What Happens After You Get Turned Down for a Raise

"Your power lies somewhere between immobilization or being a puppet pulled by someone else's strings to high proactivity, the power to act according to your own values instead of being acted upon by other people and circumstances."

'This is it,' I thought to myself. 'This is the moment I've been waiting for.'

After six months of slaving myself away in the office, I'm finally ready to have "The Talk" with my boss about my current role and ask him for a raise. Ever since my previous coworker got fired, it's been clear to me that nothing is ever guaranteed. Since Day 1, my role as Production Manager for a small start-up company has somehow expanded into a part-time secretary, part-time executive assistant, part-time digital media strategist. You name it, I was probably living it. I never once mentioned how all of these high-volume tasks has somehow made work more daunting for me because I am a girl boss and girl bosses never complain. They just go and get the job done. 

Well, I was wrong. It didn't occur to me how unsatisfied I was and while none of my emotions played a heavy impact on the quality of my work, I was very sure of one thing: I was underpaid and overqualified. 

When I walked in that Monday morning, you can imagine how empowered I felt, knowing I was going to talk to him, negotiate, and finally get to see that light at the end of the tunnel. Little did I realize at the time, I was about to walk into a 30-minute dead-end conversation.

I took a straightforward approach and dived into the conversation by discussing my level of performance and the kind of tasks that I've tackled, all of which requires a higher level competency. I told him that I've exceeded my 3 month probation period and that I was seeking a role that could potentially expand to more. I even requested to work more hours, if needed. But I walked out of that meeting feeling defeated.

For a brief moment, I assumed that decision to keep my pay as is was entirely an act of good faith on his end. Perhaps, it was just bad timing. Replaying the conversation over and over again helped me reassess the situation: 

1) Even if he didn't explicitly denied me and left an "open-ended" answer, my gut instinct told me that he will never give me the answer I'm looking for....no matter how diligent I was. 

2) Don't work for nothing. The cost of living in Southern California is extremely high and the painful reality is that I will never be able to reach a level of sustainability if I continue to settle for these low risk/low reward jobs

This led me to my final verdict: I've been taken advantage of. It was never a matter of negotiation, or communication, even if I had an axe to grind, if they wanted to give me that raise, they would have done so already. If you're currently in the same rut as I am, I would like you to ask yourself a couple of questions:

1) What is your intrinsic worth? 

2) Are you motivated to go to work every day?

3) In the worst case scenario, if you were to quit today, will you still be able to find a means to sustain yourself?

I have asked myself these questions before being reminded that I was more than anything that a boss or this company could have offered me. So take some time to determine other options before you start to immobilize yourself. These situations are sticky and often times, uncomfortable, but I guarantee you that there's always a way out. There is always something bigger and better waiting for you so long as you choose to pursue your goals relentlessly.


Khanh P. Duong