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My performance review was great. My raise was not. How should I handle?

Cue "9 to 5": In the latest edition of advice column The Lossless Leader, find engineering manager Leemay Nassery's advice on controlling what you can in a frustrating work scenario.

Money! (Video by YouTube user Imagine Hafakot, used under a Creative Commons license)

This is The Lossless Leader, an advice column written by engineering manager Leemay Nassery.

Why call it The Lossless Leader? An engineering leader is someone who inspires their team, communicates well, grows their people to become leaders themselves, removes blockers or painful aspects of their team’s day-to-day, delivers on product requests and so much more. In tech, lossless compression is a technique that does not lose any data in the compression process; it reduces the size of files without losing any information in the file so quality is maintained.

Combining the two: Leaders aren’t perfect. Sometimes they manage to not lose any data while leading their org, and other times it may seem like they’re losing it altogether. This column is called The Lossless Leader because we all admire those leaders who strive to stay true to who they are and the people they serve (their team). They admit fault when necessary, learn from their mistakes, sometimes flourish in difficult situations — all while not losing themself along the way.

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The question:

“I just had my end-of-year review. My manager had all good things to say; I accomplished a ton of work that had an impact on the product, and am so valuable to the organization, etc. However, I received the most unsatisfying raise ever. I definitely expected more given all the work I did this past year AND given that my review was met with high praise. I’m fairly upset. How should I handle this?”

The answer:

It’s review szn, baby. I can actually visualize Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” lyrics playing out in real life.

We’re all in the same boat — meeting with our managers to go over our yearly review. The spiciest question in our minds is not, usually, what our actual rating is but rather, what is our increase in compensation? In other words, show me the MONEEEEY (say it louder, Jerry!).

OK, so let’s play this story out a bit.

Your review itself was great! You received high remarks from your peers and manager. In a shocking turn of events, you find out your raise is not what you expected. Given your review itself was stellar, you naturally expected a higher increase in your total compensation. What are you going to do about this situation, this conundrum, if you will? Every situation is different so instead of directly answering this, I’ll provide some food for thought.

First off, remember this is YOUR story, YOUR career, YOUR compensation. Maybe it isn’t just about the money. Maybe you’re upset because you deserve more given all the effort you put into your work the past year. Or maybe it really is about the money. Maybe you should be paid more, as you’ve done your homework and found that your pay is clearly lower than what’s advertised by new hires on

If it is about compensation, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. No one else is in your shoes, navigating your life, paying your bills, etc. If anyone makes you feel like work shouldn’t be about money, then don’t take their advice.

As I say this, I must first ask you: How important is making more money to you? There are plenty of friends of mine who are staying at their current gig because they are oh, so so comfortable. Can you put a price on peace of mind? Changing jobs is stressful, and these friends of mine have willingly opted for comfort over an increase in compensation. And that’s totally OK! No judgment here. I worked at the same company for nine years, and I thoroughly enjoyed all 8.15 of them.

Leemay Nassery. (Courtesy photo)

If you decide not to stay in your current job, then find reasons to be proud of yourself. Minus the unfortunate compensation issue, you got a good review! How you feel is in your control. Write “I Am Legit” on a sticky note and put it on your laptop. Or read your review, highlight the praise, and do something to reward yourself. Celebrate the hard work you did the past year, even if your raise doesn’t suggest a celebration. We’re not robots. We need to feel satisfaction. Never underestimate the power of being proud of yourself.

As an aside, keep in mind: Your raise may actually be out of your manager’s control. Sometimes your manager’s manager ultimately divides the salaries, although they’re unlikely to ever admit this to you. If you have no control over it, and your manager has no control of it, then don’t let it ruin your week. Do something more empowering with those emotions. This would be a great time to put energy toward defining what success looks like to you.

You don’t necessarily have to share this with your manager. Just clarifying for yourself will be helpful. For instance, does success for you mean a higher title? Or more meaningful work? Or maybe success to you really just means an increase in salary. If you feel like your manager will do things to help you be successful, then share what success means to you.  Make it crystal clear. If you do this, you may have to put pressure on them. Be specific. Give them an opportunity to make it right for you.

That being said, if you find yourself to be so upset that you want to seek a new job, then think about this: What type of work is interesting to you? Money is important, but if you can optimize your job search on two parameters — increase in pay AND interesting work — then it’s a slam dunk! And of course, I realize that nobody actually likes interviewing. If you find yourself to be stressed or uncomfortable with it, repeat this to yourself: short-term pain for long-term gain.

Alright, now the song recommendation. When in life will I ever be able to reference Dolly Parton in the context of a tech advice column? I only have one shot at this, so here it is. As Dolly says, I know “you got dreams and you know they matter.”

Submit your question to The Lossless Leader
Series: The Lossless Leader

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