Today’s workplace is filled with educated, hardworking, motivated, and competitive employees who help companies to succeed. Salary negotiations can be challenging and sometimes intimidating; however, knowing your worth is very important. If you don’t know the value you bring to your employer, why should anyone else?

I’ve had my fair share of awkward confrontations regarding salary negotiations, some of which I handled with grace. Other times I was in a combative and attacking mood.

The trick to being successful in these discussions is to make informed decisions. Having good employee etiquette, knowing when to ask for an increase and justifying a salary review is paramount to accomplishing your goals.

If you’re an unproductive employee, things are not going to go your way. If you’re regularly late for work, constantly asking for time off, not meeting deadlines, or have conflicts in the workplace, it’s unrealistic to expect any salary increase.

In my case, the salary I received did not reflect the level of outstanding contribution given to my employer. I was seriously underpaid even though I excelled at every position assigned. I went above and beyond in my duties, and there were little to no complaints during my employment.

I also felt being black meant I had to prove myself daily.  I always strived for excellence to be the best Customer Service Representative, the best Warehouse Manager, or the best General Laborer.

I found that being a hard worker has its downfalls, and I found myself being taken advantage of by my employer. I was assigned additional tasks with no additional compensation. This unfairness turned into resentment towards the company and the owner.

Around the end of 2010, after 4 years of built-up frustration and no salary increases, I sent the owner of the company an email. These were my exact words. “If I do not see a salary increase and a yearly salary of $40,000.00 on the first paycheque in January 2011, consider me no longer an employee at your organization”. Although the owner was distraught, I received the rightfully deserved increase. Eventually, after a year of tension with the organization, I was terminated.

My next position would see me going through the same struggles, only this time, I stood up for myself from the get-go. I was hired as a Warehouse Manager with a starting pay of $50,000.00. The employment terms stated that I was only eligible for an increase after one full year of employment.

As always, my work ethics were outstanding. I went to work at 5:00 a.m. for three weeks of training which I did without hesitation. On some days, I worked until 10:00 p.m. re-arranging the warehouse or even took home weekend work.

After a year of killing myself for this company, my manager thought I deserved a 1 % pay increase ($500.00). I got my hands on an Ontario pay scale catalogue, and I marched into his office.

I explained the 1% increase was disrespectful, and a slap in the face, and I deserved a 4% increase which was the maximum. The following year, just before our annual review, I requested a $7,000.00 pay increase along with all the reasons I deserved it. I pointed out all the money I had saved the company over the year, which was around $30,000.00. Without negotiation or resistance, I was awarded the $7,000.00 increase.

Most employers will withhold pay increases as long as you’re willing to settle for less with your current compensation. Never assume your work speaks for itself. It is your responsibility to stand up for yourself, know your worth and negotiate your demands. Are you fairly compensated for your job? Remember too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue their contribution to the company’s bottom line.