Study: White Employees More Likely to Succeed When Asking for Raises

Study: White Employees More Likely to Succeed When Asking for Raises

In a new study, the pay transparency and compensation data analysis site PayScale surveyed over 160,000 US employees to find out who is asking for raises, who is getting them, and what determines whether a request is granted. It will come as no surprise to leaders versed in the challenges of diversity and inclusion that the survey turned up gender and racial gaps, not in how likely employees were to ask for a raise, but rather in how successful they are in getting them, Aimee Picchi reports at CBS Moneywatch:

Compared with white men, people of color are significantly less likely to receive raises when they ask supervisors for more money. The reason may boil down to bias, although it’s unclear whether it’s due to overt or unconscious bias, said PayScale Vice President Lydia Frank. … Women of color are 19 percent less likely to have received a raise than white men, while men of color are 25 percent less likely, the analysis found. The research found that no ethic group was more or less likely to have asked for a raise than any other group. …

Workers are often told it’s up to them to ask for a raise, but the findings suggest that employers should scrutinize their own processes for distributing pay hikes, Frank added. “If people don’t receive the same consideration, employers have a responsibility to ask how do we ensure everyone is treated fairly,” she noted.

The study did find a meaningful difference between men and women in terms of rationale among those who don’t ask for raises, with 26 percent of women saying they didn’t ask for a raise because they felt uncomfortable negotiating their salaries, compared to 17 percent of men. Still, the study doesn’t support the notion that women experience pay gaps because they are less likely to negotiate their pay; PayScale notes that it found ” no statistically significant difference in the rates at which women of color, white women, men of color and white men ask for raises.”

The notion that women don’t get the same raises as men because they don’t ask for them remains a common misconception, some research has suggested that women are less likely to get raises, but not necessarily less likely to ask for them. Research has also found that women are more likely to be penalized than rewarded for displaying ambition or seeking advancement at work, relative to their male colleagues, which may influence women’s decision-making about whether to ask for raises or promotions. PayScale’s survey did not find strong evidence that white women are less likely to receive the raises they ask for than white men.

In general, however, the survey shows that an employee’s odds of getting a raise after asking for one are pretty good: 39 percent of those who asked for a raise received the amount they asked for, while another 31 percent got a raise below the amount they requested. Employees in more senior positions, and to some extent those with longer tenures with the organization, were more likely to succeed in requesting a raise, which may factor into bias the survey detected against people of color, who tend to be underrepresented in the upper reaches of the corporate hierarchy.

Another key finding from the survey concerned the reasons employees were given for why they did not get a raise, the most common of which was “budgetary constraints,” though only 22 percent of employees who were denied raises said they believed that answer. The second most common reason given was no reason at all. These explanations have consequences: Nearly three quarters of employees who were not given a reason or did not believe the reason they were given told PayScale they planned to quit their jobs within six months.