Ask the Etiquette Expert: Dealing With a No-Raise No-Praise Boss

06/28/2017 09:09 am ET
Dear Diane,
I have been at my current job position for two and a half years and have received very small compensation. I have not gotten a significant raise in over a year and I routinely work late nights and weekends. Seldom does my boss even acknowledge my efforts with a verbal “thank you.” She is very generous to our clients, but when it comes to her four employees, we are given very few perks. We buy our own coffee, pay for our own birthday celebrations and bring in dishes of food for special holiday events. I don’t love my job, but I don’t want to leave. I’m afraid I may not find another job as convenient to my home or as relaxed an atmosphere as what I have now. How do I go about asking for a raise or an “Atta girl” every once in a while?
Jemina J.

Dear Jemina,

You are not alone. There are many employees who don’t feel appreciated, and many bosses who have no idea their employees are not happy. If you want a raise (and it sounds as if you deserve it–right now!), you need to make some plans.

Do your research–find out what other employees with the same or comparable position make. There are several sites that can assist you, such as Indeed's list of salaries and

Make an Appointment

Request a meeting with your boss and let her know how you are feeling. Have a list of duties and how you have surpassed your goals. Let her know you do not want to leave your job but are interested in getting paid what others in your position make. The compensation can come in the form of a raise and overtime hours, or she may have other perks to offer you. Listen to her feedback. You may be surprised at how she responds, both positive and negative.

Decide on the Next Step

If you get what you want, great. If you don’t, decide what’s next. Don’t make idle threats or storm out, leaving behind a reason you should not be valued or considered for a future promotion. Ask for a timeline of when you can expect a raise and what would be needed to reach the goal. Plan your strategy wisely and don’t make any rash decisions.

Put it in Writing

Some people are uncomfortable talking to their boss about money. According to PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide, only 43% of respondents have ever negotiated a salary in their current field. By emailing your boss with the request, you are giving him or her time to think things through and come up with a plan of action. You must still meet with her, but you will have laid the groundwork in advance.

Make Sure You're Not the Problem

You simply may not be the best at what you do and your boss feels she is doing you a favor by keeping you on as an employee. Don’t be afraid to ask if there is any reason you have not received a raise in over a year. It may be because you have lost the company a great deal of money by your mistakes, or you are consistently late and seldom come to work on Monday after a long weekend. When you ask the question with an open mind, you'll either learn something about yourself or confirm your boss doesn't want to fit your compensation into the budget.

Celebrate Less

You may want to have a monthly party and ask your boss if she would consider covering the cost of the birthday cake. Often employees celebrate individually and the boss may see it as an unnecessary distraction which takes place multiple times a month. She may be trying to send a message which you and your peers are overlooking. By the way, do you celebrate her birthday too? Communication is the key.

Accept Reality

You may never get what you need emotionally from your boss. She may not have it to give–or has a hard time showing her appreciation. You can’t make someone change. You can show her kindness and behave in the same manner you would like to be treated. Breaking the ice, even if it’s been two and a half years, may take a bit of time.

Worst Case, Consider Finding a Job You Love

If you decide to move on, give your boss ample time to hire someone else. Walking in and tossing the keys on her desk is seldom the best move. Leaving your job without fair notice is a deal breaker. Your reputation will follow you wherever you go and you never know when you will need a reference from your former employer. When the time comes, exit with dignity.

For more of Diane’s etiquette tips, you may enjoy reading 8 Ways to Handle a Difficult Boss. You can also visit her blog, connect with her here on HuffPost, “like” The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, and follow her on PinterestInstagram and Twitter. Buy her new book, Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.

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