How to Get a Raise in Automotive Quality

“If I only had a dollar for every time I helped someone pull this off.”

As a career doctor, I see both sick and healthy patients all the time.  My assessment of almost everyone seeking stronger work opportunities always begins with examining what I refer to as their “career wounds.”  The wounds can range from hating their boss to simple work-plant conditions and almost everything in between.  However, money always seems to figure prominently into the equation in one way or another.  Often, I hear the lone reason to move is that the candidate wants more compensation.  This is not a critical career wound such as a lack of vision by the company or a boss that is a tyrant or is simply going nowhere. The patient is just feeling a bit green . . . or the lack thereof.

The nice part about money issues is that they can be fixed quickly with the swipe of a pen.  Other career wounds, such as an overbearing boss, a boring town holding a young single person captive, or a plant that looks and smells like a throwback to the Dickens era, are usually issues that must be solved by candidates making a company move.  The lack of money, on the other hand, is a correctible issue.  It is not always correctible in the sense that everyone who asks for a raise gets one.  It is correctible in that either you get the raise you feel you are due or you find out what the company truly feels you are worth.  If your compensation is a nagging issue, life is too short to delay what needs to be done.  As with everything in life, it is how the request is executed that determines a large part of its success or failure.  It takes planning and courage to ask for a raise correctly.  You must not take this assignment lightly, due to the potential negative reaction of your company or boss.

However, if compensation is an issue that touches you at your core, asking for a raise is imperative since a move elsewhere without attempting this solution first is inherently more dangerous.  The reasons include: the simple stress of changing parking lots, adapting to a new boss, figuring out new relationship dynamics, walking into a different situation than you perceived, and countless others make it not worth the risk.  Working with the right recruiter and company willing to invest in talent minimizes these potential problems.  But moving for just an increase in money is not wise.  The best course of action, if you like your current work situation, is to dig in your heels and try to resolve the money issue.  Let’s first look at the wrong way to ask for a raise.

For those of you reading who have received an offer from another company and then accepted a counteroffer (and it has worked out for you), count yourself in the true minority.  Statistics show a majority of candidates who accept counteroffers are gone from their company within six months.  The reasons vary, from the fact that the company may no longer trust you, to the fact that once the dust settles you often realize there are more reasons to leave the company than just money.  Taking a counteroffer simply flies in the face of the natural human condition of belonging to a group where trust and honesty are essential.  When a counteroffer from your current company is accepted, trust is forever gone since you showed your willingness to bail on your current group and hold a gun to the head of your employer.  From that day on, every time you take a day or an afternoon off, you will be under suspicion and will find yourself having to explain in great detail exactly why you are taking the time off, since the chips you previously had in the pile of trust are now gone.  I would not recommend the counteroffer situation to anyone, because I have heard horror stories.

The way to do it right is by taking a few pages out of the Jack Welch playbook and doing your homework, using candor, and making a clear argument of why you are outperforming others and deserve the raise.  Let’s start with the homework.  In the automotive quality industry, it is best and easiest to start with the American Society for Quality (A.S.Q) salary survey.  This handy survey not only gives you as quality professional tremendous ammunition, it also stacks the deck in your favor.  The key point to remember about the survey is that the income values in the report are inflated from actual conditions.  There are various reasons for this discrepancy, from the fact that respondents are not fact-checked to the unmistakable truth that quality professionals who join (and participate) in groups like AQS are more serious about their careers than those who do not.  These reasons are combined with the fact that voters, in general, make more income than the general population.  Were you aware that the average voter in the general electorate of America makes almost two times the per capita income than the country’s average?  So, the good news is that you have some strong data working in your favor.

Next, you need to reach deep inside yourself to pull out the commensurate courage to call this meeting with your boss and lay the cards on the table.  The approach needs to be threefold: first, explain what you have done to deserve the raise; then show your boss the data on how the market pays more for services such as the one you provide; and lastly, inform the boss that this information has been confirmed by a cold call from a recruiters (make sure not to make it seem like you have been calling them).  You must include in the conversation why you like your current company and want to stay, in essence, giving the company the opportunity to make it right.  Can this backfire?  Of course it can.  If your boss feels that you are holding a gun to his or her head, the meeting might take a turn for the worse.  If it does go south, then you now have more than just one reason to make a move, don’t you?

If your boss insists that you are holding a gun to his or head by approaching the situation proactively, then it is your responsibility to point out that going outside and fielding an offer is holding a gun; this is simply business that needs to be taken care of based upon the facts presented.  You merely wanted to give the company the opportunity to pay you the current market price for your position so you may continue to go about doing the outstanding job you’ve already been doing.  If you are asking yourself if anyone has been fired using this technique, the answer is yes.  It has happened precisely two times in the three decades I have been seeing patients.  In both cases, I learned later that the boss had an explosive temper.  If the candidates had told me this important information at the time of their call, I would not have suggested this maneuver, and I would have advised them to simply make a move elsewhere.

If you make the effort by asking for a raise and are denied, this is when you should call me.  There are two reasons for leaving a company: lack of money and lack of appreciation.  Even after twenty years in business, I still have no crystal ball to predict when a situation is going to work out or not for a candidate.  Each candidate’s case is specific and unique.  I trust this formula will help you if compensation is your only gripe.  If I help to put more money in your pocket, all I ask is that your next-born child bear my name – or if that is too drastic, then to send me referrals.  If this approach doesn’t work for you, call me.  I’ll get you more money, find a company willing to invest in your talent, with a better boss (zero tolerance policy with jerks), and hopefully an even shorter commute or a better overall location.  Best of fortune…and…Go Automotive Quality!