5 Lies Employers Use to Not Give You a Raise

05/06/2015 08:59 am ET | Updated May 06, 2016
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We all want a nice, big raise from our employer -- a reward that proves that our hard work is paying off. And we want it at least once a year, please.

However, in many companies, raises have been hard to come by, especially for the last few years. Our economy is making a slow comeback, but average wage increases for 2015 are expected to be in 3% range, still below pre-recession levels, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

As the CEO and a founder of Aha!, this trend troubles me. Raises are important. We make sure our employees are well-compensated for their efforts. We set a high bar for hiring, so they know they are part of something special when they come on board. We are open about the performance of the company and how each individual contributes to the company's success.

You might be surprised, but there are a few reasons that pay raises are such a big deal to employees.

A raise means so much more than money. It is a tangible sign that the company cares about your success and that your hard work is paying off.

It's bad enough to not get a raise when you know you deserve one. I know because there were years when I met all my objectives, and my paycheck stayed the same. What is worse, is when you know the reasons you were given for not getting paid more were lies.

Have you been deceived? Here are the top five lies that employers use to explain why their employees will not be getting a raise.

It's not in the budget
The lie here is that the company will only allow for raises that are part of the annual budget. However, the painful truth is that your employer has the money, but does not want to spend it on you. Chances are that your work colleagues have already received their raises. If the company truly values your contributions, they will find room in the budget to reward you.

Sales are down this year
Have you ever heard this one? There is a pot of money for raises, but the pot is empty because of the company's performance. This lie is easy to spot if sales figures are readily available. Unless your compensation is directly based on sales commissions, the company should not point to low sales to justify denying you a raise -- especially if you can prove your outstanding performance in spite of lackluster sales.

You have not been here long enough
This lie is especially painful if you are a recent hire, and you are diligently working to make a good impression. To hear that you haven't proven yourself yet keeps you believing your performance is not up to par. This lie forces you to keep striving toward a brass ring that may be forever out of your reach. You can tell this lie if your employer will not give you a specific goal to work toward for the next round of raises.

You are paid the market rate
If the boss says your pay is based on the national average for your position, not according to your performance, you are really hearing that you are not special. Although you worked harder than the rest of your team members, your effort does not matter. Do not swallow this painful lie. Market rates should only be a starting point for salary negotiations and should not determine the trajectory of your career.

We will make it happen next year
This is the most dangerous lie. Why? This lie trivializes your contributions, and is an ugly cousin to "just relax - what are you worried about?" It minimizes the importance of your action and the time you are investing in the company. Worse, you may hear this lie year after year. Not only does your employer fail to take you seriously, they do not see how stringing you along wrecks your confidence.

Smart employers recognize the value of their employees, and they find a way to give them a raise. Even a company that is genuinely struggling should continue to invest in employees. Employees are their most important asset.

Rewarding employees with a pay increase is a sign of goodwill from the employer, reaffirming the employee's worth to the company.

If your employer lies to make you think you do not deserve a raise, it makes you wonder what else they are lying about. Ultimately, a company that is dishonest to its faithful employees does not deserve them. Once you recognize that fact, move on to a company who knows a valuable employee when they see one.

What other flimsy excuses have you heard for not receiving a raise?