Ask Amy: I Deserve A Raise!

Many of you have talked with me about how you’re paid, your resentment when lower-level employees earn more than you do, and your discomfort about asking a family member or a non-family executive for a raise. So in this Ask Amy column, I’ll share some ideas about a situation that many of you may face. I’m sure I’ll focus on this challenge many times, since it’s an important issue and the way it’s handled can vary from business to business, and of course, from family to family.

Dear Amy,

I have worked in my family’s business for three years, and I deserve a raise. But every time I try to talk about it with my dad, he says, “You have nothing to worry about.” And as a result, nothing happens. It’s very frustrating.

Amy Katz I don’t think there’s one answer to this question, or one way to ask for a raise from a family member. Your dad probably does feel that as a family member, you are secure. And he may have a succession plan in mind for you, even if you’re currently in the dark about it. But like any hard-working person, you want to feel that you are earning your salary, not that it’s completely unrelated to your performance, competence, and effort.

I applaud you for asking your dad for a raise. Getting clear about the value you add to the business and asserting your worth is part of becoming a mature adult – even if your first efforts are not successful. It’s healthy to want to know where you stand.

So I would try again, perhaps with a different approach. Many family businesses, particularly small ones, don’t have a well-defined system for career development and the salary increases that typically come with a promotion. You may need to educate your dad about how non-family businesses assess and reward their employees. Other employees in the business may be feeling the same kind of ambiguity about their own compensation, which may leave them feeling resentful and less motivated. So as you make your case, make it for the sake of the business, not just for yourself.

BUT… be sure to make the case for yourself as well.

Here are some suggestions:

1). Explain to your dad that like many people, you are trying to plan for your future, and that means getting a good sense of your financial situation. Tell him you are not worried; rather, your intention is to be a responsible adult.

2). Share your understanding of the goals of the business, and demonstrate (with metrics if possible), how you have contributed to its success. Be specific. Your dad may not be paying attention.

3). If you think he can hear it, explain to your dad that many women, like you, are becoming successful leaders in their family’s business. And that means that they are becoming knowledgeable and engaged in financial side of the business. Depending on your dad’s age and experience, this may be a new insight for him. Help him see that he can be like other progressive leaders who understand the value daughters can bring to a business, and rewards them for it.

4). Finally, and this is a tough one… be open to the possibility that your dad doesn’t think you deserve a raise, but is uncomfortable explaining why. His reasoning may be difficult to accept; on the other hand, his feedback may help you see ways to improve your performance.

The goal here is for you to present yourself as an ambitious, committed, and self-confident professional.





If you’ve had a successful experience asking for a raise, please let me know so I can share your story with others!

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