Most companies have an annual salary revision cycle for their employees. Typically, it would coincide with the financial or accounting year. Every year, the executives would (willing or unwillingly) set aside a budget for increases. They announce high level guidelines. Sometimes they would lament that the business has been difficult and there isn’t much to go around.

Managers then submit their evaluations and salary recommendations. Potentially the HR and Business leaders would get involved, bell curves would come out of the closets and finally the fate is sealed. Then comes the time when the decisions would be communicated to the employees.

Towards the end of my (nearly) two and half decades in the corporate industry, I frankly used to be amused rather than anxious about this annual ritual.
On an approximate count, I must have conducted nearly 800 such discussions over 15 years that I was a people manager. Here are some observations.

1. When employees did not get salary increases, they would almost always be unhappy and express anger, self-pity and disappointment in varying proportions

2. 90% of the employees who did get substantial increases also expressed unhappiness and the same kind of emotions

Here are some things I heard from such employees.

1. Employee-1: I was really expecting a better increase. Inflation rate is 8% and if I get less than that, I feel my salary is decreasing.

2. Employee-2: With this salary, I am barely able to repay all my EMI’s (instalments for loan repayments).

3. Employee-3: I wanted to gift my dad a car on this Father’s Day. With this increase, I won’t be able to do that.

4. Employee-4: I think I am much better than XYZ, but he/she is making much more than me (god only knows how they found out).
I am not joking. I could go on and on. Some of the reasons people give for wanting salary increases border on the ridiculous.

Here is some advice.

1. Understand that the decision to give a salary increase is driven only by two reasons. You have control over one of those factors (your performance) but not over the other (company and market dynamics).

2. If you did pretty much the same things that you did in the previous year, you have no reason to expect an increase. Did you learn something new, did you contribute to a big improvement in your team or department?

3. If the market is in the doldrums or your company did not do too well, you might end up getting the rough end of the stick. At such times, remonstrating with your manager or going into a sulk will only make matters worse. Instead, start planning and discuss next year’s performance goals with your manager.

One of my colleagues uses this phrase a lot. “DESERVE before you DESIRE”. The key to become a true professional is to focus on improving your ability to “deserve” rather than on your “desires”.