"The Employee's Market: Now is the Best Time to Get a Raise" - 08/18/21 Edition
Stephen Says Column

Dear Stephen,

I’m working hard as hell because so many people are working virtually which in my organization means they’re hardly working. I’m a sales rep at a manufacturer, specifically an A&D rep. As everybody knows, A&D firms may not be fully back to their offices, but they’re fully working. In fact, most friends of mine that are architects and designers are burnt out. I’m actually having a surprisingly good year. The inflation rate is increasing, and the cost of living has gone up for me and my family, so I feel like I should be making more money. Part of me feels awkward asking for a raise while we’re still in a pandemic and a year ago I was almost worried if I was going to even have a job. Right now, it seems clear, variant or not, that business is going to continue to improve. I’m constantly called directly by competitors, occasionally by recruiters, and I see through LinkedIn and social media that everybody is hiring. I know I could get at least a 20% increase on my base simply by changing jobs, but I actually like where I work. I’m not up for my review until January but I want a raise now. What should I do? Is this a good time to ask for a raise?

Feeling Ambitious


Dear Ambitious,

It’s the best time to ask for a raise! Let me start by telling you that one of my conditions for asking for a raise in today’s unusual environment is that you need to be one of those employees who is actually coming to work. And I mean five days a week. That’s what counts most in the furniture industry. So, in spite of the fact that you’re reading so much stuff online and in the news about hybrid working conditions (meaning combination of working from home and office), if you sell office furniture, you need to show there is a need for your product by being in the office yourself. The dynamic of buying furniture is not changing – that’s why residential furniture stores are so crowded. People want to see, touch and sit in the product that they are going to be investing in. So, assuming your boss can see how hard you’re working because you’re coming into the office… you could ask for a raise. Right now, we’re selling the most amount of searches in Texas, Michigan, California, Florida, North Carolina and New York. All of those states except for New York and California are back to work 100%, and in many states people never stopped coming to work. And even where I am in New York City, owners and managers tell me that when they review their employee’s efforts they use the old cliché, “out of sight, out of mind.” Meaning, if you’re out of sight than you’re definitely out of mind for a promotion or a raise. Even if you’re in outside sales, the new normal is the customers are coming to see you and you need to be in the showroom.

Some managers aren’t as concerned about your sales numbers as they are about just seeing you. Boy, that’s strange, isn’t it? Most contract manufacturers have enormous investments in showrooms so you could safely come to work and socially distance and your customers can get out of their homes and apartments and come visit you. Meanwhile, why not look? It’s also a good time to explore other opportunities with competitors even if you’re happy at your own job. So, it’s great to ask for a raise and I’m convinced you’re going to get it, but you may want to consider other opportunities as well because the grass is often greener. It’s an employee’s market. Whether you’re at a dealer or a manufacturer. Ask for a minimum of 10% increase in your base but tell your employer that if you left you probably could get 20%. You may not have made a lot of money during the pandemic, but chances are your company got an awful lot of PPP money and something tells me you’re going to get a raise.

Stephen Viscusi