Gone are the days when employers would give you a raise simply because they see you’re doing a good job. More often than not, you have to ask for a raise, and even though you might ask and prove that you are deserving of one, it may not be granted. As a young 22 year-old entering the workforce, I landed my first real job at a major entertainment company. I busted my butt and gave new meaning to the expression, “overworked and underpaid.” I always went above and beyond the call of duty, I was punctual and did it all with a smile. Heck, I was just happy to be there, and I was happy to be working. You see, I graduated the summer after 9/11. At that time, it was extremely difficult to find a job, not to mention, I was fresh out of college and had very little work experience. So, I considered myself fortunate to have found a job working for such a reputable company even though the pay wasn’t very impressive.
After a year or two, my job responsibilities had increased tremendously, and I didn’t feel like I was being compensated properly for all the additional work I was doing. I received relatively positive feedback on my employee evaluations, so I figured my boss must have been pleased with my performance. But, if he was so pleased, why hadn’t I been offered a raise? I always thought that if I worked hard and maintained a positive attitude, promotions and raises would follow.
You can imagine my surprise when a more seasoned colleague, who had sort of taken me under her wing, informed me that, more than likely, I would not be given a raise unless I asked for it. This made no sense to me. Movie stars don’t go around campainging for Oscars, they are nominated. Humanitarians don’t have to produce a list of reasons why they deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, their work is observed and the prize is awarded accordingly. So why, in the corporate world, did I have to (according to my colleague) give a detailed account of how my responsibilities had changed since I started, ways in which I had contributed to the success of the department, and so on?
Although I was extremely reluctant to ask, I started compiling the information necessary to convince my boss that I deserved a raise. I talked to a friend about how nervous I was about requesting a raise, and she told me she also had been wanting to ask for a raise, but experienced the same apprehension. Why were we so intimated by this process? The longer we talked, I realized that we both felt that by asking for a raise, we were “challenging authority.” We were taught to respect our elders which, in our home, meant we could not freely and openly express dissention without being chastised (usually physically). Since this form of child-rearing is most popular amongst African Americans, I wondered if this “spare the rod, spoil the child,” mentality could be harming us in more ways than we think. Is it possible that this fear of authority instilled in us as children has crippled us as adults by stifling our spirit and encouraging complacency?
I have since asked for, and received several raises, but each time I have to work up the nerve to do so.