Responding to a Negative Salary Review

Responding to a Negative Salary Review
By Joe Issid
Monster Contributing Writer

Most established employers in Canada should have a well-defined staff evaluation system in place to ensure that their employees are happy, healthy and performing to their fullest potential. As with any type of long-standing workplace practice, there are many divergent opinions on how to properly measure an individual’s contribution to a company and how these efforts should be duly rewarded. Over the course of my career, the most common practice that I have witnessed is the standard yearly evaluation followed by some form of salary adjustment based on said evaluation. Now, I am not here to say if this is the right or wrong way to operate; I am merely stating that this is a very common practice and most of you reading this have probably been through this process many times over the course of your careers, or you will have for the first time at some point, recent grads.
With that in mind, some of you may experience negative performance reviews that are potentially followed by equally dispiriting salary adjustments. Worse yet, you may experience a disastrous review (merited or otherwise) and no salary adjustment at all. So, how do you approach this scenario and what can you do to remedy it?
Do not respond emotionally
No one wins if you flip your lid and allow your emotions to run wild. Admittedly, being given bad news (especially with regards to your earning capacity) is never enjoyable but you dig yourself a deep hole if you approach the situation in an excited state. Do what you can to absorb the news in a collected manner and remain composed. If need be, take some time to evaluate the situation; more so, feel free to request to continue the meeting at a later date to allow you the time to compose yourself and address the issue with a clear head.
Ask for clarification
I once received a very favourable annual evaluation yet then received a $0 raise. Given the fact that my review had been positive, I was upset that this wasn’t reflected financially. Fortunately, my manager at the time went to great lengths to explain that the company was going through a difficult financial period and simply could not afford to increase payroll. Had he not taken the time to provide a reasonable and thorough explanation, I would not have been so understanding. To wit, if you receive an unfavorable salary evaluation, take the time to understand why it is happening and whether this is something that is legitimately beyond your control.
Be accountable
More often than not, a low salary adjustment is the result of poor performance – either on the part of the individual, unit or company. If you received a poor performance review and this was reflected with a low salary increase, you will need to take a close look at why this happened. Of course, every situation is entirely unique and there are countless factors that contribute to an evaluation. However, do yourself a favour and be as honest with yourself as you can. If your manager feels like you are underperforming, there has to be a reason for this. Sure, your manager may be the devil in disguise who can’t see the genius of your ways, but is there not a chance that maybe you are not performing your job as well as you can? Or maybe you are not putting forth the effort of which you are capable? In most cases, these situations don’t exist in a vacuum so try and see the situation as objectively as possible – no matter how difficult it may be.
Ask for a re-evaluation
If you don’t feel that your salary adjustment was reflective of your performance, why not ask your manager if they would be willing to perform a re-evaluation after a certain period of time? If your company performs an annual salary adjustment, maybe you can ask your manager to re-evaluate your situation in the next 6 months instead. This shows your willingness to demonstrate your commitment to your work and also provides you with a tangible target.
Time for a change?
Maybe your boss really doesn’t see the value you bring to the team and you are not being treated fairly. Or maybe you are working for a company that pays its staff less than market value and the meagre annual raises you receive are simply not providing you with enough money. In such cases, it may absolutely be worth your time to start looking elsewhere. Look, I’m not saying that you should be looking to jump ship every time you fail to get a 10% raise, but there are people out there who are underpaid or who feel they could be better compensated elsewhere.

As they often say, the fastest way to get a big raise is to change jobs and find better.