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You Got A Raise - And No One Else Did

· Compensation

Dear People Ops:

In June I was promoted to a new position and got a 5% bump in salary. In October they had performance reviews and in November I was called in and told I was a top performer for my position and exceeding all expectations and was being given another 5% raise.

Well last week, the company CEO sent out an email to all saying that we had a terrible year (we did, lost second and fourth biggest clients, a huge part of our billing) and that to avoid layoffs nobody was getting a raise in the Q3 performance reviews (the ones done in October) and that there will be no Christmas bonuses.

Obviously I did get a raise based on the October performance reviews so now I feel like I'm complicit in the company's lie.

Nobody usually discusses compensation at our company but this has set off a lot of complaining among employees, people saying they're going to have to put off getting a new car or moving into a bigger apartment or something because they expected to get a "cost of living" increase. Co-workers have asked me what I think about the letter and I usually just say that's crap, but I wonder if people are noticing I didn't say anything

How do I handle a situation like this?

Well, you've gotten two raises: Your raise in June was related to a promotion and new salary. That's like getting a new job.

Last week the CEO said there will be no raises in Q3, nor any based on performance reviews. Perhaps I'm splitting the short and curlies here, but you got a promotion, and your salary reflected your elevation to this new position. A raise is an increase in pay for the same work and the same role, as is also inferred by extra money based on a performance review. That would mean 1) You are obviously and clearly exempt from the freeze, and 2) You work for a very ethical and honorable company. You should be discreet about this because of the obvious sensitivities in the current negative climate, but you are not "lying" by withholding this nor should you feel guilty. You essentially got a new job, and with it, new pay. They did not.

Your raise in October is a bit different. When companies go through tough times, the smart ones try to carve out money to incentivize their top performers and key employees. Bad news like this is a huge red flag to people and many will start looking for work elsewhere, so you want to stem that tide with your most critical team members. Because on top of their internal value, they're the ones most likely to be able to find new jobs quickly if they decide to bail. It's not because the company wants to punish people. They just don't have the resources to make it happen, and want to protect their best.

That has to stay quiet, unfortunately. People want theirs, doubly so when times are tight and resources are scarce. You don't want to jeopardize your place by blabbing about this and causing a problem, and you don't want to jeopardize your ability to work with these people by being the "golden boy" or whatever who got when they didn't.

There's no good out here. You just keep your head down and agree with everyone that it sucks that nobody gets a raise. You don't have to lie to anyone's face, you can keep up the "Yes, that does suck" responses. It'll die down eventually.

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