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Compensation

Salary Survey: It’s Hard To Ask for a Raise Out There

Contact the editor at karina@plainlanguagemedia.com

Almost three-fourths of respondents to TLL’s 2019 Salary Survey agree: “It’s hard to ask for more compensation.” At the same time, 42% are not satisfied with their current level of comp, and 49% say they don’t get enough support to do their jobs properly.

The most commonly cited reason? Bureaucracy and inertia. Simply put, once an employment contract is negotiated, most licensing executives agree that it’s more or less set in stone until the next promotion rolls around.

Which is weird, since that’s not actually how raises work. Only 5% of respondents indicated that their last raise was tied to a promotion (counting those whose last raise was more than a year ago). Three-fourths said that their last raise wasn’t connected to a change in title—and of those who got a raise in 2018, it was for an average of 5.2% bump in base salary, or just over $7,800. (The remaining 20% said that they’ve never received a raise.)

One-third (33%) of respondents said that it’s been over a year since they last saw a raise—including some kind of cost-of-living adjustment. While most respondents cited fairness as a key reason that they were not satisfied with their current level of compensation, a significant portion say that it’s becoming harder to afford basic expenses.

To be clear: Plenty of executives are happy with their pay. Americans are especially content, with a full 8% proclaiming that they are “extremely satisfied” with their monetary compensation—while no respondent outside of the U.S. selected that response, 33% of execs worldwide indicated that they are satisfied. (On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is “not satisfied” and 5 is “extremely satisfied”, selecting 4 or 5). Separately, most executives worldwide are very happy with their soft benefits, such as health insurance (even if it’s expensive), paid time off/flex time policies, and retirement/savings plans.

Breaking Down the Question

For the first time, we posed licensing executives the following question—On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is “disagree” and 5 is “agree,” please evaluate the statement: “It is hard to ask for more compensation.”

Surprisingly, almost half (46%) of respondents worldwide chose “5”—41% of U.S. executives, 62% of those from Western Europe, and 60% of those from the rest of the world. Including all those that simply agree (4 and 5), that share jumps to 72% of executives worldwide, 67% of those in the U.S., 92% of Western Europeans, and 60% of those from the rest of the world.

Share of Licensing Executives Who Agree
It’s Hard to Ask for a Raise, by Territory, 2019
Note: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding. Response data from TLL’s 2018-2019 Salary Survey.
On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is “disagree” and 5 is “agree,” please evaluate the statement: “It is hard to ask for more compensation.”
Answers All U.S. Western
Europe
Rest of
World
Disagree (1-2) 15% 16% 8% 20%
Neutral/Not sure (3) 13% 16% 0% 20%
Agree (4-5) 72% 67% 92% 60%

Most respondents who disagreed with the statement (selecting 1 or 2) gave an extremely practical reason: “You can always ask, even if the answer is no.” The rest gave an even better reason: “My boss is a good guy (Hint: I’m the boss).” Half of those who disagreed (selecting 1 or 2) indicated that their title was “Owner/Partner,” “CEO,” or “President.”

As it turns out, 26% of higher-level licensing executives (VP or higher) disagreed, the highest share out of any sub-group we identified. Roughly 86% of mid-level licensing executives (managers and directors) agreed with the statement, selecting 4 or 5.

Breaking out responses by gender, 58% of all men and 81% of all women agreed. By age group, 27–35 year-olds are the most likely to agree (89%), followed by 45–53 year-olds (77%; but the other 23% disagree).

Share of Licensing Executives Who Agree
It’s Hard to Ask for a Raise, by Rank and Gender, 2019
Note: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding. Response data from TLL’s 2018-2019 Salary Survey.
On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is “disagree” and 5 is “agree,” please evaluate the statement: “It is hard to ask for more compensation.”
Answers Executive Mid-Level Male Female
Disagree (1-2) 26% 3% 21% 10%
Neutral/Not sure (3) 15% 10% 21% 10%
Agree (4-5) 59% 86% 58% 81%

Troublingly, a significant share of respondents described actively hostile management: their boss is “not open to asking for more compensation,” their boss simply “doesn’t pay,” their “emails go unanswered,” and when it comes to discussing compensation, “emotions run high.”

Some are defeatist, writing simply that they “won’t get it” or that they’ve “already been turned down” before. For other responses, the tone approaches helplessness: compensation is largely out of their hands, tied to factors unrelated to their performance. In the most extreme cases, some executives noted that licensing simply isn’t valued as a company priority and that there is little to no budget allocated to them, for raises or otherwise. Separately, 49% of licensing executives shared that they are not satisfied with the resources they are given to do their job.

After inertia, the economy is the most commonly-cited reason as for why it’s so hard to ask for a raise. One respondent summed it up: “It’s extremely difficult to justify a compensation increase when the company is so focused on revenue.” But, as others noted, their company is “never making enough profit” to justify an increase. Several respondents noted that their company’s non-profit status was cited as the reason for lack of raise.

An extreme minority of respondents (under 3% of those who gave a reason) indicated personality as an issue; that is, that they are introverted or uncomfortable with confrontation.

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