back further than when I started.

How much (%) was your last pay increase? If you are self-employed, do you increase your own salary? How much?


Miranda February 20, 2009 at 10:25 am

My dad’s “raise” this year was to not get fired. I have a feeling that many people are in the position of just being glad they haven’t been canned. So 3% is pretty good. But, as you say, not great. Good luck going forward.

I’m a freelance writer, and there are usually a number of projects I can do. If I want a little extra, I say “yes” to something I’d normally say “no” to. If I get really desperate, I log on to one of the paid per article sites I keep an account with (TextBroker, Associated Content, Demand Studios, etc.) and pound out some generic Web content.

Tucci4prez February 20, 2009 at 2:14 pm

I, too, am a self employed computer consultant. But my work ethic has been shitty lately so i reduced my pay…Frankly i deserved to be canned but i’m sleeping with my boss (that means i masterbate alot)

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