Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Nonprofit career help: I’ve worked at a small, well-funded nonprofit in a major city for almost two years. I was hired for a coordinator position under an experienced manager who was making $15,000 more than me. In my first months, he quit abruptly, and instead of rehiring they dumped most of his job onto me with no raise and no title change. My new boss also left, so by the time of my annual review, I was talking to a new person who totally missed my “stepping up.” I’d hoped for a raise, but all I got was a cost of living increase. Now, another co-worker is leaving, and I’ve been permanently tasked with a major project of his. He was also making over $15,000 more than me. I want to demand a raise, but I’m scared of asking for too much or not being tactful. Help?
A: I don’t think you’re in much danger of not being tactful, I think you’re in danger of not speaking clearly again. Don’t let management “miss” your stepping up again. You have plenty of hard evidence to point to—keep a record of the successful projects that you’ve managed over the last two years that go above and beyond your title, name the number you think is reasonable in light of the work you’ve been doing (at least $15,000 more, right?), and ask for it.
If your company doesn’t provide you with one, or if they try to fob you off with another “cost of living increase,” it’s probably time to look for a job elsewhere. If you ask for “too much,” the absolute worst anyone can say is “No, we can’t do X, but we can offer Y.” It’s not rude or tactless to demonstrate that you’re being underpaid for the job you’re doing and to ask for more compensation. You can do it!
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