BLUF: Do I bring it up with my boss or the HR Director that although I've been notified that I've been given a salary increase, my salary is the same as before?

This week I received a letter from our HR department, notifying me that I had received a salary increase. The only problem is the amount of my "new" salary listed in the letter is the same as the amount of my original salary. 

A little background:
- My new supervisor started one month ago. He is "cleaning house" and has already let go of one-third of his directs.

- I've received a warning from the new supervisor that I need to make performance improvements and am doing so.

- Either I was not supposed to receive an increase and the letter was sent to me in error or I was supposed to receive an increase and the amount is wrong.

- I've heard from others that some number of people at our company will not receive any increase this year.

- Salary increases were in the works prior to my new boss starting. However, that certainly would not have prevented anyone from changing their mind at the last minute.

I'm grateful to have a job and to have been recognized for past accomplishments by way of the merit increase letter. I 'm weighing carefully whether or not I should bring it up as I don't want to be seen as a "trouble maker" by either the new supervisor or the HR Director.

Do I bring this up at all or hope that some will figure it out eventually? If so, does anyone have recommendations for me about how to bring this up?

buhlerar's picture

I don't know how difficult this HR Director is, but seems like a pretty straightforward question.  And if all you have to do is ask and you get the money, why not.  My recommendation is to just ask -- this hardly seems worthy of labeling you a troublemaker unless you really botch the delivery.

I'd start with a brief email --

Hey Darla,

I just received a letter indicating I was receiving a merit increase -- thank you!  I'm sorry to bother you with this question, but one thing in the letter was confusing to me.  The "new salary" amount stated in the letter ($892,000.00) is the same as my current salary.  Can you confirm the new salary amount?

Once again, thank you for your help.



I'm sure someone else here can wordsmith better than me, but the goal is a clear but brief inquiry.  If they don't respond within a week or so, follow up in person.  When you do, make sure you have a smile on your face (best defense against defensive response) and stay positive if they haven't looked into it yet.

Sounds like you don't have a great relationship with the HR Director.  This is a good opportunity to create a favorable experience so you don't have any hesitation asking such questions in the future.


ADK_lakes's picture

Thanks Buhlerar,

I appreciate the suggestion. I'm hesitant about this because in the past when I've written similar emails (written very much as you've suggested), they were taken as a personal criticism of the HR Director. I will definitely keep in mind that a smile is the best defense against defensiveness.


buhlerar's picture

If the raise is effective more or less immediately, then you might just wait for your next paycheck and see what you get paid.  It's very possible they just looked at the wrong column on a spreadsheet and then put in the right amount into the payroll system.  Of course, if it doesn't go into effect for several months, this won't work.  Your company might also have other avenues for getting the information (online HR tools, etc.).

But consider the risks.  How much money are you willing to risk personally just to avoid a conversation with someone who intimidates you?

You might take into account the DISC profile of the HR Director if you're interested in communicating effectively with him/her.  As I said, I have a hard time recommending a lack of communication -- that's no way to improve a troubled relationship.  Of course professional courtesy says you don't bother someone for information you have access to on your own (they'll see you as lazy and inconsiderate of their time), but in this instance, seems likely the HR Director is the only source.

VPfreedude's picture

My thought is this doesn't have to be be a confrontation at all.

Pick the person you have the best relationship with be it the new supervisor or the HR dept person.  Drop by their office or call them (rather than email because you can't put tone into an email easily) and say casually something like "hey Mike/Debbie I just got this letter and am confused.  The increased salary is the same as current.  Could you look into this for me & confirm if it was an erroneous mailing or a typo on the amount?"

Obviously wordsmith as appropriate but if you approach like this you won't be coming off as critical at all just confused and wanting to clear the issue up.  You won't sound like you are demanding a raise or rocking the boat with the new manager but just someone who got conflicting information.

Best of luck - hopefully by now you have seen the increase in your bank account!