your next move

‘My Boss Says I Work More Than My Predecessor. Can I Ask for a Raise?’

A woman with dark hair tied back in a ponytail is seated in a chair. She is holding a cellphone to her right ear as she reads a paper she holds in her left hand.
Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

Dear Kimberly,

I’m 35 with 10-plus years of experience in communications and started a new job at a nonprofit in September 2021 with the title of senior communications and marketing specialist.

This position and title took the place of the previous role of communications manager; the person in that role retired after 15 years at the organization, and they dropped that position and added my lower one.

I know from my direct supervisor and from both job descriptions that I am doing the same job as the communications manager with additional new responsibilities I’ve created that align with my skills. My boss has said no fewer than three times that I’m doing much more than my predecessor, who was apparently checked out over their last couple of years in the role.

There is nothing the communications manager did that I am not doing — the only difference is I am new and 30 years younger.

I really like the organization, which is progressive and very transparent about salary information. I am currently in salary tier B, while the communications-manager position was in tier D. (The further down the alphabet, the higher the salary; the highest is the CEO at tier G.)

Am I wrong to believe I deserve the higher title and pay for doing the same job and more? When and how can I ask to be considered for the same title and salary as my predecessor?

P.S.: My current position wasn’t created because of budget cuts or constraints — the organization is growing and hiring more employees than ever.

This is a complex situation depending on the history of this role at your organization. As your predecessor was growing in this role over the span of 15 years, the company most likely rewarded their work and longevity with salary and title changes. Without speaking with someone who’s familiar with the breadth of that person’s responsibilities in the earlier years, it would be hard to know if their title changed because they took on more responsibilities or simply because of their longevity at the organization.

I mention this because it’s not uncommon for the roles to “default” back to their original titles when a long-term employee leaves the organization. Generally, this has nothing to do with the budget. It’s about the career pathing for that role within the organization. For example, all roles in the organization’s communications department may start as a specialist and grow into managers within a certain number of years.

Knowing this, I still do not think it’s wrong for you to ask for the higher title and pay because you’ve mentioned the direct feedback that you’ve received from your manager already. You’ve been in the role for over a year now, so it’s the perfect time to pitch for a raise based on your performance and new contributions to the organization.

I want to reiterate that you’re pitching for a raise based on your performance and contributions, not because your predecessor was being paid more for less work. Your manager can easily dismiss the latter argument because the organization can simply compare your time in the role to your predecessor’s, and that’s a battle that’s very easy to lose. We want to focus on your skills and contributions.

If you haven’t already done so, initiate a career conversation with your manager to begin the process of negotiating your salary and title. You want this to be a dedicated time outside your normal cadence of weekly or biweekly task-related meetings. Prior to the meeting, prepare a list of your key accomplishments and contributions to the role so you’re prepared to share specific examples of your work. Additionally, take a look at your competitors in the industry and confirm the pay range and titles for the scope of work that you do.

From your letter, it sounds like you may be naturally aligned to the manager title anyway, which is great! These conversations can be nerve-racking, so here’s how I recommend kicking off the meeting:

Thanks again for meeting with me today! I wanted to have a career conversation based upon my performance at the company over the past year.

Since coming to Company Name in September 2022, I’ve been able to initiate A, B, and C, which has resulted in ____________________. 

With the new contributions and positive feedback from the team, I’d like to understand what is needed to be promoted to communications manager with a salary range of ____________________.

If you’ve already had conversations with your manager prior to this and you know what they are looking for when promoting into manager roles, be sure to hone in on that area. One of my favorite questions to ask is “What do you need to see from me in order to know that I’m ready to be promoted?” I recommend asking this question at the end of a weekly or biweekly task-related meeting so you can prepare for the career conversation in advance. The key is to ask the question and simply listen to the answer without giving much feedback. You need to hear your manager’s words so you can reflect them back when you have the actual career conversation. They may be listing everything that you already do, which is even better for you!

If your manager shares that they feel you’re not ready based upon time spent in the role alone, start sharing the feedback you’ve received and the tangible ways that you’ve significantly improved the organization in your time there. Sharing external benchmarks with their titles, responsibilities, and salary will also help to showcase the level that you should be aligned to.

Kudos to you for the great work and for making significant contributions to your organization in one year! Doing the work is the basis for a successful conversation around a raise or a promotion, and it sounds like you’ve been doing just that.

Career and leadership-development expert Kimberly Brown helps readers make sure their next move is the best move. Listen to the Your Next Move podcast here and keep up with Kimberly on her website.

‘I Work More Than My Predecessor. Can I Ask for a Raise?’